Category Archives: Learning Resources

Mapping Stories

In our third blog post getting you thinking and writing about your hometown theatre maker Ishbel McFarlane leads you through a fun mapping activity, leading to some creative writing prompts.

Ishbel McFarlane

Although the focus here is on Cumbernauld you could replicate this activity for wherever you live.

Part One

Draw a map of Cumbernauld from memory. It doesn’t matter whether it is right or wrong. Where do you think the roads, motorways and train tracks are? Where are individual shops and shopping centres? Where are the schools, and doctors, and post offices? Where’s the station? Where do you live? Where do people you know live?

You can use as many colours or materials as you like. You can make it detailed and elaborate or you can just sketch an outline.

Part Two

Draw the town again, but this time you choose what things are and where they go. Maybe you have the same shape of town, but you move things around. Maybe you scrap the whole thing and start again with a new shape, and a new town. Create a new Cumbernauld on your paper.

You have two places now:

  • My Cumbernauld
  • My New Cumbernauld

If you were to move from one to the other, what would you miss? What does your real Cumbernauld have that no new place could ever have? What is worth losing and what is worth keeping?

Part Three

Once you have drawn your two towns, look at an official map of Cumbernauld. You might have a paper map, or maybe have a look online at Google Maps or similar. Where are the differences between how you see Cumbernauld as a place where you live, and how it looks on the map? Did you miss anything out? Why do you think that is? If you’re able to look at satellite images, for example on Google Earth, does the town look different in colour to how you imagined?

Cartographers are the people who draw and make maps. They work with the visible, physical sides of places, but they don’t know the stories of a place. What could you tell a cartographer about this place they have made a map of?

Now you have got three places:

  • My Cumbernauld
  • My New Cumbernauld
  • Cartographers Cumbernauld

Part Four

Imagine the world of each of these places. Who lives there? What is life like? What is the spirit of each place? Which would you rather live in?

What would happen if these three places existed together, only a few miles apart?

Write a short story imagining life in one of the towns. Who would your characters be? What would happen in the story? How do they feel about the other towns? What conflicts or problems might exist?

You can read more about our Cumbernauld Project on our Booked! blog, but these writing prompts can be used for any town, city or village!



A ‘Mind’s Eye Walk’ through your Town

In our second blog post getting you writing about your hometown, author (and now Booked! Cumbernauld residency author!) Mike Nicholson takes you on a mind’s eye walk through your hometown.


Mike Nicholson

“I find that I can think back clearly to where I grew up – a big old house on a busy road in Eskbank, half way between Dalkeith and Bonnyrigg. My immediate community were the houses along our road, particularly the ones between where we lived and Watson’s newspaper shop. Even in a short stretch of main road like that there were landmarks; the pine trees across the road, the distant chimney of the carpet factory,  the camper van at number 57, the postbox in the wall in Muirpark not to mention the people behind each of the front doors. All of these are still clear in my mind today even though only the postbox and the doors remain. It’s amazing how the places where you live become engraved in your memory.

What I really liked about where I lived was that a short walk took you past hedgerows and fields to a disused railway and onto Newbattle woods and the River Esk. Once again that area has completely changed now. In fact the railway has now re-opened so everything is fresh and new. But I can still picture in great detail each of the paths I explored.”

Whether you’re sitting in a café, on a bus or in your armchair at home, you too can open your “mind’s eye” and go on an imaginary walk around your home town.

Although the focus here is on Cumbernauld you could replicate this activity for wherever you live.

  • Where in Cumbernauld are you going to begin your “mind’s eye walk”? What’s your reason for choosing that starting point? Is it an important one for everyone or just somewhere that has particular meaning for you?
  • Where does the walk take you and what are the landmarks along the way, big or small? Do any of these have special significance or even your own made-up names for them? In the woodland I used to visit there was the ‘Bear Tree’. Only our family knew it as that.
  • As you go on your walk what else do you see? Strong memories that merit a plaque to let everyone know , or things that really need to change to make the place better?
  • If you sat for a moment on this imaginary walk and watched the world go by, who would go past? Are there conversations with neighbours or strangers? Are things fast paced or laid back? How does the atmosphere make you feel?

Quite often a walk like this can refresh your view of somewhere you have become used to and you can have a rich source of material for developing a story, whether that be the memory of an incident on a street corner, the strange mark on a wall you’ve always wondered about or the house with the garden full of gnomes.

