Wednesday, 29 October 2008

What do writers do?

Writers tell stories. They find form for complex ideas. They show us the world anew. They explore the connections that exist, between people, places, events, and time. Writers search for what is not said, the currents that exist underneath what is made explicit. Writers create work that is a pleasure to read.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Roundtable Discussion at the TINAG festival

25 people came to a roundtable discussion asking 'is there a role for creative writers and creative writing in the process of regeneration' at Cafe Oto, in Dalston, last Friday, as part of TINAG's three day festival exploring 'the city'.

I found the discussion fascinating. We had 6 panellists, who gave a broad range of responses to the question. It was a beginning of a conversation really, and we could only just scratch the surface in the hour and a half, but there is talk of setting up further discussions and possibly a network of those interested in this area of work.

I am in the process of writing up the session for TINAG's festival publication and will post more details as I progress.

Something that struck me on Friday was a conversation a woman who attended the event. She works with young people in Newham, and her initial response to the discussion was 'but we're interested in activism, not words.' I tried to explain that I am also interested in real change and in real empowerment for people who are experiencing regeneration, and that I see the potential for writing to have a powerful effect on urban change. As our conversation progressed, she started to say that maybe she saw that writing might be one way in to engage with people and articulate their views and aspirations, with the intention of engendering change. I am hoping that conversation will continue.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Hard hats and steel toe-capped boots

This week sees the culmination of a fantastic project, BS1. Artist Neville Gabie was apppointed as artist-in-residence on the Cabot Circus site (commissioned by InSite Arts, the residency was funded by Bristol Alliance).
In addition to his own work, Neville wanted to create the opportunity for other artists to respond to the creation of this new retail centre and successful got arts council funding to do so.

I worked with Neville to appoint the novelist Donna Daley-Clarke to work on the BS1 project. It was fantastic to be in the position to find an interesting writer, and offer them the time, access and impetus to respond creatively to a vast and remarkable site.

Donna wrote three stories as a result of her residency: Dirt, Stone and Glass. They have been published in a small publication, currently available at the BS1 exhibition in Bristol (24-30 Oct).

Talking about her residency, Donna said:

"I saw processes and machinery that I had no knowledge of and weeks or months later I had a series of light bulb moments as I realized what I had seen then. I saw lots of absences: no floors or walls or ceilings. There were wires beneath my feet and brightly coloured cables running up poles.

I met many people formally in meeting rooms and informally as Neville grabbed men in high-vis jackets walking past the open door of Costa Coffee. I talked to people on their lunch breaks. I climbed ladders in the rain to get people's stories.

None of the stories I eventually emerged with belong to any one person I spoke to, but none of the stories would have been possible without the input of the many people who gave up their time and shared something of their journeys."

In addition to the publication, Donna wrote some texts which are bring projected onto the exhibition window, along with another artist's video portraits of site workers.

Monday, 20 October 2008

A free workshop looking at creative writing and community consultation

UrbanWords has teamed up with Create KX to deliver a workshop exploring how creative writers can contribute to the process of consultation. The session is free, but you need to book. Details below:

What Do You Think?
A community/ an organisation/ a place can be seen as a tapestry of stories, each thread essential and compelling.
The space to write down, savour and enjoy these words enables communication and sparks passion.
We all know the pen is mightier than the sword, but can creative writing ensure successful consultation? Can writers provide a vital role aiding regeneration?
Join us for a stimulating workshop on using literature and creative writing as part of the consultation process for change and urban renewal.
The workshop will delivered by UrbanWords ( and poet, Aoife Mannix (
3.30-5.30pm, Wednesday 19th November
The School of Life, 70 Marchmont Street, London WC1N 1AB
Free, but booking essential. Email to book your place.

Friday, 17 October 2008

BS1 Project - exhibition in Bristol 24th - 30th October

A week long exhibition at 94-96 Horsefair, Bristol, marks the culmination of BS1, a series of temporary art commissions responding to the creation of Cabot Circus, a new retail centre for the city.
UrbanWords worked with the artist Neville Gabie, and Insite Arts, to commission Donna Daley-Clarke to respond to the site. She has written 3 stories, Dirt, Stone and Glass, which will be available at the exhibition and soon up on the project website.
There's an opening evening on Thursday 23rd October, 5.00-9.00pm, and the exhibition's open 24th-30th, 11.00am - 5.00pm. Click here to go to a flyer for the event.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Playing In Urban Places - transcript up on site

You can now download a transcript of the paper I gave at Playing in Urban Places at Leeds Metropolitan University on 3rd October from A Place For Words.

Just to blow my own trumpet for a moment, some unsolicited emails after the event:
"I wanted to say how much we enjoyed your presentation, it was brilliant, interesting and inspiring"
"I really enjoyed your talk "

I'd be interested to hear what anybody thinks about it...

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Playing in Urban Places

I spoke at Playing in Urban Places: a seminar, organised by Leeds Metropolitan University Gallery and Theatre last week. I will be posting a downloadable transcript of my paper on the A Place For Words site shortly - I'll post a note to tell you when it's up.

It was a really interesting day. Lots of interesting ideas and questions, plus we got to make dens, and play with lego!

Quentin Stevens, from the Bartlett, gave a key note about playing in urban places, which resonated with a lot of the things I've been thinking about recently.
Play is crucial, I think, in exploring and developing our relationship with place. It seems to me that play - seen as 'normal' for children, and 'transgressive' for adults - is key to achieving a sense of ownership and agency over a place. Quentin Stevens talked about areas where play takes place: paths, intersections, boundaries, thresholds and where there are props. This made me think about the work Snug and Outdoor have done around play and narrative, using concepts from narrative analysis (about paths, thresholds, obstacles, destinations, sanctuaries, arenas) and relating those to the design of play-spaces. Can we make a jump from this to the wider field of urban design and start to design in the possibilities for new narratives?