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Student Stories: Henri Poole-Birrell

Hello folks! My name's Henri, I'm 22, and I'm currently working on 1.2 Further Writing Skills as part of OCA's BA in Creative Writing. I'm from South Devon, in the UK, where I've lived all my life. However, I put the jam on the scone first, so perhaps I'm part Cornish somewhere very deep down! I work part-time as a private English tutor for children aged 11-16 and have a huge passion for painting pictures with words, brushes, and a mouse. (As in the keyboard and mouse, not the rodent) I also hate mushrooms.


What is your previous educational experiences and what drew you to OCA?

I've previously dabbled in the arts, especially Fine Art. I achieved a Level 3 Extended National Diploma in Art and Design in 2019, whereafter I went on to gain experience running and designing art workshops for young home-educated students and supported my family's business as a teacher and art lead. I then went to study for a postgraduate diploma in education and training, which I somehow managed to achieve in the whirlwind of a year that was 2020-2021. (Hint, hint: covid) It wasn't until my family's business folded due to the pandemic that I had to look for alternative pathways. That was when I rediscovered my love my reading and writing and found OCA by pure accident. But sometimes accidents are what we need to steer us back onto the right path. (Unless you wet yourself or something like that– that's not a nice sort of accident)

Can you describe your OCA journey?

OCA is really quite innovative in terms of its approach and ethos. Its team of tutors care– meaning they are a truly talented and attentive bunch of professionals with a real interest in what students create, no matter how surreal or quirky the material ;) I don't know what sort of writer I'd be without the drop-ins, the workshops, the cafes, the communication and the friendships from students– and not to mention the dedication tutors have towards supporting your needs.

Tutors Gerry Ryan and Suzannah Evans Furnass really go above and beyond and I don't what I would do without their detailed feedback and words of creative wisdom. Thank you :) There is certainly a lot of waiting between modules presently. But at least we are in good hands, and aiming for something worth waiting for. I'm also an editor for the new Bookmarked OCA Magazine, which is very exciting and a fantastic opportunity to be part of.

What was the Tutor and/or Peer Support like on your course?

In general, tutor support is really thorough. Knowing tutors are creative practitioners, as well as educational professionals, is fantastic, and the comments made on coursework have only enabled me to move forward positively with the course. I now weirdly love both positive and constructive feedback. OCA knows how to enable you to excel. Peer support is second to none. Everyone cares about everyone at OCA- we're all just so interested in each other's work– it's great! It is what I call a very 'refreshing' community.

What does studying with OCA mean to you?

Who knows! Haha! Art shouldn't be all about serial-success or making lots of wonga. If anything, I'd like to think that the degree will help me improve as a writer and as a human being in general. I'm also very interesting in having work published traditionally, that's an ambition of mine I hope OCA can help me with.

What's next?

I'm always writing something. I am mostly interested in speculative fiction and I'm looking forward to entering a piece of work into the Bridport Writing Prize this year. I don't know what'll happen, but it's always good to throw creativity to the wind and make a leap every now and again. I'm also trying to get into using a typewriter, as backward as that may sound, so if anyone has any good nerdy recommendations for models, please do email me!

Any advice?

Don't be afraid to 'take the leap'. Be open-minded and listen to others– it's a blessing, not an annoyance. And no matter what others may say, believe that you and what you create has the possibility to be more than just 'pie in the sky'. You can change the world. Oh, and don't use adverbs. You'll go to OCA Hell for that one.*

*Only a writing joke.


You can find Henri on Instagram

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Good luck on your creative journey, Henri!

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