Friday, 9 March 2018

Colonial Countryside: Ten New Creative Commissions

Charlecote Park, Warwickshire
10 new creative writing commissions at £1,200 each for 'Colonial Countryside: English Country Houses Reinterpreted.'

About the project

Colonial Countryside is a child-led writing and history project about National Trust houses' Caribbean and East India Company connections. Steered by a child advisory board, this three-year project assembles authors, historians, and primary school pupils to commission, resource and publish new writing. 

One hundred primary children will visit ten National Trust properties and craft new writing, presenting it to live, print, and digital audiences. They will present their work at a conference during the Literary Leicester festival in November 2018. 

The majority of children will be of Caribbean or South Asian heritage and this project will encourage them to think of themselves as public figures who will reshape the national narrative and make this history widely known.

Peepal Tree Press will commission ten authors to write about each participating house. The commissioned work will be published in an illustrated "coffee table" style book containing the ten creative commissions accompanied by accessible historical commentaries written by experts in the field. Commissioned writers will give inaugural readings and appear at literary festivals and black history events nationwide.

The National Trust has over five million members and the commissioned writing will have a large readership. These ten high-profile commissions are also designed to stimulate a new wave of writing about this topic. In order to resource this, the Colonial Countryside project will create a writers' resource website, delivered by the historical team, and a massive online open course (MOOC), co-produced by children and historians.

The participating country houses are:

1.   Attingham Park, near Shrewsbury
2.   Basildon Parks, near Reading
3.   Buckland Abbey, Devonshire
4.   Calke Abbey, Derbyshire
5.   Charlecote Park, Warwickshire
6.   Osterley Park, West London
7.   Sudbury Hall, Ashbourne, Derbyshire
8.   Wightwick Manor, near Wolverhampton
9.   Penrhyn Castle, Gwynedd, Wales
10. Dyrham Park, near Bristol

About the commissions:

Commissioned writers will be advised by historians who are experts in the field. The participating National Trust properties provide a varied picture of stately homes' colonial links, telling a range of stories about slave-produced wealth, East India Company connections, colonial administrators, black servants, slave-trading voyages, colonial business interests, Victorian plant hunters, and imperial interior design.

Commissioned writers will receive a fee of £1,200 and an allowance of up to £400 to cover research, travel, and accommodation. They will attend a work-in-progress day at the University of Leicester. Public engagement is central to this project. Social media training is available if required (writers will post social media content on the project's behalf or the project manager will post approved content on their behalf). In year three of the project, writers may be asked to give an inaugural reading at the country house featured in their commissioned pieces. Commissioned writers will also be invited to attend literature festivals and black history month events, with expenses paid.

The commissioned work will be published in an illustrated book by Peepal Tree Press. It is also likely to feature in exhibitions in numerous houses throughout the National Trust's Challenging Histories year in 2022.

How to apply and the deadline

The commissioned work will be judged by a team of acclaimed writers and historians, to be assembled by Peepal Tree Press.

Send your commission entry by email to Dr Corinne Fowler Please attach:

A writer's CV 

This should be no longer than one page of A4, font size 12

A proposal

In no more than 700 words, explain why you wish to apply for the commission. You should cover: * your interest in the topic * your experience * your approach to the commission (including your chosen literary form) * how you will guarantee quality * your experience of social media (please note: this is not a deal breaker but it is helpful to know if you have an author webpage and a social media presence) * confirm your willingness to post project information on social media channels and/or your author website (or have it posted there on your behalf) * your geographical location * your intended audience.

There is no obligation to identify a particular National Trust property from the list above, though winning entrants will be matched with one house, even if the commissioned writer wishes to explore connections between participating properties.

A writing sample

This should be no more than two pages of A4, font size 12 or (in the case of poetry) no more than three poems.

Eligibility: Non-UK writers may apply, though there is no budget for plane travel to England. The Arts Council expects that the majority of writers should be based in England. As a condition of the commission fee, you must commit to participating in public events during 2020.

Deadline: Midnight on 30 April 2018.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Poetanoster: A Collection of Poems

The Attenborough Paternoster, University Of Leicester
The Centre for New Writing at University of Leicester  has commissioned poems to commemorate the Attenborough Tower Paternoster. In my role as Literary Associate, I am currently editing Poetanoster, a collection of poems, the best of which will be published as a pamphlet, together with interviews with porters (in a section called 'Portanoster').

The poems will be archived in Special Collections in David Wilson Library. A forthcoming event will be held with inaugural readings of the poems.

The paternoster is an open lift, with lots of carriages that are continually circulating so you can 'hop on' at any point. Riding up to the top floor gave great views of the university campus and city.

The Attenborough paternoster was built in 1970 and was one of only three operating paternosters in the UK. It broke down a year ago and will soon be dismantled and replaced with a modern lift. Many have fond memories of this rare and historic lift.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Race Act 40 - Sharing Stories of Racial Discrimination in Wellingborough

Race Act 40 is a Northamptonshire Rights & Equality Council (NREC) oral history project, based in Wellingborough. This two-year project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and was created to mark 40 years of the Race Relations Act 1976.

The project is conducting research to create a collection of stories using people's memories. Audio recorded as 'Oral History', individuals and communities in Wellingborough and East Northamptonshire are able to identify if and how the Race Relations Act has been of benefit. The aim is to gather information from people who have directly experienced racism, as well as, collating witness observations of racism.

The project also considers the role of local and national organisations which have been supportive, as well as appropriately highlighting any organisations that have been discriminatory in their practice.

