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Interview: John Simpson Wedge

I caught up with the Blackpool Museum’s Project newly appointed Learning and Skills Manager, John Simpson Wedge, to find out how he is adjusting to life in Blackpool:

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Sure, I was born in Leicester in 1988. My mum and dad were re-enactors so as a child I spent a lot of my weekends dressed up in strange historic clothing. At eighteen I went to the University of East Anglia in Norwich to study philosophy.

I fell in love with the city and very nearly fell into being an eternal student. However, I got a job with Norfolk Museums Service working at Norwich Castle (which again meant I spent a lot of my weekends dressed up in strange historic clothing) and when push came to shove I chose working in museums (and earning enough to feed myself) over doing a PhD.

I left Norwich in December to start a new job with the Blackpool Museum Project. In my spare time I am a keen model maker, gamer and all round geek. My favourite music is probably German Industrial Metal and I really like cheese. I have a girlfriend called Sarah and my brother is a digital film maker and ambassador for the National Autistic Society.

What did you do before moving to Blackpool?

I was working at Time & Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth on a project called Stories from the Sea which was all about using nautical themes and objects to inspire local children to write stories and poems. Over two years I worked with over 3,000 children and got to help create some amazing stories filled with pirates, shipwrecks and sea monsters!

What is your role at the Blackpool Museum Project? 

I am the Learning and Skills Manager which basically means I’m in charge of developing the museum’s learning programmes, working with the college to provide apprenticeships and work placements, and anything else involving lifelong learners or skills development.

At the minute things are pretty varied (and hectic) so I don’t really have a typical day. But in any given week I’ll probably have a meeting at the college either to plan out our new programme or tell the students about a new work placement, a discussion with colleagues in the council and other local organisations to see how the museum can help out, an hour or so investigating potential funding opportunities to help fund the programme, and, if I’m lucky, I’ll get to go into a school and meet with some children! Then I get to find out what they want from the museum and discuss our plans with them. That’s my favourite part.

Outside of the day job, I hear you are involved with poetry and creative writing. Tell us more!

I’ve always been fond of writing stories and poems so when I went to UEA I joined the Creative Writing Society. The university has an amazing creative writing course which is world renowned and many of the students are in the society which is awesome. It means that you’re surrounded by incredibly talented people who all approach writing with their own ideas and experiences and I really thrived as a member. Norwich in general has a brilliant writing scene with plenty of collectives, workshops and open mics. I quickly discovered that while I enjoyed writing prose and page poetry my talent lay in writing performance poetry, or more specifically the sort of stuff people laugh at at poetry gigs!

I formed a poetry group with a group of students called Fractured Discourse. We did a few comedy shows together and then when we went our separate ways. I did a couple of tours around East Anglia. I haven’t written anything for a while though, mostly due to work commitments, so I’m eager to get writing again.

As someone new to Blackpool, can you sum it up in five words, or even write us a short poem?

On the proviso that this is the first poem I’ve written since October:

Blackpool

A magpie town;

Through the howling gales and rain

The lights still shine on.

I hear you have a book about to be released, can you tell us a little bit about that?

A friend of mine, Matt Reeve, is a really talented artist. He makes all sort of things including puppets and animations and his favourite subject is dragons. We’d worked together on a play for the Houses of Parliament and afterwards he suggested the idea of a children’s book combining his art and my poetry.

Norwich has lots of dragon connections through its history so we decided to do a book that explored that theme as well as revealing the history of some of Norwich’s major landmarks.  The story follows a young boy called Harry who discovers that the city is filled with all sorts of sneaky secretive dragons while on a day out with his mum. It’s called Norwich: City of Dragons and comes out in the summer, just in time for the GoGoDragons! Art Trail around the city.

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us?

My uncle used to work for the BBC as part of their effects team. When I was six I got to go to the BBC studios and make a film using their brand new green screen technology in the studio where they did all of the special effects for Red Dwarf. Down one of the corridors was a TARDIS from the 1980s era Doctor Who. I was so excited and got to go inside it and have my photograph taken next to it. This was a decade before the show came back to our screens so none of my friends understood just how cool this was!

 

John Simpson Wedge will be delivering a practical writing workshop to celebrate World Book Night: Don’t let your heroes win!

Pick up some handy tips tricks and practical advice on how to overcome your plotting problems.  Join John on World Book Night for an evening of activities to turn your ideas into stories on Thursday 23 April, 5-7pm at Central Library. The event is suitable for 16 years plus. It costs £3 and booking is essential. Ring 01253 478080 or call into Central Library to secure your place.

 

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