"Mary Carr is the best investment the English department has ever made." A comment
made by Marilyn Harris, Head of English at Parkside Community School, Chesterfield.
In January, Mary went into the school on a regular basis, undertaking two separate
The first was to introduce Year 9 to their set Shakespeare play "Macbeth". Mary gave
a teaching performance incorporating the acting of the main characters using some
quotations from the significant speeches, interspersed with an improvised paraphrase
of the storyline. It took a staggering 58 hours to prepare and lasted 50 mins. Mary
is now trying to sell it to other schools as it seems a shame not to use it elsewhere
after all that work. There will be some schools next year who are studying this with
After Mary's performance the pupils took part in workshops where, in groups, they
worked on different scenes from the play and gave a presentation in the afternoon
in costumes loaned by Mary. As the pupils had no knowledge of the text beforehand
they received it with a newness and enthusiasm showing a willingness to work. This
was the attitude even of the groups with low literacy skills.
"Mary's work with my group has saved me three weeks of difficult and stressful teaching"
Rachel Hammond, English teacher, Year 9 and Head of Year 10.
The second project at Parkside was to develop the creative writing skills of Year
10 and inspire imaginative and exciting writing.
Mary taught all the English groups of Year 10. She began by teaching a drama workshop
where, in groups, the class worked on a theme. Mary's technique of in-depth improvisation
based on intense concentration is most definitely not ad libbing or "making it up
as you go along" but an art form in itself which leads to work of a high quality.
Having developed the characters and atmosphere in this way the pupils then transferred
this to written form. It should be stressed that, despite working in groups in the
drama, no two pieces of written work were the same.
One group, without being asked, worked in total silence for 25 minutes. A group with
low literacy skills did not write down their work but dictated the first and last
sentence to their class teacher, who then developed this in class afterwards. Of
course the work of all the pupils needed development in later lessons but, according
to all the English department, Mary had fulfilled her brief to deliver exciting and
creative writing generated by enthusiastic pupils.
Action Arts was established by the director, Mary Carr as a
drama-based literacy development organisation which is able to provide artists for
collaborative projects if required.
In August Mary was invited to Belfast in Northern Ireland to work on an estate at
Rathcoole. This sectarian estate had many issues with the young people there and
Mary was to work with three distinct groups: children 6-11yrs, young people and adults
with disabilities and young people 12-16yrs and the project was organised by Adrian
Smith Project Co-ordinator for the Synergy Centre based on the estate
In the event the last two groups combined and developed a play performance for
public presentation (as part of the funding requirements).
As Mary said to Adrian,
“Meeting them for the first time on Monday three days and five workshops later,a
public performance, no pressure Adrian, no pressure!!”
So successful was the production that Adrian is seeking further funding so that Mary
can go back and continue her work there.
Mary cannot emphasise enough how friendly and helpful every-one was especially
Adrian who gave up his cottage so that Mary and her husband could stay there for
the week and Harry who hosted her during her work.
Since returning from Ireland Mary has been working on finalising an on-going project
begun two years ago. This very unusual project was one of helping two young people
with learning disabilities into independent living in a house owned by one of them.
Usually houses for this purpose are owned by a housing association working in conjunction
with social services.
It was the unconventionality of the project where Mary’s skills as experienced project
coordinator were needed. The team from Social Services, Derbyshire was excellent
working way beyond the call of duty and showing great vision in their outlook but
the other agencies such as housing and care agencies were very nervous at taking
the initiative on such an unorthodox way of working. It took all Mary’s skill in
persuading them to take decisions and push the project forward. Anyway on October
8th the young people moved in and although there are still some loose ends to tie
up the project is all but complete.
For examples of Collaborative Projects and other work
SEPTEMBER TO DECEMBER 2008
During these months Mary devised a reading scheme for children aged 7-10 years in
mainstream schools with low or no reading skills. Based on her experience in teaching
children with disabilities and, in particular, being involved with their learning
to read, Mary's reading scheme was taught by teachers and parents on a daily basis.
Mary wrote the books to accompany the reading scheme as and when appropriate.
The success was an autistic boy aged seven, who in July 2008 had been described as
unable to grasp the concept of reading and was unlikely to develop his reading skills
as he had reached a plateau of learning to read.
He began Mary's scheme, which is particular in the way it is taught as well as the
content, in August 2008. On October 28th he read, without help or mistakes, the first
book written by Mary. Encouraged by this success he wanted to learn to read more
He then developed his reading sufficiently to read a further two books. From December
18th to January 10th he read four more new books without help or mistakes. He is
almost ready for the next book, making the seventh in total since August, and should
be reading this by about January 17th.
This phenomenal success can be attributed to the way in which this particular scheme
is taught and that Mary's books do not have pictures so the child is in a position
of having to read the words carefully rather than guessing at the story.
Any parents or teachers interested in this reading scheme should contact Mary for