In December 2020, after an open call and a public vote, Plymouth-based playwright Laura Horton was appointed as Plymouth Laureate of Words 2021-22.
As part of a creative partnership between Literature Works, Plymouth Culture and The Box, Laura will engage with a number of written and performance based commissions presented to her by various organisations across the city. She will also be running a series of public events and working with schools in the city to share the stories at the heart of Plymouth’s communities.
Laura was presented her first commission by the Lord Mayor of Plymouth’s Office in December 2020. She was inspired by an image from 1940 featured in a Plymouth Herald article, which shows Plymouth in the aftermath of one of a series of aerial attacks by the Luftwaffe. Find out more about her creative process and read her short story ‘Roll out Plymouth’ – which responds to the brief: ‘Caring and supporting one another: exploring how the community of Plymouth comes together’ – below.
Laura’s piece reflects the city’s nature of ‘coming together’ at times of adversity, demonstrated eighty years ago when the city was under siege and again in present day, when the city will commemorate the eightieth anniversary of the Blitz in Plymouth, during special events in March and April. Watch this space to find out more about when you might see Laura reading piece.
Laura writes: “When I found this image (scroll to ‘After the bombs, sing song!’) of Plymouth residents singing around a piano in aftermath of an air raid, I knew I wanted to write about it. It encapsulates for me the spirit of togetherness and the power of the arts to create moments of hope when the world feels hopeless.”
Laura will also represent the city at civic events and will be working with schools to create short plays by young people in Plymouth in partnership with Millfields Inspired.
Laura will be blogging about her experience throughout the next two years. We're delighted to share the first blog post from Laura, exploring what the laureateship means to her and her plans for getting involved in the culture of the city.
Hello from your new Laureate of Words...
In the process of buying a small flat for myself – my first home, I’ve been spending time lately trying to figure out what I should take with me, what serves me and what doesn’t. It struck me as I sifted through my bookshelves that I’ve gone through much the same process with other parts over the last year; considering which chapters I wanted to keep working on and which I could end with a full stop.
In pre-pandemic life I found daily distractions but sitting quietly in my own company for longer than I ever had, I couldn’t ignore myself any longer. I had been repressing my creative instincts through fear of failure, disallowing time to think, research and write. As I look back over last year, I realise it was a series of small acts that led me quietly to bigger things. The fragility of everything made me feel like I should be braver. I sent my work out more widely, I said yes to things that scared me, I opened up conversations with agents, artists and producers, I spoke about myself as a writer and crucially, I gave myself more space to create. The domino effect of making changes to my daily routine galvanised me to do more.
When the opportunity to apply for Plymouth Laureate of Words presented itself I very nearly didn’t; I wasn’t sure I’d have a chance and I was wobbling about my capabilities. But I ignored that early instinct, deciding instead to trust myself and just try, that whatever happened putting myself forward was not a mistake. I am so pleased that I did and that I am sitting here writing my first blog post as the first woman and playwright in the position. This new chapter started on 1st January and is the beginning of a two-year position where I’ll be commissioned to write, teach, speak at public events and in schools (whether online or in person) and respond to the city of Plymouth. I’ve already had a number of very energising zoom meetings and exciting ideas for projects in the city.
Like everyone, my life over the last year has ended up being vastly different to what I’d expected. Just getting through has been a huge achievement. What I will take with me into 2021 is a renewed sense that things change so quickly and hope is always around the corner. I’ve been asked to speak to students at my old comprehensive school about where, one day, their journeys might lead, if they follow their dreams. As a shy and under confident pupil I’m thrilled to be able report, it can get better.