What a Twit

Part Two…

I was Twitterer in Residence at the Durham Book Fest. I loved it. It took me back to being a radio journalist. Licence to ask questions, make random observations and report them immediately. Although most of the festival’s audiences were Facebookers not Twits,  I could see potential for a rolling reportage of an event- and for the medium to be a good way of linking to other content. I carried on when I was gigging at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival the following week, again with something of an aim around drawing people into an event they may not think they could attend and the festival director said they’d love to have me do it officially one year. I kept questions in mind as I did it about what it could achieve (particularly in terms of literature and reader development) or how it could work. I think there’s lots more experimenting to be done and I’ve proposed to a couple of festivals that they use Twitter teams of youngsters as reporters. Watch this space…

At the National Association of Writers in Education conference I ended up talking about a school project I did which involved a professional development partnership between me and a teacher (I was going to talk about instances in which writers become invisible but ironically, because I was also delivering a NWN paper on the project in Anna’s absence, it then made sense to make the project present by talking about my role within it). There were lots of questions about the process by which me being present as a writer and her being present as a teacher (which had to become- it didn’t just happen, we both had to be rescued from our own tendencies to invisibility- her as a newly qualified teacher and me as an ever holographic writer) led to a real exploration of the writing process by our partner writers, the children. I also made some great connections here with lovely folks interested in various aspects of things I do as a writer. And heard again and again that I should be published nationally. Which seems a natural consequence of being on the radio but I, and probably (but I haven’t approached them) national publishers, are more ambivalent.

I’ve also been hovering around wanting to speak and write some of the thoughts I’ve had during this year. The massive applause reaction of the Chief Nursing Officers when I said that since they wanted to listen to patients and staff more, maybe writers in residence would be a way forward since they have time to listen, made me reflect even more on useful roles writers could play in society. It was just after a chat with Antonia Byatt the Arts Council’s Literature Strategy officer where she pointed out that if writers were to have a manifesto it should also focus on what they can give as well as what they want.

I bubbled all sorts of ideas for writers telling the world what they can give, and then got sidetracked into how Northern voices still seem to be marginalised and wandered down a side road of Northern writers especially saving the world. My grandiosity and insignificance cancelled each other out and I returned once again to the ideas of writers writing. And thought about writing some essays. I had a great chat with the poet Gillian Allnut who is listening intently in her current project with the Medical Foundation for Victims of Torture. She pointed out that saying that writers must love is potentially naff, but showing that they can listen is not.

I think in a Tory government, arts funding knackered, increasingly London-centric UK, we’re all going to need more help with listening and being listened to. But grandiosity and insignificance are still repelling each other and those solutions for a style of leadership that flows more like water than strikes like lightning look better all the time.

Meanwhile, the young writers group flows on and we’re all preparing pieces on the theme of music and song for a publication which will be the last thing I undertake before I finish the placement. Synchronously, I’m off for a Big Brother style week in a house in Northumberland with some folk musicians and poets to collaborate on new work about Hadrian’s Wall at the end of January, and also delivering some workshops on creative collaborations at a school conference in that week.

I think, at the end of this Leadership placement, it will be the value of creative collaborations and true partnerships that would be something I could lead on in the future…

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