Friday, 26 November 2010

Winter Garden

Over the winter months, I will be tending a Winter Garden of words on my Word Garden blog.

Inspired by the idea of a garden designed to be at its best during the winter months (whether outside or under an elaborate glass structure), I will use the Word Garden blog as a space to grow ideas for a new piece of writing, to be completed in Spring 2011.

To do this, I need your help. From December through to February I’ll be putting together a collection of words, images and ideas. Please visit the blog and answer the question: What would feature in your perfect Winter Garden? Winter Gardens that don’t have the protection of glass canopies are creative in their use of colour, texture, light and smell; so I’ll be focussing on those four elements. Leave a list, a poem, a description, or just a single word.

I’ll be blogging each week, sharing extracts and ideas as they grow towards a final piece, which might be a story, might be a poem, or might be something completely different….

Image: bortescristian

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Voices in Print - New Commission from Stream

Stream Arts have just announced a new commission for a print-based project as part of their Voices strand.
They are looking to commission a print-based project which adopts an innovative approach to the theme of ‘Voices’, focussing on the experiences of Peninsula residents and giving voice to the diversity of people living and working in the area. The project should draw upon the extensive material that was collected during the previous Voices projects, using this research as the basis of the project, and making use of the new Voices website, which has interactive and social media elements, to generate discussion and communication (

More info here:

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Thoughts on writing and the city....

Check out David Ogunmuyiwa's fabulous guest blog for the South Bank Centre's Global Poetry System...

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

From Manchester Rain to Antarctic Dreams

I'm guest curator for the Southbank Centre's gorgeous Global Poetry System this week. Visit the site to see my journey through the found poems on a global poetry map.

Throughout August, the four members of the Found Materials network, of which I'm part, will be selecting 8 featured poems from the site.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Writing and Regeneration - Free resource

A free resource pack introducing writers and literature organisations to the complex and exciting field of regeneration is available to download from the literaturetraining website. An UrbanWords commission from literaturetraining and the National Association of Literature Development.

Friday, 16 July 2010

(Re)generating change: writing the public realm

A fantastic new article by Rosa Ainley, commissioned by UrbanWords, is now up on the A Place For Words website.
Rosa reflects on Leysdown: Rose-tinted, a Visioning project for Leysdown on the Isle of Sheppey, in collaboration with muf architecture/art and local people, which has been nominated for numerous awards and has had a tangible impact on the regeneration of the town.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Ballooning, Balancing, Balconies and Birds - texts installed

I've just installed four texts in Cremorne Gardens, Chelsea, prior to the story walks I'll be leading there on Tuesday 27th July.

Please visit the Cremorne Gardens sections of the Word Garden blog and answer the four related questions - answers will be incorporated into the walk. You can also read the texts and download your own copies if you'd like...

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Unforgettable Lessons

The Erith Marshes project I've been running with year 8 students at Trinity School, Bexley, is featured in CABE's Unforgettable Lessons exhibition at The Discover Centre in the Royal Naval College in Greenwich. The exhibition showcases each of the 12 Engaging Places best practice projects and is well worth a visit. It's on until the end of August.

The exhibition was launched yesterday. Jody and Jacob from Trinity School came along to talk about their experiences of the prjoect and show off the fantastic guide to the marshes they made with designer Esther Yarnold from Interim.

The Bexley project continues.... we are currently collecting oral histories from local people to inspire a series of new text pieces to be installed in the marshes. Watch this space!

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Story-Swap Workshop

Story-Swap Workshop, 6-8pm, Thursday 1 July
Beaconsfield, 22 Newport St
, London
SE11 6AY

One man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure; one person’s annoying relative is the heroine of another’s novel. Come take part in a relaxed two-hour creative writing workshop led by Sarah Butler, which translates the concept of free-cycling onto the creative process.

Come with a donation – a character, an idea, a memory, an overheard conversation, a family secret: something you’re prepared to offer up to other people’s imagination. We will do a series of writing exercises, exploring participants’ offerings and finding ways to transform them into new gems of writing.

