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WELCOME in their local area as well as building their own work

Welcome 1

In Read/Write South West we saw a need to support libraries at a local level in much more practical ways.

and audiences. The Read/Write project has enabled us to bring these elements together, providing workshops and knowledge sharing to over 80 writers, embedding skills and experience which has led to new relationships with local libraries in ways which will continue to bear fruit into the future.

About Read/Write South West 2-3

Case Studies




Case Studies


Acknowledgements 28

One of the most satisfying outcomes to this project is our Young Writer Network through which we are

I am delighted to introduce the Read/ Write South West Celebration Report. At a time when everyone involved in the literature sector, and particularly Library Services, are facing unprecedented pressures on their time and resources, this project has provided a fantastic opportunity to highlight the ways in which local partnerships and collaborations can bring together resources, writers and communities to extend the benefits and value libraries are able to offer the people and communities they serve.

able to work with libraries to bring forward the next

Literature Works is a charity which raises money to

As the case studies you’ll see here testify, when

ensure that as many people as possible can benefit

libraries are able to collaborate creatively with local

from reading and writing. We rely on private donations,

partner organisations who share their passion for and

commercial sponsorship and public fundraising

commitment to the place they live in, then libraries can

to support the work you’ll see here, and so fully

truly take their place as the heart of the community and

appreciate the difficulties of the financial climate. In

lives can be transformed. This project has relied on the

Read/Write South West we saw a need to support

tireless work of our partner libraries and organisations,

libraries at a local level in much more practical ways.

the writers involved and the sheer exuberance of the

generation of exciting writing talent by providing a safe space, an expert writer and an expert librarian to help them gain access to the world of book and words backed up by a whole range of library services and free internet access! We’ll be extending our successful Young Writers Network to include other community groups and organisations who can offer the space and resources to help us deliver excellent work with young writers in their local communities, and Literature Works will continue to invest in libraries, supporting as many people as possible to gain the social benefits which creative writing and reading bring.

people who took part, so now I’ll happily hand over to The feedback we received from libraries told us that

them and let them tell you about it in their own words.

staff no longer have as much time to dedicate to working with individual groups and younger library members in particular rarely had opportunities to be guided through the full extent of library services. The feedback from professional writers suggested they would love to share their expertise and stories, particularly in ways which help them sustain a living

Tracey Guiry CEO Literature Works 1


ABOUT READ/WRITE SOUTH WEST Read/Write South West is a Literature Works project, funded by Big Lottery. Literature Works is a registered charity and is the South West’s Literature Development Agency, core funded by Arts Council England.

The project included long-term residencies, where

This tailored mix of inclusive project work and targeted

The Read/Write South West project officially ended

writers worked with specific groups including

approaches made the project incredibly complex,

on 25th May 2013, but Literature Works will continue

traveller children, young carers and children in

and there was more than one tense moment! But the

to invest in high quality literature projects. The

care, refugee children and people with mental and

overarching outcome has been an investment of over

relationships and experiences we have all taken away

physical disabilities.

£80,000 in library reading and writing groups during

from this project will enable us to develop similar

2012/13, and a legacy which includes the Literature

work, and we are already extending our Young Writer

We have worked in libraries, primary and secondary

Works’ Young Writer Network, online resource

Network to embrace other community groups and

schools, tertiary colleges, care homes and prisons.

packs, and the ‘Writer Directory’ which has built up a

organisations who want to help us deliver Young

database of over 80 South West based writers who

Writer Groups and support the talent of the future.

are experienced at working in community contexts,

To find out more about the work of Literature Works,

backed up by training days, seminars and open

or to help us achieve our ambition of ‘literature for

sessions for readers and writers of all kinds.

everyone’ please check out our website and join our

Read/Write South West is a partnership with nine

We have delivered sessions on everything to do with

Library services throughout the region. It began in

literature, from poetry readings and workshops, to

March 2012 following an eight month consultation

novelists talking about their work, to storytelling

process with the libraries to establish their needs

sessions and reading group talks.

and challenges. The main aim of the project was to build up collaborations and understanding

Our library reader and writer days gathered larger

between libraries and the local communities they

groups of people together to learn what services

serve, so that people of all ages engaged more

their library can provide.

fully with the complete scope of services and support a local library can offer. This project has included 19 different partner

newsletter. And, of course, if you think you could devote some time to raising money for a Young Writer Group in your local area, we’d love to hear from you! From the writers and readers across the South West, Thank you!

organisations, dozens of librarians and teachers, over 80 South West based writers, and over 4,000 members of the public, ranging in age from 6 to 90!





A class of 24 Year Four pupils with a high proportion of travellers of Irish heritage and Black and Minority Ethnic children

“It was brilliant”

In ten half-day sessions using the school/ community library, the whole class wrote a piece of poetry for performance, based on the theme of ‘rivers’ Showcased in the school library and at a school assembly to fellow pupils, staff, parents, grandparents and carers


“It’s fantastic to see children and their parents who have never visited the library before!” THE LIBRARIAN

“The children gained an enormous amount from this project and we will definitely be working with the writer again. It was fantastic” THE TEACHER





Focal point of local book festival aimed at bringing books and writing to new audiences

“I felt I was encouraging a writing community…I was reminded of the power of writing to stimulate, inspire, support and heal…it hugely boosted my own confidence as a writer and facilitator”

Readings and workshops with primary and secondary pupils, adult writers and adults with mental health and confidence problems Short story workshop at library One-to-one surgeries at library Performance with primary children Workshops for adults with mental health and confidence issues in partnership with local charity ‘rethink’

“This was an enormous success. the development of the children’s use of language, and performance skills was very rapid!”

