LinkedIn tells me that this month (Jan 2019) marks the sixth anniversary of Charnwood Creatives Ltd being registered as a Social Enterprise with Companies House.
Frankly, I was shocked to see that number. Six years? How can that be? The time has simply flown by.
It’s been an interesting journey to this point, with lots of new skills learned, creative practices tested out, friendships established in groups that we’ve worked with and plans made for things we’d like to do in the future. There are still rough edges to smooth out – accessing funding to work with those who can’t fund themselves, for instance – but we’re confident we’ll be able to do this.
But our purpose is as strong as ever. To foster a sense of creativity in everyone that we meet, however great or small their experience of art activities, and to strengthen the feeling of community in the area in which we live.
The Informals were a bunch of people interested in writing who met every Thursday afternoon at Loughborough Library from Spring 2013 to early 2018.
The sessions were free and informal – hence the name – with members dropping by when they were able and missing a week here and there when something else cropped up.
Mostly, the sessions were a chance to chat and build connections between people who had never met before, to share what we each enjoyed about writing and to stimulate ideas with a creative exercise or two. Everyone enjoyed themselves and at times, our chatter and laughter were louder than is really acceptable in a library!
We each took turns contributing starting points for a piece of writing: sometimes a favourite poem, sometimes a line of text from the nearest book to hand, sometimes writing prompts found on the internet and sometimes simply a random phrase that passed through someone’s head or had been part of the the groups’ coffee-time discussions.
During the five years the group met we produced three anthologies of our work and held several readings and exhibitions of writing in the Library, to mark literary events such as World Poetry Day.
Click the links below to buy our anthologies on Amazon. The proceeds from these sales support writing activities in the local community.
Charnwood Creatives are proud to be involved in a new exhibition organised and staged by The Hero Project, the Leicestershire-based community interest company responsible for the recent Geordie Heroes Exhibition in Newcastle City Centre and for Coalville’s ground-breaking Famous Fifty commemoration, which has toured many exhibition spaces around Leicestershire and beyond since it was created in November 2017.
For our Fantastic Female we decided to create a cut out of Aphra Behn, the first British woman known to have earned her living as a professional writer. Aphra lived in Restoration England, at a time when it wasn’t considered ‘seemly’ for educated women to earn an independent living or to publicly express their opinions through writing. Aphra did both, and in doing so became a role model for every female writer who was to follow her.
We had a lot of fun creating Aphra, using recycled materials, collage techniques, watercolour painting and a fancy-dress wig. We quite miss her now she’s gone, but hope people enjoy learning about her when they meet her at the exhibition.
The Fifty Fantastic Females will be on display at the Co-operative Store in Bridge Road, Coalville until the end of December 2018.
You can watch a film about the Famous Fifty exhibition here and another about why it was decided to display them in the town’s Co-op here.
Biscuits & Words was a writers’ group for young adults which we ran from 2014 to 2016. It was funded by Writing East Midlands with support from Loughborough University and Charnwood Arts.
Sessions were led by our own writer – Alison Mott – supported by poet and cookery blogger Lottie Huckle. Liz Waddell joined the team when Lottie moved to London and a job in publishing.
Biscuits & Words met fortnightly in LU Arts’ cool, arty meeting area in the Edward Barnsley Building on Epinal Way. We later moved to a more central location in town, using community rooms belonging to Charnwood Arts in Granby Street.
In our sessions we used short, quirky prompts to kick off quick bursts of writing, inviting the young writers to suggest prompts as the group grew in confidence. Everyone wrote in the sessions – young and older writers alike – and were encouraged to read out what they had written. Most found it scary at first but soon got over it as their creative muscles became used to the exercise.
The Young Writers wrote whatever they wanted – poetry, plays, song lyrics, stories – and often brought in pieces they’d continued to work on at home. It was fantastic to see each young writer grow in confidence – in their ideas and creativity, their writing and critical skills, their communication skills and their friendships, too. We even became official bloggers for the first ever Loogabarooga Children’s Illustrated Literature Festival in October 2015.
And best of all there wasn’t a red pen or marking scheme in sight. But there was laughter and creativity and biscuits – lots of biscuits. Hence the name – Biscuits and Words – chosen to replace ‘Charnwood Young Writers’ by the young people who attended the group.
Biscuits & Words was a lot of fun for everyone involved and we’d love to start up another young writer’s group in the area soon.
Contact us if you’d like us to run a writing group in a community setting you know.
In November 2016, we invited Nottingham’s wonderful Mouthy Poets to Loughborough to lead writing workshops for children and young people at Loughborough Library. They were so full of knowledge and creative energy that they staged a workshop for creative practitioners, too. The sessions were a great success and more than one person commented that they’d helped them find their writing voice.