Ashbury Meadow Primary School children join award-winning spoken word performer George the Poet to launch Avanti West Coast Feel Good Field Trips

Avanti West Coast has teamed up with award-winning spoken word performer and social commentator George the Poet to launch Feel Good Field Trips; an initiative that will connect thousands of pupils across Britain to immersive and enriching learning opportunities they previously would not have had access to.

In a first for a UK rail operator, the campaign will give pupils aged 4-18 the chance to travel by train to destinations on the West Coast Main Line for hands-on learning, fun and culturally diverse days. From learning the science of sound in a state-of-the-art recording studio in London, to art workshops at Coventry City of Culture 2021 and cooking on Manchester’s famous Curry Mile, Feel Good Field Trips will provide up to 5,000 students with previously inaccessible field travel experiences. The schools involved are part of Avanti West Coast’s network of partner schools which all have high premium rates for students.

The campaign builds on the Avanti Schools program, which aspires to connect young people from diverse socio-economic backgrounds to opportunities along the way.

Railways Minister Wendy Morton said: “This is a brilliant initiative by Avanti West Coast, which will allow the next generation to experience the best of our country while using our fantastic rail network to do it.”

George the Poet, spoken word artist, poet and award-winning rapper, is kicking off the campaign and leading the initiative as a ‘conductor of culture’.

Ten pupils aged 10 to 11 collaborated with George on an Avanti West Coast train from Manchester Piccadilly to London Euston in a poetry workshop, which saw them create their own piece of spoken word art, later recorded together at Soho Sonic Studios in Camden*.

George the Poet said: “Some of our most important learning experiences as children take place beyond the confines of the classroom. Having spent time as a youth worker, helping young people access a healthy dose of educational escape is something I am passionate about. That’s why I’m thrilled to help launch a project that will connect young people from different backgrounds with exciting and rewarding opportunities they will always remember. I had a fantastic time working with the students at Ashbury Meadow Primary School; together we created a whole new piece of spoken art and took an in-depth look at the science of sound, the recording process and the evolution of technology. I’m thrilled that so many more kids are getting the chance to enjoy this kind of immersive, hands-on experience as part of the Feel Good Field Trips campaign.

Mark Gibson, Deputy Headmaster of Ashbury Meadow Primary School, said: ‘The trip was a dream come true for most of these children who have never been on a long train journey, let alone central London. We would like to say a big thank you to Avanti West Coast for this unique opportunity for our students, which also includes meeting George the poet – that’s the icing on the cake.

Other launch events that kicked off the campaign included a hands-on cooking day with some of Manchester’s Curry Mile’s most revered chefs. Pupils from the COOP Academy in Stoke-on-Trent learned the history of the Curry Mile and cooked up a storm by preparing delicious vegetarian curry and bread baked in a Tandoor oven.

In Coventry, City of Culture 2021, The Herbert team guided Year 7 students from King Edward VI Sheldon Heath Academy around Daniel Lismore’s latest exhibition “Be Yourself: Everyone Is Already taken”. The children were then treated to a creative workshop where they sketched out designs for their own pattern-based artwork.

These events mark the start of the campaign which will see more destinations and experiences added over the next two years on the West Coast Mainline, including outdoor adventure in the Lake District and recycling of the fashion in Glasgow.

Avanti West Coast is working alongside Community Rail Partners across the Community Rail Network including Community Rail Lancashire, Heart of England and Rail 74 to deliver this campaign, with other partners set to join the campaign over the course of its two-year deployment.

Avanti West Coast Managing Director Phil Whittingham said:

“The past two years have been incredibly difficult and school children have been particularly affected by this pandemic. Not only was their education severely disrupted, but they also lost two years of social experiences. With the launch of Feel Good Field Trips, we want to give young people across the West Coast Mainline access to some truly enjoyable opportunities that they would have otherwise missed. Our network is rich in iconic destinations, which truly reflect the cultural diversity of our nation. We look forward to delivering much-needed joy to thousands of well-deserved children.

Chris B. Hall