‘My life’s now all breaking open books’
Kathryn Beale, Arvon's Head of Development, on the new Crenham Award to allow writers to mentor people who have been homeless.
The award will enable people who have experienced homelessness to be mentored by highly respected authors on a week-long Arvon writing retreat.
Since 1968, Arvon has welcomed young people and adults to its unique rural writing houses, watching as they enter a knot of apprehension and self-doubt, and leave a week later with courage, self-confidence and hope, with a hunger to express themselves through writing. Keen to share the transformative effects of writing creatively with as many people as possible, we have launched The Crenham Award. The award will enable people who have experienced homelessness to be mentored by highly respected authors on a week-long Arvon writing retreat.
We will partner with the Peer Mentor Service at Liverpool Waves of Hope, to reach people who have suffered deprivation due to multiple and complex needs. The individuals to benefit from the partnership will be volunteer mentors who have experienced difficulties with substance misuse, mental health, homelessness and/or offending, and now provide inspiration and support to those who are still in that situation. Arvon hopes to raise a further £50,000 to continue the partnership for three years.
This wasn't diversionary, time-filling activity but real art - challenging and ambitious.
Last year, volunteers from the Peer Mentor Service spent three days on a non-residential Arvon City course. Peter Naylor, the Co-ordinator of programme said of the partnership:
The space to write, guided by published authors, was invaluable. Participants were encouraged to pursue excellence, to stretch the limits of their writing ability. This wasn’t diversionary, time-filling activity but real art – challenging and ambitious. We are excited by the idea of a three year partnership with Arvon. We can’t wait to see the work that comes out of it!
Arvon’s work is based on a belief that being immersed in creative writing nourishes the imagination, deepens the connection to self and to the world, helping to create new possibilities and change. One of the author-tutors who worked with the Arvon City group was the acclaimed poet Ian Duhig, twice winner of the National Poetry Competition. He observed the dawning of this wider connection in a poem he wrote inspired by working with this group:
for Steve O’Shaughnessy
Minimum wage agency job, tea factory production line,
feeding irregular teabags the company bought cheap
into a machine which chews them up, spewing leaves
we trap in chests we then empty into another machine
that craps them out in standardised teabags for resale.
We have to raise our hands if we want to go to the bog.
New chests come stencilled with a lost empire’s names.
Some have stowaways in the foil lining, butterfly pupae.
A few hatch, rising like scraps of temple dancers’ saris
on music we cannot hear that still baffles our machines,
but the factory is kept cold: they all die within moments.
We sweep them up with torn wings of irregular teabags.
I looked them up in the library but nothing was so bright.
Steve reminds me our machine-maker’s name was Zeus,
making me think of Ganymede, of Sisyphus and Psyche,
for I’ve moved on from production lines: my life’s now all
breaking open books, flattening the wings of their pages,
draining these leaves so I can fill up new books, endlessly.
Ian Duhig’s latest collection, The Blind Roadmaker, is now available from Picador.
...being immersed in creative writing nourishes the imagination, deepens the connection to self and to the world, helping to create new possibilities and change.
You can support Arvon’s Crenham Award by making a donation online. Arvon is running an online raffle from now until 16 May to raise funds for the Crenham Award. Prizes include tickets to the press night of John Osborne’s The Entertainer, starring Kenneth Branagh and John Hurt, admittance to the after-show party and two nights' accommodation in The Hilton Trafalgar Hotel in central London.
Arvon produce residential and city-based creative writing courses and retreats for schools, groups and individuals, led by highly respected authors.
Arvon offers a home for the imagination, where anyone, regardless of writing experience, can step away from their normal routine, immerse themselves in the creative process, be inspired by experienced writers and release their imaginative potential.
Arvon’s writing houses are located in Devon, Shropshire and Yorkshire.
Kathryn Beale is Arvon’s Head of Development.
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