So why not take a ‘mind’s eye walk’ at the start of 2017. Take a fresh look at what your town has carved into your memory and take a moment to write about where you live.

You can read more about our Cumbernauld Project on our Booked! blog, but these writing prompts can be used for any town, city or village!


My Life in Cumbernauld: The Movie

Writing about your hometown.

As part of our upcoming Booked! Project in Cumbernauld we’re inviting pupils, community groups and members of the public to use the place that they live as the inspiration for creative writing. You can read more about our Cumbernauld Project on our Booked! blog, but the writing prompts can also be transferred to any town, city or village!

Writer and People’s Historian, Daniel Gray, who will be working with members of Cumbernauld Action Care for the Elderly (CACE) as part of the project, explains

“People and place. That is at the core of what I write and why I write. People and place now, people and place then; fables in pubs that make me chuckle, and social history that makes me gasp in awe. The very greatest thing about living in Scotland (apologies, obscenely beautiful landscape and tattie scones), is that here, all of that thrives.”


Daniel Gray

We asked Daniel how he would go about using place as an inspiration for writing:

When I have an idea for a new book, but don’t know where to start, I distill my idea into a 500-word pitch. Just take the name, then add a colon and the words ‘The Movie’.  So here I’d have the working title:

My Life in Cumbernauld: The Movie

Then write a 500-word pitch for your movie, pretending you’re going to send it to producers, under the following headings:


Time and Place

Choose a year, or an era. Perhaps a time when living here was the very sweetest. It was almost golden, and when you think of it, your memories are coloured like a movie.

What were the surroundings, the buildings, shops, parks, paths, trees, traffic, air like? Close your eyes, take yourself there again, describe them.

How did being here, in Cumbernauld, make it so good? Did the way people lived here help, or could it have happened anywhere? Perhaps these halcyon days were early on, filled with the excitement of leaving choked city life for Cumbernauld.


Place is, of course, vital. But was that golden time possible without those around you? Talk about them, the names, the nicknames, the sweethearts and the mishaps.

And, where there’s people, there’s laughter. This film needs those one-liners and those stories.

What about the visitors to your life in Cumbernauld – what did your family and friends still living in Glasgow and elsewhere make of it all? Did they say you ‘talked different’ now?!


We probably need a plot. It could focus on those people and places above, and they should certainly feature. But what is this overall story? From the outside, it seems like one of hope and optimism, in the early days, anyhow; people moving to a new life, people moving to the future, or even utopia. That’s a story in itself, but what happened when they, you, got there? What about working, and laughing and falling in love? What part did Cumbernauld play in that?

And then what? Happily ever after for person and place? And what of the future, in this place that was once just that? Find your inner sci-fi and imagine what you’d change. Let us dream again…

You can read more about our Cumbernauld Project on our Booked! blog, but these writing prompts can be used for any town, city or village!



Human Rights and You: an interview with Philippe Sands QC

At the 2016 Edinburgh International Book Festival we were joined by Philippe Sands, International Human Rights Lawyer. Our young reporter, Anna Cooper, took the opportunity to ask him some questions herself, and the result is a fascinating and motivational interview. Watch the video below, and then get thinking, talking and writing about human rights yourselves using our prompts.


“To prove a crime against humanity you have to show that a large number of people have been killed unlawfully and systematically, to prove a genocide you have to show the same thing, but additionally you have to prove that the acts of killing were motivated by the intent to destroy that group, and that’s a very difficult thing to prove.”

At 1 minute 50 seconds Philippe explains the difference between genocide and crimes against humanity. Listen to his explanation and from your own knowledge or research, give some examples of both. Discuss your examples with your group. Do they agree?


“The kinds of stories that inspire me are stories about people who, in the face of tremendous pressures to confirm in wrongdoing, act independently and fearlessly in doing the right thing. You might call it expressions of civil courage.”

At 3 minutes 20 seconds, Philippe discusses stories which inspire him, including the remarkable story of Miss Tilney, who saved his parents, and a large number of others, during World War II. You can read an interview with Philippe, which goes into further details of Elsie Tilsney’s story here:

Think about what people have inspired you. They might be people you know, people in your community, or stories of people that you’ve heard elsewhere. Write a short piece of creative writing telling the story of someone who inspires you, and why they do.


