Only connect

Still researching. Talking, googling, thinking, reading.  Roddy Doyle’s “Fighting Words” centre in Dublin, modelled on Dave Eggars’ 826 Valencia in San Francisco. I send an email, asking if I can come over and see what they’re doing. That part of this placement is a luxury. I would have wanted to do that anyway. Wouldn’t have been automatically funded or encouraged as a random, interested writer. Today’s Guardian mentions the Simon Bolivar orchestra coming to the South Bank. I’d seen a documentary on them and Venezuela’s Sistema which sees a quarter of a million kids in orchestras. There’s a pilot in Scotland. Some criticism apparently that transplanting Latin America’s radical social action won’t work here.

I think about how creative writing isn’t as communal, as immediately exciting as music. But that there is probably an unthought of way to make it so. Maybe. Add in passion somehow. As the Simon Bolivar orchestra apparently does.

After school groups run by volunteers. How could they be impassioned?

I spoke to Rachel Adam the director of the Juice Festival this week. It’s a young people’s festival funded by the Newcastle Gateshead Initiative from October 22nd-November 8th. She says it’s one of the few young people’s festivals that will have as much of a focus on the children creating work as experiencing work produced for them. I like the sound of that. Reflect again that the North East is a good place to try creative things. Connected island as we are.

In the beginning

Through the window of the New Writing North offices the view is entirely blocked by the scaffolded edifice of a new university building. Perhaps this is a metaphor. Perhaps it’s just part of a sentence constuction. Anyway. I’m here with a shiny identity card, use of a desk, Mac, phone and shelf in a little grey desk tidy thing.  I didn’t expect these things when I was sat in an airless office at Northern Stage being interviewed for this cultural development leadership position less than three weeks ago. I enjoyed the interview because it’s nice to get a chance to talk about something you’re enthusiastic about. Ways to get young people into writing, ways to be a writer working with young people.  I wasn’t sure I wanted the job though. I’ve always thought I’d be rubbish at arts admin and after a fallow autumn, lots of other projects and opportunities had started coming in. Claire was saying though that this could be an opportunity to make this sort of work writer friendly, give writers a voice, innovate ways of doing that. Also I knew Claire and Anna had been to 826 Valencia, the San Francisco building where Dave Eggars runs writing workshops for kids behind a pirate store front. I was excited about ways to work like this in the North East. 

When they said we could spread the placement over a year not six months, I was sold. So far we’ve talked, planned, written lists. Mainly to start with I’ll be talking to writers and young people and the people who work with them. Seeing what’s out there. Seeing what else could be. Starting this blog I suddenly had an epiphany. We’ve talked about possibilities of things like writers getting time to write built into projects with young people. Surely it would make sense for this placement as Associate Writer to include some time for me to do some actual…writing. What/how, dunno, since I had the idea five minutes ago, but the nice bit about being in the New Writing North office was that I got immediate nodding of heads from Claire and Olivia. I don’t know how often I’ll come in here. My seaside house is good for working and writing and lots of what I’ll be doing will be meetings. But often a different space feels inspiring and having this little space of own to drop into could well allow me to combine the roles of a cultural leader (whatever that is; to be discovered during the course of this year) and writer, without allowing one to overwhelm the other.  And actually, though I’ve conjured grey office metallic-ness, sitting on this desk are also a beautiful bouquet of orange tulips Claire got me as a welcome.

If you’re interested in writers and their work with young people, then please do drop into this blog over the next year with comments and suggestions. Collaboration, partnership, networking, researching. These are some of the words buzzing round my head. But also; tulips, popcorn, spiral.