Sufiya Ahmed at Whalley Range High School For Girls

We were worried about being late, so naturally ended up arriving first. Whalley Range High School For Girls hosted a visit from Sufiya Ahmed yesterday, arranged with the assistance of the Manchester Children’s Book Festival. It was definitely the right kind of school for a talk on forced marriages, and Sufiya seemed to go down exceedingly well with the girls.

Sufiya Ahmed at Whalley Range High School for Girls

It was a good thing it was girls only, except possibly for the Resident IT Consultant and mcbf’s James Draper who were seriously outnumbered, but suffered in manly silence as best they could. They were both useful. James in that he wore his frog socks (and introduced Sufiya), and the Resident IT Consultant for assisting me in signing in, when I had a momentary lapse of just about everything.

Sufiya Ahmed at Whalley Range High School for Girls

Whalley Range is my kind of school, with some great Art Deco interiors and with a student population who wears purple blazers. They have a large proportion of muslim girls, and I saw many headscarves being worn, although I expect and hope that most of the girls will never have to face forced marriages. Although, there were several who had come across them happening to others.

We have Enid Blyton, and to some extent Roald Dahl, to thank for inspiring Sufiya to write. And the Whalley Range girls brought new and unsuspected skills to the often asked question of inspiration, managing to ask it in many different guises. Sufiya stayed on the ball, and most of the time Enid continued being her source of inspiration.

Henna pattern competition

Sufiya’s father used to make her watch the nine o’clock news, and her work in parliament where she met groups of women who were working against forced marriages, helped decide her that this is an important topic for a teen book.

Then Sufiya read aloud from Secrets of the Henna Girl, choosing the scene on the rooftop garden where Zeba finds out what’s in store for her. After that she did some Q&A and told the girls about a facebook page for the Forced Marriage Unit.

Dressing up as a bride with Sufiya Ahmed at Whalley Range High School for Girls

And then, in order not to be too serious she talked about the fun things connected with Asian marriages, like the clothes and the henna patterns. An amazing number of volunteers wanted to come up on stage with her to dress up, and five lucky girls had a go with the clothes, and another three had a quick henna session with Sufiya.

Sufiya Ahmed at Whalley Range High School for Girls

Not surprisingly, Sufiya has never hated books, her childhood favourite was Mallory Towers, and her most recently read book was by Philippa Gregory. Her advice for hopeful writers is to read a lot, to always carry a notebook and to take part in writing competitions.

Sufiya Ahmed at Whalley Range High School for Girls

Judging by the number of questions they had and how the girls flocked around Sufiya afterwards, and the books bought and the bookmarks signed, this was a very successful event, and I hope they went away inspired by seeing someone like themselves doing an author visit in a school. The girls might have been on the young side to be seriously thinking about forced marriages, but they were just right for the event, the dressing up and the henna and everything.

10 responses to “Sufiya Ahmed at Whalley Range High School For Girls

  1. Hi I’m from whalley range and found sufya very interesting I didnt get a chance to see her but hope comes again to our school thank you very much. From a girl in whalley range high school that loves writing story’s and poems and reading . Yr7 if you trust your heart u may find surprises beyond expectations, follow ur heart and have an adventure. Thank you

  2. Hello,
    Maybe you could go to the Manchester Children’s Book Festival at the end of June and early July? That way you’d get to see/meet other authors to inspire you.

    • I might thank you. I know I shouldn’t have asked but if it’s all right answer this quesiton. Who are you ? Ur rl name I can’t coz I like to keep my identity a secret but can u plz if it’s ok tell me who u are I’m very curios thank you.

  3. I’m just a short and fat old witch. Mostly harmless.

  4. I never tell people my name. And even if I did you wouldn’t know me, so there is no point. Here my name is Bookwitch and I write about books.

  5. It’s always good to be careful. But schools don’t let just anyone in, and half the children’s book world know me very well.
    I don’t even have a gingerbread house.

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