School students wanted for 'Pens Against Poverty'

Tuesday 31 January 2012, 9:54AM
By ChildFund New Zealand

Intermediate students from around New Zealand are being asked to put pen to paper in a unique bid to help fight poverty in the developing world via an innovative scriptwriting challenge.

ChildFund New Zealand has today announced ‘Pens Against Poverty: ChildFund’s Young Playwrights Challenge’, which offers year 6, 7 and 8 students the opportunity to hone their literacy skills while helping raise awareness for a good cause. Participating students will gain valuable insight in to scriptwriting from renowned actor, playwright, director and ChildFund Ambassador Alison Quigan, who has set the scriptwriting criteria. The winning school receives expert guidance from across New Zealand’s drama fraternity as their script is developed into a play for the professional stage.

The initiative comes from the success of ChildFund’s recently published children’s book, Mary’s Christmas Yarn, a warm-hearted tale of giving to those in need, penned by 10 of New Zealand’s best known storytellers. The book is to be used as the basis for the scripts submitted to the challenge.

Senior Primary and Intermediate schools nationwide have until 30 April 2012 to submit their best scripts and see if they have what it takes to craft a script worthy of the stage.

The top five scripts will be selected in May by a panel of expert judges, with each finalist school getting the opportunity to perform an excerpt from their script live to one of the judges and receive their professional critique. The overall winning script will have the honour of being transformed into a professional production, staged by an Auckland drama group, with a musical score developed by students from a secondary school.

ChildFund CEO Paul Brown believes ‘Pens Against Poverty’ is the first collaboration of its kind, providing a unique, real-life learning opportunity useful in meeting curriculum requirements for literacy in the classroom.

“The story of Mary’s Yarn is set in New Zealand and written by Kiwis, but tells the tale of poverty in the developing world in an accessible and engaging way for children, as well as adults. Alison Quigan’s criteria can help teachers adapt it to class lessons, and students can gain valuable skills across English, Arts, Drama and the Social Sciences through work-shopping their script.

“As a play, Mary’s Christmas Yarn will be an enormously satisfying achievement for the winning school, culminating in a red carpet Gala Premiere. The story has been a labour of love by many talented people throughout its evolution, and now students can be a part of that by adapting it for the stage.

“Proceeds from the Gala Premiere, featuring professional Kiwi actors, and hopefully a few famous cameos, will help further the education resources of children in developing countries who are hungry to learn.”

Criteria developer and actor Alison Quigan says the ‘Pens Against Poverty’ challenge has a format that is easily adapted to curriculum requirements. “It comes complete with a lesson template and the co-authors include talent like Miriama Kamo, Hilary Barry and Jeremy Corbett, so the language is entertaining from the outset. What I hope students will grasp are the nuances necessary for a script to truly bind together a production. Whether it’s a small country school or one with a big intermediate roll, this is a challenge that generates benefits for all.”

The full line up of judges, professional drama group and secondary school developing the score will be announced soon.

To register, schools can go to or phone 0800 223 111.