Poetry and performance workshops and performance with teenagers

“The teacher and the head were involved in all aspects of the project”




“First time ever working with a writer – very enjoyable and illuminating” ADULT STUDENT

“Rosie is a great tutor!” ADULT STUDENT

“Liz Brownlee was wonderful – the children were gripped throughout” PRIMARY SCHOOL TEACHER

“Working with Chris has really improved my confidence in performing and in my writing skills” SECONDARY STUDENT

“My son came home every night and said this was the best thing he’d ever done at school…”

“The workshops with people with mental health issues especially were a great addition to the festival”



“I was struck by the maturity of the piece…it was quite simply beautiful”

“Great to share work in a safe and friendly place”








Young Writers’ Squad based at Plymstock Library, Plymouth

“I really love this group… I’ve accomplished more than I ever expected” STUDENT

Run by experienced, Plymouth-based writer Babs Horton

“An opportunity to learn and share… it is also great fun and I really enjoy It” STUDENT

Hugely popular, with up to 24 young people taking part aged 12–16, including some with disabilities

“It’s really helped me with my English assessments too” STUDENT

“The enthusiasm and energy of the group has been inspirational… an extraordinary and uplifting experience… young people from very different backgrounds have engaged with each other, forged friendships and grown in confidence both socially and in their writing” BABS HORTON, WRITER

“Everyone is enjoying this project … we have some very, very keen young people in the group”






Workshops using the Museum’s objects and exhibitions as a stimulus for writing

“Bad dreams of writing/splintered by haiku workshop/invigorating” YOUNG STUDENT

Working with many different groups including home educators, alzheimers sufferers, residential homes, race equality council, city college health & social care students, young people from deprived areas of Plymouth and many more!

“Cyrus is a boy/a precociously young boy/ he loves a haiku” YOUNG STUDENT

“It was great fun… developed my writing… inspirational” STUDENT AGED 59

Working with hundreds of people from 6 to 90+

“Really enjoyed this” STUDENT AGED 78

“It improved my reading and writing… I felt much more confident… it helped me talk to other people” SECONDARY STUDENT

“Very good… want it to keep going for a long time” STUDENT AGED 25




“This creative writing project is proving a hit with local youngsters!”

“It gave confidence in their opinions and a sense of purpose”






SARA-JANE ARBURY is a writer based in Gloucestershire. She has a wide range of experience of working on community-based projects

Sara-Jane made the following comments and observations about working with Read/Write South West on these projects:


Sara-Jane worked with Read/Write South West on three different projects; storytelling for Year 7’s at Patchway College, South Gloucestershire; a residency with primary and secondary school students, including young carers/ young people in care, in Gloucestershire, and in Bristol with Year 5’s, mainly from Asian backgrounds

“I worked with a lot of young people – and teachers – who had never worked with a writer before, and a great many of them said how brilliant it was to do so, and how it helped both the learning AND teaching process” “I also worked with some excellent library staff, who also said they had learned a lot from the project” “One parent was delighted that her son, who had never read much before now loves books, and has joined the local library!”




ANTHOLOGY The Writer Squads funded by the Read/Write South West project have given dozens of talented young people across the South West region a unique opportunity to spend quality time with a professional writer, to learn about and feel comfortable in their local library, to improve their reading, writing and communication skills, and to develop their social skills and potential for the future by interacting with, and sharing their work with both their peers and with supportive and interested adults. To celebrate the achievements of this part of the project, we’re anthologising some of their work here. We hope you enjoy it!

“Another teacher said that she was amazed at how pupils who were normally very shy and almost silent in class had opened up and become visibly more confident in such a short space of time”

“Working on this project has been extremely rewarding and great fun” SARA-JANE ARBURY





The Mighty Tree

The Snowdrops

Green, brown, yellow

The snowdrops tell of hard times past

When I look up

The colours of nature in the plants

They huddle together in little patches


These are the colours of the mighty tree.

To protect themselves from the chilling wind


In the shadows


They hide, waiting to emerge in occasional spells of sun


Gaze cast down as if they can’t face


What stands above them


Quiet and unnoticed, they lie


Soon they will be gone, until a new spring arises.


It curves and twists and goes everywhere where I sit in the boughs of the mighty tree

The day me and my twin felt the pain!

The air is sweet in my mouth

My family and I were making our way through

Colours everywhere

a graveyard, past a rundown, deserted, ruined,

Leaves, branches, trunks

haunted-looking house, to get to where we had

A flutter of feathers, a bundle of brown lands near

parked our car. Me and my twin Harriet were This is the mighty tree

like flying Hannah


shaking in fear at the sight of the figure in the


window. We looked at each other and thought Rian

that we had been bitten by someone or something


and we could see a figure behind a stick-like tree.

I curl up tight into a ball. I feel safe this way. My

If someone lived in it they sure had a problem I

head under the covers, my breath warming the

thought to myself.

air. The smell of my room makes me cough, it’s

When we arrived at our car we got in and drove off at the speed of lightning – well that’s what it felt like anyway. As usual sisters being sisters we have a fight now and again. So that’s what we did: we started messing about. Obviously that’s when it happened! First our parents were telling us off, the next thing you know you’re in a big fire. That’s when you’re DEAD! If anyone had experienced such a painful death it was me. A person going past said, ‘’I couldn’t believe my eyes. A lorry was coming from one direction, the person in the car wasn’t looking where they were going, and BOOM. The oil that the lorry was carrying set on fire and that was that,’’ explained the lady terrified. That’s how I and my twin sister became zombies. I’m really sad that my parents died as it wasn’t their fault, it was ours. If you’re watching us right now even though we look revolting we’re really sorry! You should know that come midnight we turn into Zombies.


mouldy and musty. My owners can’t shout at me from here. They moan about the standard of my

I see a wonderful glittery sea-green pool with little

work. It’s never good enough. I never chose this

dotted islands all around it. It shines out in front of

life, I never asked for it. It’s their fault. Whoever they

every planet and star. Its sparkle makes the universe

are. The taste of dry air burns my raw throat. My

shine. It had soft fluffy bubbles gliding around the

skin, rough as ever, scrapes against the scratchy

surface and a soft baby-blue sky. I have seen little

bed covers. I am a boulder, stopping anyone from

aliens wander around the islands and I wonder if

getting past me. I block the way. It could be the

they’ve ever seen me.

exit. It could be the entrance. It could be the only way out. Whatever it is or wherever it goes I am the


defence. I am the one who gets in the way. The one who is just there because. Because no one knows why. They can’t finish the sentence. Can’t ever tell me the answer. I don’t know why they chose to do it. Why me? But all I ever hear is “IT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH”, “YOU’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH”.

