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New Beginnings:Training for Writers in Wales
Wed 30 Jun 2004
'Reaching for Words' and 'Touchpaper' are two exciting and diverse training pilots for writers in Wales, the result of a joint initiative between the Academi and literaturetraining. Project Manager Sharon Phillippo provides an update...
These programmes are unique in offering opportunities for writers interested in expanding their horizons and exploring new possibilities for their future careers. Reaching for Words, now already three-quarters of the way through, and Touchpaper, which is set to continue until October, were initially conceived around 18 months ago. The pilots are supported by the Arts Council of Wales, Denbighshire NHS Trust and the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea.

When the projects were handed to me in January they were then called Training Pilot 1 (TP1) and Training Pilot 2 (TP2). Clearly, my first task was to try and invent some suitable names. TP1's aim was to train writers to work in the field of health and social care. For me, the title Reaching for Words gives the perfect visual image of the search for new ways to express emotions, thoughts and feelings. TP2, however, was quite different. Its aim was to train writers to work with young people in out-of-school settings. The name Touchpaper (the paper used to light gunpowder) came to me instantly, being a vibrant, fiery image - a spark of inspiration, which I hoped would ignite the motivation of all the writers and young people involved.

Reaching for Words began in April and Touchpaper in May, so they are both now well underway. As project manager, this is a good time for me to reflect while watching them flourish and develop. What interests me is the way in which each has taken on a unique character and colour. Each group of writers has solidified into a diverse, yet functioning and supportive network of friends and colleagues, all with a passion for sharing their love of literature and creative writing.

Reaching for Words is being led by poet Rose Flint, a beautiful, wise, insightful woman who is the perfect role model for anyone wishing to work in this field. Touchpaper is being led by multi-talented Phil Carradice, an energetic, enigmatic, ambitious, larger-than-life man with years of experience as a writer, teacher, social worker, broadcaster and editor behind him (phew!). There are six participant writers (trainees) on each project. Each month, for the duration of the projects, the participant writers take part in workshops and a seminar. The workshop hosts for Reaching for Words are all within the Denbighshire NHS catchment area and include a ward for the elderly at Glan Clwyd Hospital in Boddelwyddan; a stroke rehab unit at H.M Stanley in St Asaph; and Hafod, a mental health resource centre in Rhyl. The seminars take place in Rhyl Library and include guest speakers such as poet David Hart, and professional development advisor Libby Anson. The writers involved with Reaching for Words all warmed immediately to Rose, and have been inspired by her commitment and enthusiasm for the work she undertakes. They in turn, in a nurturing and gentle fashion, have given 100% to the project.

The Touchpaper hosts are all based in Swansea and they include The Step-ahead Centre - a unit for young people who cannot attend school because they suffer from various kinds of phobia; the prevention scheme managed by the Youth Offending Team; and the OWLS (Other Ways of Learning group) from the Daniel James Community School. Seminars for the participant writers are being held at the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea and involve guest speakers like David Haswell (headteacher of Headlands School in Penarth) and writer/tutor Robert Nisbett. The writers attached to Touchpaper have been energised and enthused by Phil, and by next month they will all be facing the mammoth challenge of running workshops themselves.

Reaching for Words will be ending in July. To celebrate its success, we shall be holding a reading, at Rhyl Library, of all the work undertaken during the project. In October, we hope to celebrate the completion of Touchpaper in a fashion to be decided upon by the young people involved.

The Academi and literaturetraining are planning to showcase both pilots at a forum for writers at the Dylan Thomas Centre in November. Writers, speakers and guests from Wales and London will be discussing different ways to earn a living from writing. Tickets will be available soon at the cost of £15 (£10 Academi members), to include lunch and refreshments. Watch this space and check out the academi website over the coming weeks for more information.

The writers involved in the projects are:

Touchpaper: Clare Potter; Anita Flowers; Viki Holmes; Emma Metcalf; Deborah Fisher

Reaching for Words: Elaine Walker; Isabel Adonis; Anne Phillips; Gerrie Hughes; Alexandra Duce-Mills; Lara Clough

Contact Information:
Academi (Welsh Academy)
Contact Name:
Sharon Phillippo