You can’t spend every single day worrying about the horrors that are taking place around us or further away. You have lives and those lives have to be lived in all of their aspects the good and the bad, the difficult and the not-so difficult. So I think it’s normal that life goes on but I’m sure you and many of your friends and your colleagues and your generation will put a lot of effort into these things that we’re talking about. You’ll go out on a Saturday night and go to a party because that is your right to do that as a young person. And then on Tuesday you may go on a march about something that’s happening in Syria, and that’s right that you should have that balance.

At 6 minutes 9 seconds Philippe talks about normality existing alongside horrors such as terror attacks and refugee crises. Think about a current affair issue which concerns you. Do you feel inspired to, or have you, taken any action relating to it? Some examples would be:

  • Writing a letter to a politician
  • Volunteering at a local refugee centre
  • Going to a protest march
  • Talking with a friend or family member about the issue
  • Write and perform or record a protest song

Decide on an action and take part in it!


“It’s helped human rights in the sense that it makes it much easier for us to know what is going on in far away places… events in 2011 as Gaddafi was being overthrown and turning his guns on his own people was recorded by people on their mobile phones… and we learned what was happening and that helps with human rights. On the other hand, we also know that social media, Twitter and Facebook is used to galvanise forces of darkness, is used to recruit, is used to campaign.”

At 8 minutes 28 seconds Philippe is asked about social media, and whether it helps or hinders human rights. What do you think? Talk in a group about any examples you might have seen or heard about where social media was used wither positively or negatively in terms of human rights.

Philippe’s brings up the topic of freedom of expression and whether limits should be put on the use of social media. Use this as a starting point to discuss freedom of speech. What outcomes might there be if limits were put on Facebook in terms of users or content? How would this be regulated? What would the benefits or dangers be?


Individual choices really matter. You can make a real difference… Each and every one of you can make a real difference.

At 9 minutes 45 seconds Anna, questions how she can get involved in international human rights, which can sometimes feel remote. Philippe’s answer is an inspiring, motivational call to action for each of us. Listen to his reply and discuss. Are his examples issues which have previously concerned you? Has this interview and Philippe’s comments changed your view on human rights and how they affect you? If so how might this now change your actions or outlook?


Chris Packham: An Extraordinary Force of Nature

Chris Packham is a naturalist best known as presenter of The Really Wild Show and more recently the BBC’s Springwatch and Autumnwatch. In this event with chair Ruth Wishart he talks about his memoir, Fingers in the Sparkle Jar, which documents his often solitary childhood and his obsessive tendencies as well as the importance of his early relationships with animals, including a young kestrel. Continue reading Chris Packham: An Extraordinary Force of Nature

The Horrible Science Show – Watch Again on Glow TV

If you missed our amazing event The Horrible Science Show with Nick Arnold and Tony de Saulles then don’t worry – you can watch it again on Glow TV! Continue reading The Horrible Science Show – Watch Again on Glow TV

Getting Started Talking about Feminism

In her recent event with us at Edinburgh International Book Festival Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, gave some tips on how to start discussing feminism with classes or groups, suggesting giving broad prompt questions, to get young people talking.

You can watch her full event recording below, and then, following her advice, we’ve given some discussion points to get you talking, as well as suggestions of further reading. Continue reading Getting Started Talking about Feminism

A Film, A Festival, and a Fond Farewell to Landwords

In this final post in the LandWords series, we’ll be looking back at the project and festivals through a special short film, and looking ahead to LandWords-inspired events at the book festival in August. Continue reading A Film, A Festival, and a Fond Farewell to Landwords

Writing from Memory: Storytelling Activities from our Landwords Project

In the second post of our series on the LandWords project at Falkirk’s Callendar House, video and performance artist Donna Rutherford gives a taste of three exercises she used to encourage the pupils in her group to engage with their own memories and stories inspired by the environment around them. Continue reading Writing from Memory: Storytelling Activities from our Landwords Project

Fiction, in a Flash: A Creative Writing Activity from our LandWords Project

LandWords was a special collaboration between Edinburgh International Book Festival and Falkirk Community Trust, in which Falkirk’s wonderful Callendar House provided space and inspiration to explore questions of place, identity, history and story. How do we relate to Scotland’s stories, old and new? Are we telling our own tales of the places we love? Continue reading Fiction, in a Flash: A Creative Writing Activity from our LandWords Project