Break a Guinness World Record with Me!

28 June, 2024

Laura Mucha is an ex-lawyer turned poet and Author-in-Residence in the Department of Public Health & Primary Care, University of Cambridge. Her writing has won multiple international awards and been featured on TV, radio and public transport, as well as in hospitals, hospices, prisons, books, magazines and newspapers around the world. When not writing, Laura spends her time visiting schools around the world and working with organisations such as the Royal Society of Medicine, National Literacy Trust and UNICEF to try to improve the lives of children. You can read more about her work at lauramucha.com.

 In this blog, she desperately tries to persuade you to break a Guinness World Record with her… 

Get On and Do It…

I’ve been thinking about breaking a Guinness World Record for a decade. Then in the last year, three things happened that made me think I should get on and do it.

The first was co-writing a poem with 16,500 children, which I did in collaboration with the National Literacy Trust and the Royal British Legion. The second was coming Runner Up for the Ruth Rendell Award, which recognises the author who has had the most significant influence on literacy in the UK over the past year.

And the third was discovering that the theme of this year’s National Poetry Day is COUNTING. What better excuse is there to break a Guinness World Record with 60-100k kids – where every single child counts, literally?!

Children. Lots of Them.

I didn’t just want to break any record. I like to think there are a few chocolate eating records I would have a good shot at, but I wanted to break a record that would involve literacy. And mental health. And children. Lots of them. And make them Guinness World Record Breakers in the process. (Or in Guinness language, ‘participants in a Guinness World Record Title Break’.) The problem with this sort of record is that it is an ungodly amount of work and organisation. But I’m too far down the line to give up now…

Five literacy charities have agreed to work with me – the National Literacy Trust, National Poetry Day, Centre for Literacy in Primary Education, Poetry Society and Poetry Archive. The Daily Mail and Sky Kids News have agreed to feature it. And I’ve done a crash course in marketing to find a corporate sponsor to pay the whopping Guinness World Record fees.

This is all VERY different from my day job. I’m used to quietly writing books while drinking vast amounts of herbal tea – not cajoling people into breaking Guinness World Records with me.

It Will Be Worth It. Right?!

 But I think the (very noisy) deviation from my usual work life is worth it – or at least I tell myself it’s worth it – for a number of reasons:

  1. What better way to empower someone than to break a Guinness World Record together!? And for this record, it’s the act of taking part and coming together that counts. In a time where SO much focus is on achievement, isn’t it refreshing for the simple act of taking part to be celebrated in and of itself?
  2. Students will be able to see the finished poem and think, I was part of that, my ideas and opinions mattered, I helped make that happen.
  3. I think it’s hugely valuable to pause and create a time and space to think about – really think about – what’s important. It’s all too easy to lose sight of this question amid the endless demands of modern life. And poetry is an exceptional way to pause and reflect.
  4. Much of writing is editing, but editing is incredibly difficult to teach. I can tell you that you should read your work through and see if you can find any better words, or cut sections, or move them around, or add punctuation to add emotion or humour or drama… But it’s much more impactful if we make those decisions together, you see what the options are, how they sound when you say them, what rhythm they have, how they fit together like a jigsaw, and what the different permutations feel like, and then YOU choose. And that’s what we will be doing in this project. With tens of thousands of kids!
  5. Last but not least, I’m excited about bringing tens of thousands together to do something ginormous and giving them a voice. And it’s not just young people that benefit from this…

I Can’t Do This Without You!

I’m really hoping that by now, you’re thinking hmmm, this sounds interesting (if a little bonkers). If so, HOORAY! If you’re a teacher, please can you and your students take part – EVERYONE in Years 3 – 7 if possible. And if you’re not a teacher or librarian, please could you share this with any teachers or librarians you might know.

Taking part involves:

  • Registering here.
  • Spending one lesson using the video teaching resources that we will provide to generate ideas in class in mid-September.
  • Sharing these with me before 20th September.
  • Joining a massive multi-school co-workshop on National Poetry Day, 3 October 2024.

Right.

That’s it.

What do you think?

Have I persuaded you?!

I hope so. Because I need your help. I quite literally can’t do this without you.

So please share this with anyone you know that works in a school. And if that’s you, please sign up. (It’s free!)

I look forward to breaking a Guinness World Record with you!