Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Teesside Writers Workshop

Teesside Writers Workshop (TWW) was one of the most important c 1984 -6. The group was initiated as part of 

Launch of Teesside Writers Workshop
Community Arts Middlesbrough (CAM) development plan in 1984 and although the groups most influential period was 84 - 86 after which Outlet and Write Around took off, thanks to Peter Stockill and Jon Miles Longden, the group continued in some form well into the 1990's, issuing periodic anthologies along the way.

The group was launched April 11th 1984 at the Albert Hotel, Albert Rd in Middlesbrough by Pete Roberts and Paul Hyde of CAM with a performance by the Tyneside Writers Workshop featuring Jingling Geordie poet - and Northern Voices organiser- Keith Armstrong. The Tyneside group were part of the Federation of Worker Writers Groups in the North East,and although Teesside Writers Workshop didn't formally join the Federation, it was closely allied to them the Write Together (separate post on this). Paul Hyde told me that Stockton library refused to display the leaflet because it had the word 'pissed off' in it.

Launch of the Teesside Writers Workshop Flyer 1984

TWW Broadsheet 1984
Originally the group was called Middlesbrough Writers Workshop but the conflicted with the long-standing Middlesbrough Writers Workshop too (although we didn't know this at the time). The first application for funds to do a Broadsheet in 1984 had the group under the Middlesbrough name. Soon after it became Teesside Writers Workshop.
Middlesbrough Writers Group. The group that had come out of the Teesside Poly Multi Media / Humanities was now calling itself

The first meeting was highly successful attracting between 25 and 30 writers and a group from the audience agreed to meet up to discuss setting up their own group, designed to encourage and support new and old writers, provide stimulus and feedback, develop community publishing and organise performances.

Trev Teasdel, who was running the New Poetry Scene at the Dovecot, announced it at one of the sessions and some of the people involved with the New Poetry Scene (formerly the Castalians) got involved. These included Terry Lawson, Pauline Plummer, Mel McEvoy, Jon Miles Longden, Peter Stockill, Johnny Nichol, Stilletto Pigeonetto, John Quinn. Others came from Andy Croft's first WEA Creative Writing in Hemlington, including Cath McKenna, Vera Davies, and also Jon Miles Longden and Peter Stockill, Duncan Rowe and Jim Scanlon - there was some interchangeability here. There were also some that had been in the Teesside Polytechnic Multi Media Society (although some of them were in the other groups as well). So there was a feeling both of continuity and renewals. There were many more too and some of the above become part of the organising committee and some became editors of Outlet and Write Around.

The group took a while to get off the ground - early meetings were talking shops but soon a committee and a programme was established and a first publication in the form of a Broadsheet which went out through the libraries free was published as a promoter. Paul Hyde told

CAM worker Pete Roberts (later Clive Rawson) and Trev Teasdel who was on the committee but also on the CAM management committee supported the group in terms of resources and development. The committee was chaired by humourist Johnny Nichol with Jon Miles Longden, Peter Stockill and Trev Teasdel. Andy Croft was a member too although he got to few meetings owing to teaching Literature most evenings. 

As TWW got more organised, Trev Teasdel gave up the New Poetry Scene (numbers were falling off by then) and threw his weight behind TWW, helping them to develop a lively programme.

A cyclic monthly programme was established consisting of  -

Presentation Night - two members of the group were invited to talk about their writing for 15 minutes. This included inspirations, methods and techniques used, approaches and difficulties with examples of their work (they could hand out sheets of the examples). This proved very illuminating and enabled writers to reappraise their work in light of the group discussion that followed. The rest of the session would be open to informal readings and discussions.
POTLUCK - The second type of session consisted of members bringing in a piece of work for discussion. They would bring in legible written / typed copies and put them on the table or 'Pot'. Everyone would read them and add their responses /criticisms. These were then read  and discussed by the members.
VISITS AND PERFORMANCES - The session in the cycle involved group visits (via a minibus fromCommunity Transport in North Ormsby) to other Worker Writer groups eg Horden, Durham, Tyneside groups.Sometimes they would come down to Teesside to perform. Readings were also organised via the National Poetry Secretariat - eg poet Pete Morgan (who was a writer in residence in the area t the time) and Ken Smith and Sean O'Brian. Caroline Fitzgerald (A local poet who had worked as a Doctor in a South African Township) was another guest. Attila the Stockbroker (in conjunction with Middlesbrough Music Collective at St Mary's Centre was another. Other visits included a visit from members of Centreprise in London - the community publishing cooperative.


1984 - On Our Way - Double sided Broadsheet - put out free through Middlesbrough library system as a promoter of the new group. Funded by Middlesbrough Leisure and Libraries Dept.

1986 - Teesside Writers Workshop Anthology - A full anthology funded by The Julian Melchette Trust and the Leisure Dept of the Cleveland County Council.