This free creative-writing workshop is part of SpaceShip Earth, 2010, a residency by artist Dafna Talmor at the Beaconsfield Gallery, 22 June – 18 July 2010. Over four weeks, Dafna Talmor will utilise Beaconsfield as centre for recycling, production and community workshops – a training ground for a better world elsewhere. The documentation of this activity will form the basis of Talmor’s TestBed film commission. Spending as little money as possible, the project will be fuelled by collaboration and audience participation -–borrowing, swapping, recycling where possible. Based around the idea of exchange, various practitioners provide free workshops to the general public, volunteering their time and skills in exchange for offerings-material or in the form of alternative services provided by participants.


Places are limited so please book by e-mailing your full name and mobile number to including the workshop title in the subject heading.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Balloons, spies, asparagus and other Wandsworth Stories

I have been loving It's a quirky and accessible heritage project, sharing snippets of history from across the borough. And they send you a postcard if you ask nicely! Mine just arrived this morning.....

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Engaging Places

I am working as writer-in-residence in Lower Belvedere, in the London Borough of Bexley. It is a fascinating area, once a broad stretch of marshland, close to the Pleasure Gardens at Erith, it is now home to Crossness Sewage Works, a huge new rubbish incinerator, an industrial estate, and a tiny patch of precious marshland, some of which is designated a protected Nature Reserve.

I've been working with Year 8 students at Trinity School to explore the marshland's history and ecology. Sessions have included work with the Local Studies Department, and the council planning department. The students have responded creatively to the area, creating myths, historical fictions, and proposing a new name for one of the many drainage dykes in the area.

The project is part of CABE's Engaging Places Scheme. You can read some of the students' responses to the project so far on the Engaging Places Website.

Yesterday, I was at an evaluation day for all of the Engaging Places projects taking place across England this year. I was struck by the diversity of the projects, and the wealth of ideas about how to engage young people in learning about the built environment. Listening to the presentations I was brought back to the thought I regularly have, that learning about the built environment should really be part of the curriculum. I think it is so important to enable our society to articulate and understand their relationship with place, not least so they can have the opportunity to participate in improving towns, cities and places across the UK.

Image Copyright Alys Tomlinson

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

WANTED: Poet to collaborate with Architects

Really exciting opportunity....

CODA Architects in Bristol are seeking expressions of interest from poets who wish to explore the dialogue between poetry and architecture.

CODA aim to gain a poetic viewpoint on architecture, the sites they build on, the type of projects they work on or even the materials they use to help generate alternative responses to these issues when designing.

A fee of £1000 is available for the poet engaging in this project.

If you feel that this is a project that you could contribute to please submit an expression of interest, comprising your CV and an indication of how you see the project might work (five hundred words maximum) to Ronnie Rennoldson:
email by 3 May 2010.

For more about CODA Architects and their work visit:

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

River Sounding

I stumbled across Bill Fontana’s River Sounding installation at Somerset House yesterday. Sounds collected from above and below the surface of the Thames have been installed in the underground spaces of Somerset House (not usually open to the public). Some spaces also have images from the Thames projected onto walls/piles of broken stones. It is a fantastic – and (excuse the pun) immersive – experience, this mix of subterranean urban with an incredible watery soundtrack. If you’re in London, go! It’s on until 31st May, and there are a whole load of linked talks and events too. More info here:

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Art and Regeneration, Why Do It?

There's a write up of a panel event, Art and Regeneration, Why Do It?, which was hosted by the Architecture Centre Network in February on ACN's website. The panel consisted of myself, Sam Wilkinson from Insite Arts and Anna Strongman from Argent.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Public Art Micro Documentary - Grasp The Words Which Sing from Ben Sherriff on Vimeo.

This 'micro-documentary' looks at Michael Fairfax's text and public art work in Exeter. It doesn't really deal with the text at all, rather addresses the politics/controversy/issues surrounding public art pieces. Some nice images though. I'd heard about the Heavitree project, but not seen images before. It's been hugely controversial, but I like it!

If you're interested to see more of Michael Fairfax's work, check out his website:

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Writers and Public Art - a new web resource

Myself and poet Linda France were recently commissioned by NAWE to produce a web based resource offering writers an introduction to the field of Public Art. The resource, which includes an introduction on how to find work, approach partners, contacts to see what else is being done in this area and a comprehensive bibliography, is now online.

Anne Caldwell, Programme Manager for NAWE says: "The collection of images from Linda France helps bring this work to life, and can be used to begin to develop your own approaches to collaborations. The images could spark ideas about a range of visual arts materials, your own use of text and styles etc, or be used to share with potential partners as a way of sparking ideas. Linda France encourages you to create your own image bank of material to inspire projects in the future, as every writer will have their individual style and taste in this developing area of work."