If a star exploded above you in the sky, what would it be like?

So I curl into a ball. A tight ball. And block off the outside world. No one can get me here.



Giant gunpowder BOOM



Pain blisters

Fuses fire

Asteroids. OW!!! Ears hurt. Lian






The planet was expanding at a phenomenal speed.

I woke up. It was cold – snow was throwing itself

Bits of debris were flying, zooming past. You watch

from the black stony sky. I went downstairs hurriedly

for a second, then a thought comes to your mind.

lighting the Rayburn – ‘Snap, Crackle, Pop!’ It lit

The solid black of the deep stretches endlessly

As earth was close by, if the rocks collided the race

with amazing speed and warmth sprang out into my

below me. Sunlight sparkles form the surface above

would be wiped out. Soon a massive rock came into

watching eyes. Slowly, coldly, I walked through to

me. Little silver fish go swimming past me, leaving

Earth’s orbit, gathering speed. Jade had to stop it

every other room and lit the heart-warming hearths.

a trail of stirred up seawater. They flicker past, their

but there was no oxygen; her strength was fading

Despite the deathly cold, I walked outside and

fast. She struggled and tried not to lose the fight.

stacked a basket with wood and another with coal.


towards earth. Once close enough, she pushed the

Once inside I sat on the rug in front of the frolicking

Marshmallows toasting,

I blow out my sticky net. Oblivious plankton swim to

colliding rock out of the orbit but was too weak to

fire holding my chubby red face close to the heat.

chestnuts roasting,

their doom as I suck them back in.

save herself. She plummeted to the ground. Nothing

My brothers and parents came down to join me.

baked beans boiling

shiny scales reflecting into my eyes. Bubbles leave a shiny trail behind them.

Suddenly a rock collided with Jane, pushing her

but black. Chloe

Halloween From caves at dusk the black bats fly like leather flitting through the sky. As darkness falls, they dart and flap; with sonar skills who needs a map? As Jack o lanterns light the night they give the witches quite a fright but squashy soup and pumpkin pie are warm and good for us to try. Pointed hats and whizzing brooms, witches fly across the moon. Let cauldrons spit their sparking smells

on the fire. We knew we’d have to leave the dancing, red flames

Scratchy rope suddenly envelops me. I am pulled up towards the light as I give a mournful wail.

soon and get to our daily jobs. I work as a servant girl

Flickering flames

at a manor house and get paid five shillings a week.

playing games

An enormous hunting ship greets me as I burst

The rest of my family also work here. I take one,

singing song

through the surface, giving a huge splash. A man is

long, last look at the steaming, cosy, lively fire.

around the fire.

hauling at the thick rope on a large contraption.

I reluctantly tear my eyes and self away from the

Red and yellow, orange too,

Our eyes meet.

warmth. I want to come back but I know I can’t.

burning bright for me and you.

He lets go. I fall with a tidal wave back to the sea.

Well, not today anyway. Oh, I do so love fires. Warm and glowing, bellows blowing Becky

I am a blue whale.

cinders dancing, in the fire


Wet wood’s hissing, sparks are kissing. Roaring, blazing, it’s a fire.


Cinderford YWS group

Dew drop, sprinkle, shower and rain; puddle, pond and stream; river, lake and oceans deep;

as ragged hags cast magic spells.

rush around again.

When creepy cats lurk in the dark,

Froth and spit, squish and spray,

owls hoot and foxes bark and all souls fear this spooky scene, it’s definitely HALLOWEEN!

trickle, drip and splash; foam and boil and spill and flood; swim and sail and play. Cinderford YWS group

Poppy, Eve, Alice and Joseph





The Pond



The water glistened a green shimmering glisten.


I sat upright, fear smoothly running through

Dragonflies hovered over the vast expanse of the

Falling slowly like whispers

my body like silk. I didn’t want to move, I just

pond like stars on a clear night sky. Willow trees

Ice in my hair

couldn’t help myself. He told me to. I got up

wept dew drops from their elegant branches. The

and stood next to my bed. He whispered in my

breeze filled my lungs with the very essence of

Softly, softly

ear sending chills down my spine. His voice was

nature. The sun a shimmering orb in the glassy

The world is grey

like a beautiful nightmare. I didn’t want to listen

reflection of the pond. The contra flow of traffic

Because that’s what white and cities make

to him, but when he wasn’t talking to me, I was

buzzing with life at the corner of the landscape. The

Branches droop

silence was so loud it hurt to listen to the calming hush of Mother Nature. The lush grass under my feet was like a velvet carpet luring me to a swim. Like a hungry cheetah I ran. Like a bird I soared through the overall feeling of euphoria in the pond had planted in my soul. If only I had taken the time to judge the depth of the lake I would not be here in a smelly,

The Pen

A flurry, a rebound The snow a little thicker on the ground


And softly, so softly

Tied up inside

The silence surrounds me

Bundled so small you can only see them with a microscope

Peace in isolation

The lens of your page

I walk in the woods

The nib

A close-pressed world

Blowing them up to full size

Sounds flutter down to join the leaves

Flowing out unaided from their world to mine

Stepping on eggshells

Shocked by what I see

My feet sink deep

Cities grow, fall, burn

Lost in the quiet

People laugh, people cry

Calm and beautiful

A menagerie enters stage right

Shadows lengthen

And exits stage left

Evening falls.

pulls you into the web

A match flares


Twitter is a tiny little critter

The darkness rolled back

With the trolls being bitter.

