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Mother Tongues is an Arvon project that encourages young people to write in both English and their mother tongue.

Over the last four years Arvon has pioneered Mother Tongues, a multi-lingual creative writing programme funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. The project has enabled young people from diverse communities across the UK to write in their mother tongue and English side by side, exploring both languages and cultures.

In December 2009, 16 young people from Brazil, Portugal and Mozambique took part in a week-long residential led by two professional writers who communicate in both Portuguese and English at Lumb Bank, Arvon’s centre in Yorkshire. Following the success of the first residential, a second Portuguese group took part in 2010 and then a group of Yoruba speakers of Nigerian heritage in March 2011.

From 2012 – 2013 we worked with four new language groups: Urdu, French- speaking African and Caribbean, Romanian Roma and Somali. Each group involved has also engaged in workshops in school, and the production and launch of an anthology to share their creative achievements with their school and family.

“This has been a ground-breaking project in terms of recognition of Yoruba culture and language and has benefited everyone concerned.”  Lambeth LEA

“It has helped me be more confident of being dual heritage.” Student.

This film shows 16 Urdu-speaking young people from The Leeds Co-operative Academy who visited Lumb Bank for a residential creative writing course led by Anjum Malik and Ishy Din.

To find out about bringing a school group to Arvon email

Mother Tongues was kindly supported by Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation from 2009 to 2013.

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