BBC Student Critic Awards: Author Visit

03 Oct, 2018

The students had read their anthologies of short stories and were listening daily to podcasts from the BBC, enjoying hearing readings of the short stories and interviews with the authors. One of the stories, ‘Van Rensburg’s Card’, was surfacing as a firm favourite amongst the Year 13 students – so they were very excited to hear that they would be visited by the author of the story, Kiare Ladner.

Ladner’s story, set in South Africa, is one of grief. The protagonist, Maths teacher Greta, is adjusting to life following the death of her husband. This is a lonely life as her one daughter lives in Canada and only makes obligatory phone calls to her mother once a week. Greta is surprised when one of the most comforting and compassionate acts to support her and her grief is offered by a virtual stranger.

Prior to the arrival of Ladner, the students explored the story and discussed their responses to the narrative, characters, themes and style. They then prepared a range of questions so that they could guide the discussion.

On Friday 28th September, Ladner arrived. She delivered a reading from a section of her short story and then participated in a Q&A led by the students. The students were surprised by how highly Ladner valued their interpretations; she even revealed that their responses actually changed her own thinking towards some of the characters within the story. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable experience for all, including the author herself who spoke very highly of Eastbrook students.

Read some student testimonies below:

Conor Costello, 17

Whilst reading the exceptionally interesting and close entries for the BBC Student Critic Award, I found myself opened to the emotional impact that loss has in different cultures and between various relationships – and even the absence of change that occurred after loss. I was exposed to new perceptions of the world, and how the horrible realisation of the human condition can prevent us or spur us to go about our everyday life. Death, life and addiction were showcased in all their might in some form or another by each author. The craftsmanship of each of these exceptional female writers have both inspired and widened my love of creative literature.

My experience in meeting the quirky yet endlessly fascinating Kiare Ladner shaped even my own thinking of family and death. Ladner was interested in our approach to understanding her text and what her story had to say about society… and this had impact on how I will read stories in the future, as well as new insights in to the role of an author. My meeting and interaction with Ladner taught me to treat the text as its own educator, one that will regurgitate new meanings and fresh perspectives for us all to interpret.

But most of all, this opportunity from the BBC has shown me what top class writing is like, which now inspires me, as a writer, to write life in to the pages of a story as these five authors have so excellently demonstrated.


Jumobi Teriba, 17

Participating in the BBC Student Critic’s Award was a very intriguing yet informative experience, from speaking to a talented and experienced writer to reading the different, and equally personal, interpretations of loss.. The texts encouraged an emotional rollercoaster brought about by the realisation of the importance of company, the guilt caused by the lack of affection, and the level of insensitivity we as a modern society have in regards to victims of such tragic life experiences. The stories encouraged self-reflection and change to the normalised view of death and loss.

My favourite would definitely be ‘Van Rensburg’s Card’ written by Kiare Ladner. The writer speaks of how those who have experienced loss would rather be addressed; with true compassion and deep empathy instead of passively and disingenuously trying to comfort. The importance of a Van Rensburg in the life of anyone going through loss is one that reverberates throughout the whole text, urging me personally to strive to be someone’s Van Rensburg.