The Pushkin Trust

The Pushkin Trust is a charity and from the very beginning has focused on primary schoolchildren. The Trust also works with secondary schools, Irish medium schools and special schools through its programme. Pushkin events and activities are aimed at children in the 9-13 age group. Founded in 1987 by the Duchess of Abercorn, the Trust endeavours to unite children, their parents and educators, north and south, in the common bond of creativity. The principal target has always been the field of education and the vehicle for delivery is the creative arts and the natural environment, through professional facilitation. The name of the trust honours Alexander Pushkin, Russia’s greatest poet and Her Grace’s ancestor. For fifteen years, the creative writing competition was the centre of the Pushkin School’s Programme, in which fifty schools from the north and south or Ireland participated. Since the foundation of the Trust in 1987, more than 250 schools and 15,000 children have taken part in the Creative Writing Competition alone.

In 2002/03 the Creative Writing Competition was replaced by the pilot Awards Programme. This initiative still retains creative writing as the central core of activity but this is supplemented in participating schools by at least one other creative art form and exploration of the environment. Thus the programme extends participation and meets the needs of further elements in the curriculum, north and south, while encouraging natural cross-curricular activity. Two hundred children and one hundred adults attended the Awards Day in June at Baronscourt, to celebrate their year long participation and success in the project. This new non-competitive programme, with awards for achievement for all, has proved highly successful among children and teachers alike and is being run for a second pilot year in 2003/2004. The Trust also runs an annual Summer School in Creative Writing for Teachers at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annamakarrig, Co. Monaghan.

The Baronscourt Estate is the venue for a large proportion of Pushkin residential activities and for aspects of the Awards Programme. The ‘Baronscourt Days’ initiative began in 1999 and twenty-six took place in 2003. In a given day, up to eighty children and their teachers came to Baronscourt to participate in an environmental and creative exploration under the guidance of professionals. A variety of indoor locations are used for artistic activities and environmental workshops take place in the gardens, grounds and surrounding woodlands. The Summer Camp of the Imagination is an annual event that takes place in August. This residential event is a five-day extended version of the Baronscourt Day and is also held on the Baronscourt Estate. Approximately sixty children from a variety of schools participating in the programme attend with their parents and teachers. Finally, the Partners in Education Programme, now in its fourth year, caters for all seven Teacher Training Colleges throughout Ireland. This includes a residential weekend on the Baronscourt estate, where student teachers and their lecturers come together for an intensive exploration of individual creativity and environmental awareness. The Estate is the crucial sustaining element of the activities of the Pushkin Trust and home also to the Pushkin office.

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