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Taking a Break

I'll be taking a break until early April, but will be on the look out for interesting things to blog about when I return....

Thursday, 11 February 2010

The Tragedy of Suburbia

I listened to a TED talk this week: The Tragedy of Suburbia by James Howard Kunstler. It has a bit too much American invective for my taste, but it's definitely worth a listen. A passionate challenge to modern planning and a demand for better quality places ...

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Artists and Regeneration

I'm talking at 'Artists and Regeneration', an event organised by The Architecture Network at The Building Exploratory in Dalston tomorrow night. It features myself, Anna Strongman from Argent and Sam Wilkinson from Insite Arts. Tickets have sold out, but they're going to put a podcast online so I'll post once that's up. Should be an interesting conversation....

Sunday, 7 February 2010


I went to the launch of Dryden Goodwin's stunning project, Linear, for Art on the Underground on Friday. He's drawn portraits of 60 members of staff on the Jubilee line, and recorded both the process of drawing and the conversations that took place. The results are 60 short films that give an incredible insight into the people that took part. There's also something really magical about watching their faces emerge from a blank piece of paper as you hear them speak. Funny, moving, gorgeous. Check it out.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Negotiate Your Place

A great conversation at the Know Your Place event at the German Gym in King’s Cross last night. I could have carried on for at least another hour!

Some ideas and themes that stuck with me:

1. The negotiation of power within residencies – how can and should a writer approach a residency? As an anarchist, a negotiator? Nick Mahoka made a good point that he thought organisations who asked for a residency were to some extent asking a question, inviting a line of inquiry. Lemn Sissay talked about the need for commissioners to take a creative approach.

2. The balance between structure and freedom, and the role of the organisation in supporting and enabling the writer to really work magic.

3. The need to accept that you can’t know what will happen in a residency, balanced with the need to draw boundaries (especially to do with resources), and then to measure and advocate for the work done.

4. Kat Joyce talked about her One Mile Away residency and how all of the stories and conversations amassed into something bigger than its constituent parts, and also the satisfaction she found in watching new connections being made within a neighbourhood as a result of her work.

5. Lee Mallet commented that within the field of regeneration there is a real need for work like this to deepen our (and specifically planners/architects/developers’) understanding of place.

6. Tamsin Dillon from Art on the Underground talked about their growing interest not just in the physicality of the Underground but also in ‘the people who animate those contexts’.

And so much more!

Thursday, 28 January 2010

My Place Or Yours - another case study

The last case study before our event, Know Your Place, is now online. Apples and Snakes discuss My Place Or Yours, a series of 5 writing residencies exploring pioneering ways of presenting work on-line and live, engaging with audiences through a series of residencies on the theme of “Place”.
Emma McGordon chose to be a poet in residence in homeless shelters in Cumbria and Liverpool. Take a look at the case study to find out more....

Thursday, 21 January 2010

One Mile Away

In the lead up to the Know Your Place event, a second case study is now online.
One Mile Away was a 3 month residency exploring the mile radius around Spread the Word's offices in Lambeth. Writer Kat Joyce, and theatre director Nathan Curry, brought together a disparate collection of narratives, collected through participatory workshops, into a promenade play, which started in an empty shopping unit in Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre and took audiences on a mile long walk, culminating in West Square, SE11.

Friday, 8 January 2010

New case study online, and get your questions in early....

In the lead up to Know Your Place – a panel debate organised by UrbanWords and Spread the Word to explore the role of value of place-specific writing residencies – we are collecting together a series of short case studies to whet your appetite and spark questions to put to our panellists prior to the event.

The first of these case studies is now online. Central line stories took place in 2009: a residency by Sarah Butler working with London Underground staff, commissioned by Art on the Underground.

Having read about Sarah's project we'd like to know what questions or issues you think it raises which could be a focus for the debate. What more would you like to know about this project? Are there others which you think are comparable? Please email Emma Hewett with your questions/responses at by Monday 25th January.

And don’t forget to book your place! Full details and booking here.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Free article on A Place For Words

Check out a new free article by Linda France on A Place For Words. Writing in Three Dimensions explores the difference between writing for the page, and writing for a place. Linda France is a poet with a huge amount of experience writing for public art commissions.