Throughout 2022 Spread the Word’s small team has been busy creating opportunities for London’s writers to grow, explore and connect. It’s been a great year for us at Spread the Word, running a huge number of projects and opportunities for writers, continuing to create accessible opportunities, amidst a continuing backdrop of national and global challenges. In this blog, team members Ruth, Bobby, Eva, Laura and Emily take stock on achievements and particular points of interest that we have enjoyed, or reflected on, during our work this year.
Ruth Harrison – Director
“There have been many highlights for me this year.
It was a pleasure to continue our partnership with London Libraries to run City of Stories Home celebrating libraries’ role in supporting creativity in local communities. Working with writers such as Jarred McGinnis, Natasha Brown, Amer Anwar, Tice Cin, Maame Blue, Lizzie Damilola Blackburn, City of Stories Home engaged over 1,500 Londoners with free creative writing and reading activities in libraries across the city.
It has been fantastic to be able to launch a new programme – the Early Career Bursaries for London writers on a low income – responding to the on-going impacts of Covid and the cost of living on writers being able to take forward their creative practice. The Bursaries are made possible by a generous philanthropic gift from Sam and Rosie Berwick, who went on to win the 2023 Achates Philanthropy Prize for individual giving for the programme.
There is an on-going need to provide writers with sustained space, time and support to develop and take forward their writing projects. Our London Writers Awards programme continues to do this. It was wonderful to work with this year’s cohort of talented writers, helping them find community and build connections.
Our partnership with CRIPtic Arts has been critical to our thinking about how we make ourselves an accessible literature development agency. Across the year we’ve continued to run our CRIPtic Arts x Spread the Word Salons for deaf and disabled writers with workshops, readings and open mics with guest artists such as Khairani Barokka, Penny Pepper, Betty Doyle, Ayesha Chouglay, DL Williams and Tom Ryalls. In October we co-published Access to Literature – a new report that presents the first national picture of the barriers deaf and disabled people experience in access the literature and publishing sectors as writers, creative producers and audience members. We will be taking forward the report’s recommendations in 2023.
It continues to be a challenging time for writers and small arts organisations and receiving confirmation that we will be continuing as a National Portfolio Organisation of Arts Council England was a key highlight which means that we will be able to continue our mission to open up equitable and accessible spaces and development opportunities for writers and readers.
Our work is not possible without everyone who supports it – from the writers and partners we work with, to our funders and donors, everyone who comes along and takes part and the colleagues I work with – I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all.”
Eva Lewin, Writer Development Manager:
“There have been many highlights across the year for me at Spread the Word. Sometimes it’s a conversation with a writer about their work where it is exciting to hear about what they are doing and help them think through a particular challenge. On the other hand a big highlight was Spread the Word being able to launch an Early Career Bursaries for un-agented London writers on low incomes. All thanks to a generous philanthropic gift from Sam and Rose Berwick, and a real commitment to supporting creative risk. After all, without investing in creative risk where would literature be? February and City of Stories Home seems like a long long time ago now. It was a massive project involving 33 free, online open access creative writing workshops delivered through local libraries. It was a real joy to witness the numbers of people taking part – many doing creative writing for the first time – and a real sense of shared experience and imaginative excitement spreading through the zoom waves during the workshops.
Last but not least the London Writers Awards cohort number 4 – 30 talented writers, and a delight to work with them and see their development across the year.”
Bobby Nayyar, Programme Manager:
“After running nearly all of 2021’s activity online, this year has been a glorious return to events where writers of all ages can meet, develop their skills and share their work. It started in March with the Deptford Literature Festival – I was in awe of the 20 or so Year 5 children from Lucas Vale Primary School who performed their poetry from the Park Life project. I vividly remember their confidence and bravery to read to an audience – something which I hope will stay with them for a long time.
In May we held a StoryLab for the winners of the City of Stories Home competition – for many attending it was their first time doing an in-person workshop, as well as an opportunity to meet and connect with writers from across the city. We crowned our pilot project with Wellcome Collection with a beautiful evening at their museum with readings from the six writers, drinks and canapes – I was recently talking with an agent who attended the event who said she was still thinking about how impactful the readings were and what a lovely evening they had together.