Words written on the walls

Youtube is the main video site

Hidden until now

dirty and disgusting hospital with a cast around my neck. Sam

Where will tech take us next? Where will tech take us next Facebook is a hook grabs you and

although the spam people bite Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia

And all the while the pen, the pen

Full of facts some real and some fake

Races alone across the page

Amazon is an endless shop

I watch, helpless

With prices to make your wallet pop

Half afraid


pulled into a black hole and swallowed in misery. His voice was my drug. I walked over to the old wooden drawer carved with Victorian patterns, and pulled out the metal shiny blade. Certainly something a magpie would have wanted. I have done this so many times, he’s told me to! But every time, he saves me. Only to put me through this misery once more. I lifted the knife to my chest and plunged it deep into my heart; creating another hole. I could feel myself struggling to breathe. My lungs felt knotted and dried out. I started to jolt uncontrollably as my vision began to fade. That’s when I saw him. That face I knew oh-so-well, yet not at all. A booming laugh echoed around the old dusty room. I suddenly realised. How long have I been here? A voice interrupted my thoughts. The same voice I heard every day, every night. Except this time, it was full of hatred and disgust. “I’m not saving you anymore, Bo.” Those words rattled in my skull, even after I was gone. Elsie

The magic unfolds There is no end to the words Great lakes and pools on the page The pen is infinite Unstoppable Even if I wanted to. Tabitha





Striving for Perfection


Her heavy breathing was clearly audible in the stone

They pull against the chain they think they have me

prison. Dank and dirty floors caressed her back,

leashed with, but I’m not so easily trapped.

relieving her from the day’s toils. Etchings in her skin burned as moonlight streamed through gaps in

The three boys dressed as men cackle at each other,

the barred window. Clanking chains rubbed against

laughing at their prey. I smile.

the raw wounds on her ankle, adding to the blood

I’m not the one who’s prey.

smattering the floor. Then she heard the footsteps. They had decided what to do.

There are three of them, two on the end of the chain, one in a cap, the other in a Just Do It jumper.

He stood at the window, watching the scene before him. The sprawling lawn held a sea of black and white. The mourners came in tidal waves, coming to appease the greatness of The Eldest. “Great in life,

“What you been smoking?!” Max guffaws. Their holds

even greater in death.”

on the chain loosen as they laugh.

He muttered bitterly, turning away, head down and

“It’s just a big dog,” Cap Boy says dismissively.

shoulders hunched. His mother had certainly left a large impression. He looked down at his suit, sighing as he picked at the fabric. The expensive clothing could have bought thousands of sought after flowers. Looking back towards the mourners, he noticed that each had brought a more elaborate gift than the last, showing their love and appreciation. As a keeper of antiques, his mother prided herself on having all possible makes of all possible technology; and yet, there were more bizarre and extravagant contraptions in the fields than had ever graced the halls of his

Cap Boy cackles as his feet slide over the grainy gravel And with a loud scream he stormed back inside, leaving thousands of shocked faces in his wake. Closing the doors behind him, he slowly slid to the floor, cradling his head in his hands. She huddled against the wall below the window, shrouding her face in darkness. From her position anyone who stepped through the door would be bathed in light, but would be unable to see any expression that crossed her face.

making a grinding sound like crunching bones. “Make a nice coat!” Just Do It grins. They laugh while the third in the trio shuffles nervously in front of them, holding a gun in his shaking hands. A part of him knows what I am. Who I am. And it’s scared him senseless.

mother’s house. The stampede of people slowly

As the ring of moving bolts echoed through the cell,

made their way towards the giant wooden doors. He

she cowered further into the wall. The ominous

groaned at the tyre tracks being left by the old Model

clanging signalled the imminent arrival of The Mace.

“Pete, just shoot it,” cries the boy in the rather fitting

T’s and various sports cars; his prized gardens were

The large, imposing hood obscured the scar riddled

Just Do It jumper.

going to ruin.

face she knew to be there. His large boots produced

He stormed down the many levels of stairs and threw open the front doors, making the mass stop. “That is it!” he screeched, flapping his hands dramatically, “I don’t care if she is dead, it does not warrant the destruction of my life’s work!”

billowing dust clouds as he padded into the cell. His towering frame filled the small expanse of a room as he loomed closer. He flung his hood back and stalked towards her. The moonlight caught the dents in his face, casting eerie shadows against the pale shape that was his head. His blackened and chipped teeth showed through his shiny flesh. And before he had even reached for his infamous tool, she had started to scream.

Smart boy.

Pete steps closer, wiping sweat off his brow.

I laugh, the sound coming out as a broken growl through vocal chords not made for laughing. Oh, I’m more than that. And I think it’s time I show you. I stalk forwards, Pete’s gun clattering as it hits the floor, falling from his slack grip. “Pete, shoot it!” Max cries in horror still desperately clutching the chain. I bite through the cursed leash, shattering it between my teeth leaving metal shards that rattle like ice cubes against my teeth. They run. I pounce and, soon, the metallic taste of the chain is replaced by the taste of their blood and fear as I reduce them to an unidentifiable stain on the ground that shines in the lamplight. All that remains of the boys is a

“Shut it, Max,” he snaps back.

cap, gun, a Just Do It jumper and clumps of their flesh.

