March 2018

Running a writing group – a history of Didcot Writers

In 2016 the creative writing classes run by Cornerstone Arts Centre in Didcot came to an end: the teacher was moving away, and though there were two attempts to start it up again, the third party organising these made errors and there was little take-up from participants.

Meanwhile, keen that the group continue to meet, I initiated a weekly ‘shut up and write’ group. We meet in the arts centre café for two hours a week, share our goals and progress, then set a timer and get on with our work. Details of this and our other get-togethers can be seen on our website.

New people appeared, and I started keeping a mailing list – and sending reminders using the bcc field to protect people’s information. Aware that this might spoil the democratic nature of the group, I also set up an online forum open to anyone, with folders for discussions on different topics. We later set up a facebook page in addition.

Our regular monthly pub meet-up, an annual social hosted by a member of the group, and a Christmas party also took place: the group has a real community feel, with everyone coming together to hear about and support each other’s writing. As well as continuing to put work into our shared dropbox for comment, we also started attending the arts centre’s Creative Cluster event, where work is read out, followed by a facilitated discussion.

I am a very organised person, and being keen that we also have development opportunities as writers, in the summer of 2017 I took it upon myself to hire a workshop space once a month at the arts centre. The workshops - and the group as a whole - operates on a not-for-profit basis, and members of the group took it in turns to lead a discussion on different topics. It was great that so many volunteers came forward for this, and that everyone was on board.

Once we had built up a kitty I began to hire in external speakers and pay their expenses – we were very grateful to these tutors for offering their time for free. You can see details of these workshops here.

Seeing that we weren’t going away, the arts centre has started offering us other opportunities, and I have met with them several times to discuss them running workshops again, partnerships with the local university’s continuing education department, and artistic opportunities such as our taking over a blackboard wall in the study, and participating in a gallery exhibition.

The group is going from strength to strength: we have recently set up a monthly competition and will soon be putting together our second anthology of short stories. We’re looking forward to all the opportunities coming up over the next year.

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