I was grateful to return to the London Wildlife Trust sites for the Nature Nurtures project, which has been my first youth project for Spread the Word, taking time in each session to spend some time outdoors in nature. And to cap the year off a return to an in-person event to close the fourth year of the London Writers Awards. But through all of this my memories are punctuated with time with the team back in the office and thinking how nice it is to take a break from work and have cup of tea and chat with your colleagues!
As I look ahead to 2023 – I’m excited to see how we can continue supporting writers who have found us through our online activity and outreach as well as create those spaces where writers can meet and share their work.”
Laura Kenwright, Communications Manager:
“2022 was a busy and happy year at Spread the Word. City of Stories Home was a wild, glorious, sprawling project – offering free opportunities to write with all 33 local authority London library services, plus a free writing competition, anthology, writers’ and readers’ handbook and celebration events. It was a joy, and a lot of work, to see the project pan out – and to see many people come together to celebrate the joy of writing, reading, libraries and home. Battling against COVID, train strikes and heatwaves brought layers of unpredictability we are getting more and more used to, and along with these issues came creative and thoughtful problem-solving. Each Spread the Word team member worked really hard to make the project happen.
Deptford Literature Festival was another hit and personal highlight– bringing together great local artists and audiences for a special day of stimulating and thoughtful literary activity. I spent my day with the great Round Table Books children and family activity sessions and which was good, chaotic, thoughtful fun for the younger members of our community. I also want to draw attention to Deptford Literature Festival at Home – a fantastic selection of exercises from some wonderful Deptford Lit Fest artists that are available, for free, of course, for everyone to download and try at home. I can’t wait for next year’s Festival, which will take place on Saturday 18 March.
Our work with CRIPtic Arts has been richly rewarding. The CRIPtic x Spread the Word Salons for deaf and disabled writers are well-received and audiences are maintaining and growing for these vital points of creativity and connectivity. The Access to Literature report, that we co-published with CRIPtic Arts in September 2022, is a vital piece of research that we hope will ensure the literature sector works harder to encourage accessibility and equity into its offers.
Seeing Carinya Sharples’ The Food On Our Table project happen was a great joy. She worked hard to bring this thoughtful project together that celebrates writing and local cafes and restaurants. Carinya worked with a large number of local writers, restaurants and community groups and produced a fantastic booklet celebrating the hard work and words by all.
And finally – a shout out to all the London Writers Awards writers – both from the fourth year this year and previous years – whose successes, continued creativity and being a part of this special and unique family continues to buoy us as a team and organisation. I’m looking forward to Spread the Word’s 2023.”
Emily Ajgan, Programme Assistant:
“Looking back on 2022, where I started my role with Spread the Word in January, it’s incredible to reflect on all the brilliant projects, activities and collaborations over the year – there have been so many highlights working with the Spread the Word team.
First and foremost, Deptford Literature Festival in March which saw hundreds of people, curious and excited about writing, passing through the streets of Deptford to join in with festival events. I’ll never forget the electric atmosphere – including wading down Deptford Creek for the creek walk poetry workshop with twenty poets and poetry enthusiasts. It was a joy to see a group of strangers come together and offer thoughts about poetry and share their writing – and learn what the local landscape has to offer!
It was fantastic to work with the team on the immense City of Stories Home project. I truly enjoyed tuning into different online workshops for City of Stories Home, run by London authors and attended by many different members of London communities, later culminating into a competition which drew so many inspiring local stories – some of which won a place in the City of Stories Home anthology.
Amongst the bigger projects, it was exciting to get the opportunity to run in-person events with brilliant partners from the publishing industry, including a panel and Q&A event with editors from Penguin Random House which saw lots of writers attend, even in wind and rain – and a packed-out author talk with Children’s and YA author Jason Reynolds and illustrator Dapo Adeola in August.
Finally, one of the biggest highlights of this busy year has been the London Writers Awards. Closing the year with our final in-person event last month, it was a pleasure to work with, and get to know, this year’s cohort of writers as they journeyed through the programme to nurture and develop their stories – so many of which have stayed with me, and I’m excited to see where they go next.”
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Published 12 December 2022