I slacken on the chain, causing Cap Boy and Max to

I shift and watch the magic play over my form in the

straighten and adjust their hold.

pool of blood, my skin rippling back to that of a man with my father’s dark hair and eyes.

“That thing ain’t right man. Look at its eyes, they’re smart”

Only fools mess with the Devil`s son.

Cap Boy and Max laugh as Pete’s cheeks redden.

And they only do it once.


17 Anna




The lights of the car ahead blinded us for a

It was lashing it down with rain, clouds filling the sky

As I lay on the grass in this secret meadow I feel

second as it shot by. Mum’s hair was silhouetted

as though it was an end to happiness. Forever. I was

alive. I love smoothing the grass and running it

momentarily against the window as headlights flew

just about to talk to my Mum, when all of a sudden

though my fingers, I know I’m safe here as I have

past, carrying cars on their backs.

she slammed on the brakes.

my dog beside me and now and then she glances

Today I discovered the meaning of my Grandad’s


at me and nudges me with her cold wet nose, I favourite saying, “Go where the road takes you”. The curves and bends of the road led us instead of Mum’s

“What the…?” I began. And then I saw him. The boy

steady hand on the wheel. A journey of chance.

with the baby blue eyes. The boy that stole my heart.

I turned my gaze to the window. A full moon. Even in

He was wearing a black leather hoodie and jeans

the dark I could see birds covering huge patches of

that looked as though they belonged to his dad.

midnight sky; each one with the moon on their wings.

The hood of his jacket was pulled right up, over his hair and most of his eyes. But I saw them. A flash of

“Hungry Em? I’ve got food in my handbag, if you want.” Mum’s eye caught mine in the rear-view mirror.

lightning illuminated his eyes. His baby blue eyes. “Something? Or someone?” He was standing just a metre in front of us – soaked

“No thanks, I’m not hungry.”

I didn’t reply, so she carried as if she’d never

to the skin but standing there in the rain. His hands

expected an answer.

were in his pocketes, clenched in fists. His mouth a

“Alright darling, it’s there if you want.” “We’re going home tonight and you’re going to I didn’t waste breath replying, I wasn’t into talking

school on Monday. End of.”

tonight. Mum risked a few worried glances at me, thinking I didn’t notice.

I didn’t have the heart or energy to argue any more after everything she’d done for me. So I just nodded.

“Go on Mum, you obviously have something to say. Come on then, tell me it’s time to go home. I know

We hardly spoke on the journey back. I think Mum

you want to. But I don’t. Not now, tomorrow or the

guessed I wasn’t in the mood. She made a point of

next day. I’m not ready.”

turning on the radio and humming away to herself;

straight line, droplets touching his lips.

like the bad guy for doing the right thing.

soaring, screeching high up above. I hear the sound of the wood pecker on the big old oak. I hear baby ducklings calling out for their mother. That’s one thing I haven’t got. I’ve got a step mum. Dad says I have to call her Mum, but to me she is just a step monster. I miss Mum. The only reason I come up here to this secret meadow as Mum called it, is to escape the step monster and forget about reality and think about the beautiful memories me and Mum made. As I sit up to watch the sunset slowly into the horizon, I sit quietly and watch the swans nestle down together in their warm nest on the bank, so elegantly. The heron tucks his head in

But then I blinked. I should never have blinked.

so delicately under his wing and carefully lifts one

Because when I opened my eyes after a millisecond,

leg up.

he was gone. No trace of him left. “Stupid boy. What does he think he’s doing?” Mum snapped. “Um, er, er…”

I see the deer frantically leaping to get to their mates, their antlers bashing into every tree. I turn to lie on my belly and watch the hedgehogs wake up and snuffle in the undergrowth, little fox cubs come bounding out of their den, rolling

trying to get in my good books. Typical Mum, feeling “Honey, you have to go back sometime. You can’t just

feel her panting down my arm. I see the geese


around, stumbling over their brothers and sisters and themselves.

run away when things get tough. Life isn’t made with escape routes, sometimes you just have to face up to

But home? There, everything was wrong.

things. It might seem like the end of the world now

Sometimes, I like to think I’d go back to find him on

It starts to get cold but it doesn’t bother me;


my doorstep, telling me he loved me and I’d forget

I am used to the cold.

he’d ever broken my heart. Ha, Fat chance. I like coming up here but I never have told anyone

“But it isn’t and some day, I’ll understand. Yeah I know, thanks for the reminder. But where’s the harm in avoiding something for awhile?”


where it is. Dad doesn’t even know as Mum used to say that we were just going for a walk. We would spend hours here, on the rope swing and feeding the ducks. There is only one other person who know where this place is and how to get in and that’s Maggie. And her dog Skip. Skip is a Jack Russell terrier. He’s a dirty white with one big black spot on his eye and back, the rest of his spots are brown. Maggie helped me make a bench when Mum passed away. With a memory plaque. This is mine and Mum’s place. When I’m here I feel free.






A Lonely Crow

I saw them come with their parents and dungarees. They were here to enjoy the freedom of fresh air, giggling at worms and childish jokes. Their mothers

The garden was wildly overgrown, with unwelcome

watched with a relaxed smile, wishing they could

weeds sprouting everywhere you looked, so the young

always stay this age. The little girl swung me unsurely

boy on the old swing did not look out of place there.

of the clouds; the little boy as fierce as someone

His hair was a mad fiery red, long and very knotted.

who hadn’t yet suffered.

