Summery

There’s been comfort and satisfaction this week in feeling that I’m actually doing tangible stuff as part of the CLP.

I was quite buzzing after three and a half hours talking to Anna at NWN and putting together plans and actions for the next steps with young people’s projects. We’re going to pilot a group that’ll meet over the summer, using the format I’ve been using with the SAMA young writers group who’ve been guinea pigs. We’ll recruit for volunteers too and train them in working with young people’s writing groups. I also spoke to the North East’s museums literacy officer and was selling her the idea of running those groups in museums across the region too. She sounded keen- though said that some education officers would find the idea of facilitating a writing group scary.

I’m seeing it as a writing/reading/talking group though where all the members, including the facilitators learn from each other. It fits with the way creativity is being embedded in schools now- and kids are being asked to co construct their learning. I think some of this also comes from my reading that book (Micheline Wandor) challenging the traditional writers workshop set up. I think formats that allow multiplicity of approaches, diversity and conscious reflection on the thoughts and beliefs and values underlying your writing are a fair way forward (and can still produce and emphasise “quality” work- just with an appreciation of how disputed a term that can be).

A phD into the impact of creative writing on young people is being hosted by NWN and Northumbria University. After a burst of loving research I thought of going for it- but know I’d be far more excited about a theoretical approach and this seems to beg a very practical and evaluative one. (Not thirty thousand words before anyone’s even started on “What is writing?”

My own practice is still at the forefront of what I’m thinking about- I enjoyed getting to do a non-flowery poem at the Chelsea flower show, and I’m taking an extract from my one woman show to the Lit Up live literature conference in June.

Having enough money at the moment is pleasant too. Allowing me and my bloke to go to a Lakeland cottage for a few days, for me to replace my computer monitor without stressing and to buy a few nice, cheap, quirky dresses from a range called “Hell Bunny” for gigs and things. It’s for “Women who lead a punk and Gothic, alternative lifestyle” apparently. Hmm. I don’t. But I suppose writers are seen as leading an alternative lifestyle sometimes.

The conventional part of me likes being able to point to outcomes like a nearly completed set of guidelines to give to teachers and writers working in schools, to the work I’m doing with the young writers group and the up coming pilot volunteering scheme as measurable, actual actions.

Though perhaps the most powerful work of the Cultural Leadership Programme comes when I’m lying awake at 5 a.m thinking.

Swirling

Not blogged for a while-mainly due to extreme busyness, though I did do a post last week in a rare spare minute that got lost due to a recalcitrant computer connection.

I miss setting things down though. What’s happening with this placement thing? On a practical level, I’ve delivered a draft writer’s manifesto based on my conversations with writers and am working on creating a pilot mentoring scheme for writers working with young people. Also going to deliver some draft guidelines for writers working with young people, and am still facilitating a young writers group and using them as guinea pigs for ways I/NWN might work with young people in the future.

So, lots. But actually I think the placement is impacting everything else I do and making it bigger, or exaggerated somehow.

For example, I’d thought for a while that setting myself up as a company so I could run gigs, apply for project funding and sub contract surplus work (particularly writing and performance workshops) to other writers would be a good thing. Now, it seems more imperative and a responsibility. It seems a great vehicle to do the practitioner as leader thing. I was even more convinced after meeting the amazing performance artist Bobby Baker on Saturday Live. She seems perpetually busy too but has a company that supports both her own work and her outreach sort of work.

And, that’s the other part of my work that is being exaggerated. The me bit. Partly because I don’t want it to get drowned amongst everything else, partly because I recognise that supporting your individual practice is equally as important on the “Cultural leader” front (How often I return to that phrase- as if needing that tag to confer legitimacy on what I’m doing).

I’m previewing my show “The Rules of Engagement” at the Live Lit conference at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal in June (well, a 15 minute excerpt) and have been doing some mini previews this week and will be going down to Arc in Stockton in a few days to show a final version to it’s “critical friend” Annabel Turpin.

I also did another telly thing on St George’s Day on BBC2’s Daily Politics and have an appearance coming up on BBC2’s Chelsea flower show coverage (with Alan Titchmarsh! eek!) and am pondering how to convey the “irreverent poet” that the Humber Mouth festival is billing me as when I do a topical poetry gig for them in June, alongside the “Here’s some lovely flowers” thing I imagine the flower show folks may hope for.

Plus there’s some great school projects ongoing in which I learn lots of things every time I do them.

So, at the minute, I’m like a squirrel frantically gathering many nuts in hope I’ll get to hibernate in the autumn. (er…possible inaccurate biological detail there)