Sutton: Literacy champion meets Duchess

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A former Sutton man has met the Duchess of Cornwall after being recognised as a National Literacy Hero.

Richard O’Neill travelled down to Clarence House in London after being chosen for the honour alongside nine others, including Harry Potter author JK Rowling.

Richard O'Neill with his award.

Richard O'Neill with his award.

The 51-year-old, who lived on Huthwaite Road when he was younger but now lives in Manchester, has been praised for his innovative work in improving children’s literacy in schools.

Mr O’Neill specialises in storytelling and coming up with new methods to help children and teachers have more fun with reading and writing.

“I try to encourage children of all ages who don’t normally see themselves as writers to give it a go,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what is your background, circumstances or accent, your experiences can still be interesting to other people.

“To win the award came as such as a surprise. I had a fantastic conversation with the Duchess about story telling and she talked about how her dad used to tell her stories.”

Mr O’Neill points to Notts’ rich writing heritage, with Lord Byron, D. H Lawrence and Alan Sillitoe just some of the famous names associated with the county.

He plans to unveil a new show called Laughanory in April and hopes to visit schools across Ashfield later in the year.

“The accents are one of the things I really enjoyed when I lived in the area, and I still love to hear it when I come back to do work in Notts schools, with Hillocks Primary in Sutton one of those I have visited,” added Mr O’Neill.

“These days you are consistently battling against video games, but I ask kids to look around and draw inspiration from their surroundings because it is there. In Sutton, for instance, you have the largest sun dial in the country.”