Community writing

Self-expression through stories and creative writing – a powerful tool for community building and supporting marginalised groups.
Literature Works’ Community Writing Project has supported a range of community groups to have a go at creative writing; from women’s groups, people living with brain injury, refugee and recovery support groups across Torbay, Exeter and Plymouth.
This has been made possible with support from our funders, the Sigrid Rausing Trust, the National Lottery Community Fund, and Arts Council England.
Learn about our work

Our Community Writing work began through the Quay Words live literature programme in Exeter. There, we created community writing courses in partnership with Resilient Women, Interwoven Productions CIC and Headway Devon. We secured funding to work in 2022 with further community groups in Plymouth and in Torbay, and that work continued in 2023.

‘The women have absolutely loved it. We really appreciate the funding that led to this opportunity too so thank you… To be able to participate in such quality creative experiences is just so fantastic.’

Jeanie, Resilient Women Programme Manager


Pen To Paper

In 2023 Literature Works once again teamed up with TARGET in Torbay to co-design a weekly creative writing course, facilitated by writer and storyteller Sara Hurley. This film shows the results of the time working with Sara.

TARGET – Torbay Aftercare and Recovery Group Evolving Together – is part of Torbay Recovery Initiatives and Growth in Action.

‘That pen is so powerful when it gets to paper.’


Some reflections from Sara Hurley, facilitator

In the world of freelance facilitation it feels like a rare opportunity to go back and work with a group again. Earlier this year I was lucky enough to work with Literature Works on a second round of community writing sessions with a group called TARGET, Torbay AfterCare Recovery Group Evolving Together, who are part of Torbay Recovery Initiatives.

We met weekly for 7 weeks at an outdoor centre which was a gift for our well being and responding to the nature of the place in our writing.

Mid way through we welcomed a guest writer. Poet Matt Harvey entertained people during a regular BBQ meet up and then inspired more new comers to his workshop. From there the group grew in size and commitment. Most people were experiencing creative writing for the first time, finding a safe place where they could express themselves, share life experiences big and small, have their imaginations sparked and a good laugh together. A few participants already enjoyed writing and knew they wanted to develop it and these workshops gave them a place to do so.

The ethos of Literature Works community writing groups is that they are co-created and I facilitate what they want to work on. At times this was directly connected to their experiences of recovery from drug and alcohol use, though often not. One participant said it was a relief to be somewhere where it wasn’t always the main focus, and another said it gave them something else to talk about with their parents other than their recovery.

TARGET is an aftercare group and the participants of the writing group have typically attended various support groups. In a community writing setting this shows itself in a superb quality of listening and empathy for each other. A joy for any facilitator! It was rewarding working with this group the first time. Second time around there were new faces, a different location and a chance to build on our previous learning and connections. It’s been equally enjoyable to be with this lovely bunch of people and encourage their expression through writing.

I hope you enjoy watching ‘From Pen to Paper’ for a flavour of TARGET’s experience of community writing.

Sara Hurley, 29/09/23

‘Most people were experiencing creative writing for the first time, finding a safe place where they could express themselves, share life experiences big and small, have their imaginations sparked and a good laugh together.’

Girls Against Anxiety

Girls Against Anxiety provides a safe and inclusive space for girls, women, and non-binary people aged 18-25 who are struggling with anxiety and mental health. They aim to combat the isolation that often comes with these struggles by creating a supportive community where members can share their worries and anxieties in open conversations. They believe that creative expression is a powerful tool for improving mental health and wellbeing.

In late 2023, a new strand of Community Writing work in Torbay began when Harula Ladd ran a series of poetry workshops with Girls Against Anxiety – these were extremely popular with participants, opening up the world of writing, unlocking creativity and improving wellbeing.

‘Our poetry sessions are coming to an end…but I don’t think that means it’s going to end for the group! So many of our members have fallen in love with writing poetry and even learnt ways to write that aren’t so daunting or intimidating. We’ve learnt to not label ourselves as “bad” at something immediately, learning and trying is key to surprising ourselves and a group telling you how incredible you are pushes that self worth 💕’

Girls Against Anxiety

Ladies Lounge

Community Writing workshops with Ladies Lounge, a charity supporting vulnerable women in Torquay, continued in 2023 – again facilitated by Harula Ladd. We’re pleased to share this feedback reflecting on the sessions.

‘Thank you so much to Literature Works and Harula Ladd for facilitating a series of Creative Writing workshops over the past few weeks. We were bowled over by the quality of writing and the amazing creativity our ladies demonstrated. As an added bonus, it made us realise how creativity gives us a sense of achievement, boosts mental health and allows us to put words on difficult emotions buried deep inside us. We are eagerly waiting for a booklet of our poems and written pieces to be published, stay tuned for a few examples of our literary masterpieces!’

Participant, Ladies Lounge


Photo credit: Gem Smith / Take A Part

In Plymouth we delivered our project in partnership with participatory arts experts, Take A Part.

We co-created creative writing experiences with four very different community groups – Crazy Glue, Good Vibrations Women Writers Group, PRIME Design, and Plymouth and Devon Racial Equality Council women’s group. Groups were supported in publishing their work in community magazines and the young PRIME Skatepark skaters’ handprinted posters featuring slogans from their manifesto went on to be displayed on the Truth Wall outside Ocean Studios during the Print in Action festival in Plymouth.

Image credit: Alan Qualtrough

In Torbay, we recruited two local practitioners with experience working across a range of organisations to support people and groups in recovery.

This work continued in 2023.

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.

‘I have enjoyed finding my creative side that I didn’t know existed.’

Target Participant

‘Facilitating these kinds of experiences with people is a privilege to witness. Seeing their ideas, imagination and creativity begin to flow and grow in confidence week on week, as well as being told about the positive benefits to their sense of wellbeing.’

Sara Hurley, Creative Lead working with Target and Positive People

‘I have discovered that I actually love to write and very much enjoyed expressing myself through words and poetry and stories – more to come!’

Positive People Participant

‘I loved seeing members of the group surprise themselves with what they wrote. There was a significant shift in confidence in many participants which was lovely to see.’

Harula Ladd, Creative Lead working with Ladies Lounge and Shekinah Grow

We are continuing to facilitate more community writing projects in the region with gratefully received National Lottery funding from the Community Fund.

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Amazon UK Literary Partnership for Community Writing.