INTRODUCTION : About the Windows Project and the Workshops

The games were invented for the Windows Project. The Project was founded in 1976 to "diffuse knowledge and appreciation of language as a creative medium ... to improve skills in language ... for those who have need of it by reason of youth age infirmity or social or economic conditions." Although the Project has worked widely within these categories, the games have usually been designed originally to be sufficiently interesting and accessible for use in playschemes or youth clubs and then adapted to suit different environments and specific users.

In CITY OF POEMS, a report on the Project's work to 1978, Dave Ward explained the reasons for our approach and went on to explain how the Project began to work in the playscheme environment:

In summer 1976 Merseyside Play Action Council invited a group of poets to run poetry workshops in the Bronte Centre and then Rice Lane Playscheme. First we had to decide the best way of introducing the traditionally delicate and thoughtful art of poetry into the traditionally boisterous and fast-moving atmosphere of the Bronte Centre - a purpose built youth and community centre near the Bull Ring tenements in the centre of Liverpool. The Bronte Centre has one main activities room on the first floor - filled with table tennis, swings, nets, and as many opportunities for large numbers of children to let off steam as possible.

There is also one smaller room next to the main one. We decided it made most sense to run the workshops in there, with less chance of distractions such as tables and chairs getting knocked over in the general pell-mell.

We then had to think of a way to make that room somewhere the children would still want to go. We decided not to make it so totally different from the main room that they would never come in - so we offered them another game. The game became known as the Amazing Push-Poem Machine...

The format at the Bronte had already evolved from work at Great Georges Community Cultural Project (the Blackie):

  • using a smaller, quieter room with a controlled flow of a smaller number of children
  • introducing the unfamiliar (poetry) through the familiar (a game that involves a mixture of skill and chance)
  • always making sure the children work to the highest possible standards they themselves are capable of
  • encouraging them to do so by providing good quality materials to work with
  • making the games they play at the beginning as attractive as possible, even though they may be built from scrap material. (The boxes in the Amazing Push-Poem Machine were old beer crates).

This format, together with the idea of taking poems and turning them into something other than books: - badges, posters, food, etc., has become a basis for Windows work in other centres since then - with continuing developments and adaptions.

Among these developments was the extension of the Project's workshops into more formal environments - schools, libraries, day centres, hospitals, etc., where the larger numbers or special needs very quickly led to variations in the existing games, and development of others.

But wherever the workshop is held, whether open field, gym, storeroom or classroom, something can always be achieved so long as the game is not wholly inappropriate and there is sufficient energy and supervision.

The workshops are the most important part of the work of the Windows Project - it runs about 800 workshops each year. Its other activities include the provision of poetry advice desks, usually in libraries, the co-ordination of writers' tours and events and poetry publications including Smoke magazine.

worksheet image on off worksheet poems workbook pdf worksheets pdf
Windows Workshops Dave Calder, The Windows Project ,1997,1998,1999,2009