Friday, 15 January 2016

Sandy Lane Stories in Skelmersdale

Photograph from User Rept0n1x at Wikimedia Commons
I'm looking forward to starting a new creative project working with community groups in Skelmersdale, focussed around a shopping centre in the heart of the oldest part of the town.

Sandy Lane Shopping Centre was built in the 1960s, with all the idiosyncratic design features that come with some mid century architecture. The site has been in need of attention for some time and can appear unwelcoming as all the shops face inwards. From the outside it's a little hard to tell it is a shopping centre at all. Although once within, it is busy with friendly independent and chain businesses that are working hard to serve the needs of the community.

Skelmersdale is a large industrial town in the Northwest of England. There is much I admire about Skelmersdale, particularly in the Sandy Lane area. Skelmersdale has a rich and complex history. There is a spirit of entrepreneurialism and aspiration. The town has also endured hardship and lack of investment over the years, which has caused some social and community difficulties.

The project aims to gather stories of the history of the area to celebrate and promote its rich heritage and important place, both historically and looking to the future. I will be working alongside two fantastic artists, Fiona and Neil at One Red Shoe, to gather and share the narratives of local people and give them artistic input into the future of the shopping centre. Fiona and Neil have already been working with community members to improve the appearance of the site with striking banners.

I'm excited to begin gathering creative memories and narratives through workshops. I am hoping to learn a lot more about the history of the area from local people and together build a new story that is reflective of the diverse and optimistic future of the area.

Supported by Arts Council England grants and the Arts Development Service, The Friends of Sandy Lane are already working hard to think about how to make this area a more attractive and functional community hub. More soon on how the project develops.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Short Story Course at Bluecoat, Liverpool

I'm excited to begin teaching a new creative writing course this week at The Bluecoat, Liverpool's centre for the contemporary arts. Comma Press, in collaboration with The Bluecoat, are looking to nurture and inspire new and emerging writers from the city over this six month course.

Liverpool is renown for its hugely rich and diverse cultural mix. A wealth of creative talent continues to spring from the city. And I feel immensely privileged to work with the writers who have signed up to the course to develop and hone their short story practice. While we will, of course, explore narratives from across the world to inform our own work, I am hoping we will delve deep into much that the city has to offer - fiction, culture, art and history - using what is immediately on our doorstep. And the Bluecoat is the perfect setting for this.

The short story course is all booked up now. But you can see here for more information on other events happening at The Bluecoat and to stay up to date with future courses.