Arts festival launches new virtual writing centre for North West
Writing on the Wall creators set up online community of novelists, playwrights and poets as we ease out of lockdown.
Aspiring novelists, playwrights and poets from across Liverpool have the chance to share their stories and experiences from the Covid-19 pandemic as part of a new virtual writing centre created by the city’s Writing on the Wall Festival (WoWFEST).
Set up in a bid to inspire the next generation of writers and champion those already in the field, The Writer’s Bloc: Community & Creativity will bring a series of free workshops and discussions, featuring literary experts.
Tackling such emotive and hard-hitting subjects as the Black Lives Matter movement, mental health and domestic abuse during lockdown, The Writer’s Bloc aims to connect people virtually. It is hoped the programme can be expanded into a physical event later.
Kicking off on Windrush Day – Monday 22 June – the event will feature a Facebook Live, previewing an anthology of essays entitled From SS Orbita to Orbital. The collection was compiled by musicians, historians and researchers to document the impact of those brought to us by the Empire Windrush.
And, lending her expertise as the first Writer on the Bloc, is novelist and lecturer Yvonne Battle Felton, who begins a three-week residency on Monday.
Winner of the Northern Writers’ Award for her debut novel, Remembered, Yvonne will host a special In Conversation session, plus pre-bookable one-to-ones; Write Here Write Now writing prompt sessions; and a Bloc Social to allow the virtual community to come together.
Yvonne, who was also shortlisted for the prestigious Jhalak Prize 2020, said:
“I have always wanted to be a ‘writer in residence’ – in my imagination, I pictured a cosy room surrounded by books, paintings and stories. I imagined the hours dedicated to writing, the space to fill with stories, the conversations with emerging writers: the words forming community.
“I did not imagine Covid-19, isolation, the multiplication of distance, the divisions. I imagined I would be writing historical fiction; instead, I’m living history as witness to, and advocate of, the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s like a storm within a storm. I don’t know where the centre is but I know I need to write, right now.
“I’m thrilled to participate in the Writers’ Bloc and to be the first ‘on the Bloc’ fills me with joy. Right now, we need words, we need stories, we need community. Thanks to the Writers’ Bloc, I have an opportunity to engage, develop, create, and to write, right here and right now.”
Also joining the Writer’s Bloc programme is a string of local writers and artists who will lead WoW flagship creative writing project, What’s Your Story?
Among those also sharing their craft will be Liverpool-based novelist, playwright and poet Deborah Morgan. She will call on people to talk about their lockdown experience, tapping into the impact on mental health, wellbeing and relationships.
Artist Cheryl Martin will host Time to Breathe, a project aimed at black writers, offering the chance to discuss their experiences of racism and encouraging change. And local writer Margy McShane will lead It’s Not Ok, a project created in response to the spike in domestic abuse cases during lockdown, aiming to create a community of women who can work through their experiences together.
The Writer’s Bloc, which is funded by The National Lottery Reaching Communities Fund, Liverpool City Region Covid-19 Emergency Funding and The Steve Morgan Foundation, follows the success of the WoWFEST’s first ever virtual event last month.
Marking its 20thyear, the much-loved festival was under threat of collapse during the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, organisers created an online alternative, featuring a range of guest speakers from across politics, literature and the arts, including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh.
Mike Morris and Madeline Heneghan, co-directors of Writing on the Wall, said:
“We were completely overwhelmed by the success of WoWFEST: LOCKDOWN and it proved there’s certainly an appetite for virtual events that celebrate and nurture the skills of our region’s creatives.
“The Writer’s Bloc: Creativity & Community is needed now more than ever as a place for our communities to connect, be creative and feel supported. This unique opportunity from Writing on the Wall is a new and innovative offer for the city and the wider North West – we’re absolutely brimming with talent and have a lot to offer, so we’re thrilled to be able to launch a community that can fly our flag.
“As we ease out of lockdown, a lot people will be reflecting on the last few months and looking back at their experiences – the ups and the downs – and this event will hopefully be an outlet for them to share their stories and support one another.”
As part of the launch of The Writer’s Bloc, organisers are also calling on local graphic designers to create a new logo for the project, with the winning entrant receiving £1,000 to work with the WoW team and help develop the branding.