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Initiatives to bolster creative writing in the North breed success

Creative writing in the North of England is flourishing, thanks to the efforts of the Creative Writing research group at Northumbria University and their partners at New Writing North. Through this pioneering partnership they have delivered the biennial Newcastle Writing Conference and biennial Crime Story festival, as well as significantly built upon the Northern Writers’ Awards. These initiatives have strengthened creative writing in the region by giving writers at all stages of their careers access to writing and research expertise, in addition to support and recognition.

Activities conducted through the partnership are underpinned by cutting-edge research led by Professor Michael Green and Dr Tony Williams, with other academics at the University. Their research explores writing practices to understand both the form and techniques of creative works, in addition to the processes required to produce them. The work is predominantly practice-led, allowing researchers to write and reflect on their own work, as well as analyse the writing of others. Through this approach, Prof Green and colleagues aim to develop a deeper understanding of how writers write, further creative writing practices and advance creative writing research. 

A practice-led approach to creative writing research allows academics to produce their own novels, short stories and poems, as well as gain important writing expertise, which they can use to help other writers improve their processes and techniques. The impact of this research is far-reaching: through various activities and partnerships, University researchers use their highly-tuned skills and insights to support writers across the North, enabling them to progress and produce quality literary works.

Initiatives such as the Northern Writers’ Awards boost writers’ confidence and provide financial assistance that can help them build their careers. Through the roadshows that precede the awards, writers can speak to academics like Dr Williams about how to improve their writing skills and take the next step on the road towards publication and success. The awards have led to various national and regional partnerships, including those with Channel 4, Lime Pictures and Red Production Company to support a new Channel 4/Northumbria University Writing for Television Award. This award gave 2016 winner Sharma Walfall the opportunity to spend a year working on Hollyoaks, and Lime Pictures commissioned her first full episode for the serial drama.

The biennial Crime Story festival is another joint initiative between the University and New Writing North that enables writers to access the expertise of academics from a range of disciplines to improve their crime writing outputs. Anna Disley, Executive Director (Programme and Impact) at New Writing North, explains the importance of these events: “Crime Story brings the expertise that exists within Northumbria University, together with literature audiences to create a unique event. It’s one of many projects to come out of Northumbria University’s pioneering partnership with New Writing North, which develops, supports and celebrates writers at all stages of their career.”

Through the New Writing North partnership, researchers also deliver writing workshops and other events to a range of audiences, including those at Hexham Book Festival and Durham Book Festival. These activities bolster the infrastructure and environment for creative writing in the North and benefit publishers and readerships by enabling the writing and publication of important books.

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