What does the research involve?

The study involves taking part in a one-to-one interview with a trained interviewer who is sensitive to the subject matter. Lasting between 30 minutes to 1 hour, further appointments can be made to finish if needed. The interviews are recorded with audio equipment.

Interviews undertaken have reached over 40 and are typed up and stored as Oral History. The transcriptions reflect natural speech patterns, such as pauses for reflection and local dialect where possible. It is intended to be read with the recording.

Will other people know what I say in the interview?

The interview will contribute to the heritage of Wellingborough's whole community. Recordings and transcription material arising from this research will be publicly used in articles, reports, and campaigns for racial equality unless stated on the Consent Sheet that you would like to remain anonymous.

What will happen to this research?

You will receive your own copy of the unedited recording and agreed transcription. Public distribution of information will be copyright of NREC. At the end of the project (May 2018), agreed records or artifacts will be kept in the University of Northampton archive so that it is accessible in the future to local people, communities, and academics. Analysis of this research could lead to further projects that enhance the community.


The project has been supported by many individuals including myself. Dr Paul Jackson, Dr Caroline Nielsen and Daniel Jones from the University of Northampton have also supported the project over the past two years as critical friends, promoting volunteer opportunities to history students. The Law Department at the University of Northampton has also supported the project. A student intern was also funded for four weeks through the Santander SME Internship Programme.

Share Your Story

On 15th January 2018, I shared my story of racial discrimination with the project's researcher Jenny Labbon. My interview included incidents of direct racism at school in the 1960s and indirect racism in the workplace in 2003. It was an empowering experience to be interviewed as I had not spoken about these incidents for many years. I also felt a great sense of satisfaction to be participating in such a well-needed project right on my doorstep.

If you live in Wellingborough and have suffered racial discrimination or have witnessed or challenged it, and would like to participate in Race Act 40 by sharing your story, you can email:

Friday, 8 December 2017

My Fro & Me: Hair Stories from Women of Colour

We used Black Dolls, from Diverse, Brixton, London. 'To speak, hold a doll'.
On 28th November 2017, I participated in My Fro & Me: Hair Stories from Women of Colour, a discursive exploration of Afro-textured hair, culture, and identity. The event also explored Eurocentric ideals of beauty on our stage and screens, and discrimination within the context of women and Afro-textured hair. 

Ayesha Casely-Hayford facilitated the event, held at the Cottesloe Room in The Clore Learning Centre at the National Theatre in Southbank, London.

Cottesloe Room, Clore Learning Centre, National Theatre.

The event was a sell-out; over 50 likeminded women of colour, including a sprinkling of white women and men, proved an excellent dynamic for an inspiring and thoughtprovoking discussion.

Readings from Hair Power Skin Revolution included the poems:

'I am my hair' by Fiona Mckinson
'Happy ending' by Zakia Henderson-Brown

For the full details check out Ayesha's insight

For National Theatre publicity information

To read the Guardian article: 
Weaving tales: Barber Shop Chronicles & theatre's wave of black hair shows

Ayesha Casely-Hayford, Martina Laird and Sian Ejiwumniole Le Berre - My Fro  & Me
Ayesha Casely-Hayford's Bio:
Ayesha is an actress and employment solicitor specialising in discrimination. She is an award-winning voice artist and chair of the board of trustees of The Act For Change Project, which campaigns for greater diversity in the live and recorded arts. Ayesha also created 'Afro Archives a Performer's World', a project exploring the experience of women of colour with Afro-textured hair working in the performance industry.

Monday, 6 November 2017

John Cleese on Creativity

Much has been said about how creativity works, its secrets, its origins. In this fun and thought-provoking lecture, John Cleese offers a recipe for creativity, delivered with his usual blend of cultural insight and comedic genius. Specifically, Cleese outlines the 5 factors (listed below) that you can arrange to enhance creativity in your lives.

According to Cleese, creativity can only happen in open (-mind) mode, when you are free from interruptions, distractions, unlike when you're closed (-minded), which is when you are at 'work' busy with phone calls, stuff to do and there is some pressure, anxiety, and tension.

Open mode isn't all - there are 5 important elements required too:

1. SPACE - undisturbed, quiet, where there are no interruptions, phones ringing, emails being answered, etc, which means no TV!

2. TIME - a specific amount of time, at least 1.1/2 hours, which includes say 15-30 minutes for winding down and getting calm - again no TV!

3. TIME - yes more time, once you've created an oasis of calmness, you can tolerate the slight discomfort that you may feel until you solve the assignment/issue creatively and get some work done.

4. CONFIDENCE - so that there are no fears of making a mistake because nothing is wrong so there will be no mistakes. 

5. HUMOUR - this gets us from closed to open mode quicker - laughter helps us to relax and doesn't detract from the seriousness of the 'problem'. So laugh, giggle all you want when being creative.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Born Between the Lines - 4th Book Reading

The theme for my fourth and final book reading is leaving home—a reflective section—at the end of the Socialising chapter. At the age of 21, I had yet another decision to make that would mean returning to the place I had missed for eight years—London.

You can hear my reading taken from the chapter Socialising below:

Friday, 22 September 2017

Born Between the Lines: 3rd Book Reading

The theme for my third book reading is socialising. At the age of 18, I had a decision to make about who I would socialise with and how that would work in a mono-cultural small town called Wellingborough, in Northamptonshire. This reading is one of two. The second one will be posted next week. 

You can hear my reading taken from the chapter 'Socialising' below: