Tory mobilises students and alumni for A Life Written

Published: 16 February 2022 at 16:20

Cover of 'A Life Written' anthology

Collaboration with National Centre for Writing brings together writers of all ages

A project initiated by ARU’s Tory Young, Associate Professor of English Literature, has seen students and alumni work together with the National Centre for Writing in Norwich to create life-writing workshops for the over ’70s.

The project, A Life Written, was funded by HEIF funds and the National Centre for Writing, and resulted in the production of an anthology of the writers’ work, which launched at Dragon Hall on Friday 11 February.

The further aims of the project, to form writing communities and combat loneliness, became even more important when the workshops finally ran in Autumn 2021, supported by ARU undergraduate students, following lockdowns and isolation. Demand for the programme was huge, with all the places filled in less than 24 hours, and author Kit de Waal, after seeing them advertised on Twitter, even offered travel subsidies for those who could not otherwise afford to attend.

Kate Swindlehurst, graduate of ARU’s MA Creative Writing and author of The Tango Effect: Parkinson’s and the Healing Power of Dance, took on an editorial role, helping the writers produce work for the anthology. The book was further enhanced by the colourful illustrations of one participant, who independently secured funding from Arts Council England to produce them as well as a short film on the project. All the participants agreed that the vivid colours of the book helped them to feel truly seen.

Tory said: ‘Before the pandemic, I was concerned by the media’s polarising stereotypes which figured the old as either reactionary and wealthy home-owners or conversely a burden on those in work; millennials, on the other hand, were self-absorbed moaners.

‘I wanted to do something to bring these groups together to talk to, learn about and learn from each other. I have always loved reading autobiographies and am fascinated by the ability of writing to prompt long forgotten memories.’

It is hoped that this will be the first in a series of such workshops, with ARU students taking on greater roles in the production of the anthologies and organisation of launch events.

You can watch a short film made by one of the participants on YouTube.

For more information on the project, please contact Tory Young, Associate Professor of English Literature.