Although he lives in Huddersfield, writer and broadcaster Gez Walsh has just taken the official title of Poet Laureate for Calderdale.

And he thinks that it’s time Kirklees appointed someone to a similar role.

The former joiner and social worker says he will use his new unpaid title to promote a love of literature and the arts among the young. But he promises that his poetry will always be humorous, never dull, because fostering an eagerness to learn is a cause that has always been dear to his heart.

A self-confessed school drop out, who ended up pursuing an education at night school after long days spent on building sites, Gez says he wants children to realise that they can achieve, even if they find school a struggle.

“I say to them that the only thing stopping you from doing things is you,” he explained. “But I don’t want them to do what I did because it was very hard leaving school with no GCSEs or A levels and then having to study in the evenings when I was tired. I started my degree when I was 24”.

However, Gez remains an inspiration to every disaffected schoolchild who is written off by teachers.

He ended up with a degree in psychology and a career in social work before writing a best-selling book of children’s poetry and choosing a life as a full-time writer, performer and broadcaster.

Gez, who lives in Dalton, first rose to literary fame after publication of The Spot on My Bum in 1997, which has gone on to sell half a million copies and been translated into Portuguese. There is talk of it also being translated into Chinese and Norwegian.

The book was written to encourage his son Lee, who is dyslexic, to read. It was just one of a number of techniques he employed.

He explained: “We live near a wood and I used to tell him fairy stories and say he could leave little letters for the fairies hidden in the woods. I’d have to go and find them and write a reply, which only he could read. Then all his friend found out about it and started hiding letters in the woods as well. I’d be going round at night, with a torch, to look for them. It’s a fantastic way to engage children and get them reading.”

Gez is part of the Relight-ED enterprise, which uses the arts to engage young people back into education. This work takes him all over the world.

Diva Dave and Fat Sue, a Twisted Minds book by Gez Walsh
 

“Because of my own background I can understand where these kids are coming from,” says Gez, “it’s about getting them to understand that they can change things.”

Closer to home, Gez has been closely involved in projects at the Orangebox in Halifax, an arts centre for 13 to 19-year-olds that also has a climbing wall, rooftop skate-park, recording studios and allotments.

This summer he is heading an Orangebox ‘Summer Slam’ in early August, at which youngsters will be invited to write, direct and produce a film. (For details check out www.orangeboxhalifax.org ).

When he’s not in Halifax he’ll be touring schools with his ‘Diva Believer’ performance, based on his last published book in the Twisted Minds series, Diva Dave and Fat Sue.

Future projects include the publication of a new book, which has been written for his 18-month-old granddaughter Harleigh – although he doesn’t want to say too much about it at the moment as it uses a unique mix of digital phone technology and old-fashioned paper and is based around the fact that the tiny tot is better at using an iPad than he is. It will add to his already extensive publication list.

This summer will also see him launch a quest to find a Calderdale Junior Poet Laureate, aged between 13 and 16, to carry out poetic duties with Gez.

“My poetry is always humorous,” says Gez, “so perhaps the serious stuff will be done by the junior laureate”.

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