You could barely see his nose, and no one had seen his eyes for years. It was a pity because they were certainly

I saw them come after school, full of grazed knees

the best bit of him. They were a bright crystal blue;

and scruffiness. The nostalgically bright jumpers

always appearing to look right through you. His clothes

once worn with pride were unravelled, tugged at in

would be better described as rags, and as for his shoes,

the last few moments of irritation before lunch and

well he didn’t have any. His poor feet were filthy, and

playtime. He joked as they swung on me in unison

rubbed almost raw.

that they were married, oblivious to her blushes. They were as close as always. I was their favourite

This small boy went by the name of Crow. No one knew

place of all time, ever ever ever.

his real name, in fact they had never asked. No one dared to speak to him at all, and that was the way he

To everyone else, I looked like your normal piece

liked it. He was Crow, and he didn’t need anyone else.

of apparatus. So expected, I blend into the park

He never had. He didn’t remember having parents and

landscape, only noticed on a second look. But

They met me and each other most days, and they

to them, I was magical. I could transport them

certainly never any friends. His past was forgotten, never

were taller, mature every time. Brown envelopes

to the clouds and back, in under five seconds. A

to be remembered. His future was to be lived, not to be

were strangers to their meetings once, and a

brave scream, and... WHHOOOSSSH! You’re flying!

imagined. Those were two of the rules that he lived by.

joy-bomb exploded when they were opened.

And for that brief moment, they were completely

He had only one other. Never be emotional. That was

Universities suddenly burst open, brimming with

happy, worries on the horizon. A less than graceful

his strictest one of all. He had never yet broken it, and

opportunity and promise. But a shadow was cast.

feeling lonely. His heart pounded at the thought of it, but

landing, but a few tumbles were worth it. I was more

was determined that he never would. “Feelings are for

Different choice and futures constructed a barrier

girls,” he would say, if anyone asked him.

it was true. Watching the way that little boy relied on his

wonderful to them than jobs, money, all the things

as solid as a lighthouse in a storm. They both knew

adults hold close to their hearts.

what was coming, and twenty six days later, sad

Crow liked to watch people. He would hide in this

replace them with a smile, made Crow wonder what it

smiles sealed their separation.

garden, where no one ever went, and watch from

would be like to have a family. The people he watched

I saw them grow up.

mother to make him better, to take away his tears and

his special tree. His tree was the highest one in the

didn’t normally affect him this way. Watching was fun

I didn’t see them for a handful of years, all my other I saw her wander to me alone. She almost was the

garden, it was an oak tree, and he was very proud

and Crow enjoyed it. It wasn’t meant to make him feel

visitors blurring into one. My seats became creaky

same, cautious makeup distorting her youth. She

of it. He was also very proud of his climbing skills,

things, to make him need someone.

without their affection.

though he never said so.

absently sat down on my right swing, her side. The

Crow tried to make himself forget the family he’d

left was empty. Her phone was in and out of her

I saw them again when they had grown. Her hair had

On this particular day he was up in his tree, watching,

seen; for the rest of the day he pretended he was an

pocket, last hope shattered at each glance. Time

the same streaks of colour as her school jumper,

as he did every day. He had spotted a big family, out

adventurer, trekking through a jungle, with vicious

crept by as it does when you’re waiting, and I saw

his hands still slightly grubby. I could see remains of

shopping together. They were fun to watch, because

beasts chasing him. It was a fun game and Crow liked it.

through the brave face. Hopelessness shone in her

childhood as strongly as they felt delight at being re-

there were young children, who were being naughty

But it wasn’t enough to make him forget. Crow began

eyes; finally stood up and walked away, her face

united. They still swung on me, age and expectations

for their mother. They were all very happy though,

to feel frightened, what if he could never forget that

fixed on the grass.

flung into the clouds. She joked as they swung on

Crow could see that.

family? Then he felt angry. Why had they walked past his

me in unison that they were married, oblivious to

garden? Why did that boy fall over, just in front of Crow?

I saw them both again when they were here with

his blushes. Both slowing down, he stood up to get

“friends”. Shock seemed to ripple through the park,

All of a sudden the youngest boy fell over, and Crow

Why didn’t they see him and ask if he was alright, ask

down again on one knee. A velvet box was shaking

and his apologetic smile was finally accepted. With

could see the scarlet blood on his knee. The boy was

him where his family was? Then Crow remembered. If

in his palms; upon opening it, her face crumbled into

excuses plucked from the top of their heads, given

crying, but Crow kept watching. He watched the

they had asked, he wouldn’t have known, he couldn’t

a teary smile.

mother fall to her knees beside the boy, and hug him.

have answered. Crow didn’t have a family. Crow would

He watched the mother scoop him up and kiss his knee

never have a family. Crow would never have anyone. He was Crow and that was the end of that.

to their peers, they shuffled over to me. Time apart was nursed with his explanation, and an awkward

I see their children swing on me. They watch from a

hug banished her disappointment.

better. Crow felt something inside him, as he watched

distance, and smile. The joy has been passed on.

the family leave. Something he had never felt before.


He knew what it was. It was breaking his rules. He was Kitty






The Skating Dream

I don’t know me.

He appears beside me, dark red hair swept over

I opened my eyes and suddenly realised I was upside-

“No, but I’ve only gone and booked us in to see the

Who I am, I mean.

his face, the lamp light making it look like a licking

down. Finishing my flip and landing, I put my foot to

skateboarding competition in Newcastle today!”

flame. We both wear black.

the floor and stopped just before the next ramp. That’s

he cheered.

All I know is I’m different.

when I actually realised how much the crowd was

She crosses the road, hugging her elbows against

“Yes us. We’re the same you and I, or did you just

cheering for me. I was impressed. For a moment, I just

“Oh wow! I had a dream about that! Oh thanks Dad!”

the cold.

think I was so lonely I had to waste my time with

Not that I can feel it.

gazed into the crowds before I was interrupted by the

some damn do-gooder?”

judge’s voices.

“That’s ok. Hurry up and get dressed!”

