Fine Young Cannibals

I’m just finishing up two separate residencies for Poetry Ireland, in primary schools in Drogheda and Balbriggan. These two particular courses are what are known as Development Education residencies – all of which have some kind of social justice theme. The theme this year has been ‘Starvation’. I run a project that produces a collection of illustrated stories at the end of it – one by me and the rest by the kids – all of which have to deal with starvation in some way.
The way I approach this is to encourage all the kids to write whatever type of story they want to write . . . on one condition: all the stories have to take place in the same setting. In this case, it’s an Irish city in an alternative world, where most of the population is starving. The story doesn’t have to be completely realistic, and it doesn’t have to be about finding food; there are lots of other problems the kids’ characters can be facing. Starvation makes people desperate, and desperate people do some mad things.
The classes were 5th and 6th – that’s ten, eleven and twelve-year olds for any of you folks outside of Ireland. Interestingly, it occurred to the kids in both classes that, in such dire circumstances, there might be people who would resort to cannibalism. A number of the kids actually had some of their main characters being devoured in their stories. One kid had all of his characters eaten at the end.
When the topic came up in one class, I jokingly asked how many of the kids would consider eating human flesh if they were dying of starvation. They all laughed . . . and then about half of them put up their hands.
We seriously need to get out of this bloody recession. If this is how our kids are thinking, we’ve got to be careful we don’t start running low on food . . .