High Street Tales
Writer wanted for short story commission


High Street Tales is part of the cultural programme of the High Street Heritage Action Zones (HAZ) project run by Historic England. Its aim is to create a set of stories to be broadcast and distributed online that celebrate the local high street, the people and communities who depend on them and centre their lives around theirs, and the roles they have played – and will continue to play – in our lives.    

Spread the Word is working with the regional literature development agencies as part of the HAZ project to create stories from seven towns across England exploring the communities who live there and the role that their high street plays for them. For London, the High Street Tales’ focus is Woolwich HAZ.

What is the commission?  

England’s high streets have a long history and have always been at the heart of our communities. They are our landmarks and points of reference; our meeting places and marketplaces. Across the centuries people have gathered together on high streets, from market days to turning on the Christmas lights; coffee dates to national jubilees. In a recent survey, 45% of respondents indicated that their primary high street use was non-retail related. 

Every high street in England, whether it is in a medieval market town or a post-war city centre, has a unique and distinctive history that creates identity and a sense of place. Despite this, high streets are struggling, and need to adapt to survive. Your commissioned story would be a way to help people reconnect with their high streets, helping them see it as a place that can thrive and be of relevance to them and their lives. 

The full set of High Street Tales will capture the everyday magic that plays out on high streets across England. We are looking to work with a writer committed to co-creation and uncovering untold stories, who will create an inspiring, thought provoking and entertaining story from their research, consultation and documentation.  

Spread the Word is looking to recruit a writer to create a story about Woolwich High Street and we’re seeking, therefore, a writer who either lives there, is from there or who has a connection to the area that would inform and make richer this commission.  

About the story and its creation 

(1)  Your short story will be 3,000 words or the equivalent of 15 minutes’ listening time. It can be either a fiction or a non-fiction piece. It will be aimed at a confident, engaged readers who are keen to dig beneath the surface of places, learn more about history and heritage and expand their understanding of places, communities, cultures and contexts. We can share more information about the audience with the successful applicant.  

As well as the story itself, we would like you to work with us to provide six high quality images relating to the story and its genesis (pictures of locations, people, experiences, contemporary or historical documents) that will form part of the story’s context when it’s published and shared. We will provide access to a photographer to help with this if needed. 

The creation of each of the stories will feature as the central element of a podcast, so we’d like you to take part in that recording too. A 45-minute radio programme will be made about the collective endeavour too. 

Finally, each story will be featured in an eBook (not for sale) to be feature on the website of English Heritage and the partners of this project. 

(2) The current COVID-19 pandemic is making community engagement and face-to-face working complex. However, we’d like to hear about the ways you feel you could safely engage the Woolwich community in your approach to writing the story. This might include setting up virtual meetings with community groups that Spread the Word can help you access. It might include (COVID-19 secure) research visits to Woolwich and the places or communities you are planning to write about. It will include two (virtual) creative writing workshops that Spread the Word can help you set up and manage during the early part of the commission period. 

We’d love you to be as creative as possible about the creation and development of the story and we will work with you to develop a risk assessment of any work undertaken and to create a plan to ensure your safety and the safety of any community members you work with.   

What we can offer in return 

You will be paid £3000 inclusive for the development of the story and the delivery of two workshops. 

Spread the Word will pay for the hosting of the workshops and their management, any photography needed, the creation of the podcast and the production of the eBook text.  

How to Apply 

To apply for this opportunity you will need to submit the following:

  • A personal statement.  Please tell us about yourself and why you are interested in the commission. (Maximum: 300 words)

  • Your idea. Please tell us about your approach to the commission and the workshops. (Maximum: 300 words)

  • Any relevant experience you have. Please tell us about your experience of running community based workshops. (Maximum: 300 words)

  • Writing sample. This can be in any genre. (Maximum: 300 words)

Disabled writers are welcome to submit audio/visual files for their submission. There are additional funds available to support access needs. If you require this, please do tell us in the application form. 

Apply via Submittable: https://spreadtheword.submittable.com/submit


Applications open at 10am on Thursday 15 October and close at 11:59pm on Monday 2 November.

All participants will be informed by Friday 6 November regarding the outcome of their application. The selected writer will be expected to be available to start work from Monday 9 November.

The commission activity will be taking place in November/ December 2020, do let us know of any other projects you are doing over this period and/ or any dates that you are unavailable on the application form.

A first draft of the story must be ready for sharing with Spread the Word on 14 December. 

 A final version of the story must be agreed by 21 December. 

If you have any queries about your application or this opportunity, please get in touch with [email protected].




Published 15 October 2020