Write Around The Toon

Writing residencies training programme in Newcastle-Gateshead described as a ‘kraken of creativity’

Write Around The Toon is a kraken of creativity, with tendrils of inspiration reaching across the city

W N Herbert

I designed WATT as an innovative form of research training for creative practice postgraduate students in the form of a creative writing residencies programme in partnership with the major cultural institutions of Newcastle-Gateshead, and ran it in 2011 & 2012 before training Kris Johnson to replace me as project lead for 2013 & 2014. In 2015 Kris passed the reins over to Joanne Clement, and it is now being incorporated into Newcastle University’s creative practice MA research training.

During their residencies, participants’ activities have included running workshops for school groups, late-night poetry tours of portrait exhibitions, sitting in on rehearsals of new productions, fishing debris out of the Tyne, creating UV displays of personal secrets, learning how to change the lens of a cinema projector, writing poetry about DNA, recording the voices and experiences of dancers, and playing the piano. In 2011 and 2012 they also produced site-specific creative writing exercise for each of the venues involved; I then edited the exercises into an online, self-guided creative writing tour of NewcastleGateshead, based around the host venues. The exercises were launched at a public event alongside an exhibition of work produced during the residencies and a series of readings of original work. Details about how WATT developed and grew in subsequent years can be found on the Write Around The Toon Website (sadly the project website for 2011/12 was lost).

With an emphasis on peer-learning, WATT has been called a flagship of good practice in the debate over how creative practitioners should be taught research skills in the context of academia and beyond. The project was based in and supported by the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts, with funding from Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Catherine Cookson Trust and Newcastle University. Residency partnerships included BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Bessie Surtees House, City Library, Dance City, Discovery Museum, ~Flow, Great North Museum, Hatton Gallery, Laing Art Gallery, Life Science Centre, Live Theatre, The Lit & Phil, Northern Stage, Seven Stories, Shipley Art Gallery, The Sage Gateshead, Theatre Royal, and Tyneside Cinema and The Cycle Hub.

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