Her blonde ponytail sways with each step, her heels

I’d never really thought about it, he was just a

clacking in the stony silence of the night. The street

Then they called me over. Oh no, the scores I have

nuisance, a buzzing fly in my ear trying to tempt me

lights cast an orange-yellow glow on her, the leather

been waiting for, for my whole life go up.

away from saving innocent lives.

of her jacket seeming to catch fire as she passes

and were on our way to the most exciting thing I had ever gone to in my life. Crowds. Busy. Amazing. That is how it was.

under each one. But soon, the street lights become

He sighs.

That’s got to be the highest score ever achieved! Well

few and far between.

“You’re doing this all wrong you know.”

done, and give a round of applause for Tony Day!”

I close the distance between us.

I ignore him again.

“I’m now the world champion!”

I don’t know if she can feel my presence, a change

The girl is getting closer to them now. I crouch on

At least I thought I was…

the edge of the roof, leaning over and fixing my gaze

It’s pitch black and there’s nothing to see. This isn’t the

on the youths as they hear the feminine footsteps.

podium where I should get my trophy that’s as gold

“We’re not meant to save them.”

as the sun. This isn’t where the crowds are cheering

Though every good thing has to end, and my skating

so loudly I can hear my heart banging in my ears. This

dream was just one of many that I will have. And

There’s that we, that suggestion he knows exactly

is home, boring old home. Where my Mum has died

I hope that you too will one day have your dream

what I am. Who I am.

and my Dad is down at the pub 95% of the time, drunk

come true. I’ve had my skating dream and I am now

and unable to come home on his own. I look over at

one step closer to making it happen. Maybe this is the

my platinum clock. It’s funny really, my Dad can afford

start for yours, too?

in the air pressure or an electric current seeming to prick at her skin, but she starts to worriedly cast nervous glances around her. Maybe she has heard the tales. If she can feel my presence then she knows that something bad is about to happen. That’s why I’m here. I leap onto the next roof as she speeds her pace, stalking like a panther and watching like a hawk as the hooded, rowdy youths begin to accumulate further down the street, not that she can see that. “Don’t do it,” a familiar voice says quietly from behind me. I ignore him. “You can’t protect her forever.” He laughs. “How will you save all the others if you’re watching her?” I growl, short and sharp my eyes catching the glint of a knife in one of the boy’s hands. “Come on, just let one go will you? I’ll take you for a pint, I know a place, one of us owns it.” My concentration wavers, he’s never mentioned an “us” before. I tilt my head fractionally towards him. “Us?” my voice feels rough, unused.


“It’s a ten, nine and a half, ten and…What? Another ten?

In no more than twenty minutes, we had had breakfast

“What?” I ask impatiently, if I lose concentration at the wrong moment, she dies.

Dad would shout “Go on!” to my favourite skater; Steve Rogers, and it would look as though he was miming. I would boo and hiss to Quentin Smith (the most rubbish skater on Earth), and the person sitting next to me would give me a filthy look. That is honestly what it

pretty much anything but to other people, we look

“How did you know this would happen? How did

poor. We live in a run-down house, with a garden that

you know to track her?”

has weeds growing in every space possible.

I don’t answer.

Anyway, it’s 4:45 in the morning and I decide to turn

was like. But I enjoyed it.


my lamp on. I want to fall back to sleep and be lost “You felt it didn’t you? A pull, a sort of magnetic pull

in thoughts all over again. But I’m awake now. No

dragging you towards her. Only you assumed it was


a cue to save her.” Then I hear the door open, and at first I think we’re I growl again. “What else am I supposed to do?!” I curse myself

being robbed. But soon, I come back to reality and realise it’s Dad coming back from the pub.

for falling for it and turn my attention back to the

I quickly turn my light off and pretend I’m asleep until I

youths, the girl has spotted them now. She tries to

hear my Dad get into bed. Soon enough, I feel my eyes

turn and escape but they’ve already seen her.

slowly close and then I fall into another deep sleep…

“We, my dear brother are not meant to save her.”

“Hey! Tony! Wake up! Guess what?”

He unfurls his black wings just as I do the same.

“What? Are we going to see Manchester United

“We are meant to harvest her soul.” Scarlett

play against Chelsea at Wembley Stadium?” I asked sarcastically. 23

BUILDING COMMUNITIES FOR A NEW LIBRARY: THE LAUNCH OF JUNCTION 3 LIBRARY, BRISTOL THE PROJECT Read/Write South West provided opportunities for activity in and around Junction 3, the new Big Lottery funded library and learning centre in Easton, Bristol Working with library users, writer Sara-Jane Arbury and graphic novelist Joff Winterhart encouraged visitors to write about what libraries mean to them and hundreds of visitors experienced the vibrant sessions in progress and many gained first-hand experience of working with writers through active participation

Writer Amy Mason has worked with elders (some more than 90 years old) from the area’s large African Caribbean community, encouraging and enabling them to tell their own stories. Amy used lived experience/oral histories to inspire creative writing and sessions were recorded to enable those with poor eyesight to take part

“As all participants were selfselecting and the entrance policy was completely open, the groups were truly diverse and represented the vibrant local area. Among others, members came from the local Pakistani community, were newly arrived immigrants (from Spain, South Africa and Poland), were members of the established African and Caribbean community, or were in recovery (from drugs/alcohol and mental health crises). This diversity led to fascinating writing, and to truly inspiring discussions about what characterises our city and what it means to be Bristolian”




Sara-Jane Arbury helped to strengthen and deepen the library’s relationship with the adjacent Millponds Primary School. Pupils were chosen by teachers to attend two library based workshops each to encourage their creative writing. Sara-Jane used a series of exercises to encourage the children to draw inspiration from books, pictures and their own knowledge and experiences

FEEDBACK “Safe and secure” “Completely at home and proud to be a Bristolian” “Happy - like an elephant squirting water” “It’s lovely and playful” “It gives me breathing space” “Amazing”,

