Who'd have thought, way back in March, that we'd still be in some sort of lockdown in the North East when we were approaching the middle of October? I feel very lucky that many aspects of my writing practice can continue online, but I definitely expected to be back doing a decent amount of in-person delivery by now, and unfortunately that's not happening!
I know I'm not alone, with many arts freelancers, as well as cultural venues, feeling the strain, wanting to keep everybody safe but missing that camaraderie that comes with meeting up face-to-face.
Despite all of this, I've been lucky enough to gain some great commissions over the past few months, working with some incredible organisations who are still managing to positively impact people's lives despite everything going on.
Changing Relations: The Child's View Project
At the end of August I was brought on board as an Associate Writer for the Child's View project run by Changing Relations. The project aims to creatively give a voice to children and young people who may have experienced and / or witnessed domestic abuse, making their voice visible and giving language to a topic that adults who work with young people (such as teachers) can be afraid to broach.
My role involves delivering about seven creative writing sessions with a group of young people, developing their writing skills and holding space for them to think about issues like unhealthy relationships, violence and harrassment, stereotypes and family dynamics. They'll also have sessions with an animator and illustrator to bring their storie to life visually, and the project will wrap up in the new year with some writing and a short film that I can hopefully share with you all.
I had loads of help from my Twitter followers choosing poems and books that deal with domestic abuse as examples to use in my sessions. I particularly loved 'The Star Outside my Window' by Onjali Q Rauf and 'Me Mam. Me Dad. Me' by Malcolm Duffy.
Impending local lockdowns forced us to move our sessions online for the foreseeable future, but I'm really looking forward to working more with this group and helping them blossom into confident writers!
Wakefield Literature Festival
I was delighted to be asked to run a podcasting and journalistic writing workshop for 14-25 year olds at Wakefield LitFest last week. Their programme of events for young people has been amazing and the group that attended my session were so engaged and switched on and we talked lots about using journalism to give a voice to untold stories and inspirational people, which really made my heart sing!
On which note, my friend and fellow podcaster Iqra Choudhry and I are running a pay-as-you-feel introduction to podcasting workshop specifically for under-represented groups such as LGBTQ+, BIPOC and disabled people who are interested in setting up a podcast and may have been put off from doing so in the past. The first half of the session will go through the basics of recording, editing and hosting your own podcast, and during the second half we'll facilitate a discussion on how to make the industry more inclusive.
More info and sign up: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/122805331051/
Grief Writing Workshop
For about five months now I've been facilitating an online creative writing group for members of Let's Talk About Loss, a bereavement charity for 18 - 35 year olds. This month we had our first Zoom session! I normally feel relatively calm about planning workshops but this one weighed heavily on me - the subject matter is obviously very sensitive and I wanted to create a really safe space for people to share works-in-progress.
Thankfully, the session went really well and we are already planning our second one, which will be more focused around peer-to-peer feedback so I'm really excited about that (and it'll take the pressure off me a bit!). If you want to join our Facebook group, here's the link:
My overriding feeling about the past year is one of gratefulness; there is still so much work I can do from home and socially distanced where possible. I've made so many new contacts and friends and been involved in so many great projects, as well as the obvious (staying healthy and safe). But I know it's a really uncertain time for my industry, and for freelancers in particular. I am missing school life and seeing young people in person, and I know with each passing month that the world remains unstable and scary they are in desperate need of creative outlets and we just can't provide them as frequently and readily as we could before. I'm really proud to be working with a lot of organisations who are working tirelessly to give creative opportunities to young people in spite of the madness.