Sun 23 October 2016
Arvon Week
Arvon Week

A Week at Arvon

One of the most inspiring aspects of Literature in Context was a writing week at Lumb Bank for the museum educators who were taking part in the project. Proposed by Jan Kofi-Tsekpo at MLA, this idea was keenly supported by the British Library.

On the welcoming night most of the museum educators that came on the course did not see themselves as creative writers and looked positively uncomfortable at the thought of the week that stretched ahead. However, course leaders Ann Sansom (poet) and Steve Voake (novelist) helped to achieve a remarkable transformation during our time there and the writing produced was of real quality.

Ann and Steve used the house itself, its grounds, and the group’s own work spaces as starting points for writing and the participants blossomed in this residential setting where people write, eat and socialize together. I was able to introduce a morning of exercises that looked at how what we had covered could translate into projects in the libraries, museums and literary houses where people worked. I also had a chance to write myself and build up some good relationships for NAWE with the educators who took part.  

I think the group gained a real understanding of what it is like to read your work out loud, to share creative writing that is fresh and raw, and appreciate the drafting and redrafting process. Such a week could be replicated with a range of different groups of educators who work with teachers and young people. It is an important way to gain an insight into the power of self expression and how it feels to be on the receiving end of a learning process.

Not everyone who was hosting a writing residency was able to take part in the Arvon event, but those who did come remarked that it was a real luxury to take a week out and write creatively. A luxury? Perhaps we should challenge this view point. The benefits of the experience can clearly feed into the way adults can support and encourage young peoples’ writing.

The week ended on a high, with the production of an anthology of writing by the group and an excellent evaluation. The staff at Lumb Bank also remarked that it was one of the most enjoyable courses they had hosted. The participants may not have seen themselves as writers but they were all passionate about their literary houses and very keen readers. ‘Read, read, read’ is something I find myself saying over and over again to my own students and is such a great spring-board for creative work. 

Anne Caldwell

Lumb Bank is one of the Arvon Centres and is based in Heptonstall, West Yorkshire. It is an eighteenth century mill owner’s house that was owned by Ted Hughes and has been a centre for creative writing since 1975. The setting was a great choice for the participants from literary houses to get a feel for creative writing in relation to a well known writer and their home. Read more about Lumb Bank.