Ex-Marden pupil goes back to the classroom

Ross Welford with students at Cramlington Learning Village.
Ross Welford with students at Cramlington Learning Village.

One of the new stars of children’s writing has said he will continue to set stories in his native North East.

A main character in Ross Welford’s first book, which was shortlisted for more than 20 awards, is a hamster named Alan Shearer and all of his stories feature places from his childhood: Seaton Delaval, Tynemouth, Whitley Bay and Cullercoats, where he grew up.

Two years later he has been busy promoting his third book – The 1000 Year Old Boy – and on a visit to Cramlington Learning Village shared with students his recipe for successful story-telling.

Ross left the North East more than 30 years ago but remains passionate about the area and believes it is poorly represented in children’s literature.

“I have memories of all these places in my head, so I don’t have to make them up,” he said. “However I also think there are too few books about kids in the North East.”

He went to school at Marden High School and studied English at Leeds University before becoming a journalist and a television producer.

“Because I spent a career writing scripts and treatments for programmes, I was always being asked why I didn’t write a book,” said Ross.

But he only decided to give it a try after becoming disillusioned with television.

“I was 50 when I submitted my first book and I was very lucky that it was picked up.”

As well as Cramlington Learning Village students, Ross’ audience also included students from two of its feeder schools - Eastlea and Shanklea.

“We think it’s important that they start to get to know the school and at the same time get the chance to hear from an author who writes stories for their age group. Meeting an author always makes students want to read more. The fact that Ross is from the North East can only inspire them to believe that they too can do anything they want in the future.” said CLV librarian, Eileen Armstrong.

The school has become a regular and popular destination for some of the UK’s most successful and popular children’s writers, with visits from Alex Wheatle, Alex Scarrow, Siobhan Curham, Abi Elphinstone, David Solomons, Liz Kessler, Teri Terry, Chloe Daykin and Piers Torday.

Ross is already working on his fourth book but might instead be tempted to develop the improbable story, suggested by the students, which features Geordie Jim Bob – the biggest elephant in history – his sidekick Dennis Bergkamp and their battles with a villain called Donald Trump.