Community Writing project in Torbay
“Meeting other people in person and sharing their lives and emotions through writing, has helped me see that I am not alone and having such support from the group has made me look at my life in a more positive way. Also, it has given me the confidence to leave my house!”
Group member and participant, Positive People in Torquay
“The course has helped with verbal and written communication and with emotional intelligence. Even before the sessions people were excited. It has rippled out across the rest of their lives . . . It’s been an absolute pleasure having you guys up here and thank you.”
Jo Bailey, Project Co-ordinator, Shekinah Grow in Paignton.
In spring and summer of 2022, our Community Writing project arrived in Torbay. This is a new strand of work that we started at Quay Words in Exeter and have begun to extend around the region. We work with community groups and make them central to designing how they want to use words and stories – supported by an experienced writer-practitioner – to express and explore their experience. The practitioners are local writers with the connections and skills to really make a difference.
We recruited writer-practitioners Sara Hurley and Harula Ladd in Torbay and they have been working with a range of organisations which support individuals and groups in the community. With each group, they co-designed a series of workshops and activities based around different kinds of creative writing. Sara Hurley worked with TARGET (Torbay Aftercare and Recovery Group Evolving Together), a support group for people in recovery from alcohol and substance issues, and Positive People, which helps people who are not in work to build confidence and skills for their future. Harula Ladd worked with Ladies Lounge in Torquay, which provides emotional support, advice and information for vulnerable women who have been affected by domestic abuse/violence. She also worked with Shekinah Grow, a land-based therapeutic service in Paignton which encourages people to connect to nature, learn new skills and gain a positive sense of self.
The groups worked with Sara and Harula to capture their creative output in print. Each group also had the opportunity to select and invite a guest writer to come and get involved with what they were doing. These included Lily Dunn on memoir and recovery, Matt Harvey on spoken word and poetry, and Plymouth Laureate of Words, Laura Horton.
“On projects like this, I find it’s the ‘intangible’ moments that bring the group together: the life conversations prompted by creative writing, mutual support, the sharing of personal stories and desire to do so, and of course the laughs. I think the ethos of co-design really helped the participants be open to engaging with the project from workshop through to final sharing. And as with any rewarding project, I learnt and grew in confidence too!”
We are grateful to the Sigrid Rausing Trust for their support of this project.