I am pleased to say that at the end of 2012 the health of writing groups in North Staffordshire is very good. From what I can work out there are 8 groups regularly meeting and there may be more, plus the classes and groups which meet at the local colleges and universities. There is some cross-over of members, so I reckon around 100 people are part of one or more groups.
I attend Renegades Writers because it offers very helpful criticism of my own work and an interesting and often very entertaining selection of work from the others, which I readily offer I hope constructive criticism. Not everyone wants this, they just want to perform. There seems a move to develop a regular performing night at Bad Edit in Burslem, which would include music, this would be a good addition, though the space is far from intimate and doesn’t have the sort of feel that say The Frog and Bucket had in Manchester and was so successful for many years.
With so many groups meeting this offers the opportunity to group together to get funding for workshops and training. The work the City Council did in the past was ok, but, well I didn’t exactly find anything in their programme I wanted to participate in. There are skills which I am sure many would wish to develop, such as marketing e-books; poetry and prose performance; re-writing and editing.
Where can funds come from? There would need to be a ‘union’ of writers groups to apply for funding from Trusts, Foundations and grant giving bodies such as the Arts Council. There has been a huge grant given to this area for a project through Arts Lottery Funding, it may be possible to tag into that, though I would prefer autonomy from Staffordshire University and the other partners.
I feel this has to be a challenge for 2013. It is not easy as there are many egos at play in these writing groups and I am sure each would have their own ideas of what was needed. But to really develop writing and performing skills top class training is needed and the only way to get that without members having to fork out £50+ each is find grants.