The weekend began at the NAWE conference in a comfortable Cheltenham hotel (thanks to Liverpool John Moores University). I was talking at the conference with Alicia Stubbersfield (poet and Lecturer) and James Shaw (ex student, rapper and young offenders officer) about a module taught at LJMU called ‘The Writer At Work.’
This module brings writers from across a broad range of disciplines to come in and talk to students about how they (as writers) make their ca$h. The novelist Niall Griffiths always goes down a storm, but other writers might be writing for screen, running workshop groups or working as publishers.
The students are then asked to ‘start a project’. The idea is that they use the skills they have as creative writers to plan, and then create something. From poetry nights, plays performed in swimming pools, to starting up monthly magazines – some of these projects come to life. The success of this module at the university (and the feel from the talk we gave) comes down to the fact that Creative Writing Graduates are an entrepreneurial bunch.
After talking to charming lectures from institutions all over the UK and even from as far as Australia I was left with the feeling that there is hope yet! All of the academics were armed with stories of how ‘involved’ their students get with arts programs and projects. Creative Writing students are engaging in further development not by taking the usual ‘work placement’ route other students do, but rather by using their own strengths and passions to put things out into the community. This is at the heart of the Module taught at LJMU.
As doors are closing and the bar is raised because of over qualified candidates taking jobs which they would not have sniffed at in the past, I do see a thick grey hopelessness around my graduate friends. Yet it’s the most entrepreneurial of them, the risk takers and the thinkers that are quickly on the way to the careers which they’re after.