“The project provided an excellent opportunity both to strengthen Bristol Libraries’ relationship with two excellent local writers and to allow them to explore working with new groups and communities. The library is in an area of considerable deprivation – the majority of those participating in Read/Write South West activities have not previously had the opportunity to benefit from working with a writer”

“Exciting” “Magical” “Extraordinary” “Fantastic” “I gained more confidence in managing to produce something” “Very helpful and inspiring”




JOFF AND SARA-JANE Junction 3 Launch event




The set up and coordination of Young Writers Squad Plymouth, a group for young writers aged 12-16 years running fortnightly at Plymstock Library. Emma also hosted a blog writing skills workshop with the group and facilitated library sessions. The young people now regularly publish work on their own blog: http:// youngwriterssquadplymouth.wordpress. com. Emma worked closely with local writer Babs Horton who led writing activities. An anthology of the squad’s writing is to be published this year

The Librarian made the following comments and observations about working with Read/Write South West on these projects: “The Young Writers Squad have been inspirational to work with, reading their stories and poetry is exciting and incredibly entertaining” “Working with a professional writer has enabled young people to become more confident in themselves as individuals, and hone their writing skills” “With the support of a professional writer, librarians and library facilities, a young person with special educational needs, and experiencing difficulties with writing and speech, has been able to attend independently, share work with peers, integrate with other young writers, and develop in confidence”


“The Squad received a welcome tour of the library and made use of library resources made available to them, including teen and adult novels, free internet access and use of word processing software”


“I am delighted that the library could help to unlock and share their creativity and talent” LIBRARIAN




Sally Crabtree was able to use her experience in inspiring young people and working with different partner organizations in Cornwall to present a series of workshops that would help libraries reach local primary schools in their area

The Writer made the following comments and observations about working with Read/Write South West on these projects:

The aim of the workshops were to bring words to life, give children the confidence to find their own voice and break down preconceived ideas of what reading and writing could be – to add an element of surprise and delight into peoples’ notions of what literature is Those taking part experienced the unexpected – they discovered that they themselves could write and make books in all shapes and sizes using their own imaginative ideas, that they could perform their poems and songs, create dancing poems and even eat their words and become a walking living poem! Literature really could come alive. They discovered that grown ups aren’t always boring, that poets can do cartwheels, that words can carry in their arms one’s own amazing ideas and hand them like a present to others – not necessarily just in book form but perhaps as an objet d’art, a song, a performance poem, in an installation or as the icing of an edible poetry cake The project showed that libraries can surprise you by offering you somewhere to discover, and be a place of vibrant, meaningful fun

“As someone who has always found libraries exciting places, it was inspiring to see children who had never set foot in one before become enthused after a session and ask “ How can I join?“ “The project brought the libraries to life and proved that young people are eager for such positive experiences. It made me as a writer want to think of even more new ways to capture their imaginations” “The project was a very successful way for the libraries to forge a link with local schools and to see how projects such as this can bring communities together in positive and exciting ways. It showed the schools that libraries can offer a fresh approach to literacy and bring it alive in ways that young people respond to, giving them a new found confidence that they can take back to all their lessons and their life”









Literature Works would like to thank the following people and organisations for their support and hard work in making this project such a success: Arts Council England, South West

Moira Andrew

Rosie Jackson

Bridport Arts Centre

Sue Ashby

Sally Jenkinson

Bridport Open Book Festival Polly Gifford

Sara-Jane Arbury

Susanna Jones

Carly Bennett

Tim King

Bristol Library Service Andrew Cox

Sarah Benwell

Steve Lake

Phil Bowen

Amy Mason

Cornwall Library Service Merryn Kent

Liz Brownlee

Simon MacCormack

Mark Bunhope

Annie McKie

Devon Library Service

Kate Campbell

Tina Orr Munro

Dorset Library Service Sharon Kirkpatrick

Sarwat Chadda

Brenda Read-Brown

Lucy Christopher

Gloucestershire Library Service Carole Bowe

David Reakes

Julia Copus

Chris Redmond

Jo Corcoran

Ali Reynolds

Sally Crabtree

Hall for Cornwall, Truro Isobel King

Carol Rifka Brunt

Barry Cunningham

Sophie Rochester

Learning SW, Taunton Gill Millar and Anna Sayce

Sophie Duffy

Vicki Ross

Debi Evans

Patrick Ryan

Jane Feaver

John Seagrave

Jonny Fluffypunk

CJ Skuse

HMP Leyhill, South Gloucestershire

Lit Up! Literature Project Poole & Bournemouth Amy Mason

Thommie Gillow

Helen Slavin

Patchway College, South Gloucestershire Kerry Roberts & the English Department; Sherie Humphreys

Ann Gray

Sophie Tallis

Helen Greathead

Rebecca Tantony

Deborah Gregory

Liv Torc

Plymouth International Book Festival

Rebecca Gregson

Tom Vowler

Anna Groves

Clare Wallace

Babs Horton

Rachel Ward

Clive Hopwood

David Woolley

Toby Hulse

Cliff Yates

Plymouth Library Service Emma Sherriff Plymouth Museum & Arts Gallery Kate Campbell Rethink South Gloucestershire Library & Arts Services Alison Catlin Take Art, Somerset Mark Helyar Torbay Library Services Paul Trainer Plymouth University Marc Lintern Wiltshire Library Service Chris Moore 28

Printed on 100% recycled stock

Writers in Prisons Network Clive Hopwood

Literature Works Peninsula Arts, Plymouth University Roland Levinsky Building Drake Circus PLYMOUTH PL4 8AA Telephone: 01752 585073 Company Limited by Guarantee Registered in England and Wales Company Registration Number: 06858956 Registered Charity: 1132586

Read/Write South West Report  

Project report and anthology of work from the Read/Write South West Project

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