Everyday Stories of a Diverse Britain - the project
Journalist, historian and award-winning author Colin Grant is inviting you to learn the techniques to identify a special real-life story, research and record it through interviews and talks, and to tell it through your own creative writing.
In 2017, West Yorkshire Playhouse commissioned Colin to write a play about the UK’s oldest street carnival in Leeds. Interviewing people from the era who had been involved in setting up and attending the carnival in its early days, Colin used techniques from his journalistic background to get to the heart of first-hand experiences of the event.
The result was Queen of Chapeltown, a critically acclaimed play that had real resonance with the audiences who saw it during the sold-out run, because it told real stories, constructed from the memories of the people who have made carnival for decades. Queen of Chapeltown documents the history and lives of the local black community, with amusing characters whose humorous anecdotes serve to highlight the everyday racism they faced in the 1960s.
Although the 70th anniversary of the arrival of SS Empire Windrush from the Caribbean is being celebrated in 2018, inequality and racism is still prevalent in the UK today. It makes it crucial to highlight how multiculturalism strengthens and enriches society. The Windrush scandal that coincided with the anniversary and threatened some of the subjects Colin interviewed highlights how vital it is that their stories are preserved. As one interviewee during the writing of ‘Queen of Chapeltown’ stated:
“Carnival is the only connection we have to our roots … It’s part of our life and if that dies, we die as a people.”
From autumn 2018, Colin will be sharing the knowledge and expertise that he has developed through writing Queen of Chapeltown by running creative life writing workshops in areas of the country with strong links to the Caribbean and with histories of multicultural migration to Britain. Working with Commonword in Manchester, Literature Works in Bristol and Writing West Midlands in Birmingham, Colin and a local author will teach aspiring writers some of the tricks of the trade – interviewing techniques, how to turn a real-life story into a gripping plot, creating memorable characters and more – so they can weave these into a piece of quality creative writing. The workshops will culminate in public readings in each city to celebrate the work produced.
Be part of the project in Manchester
In Manchester, Colin is partnering with Commonword to help local writers share their Everyday Stories of Diverse Britain. He will work with local author Deanne Heron.
To find out how you can become part of the project, contact visit Commonword’s website: www.cultureword.org.uk
Commonword ¦ Deanne Heron. Photograph by Kerry
Commonword is a writing development organisation based in Manchester, providing opportunities for new and aspiring writers to develop their talent and potential.
Deanne Heron was born in Jamaica but came to live in England in 1967. She is a qualified counsellor/trainer and foster carer. She has published two volumes of short humorous stories, written in standard English with Jamaican patois dialogue, called Pardner Money Stories. Deanne’s fictional stories take a whimsical look at the interactions of four generations of the extended Jamaican family in Britain. Deanne also had two volumes of poetry called Contemplation, published. She is currently working on her third volume of Pardner Money Stories as well as editing her science fiction novel for publication.
Deanne reads her poetry and stories at local events and on local radio as well as presenting news and Black History Month programmes.
Deanne also has a personal interest in Black History and as such has delivered presentations to schools and heads of education establishments on the need for black history to be taught to young people.
Be part of the project in Bristol
In Bristol, Colin is partnering with Literature Works to help local writers share their Everyday Stories of Diverse Britain. He will work with local writer Dr Edson Burton.
To find out how you can be part of the project in Bristol, visit the Literature Works website: literatureworks.org.uk
Dr Edson Burton
Literature Works are the regional literature development agency for south west England, supporting creative writing and the development of writers and readers of all ages, from all walks of life in the region.
Dr Edson Burton is a writer, working across poetry, radio and theatre. Poetry is at the heart of all his work, reflecting the cross generational plural experience of growing up in Britain as a second generation person of African Caribbean descent.
Edson combines work at the Trinity art centre with working across Bristol’s cultural sector on a range of projects. He is an active member of the programming and curatorial collective Come the Revolution supported by Watershed Cinema, and is a regular commentator on local and national radio and television. And he is a board member for public art producer Situations Ltd and Afrikaeye Film Festival, and founder member of LGBTQ+ for people of colour Kiki Bristol.
His academic specialisms include: Bristol and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, Black History in the USA, Cultural continuities between Africa & the New World, and Race and Representation. He has been a consultant and coordinator for a range of history projects in Bristol.
Be part of the project in Birmingham
In Birmignham, Colin is partnering with Writing West Midlands to help local writers share their Everyday Stories of Diverse Britain. He will work with local author Sue Brown.
To find out how you can be part of the project in Birmingham, visit the Writing West Midlands website: writingwestmidlands.org
Writing West Midlands support creative writers and creative writing in the West Midlands region through workshops, conferences and summer schools, and celebrate words through festivals and events.
About Colin Grant
Colin Grant is a historian, author and BBC producer. His books include Negro with a Hat, a biography of Marcus Garvey; I and I The Natural Mystics Marley, Tosh and Wailer; and his latest, A Smell of Burning: the Story of Epilepsy. Grant’s memoir of growing up in a Caribbean family in 1970s suburbia, Bageye at the Wheel, was shortlisted for the PEN/Ackerley Prize. He has written numerous BBC radio documentaries including A Fountain of Tears, focusing on the last days of Federico Garcia Lorca. He is a regular contributor to the Guardian and Granta Magazine and is a tutor of Creative Writing at Arvon and City University.
Find out more at www.colingrant.info/
Find reviews for ‘Queen of Chapeltown’ here:
Entertainment Focus: entertainment-focus.com/queen-of-chapeltown-review/
Yorkshire Times: yorkshiretimes.co.uk/ThoughtProvoking-Drama-At-Its-Best
And listen to a BBC programme made by Colin about Leeds Carnival here: bbc.co.uk/programmes/queen-of-chapeltown