1989 - A Series of  8 Workshop booklets by group members for sale as part of the first Write Around Festival in 1989
           The following Workshop Booklets were issued in 1989 -featuring the following writers -
1. Alan Watkiss and Mel McEvoy
2  John Harrison and Pauline Plummer
3  Andy Croft and Terry Lawson
4  Jerry Slater and Richard Verrill
5  Stories by William Allen
6  Poems by Jon Miles Longden
7  Stories for Children by Albert Mett
8  Aspects of the 60's - Peter Stockill
The group also produced a number of Poetry posters for subsequent Write Arounds.

1995 - More Workshop Booklets produced by Peter Stockill (who kept the group going in some form until about 2000)
9    Human Nature - Alan Watkiss
10  Taking Stockill - Peter Stockill
11   Icarus and Me - Edwina Richardson 
12   Laughing Stockill - Peter Stockill   (1999)
Peter Stockill produced a series of his snippets in booklet form around this time.

Now We Are 10 - Produced by Peter Stockill - Ten years of the Teesside Writers Workshop Anthology

Wordshop - Produced by Peter Stockill as part of the Merlin's Cauldron Writers and Arts Festival

Wordshop 2 - Produced by Peter Stockill.
TWW Anthology 1985 - 1st book anthology.

1 of a series of booklets released by TWW for the 1st Write Fest 1989

The early group c 1984-6 had an elected committee which also liaised with and received support fromJon Miles Longden / Johnny Nichol / Peter Stockill / Trev Teasdel / Pete Roberts (CAM Worker) - later Clive Rawson.
Teesside Writers Workshop after the split c1990
includes Trev Teasdel, Margaret Weir, Vera Davies, Cath McKenna
Peter Stockill, Alan Thez, Jerry Slater, Pauline Plummer (back)
Community Arts Middlesbrough until 1986. The committee was

In the 90's the group was was continued by Peter Stockill and Alan Watkiss.


Both in terms of its individual members and the group itself, there was a wide involvement in other groups and projects both before,during and after the initial period of the Teesside Writers Workshop.

Before - members had been involved with The Castalians, New Poetry Scene, Thornaby Pavilion Poets, Teesside Poly Multi Media Society and much more.

During the classic period - the group was involved with the support and other events of Community Arts Middlesbrough

TWW in the mid 90's
 and some of the Writer in Residence projects with Bob Pegg, Pete Morgan and Kathleen McCreery.

An important involvement 1984 - 86 was with Write Together (blogged about separately). This was an initiative of  Northern Voices (Keith Armstrong) and the various North East Community Arts organisation represented by Doff Pollard and the Federation of Writer Worker Groups. Each year groups from the North East (including Edinburgh) and Cleveland groups would meet together at Castle Chare Arts Centre in Durham (and in 1986 - Darlington Arts Centre) for a day workshops / discussion / performances and networking. 

Cleveland groups represented there were Village Voices (Skinningrove / Middlesbrough Writers Group / Teesside Writers Group). 

Both Pete Roberts and Later Clive Rawson from Community Arts Middlesbrough were involved with it and supported TWW through it. Trev Teasdel and Clive Rawson initiated a Write Together Regional Publications group within Write Together (which in turn led them to focus on developing Cleveland Writing through Outlet and Write Around owing to the low opinion of the areas Writers in the Northern Region and lack of funding resources for local writing). Trev and Clivce were also part of the organising committee in 1986 when Write Together was held locally at Darlington Arts Centre. Write Together enabled TWW to arrange exchange performances with a number of groups in the North East included a groups at Horden, Durham and Newcastle.

Outlet magazine was the idea of Trev Teasdel initially who had explored various options of funding it. In 1985 Trev discussed the idea with Terry Lawson in a mini bus returning with TWW from a performance night in Newcastle. The pair had also discussed the idea for a Cleveland Writing festival - with Terry wanting a poetry fest involving some of the poets who had tutored at The Arvon Foundation. Trev, who was involved with Community Arts Middlesbrough, wanted to develop a community based writers festival in Cleveland to develop and celebrate Cleveland writing perhaps with a few name writers and poets doing readings and workshops. The two combined 

TWW Flyer
their ideas and thinking and presented them to TWW and CAM. In the end Trev and Terry didn't peruse the ideas through TWW because at the time there was conflict in the group around the editing of the anthology and they didn't feel the situation was right. Instead the ideas got developed through a splinter group Write Now that came out of Trev Teasdel's first WEA Creative Writing Course.

On the other hand, after TWW split into two groups and both Outlet and Write Around developed, TWW was very much involved in both in various ways.

Later in 1987 Trev Teasdel created another festival - Merlin's Cauldron Writers and Arts Festival and TWW, through Peter Stockill got very involved with that.

In 1986 the group split in two. The group was initiated by Community Arts Middlesbrough to support isolated working class writers and build their skills and confidence. The had also attracted writers that were already confident and organised. Some of the less confident ones and most of the women in the group felt that they needed more confidence building and workshop elements rather than criticism.

CAM worker Pete Roberts and Trev Teasdel came up with a number of approaches to solve the differences in the group. They tried holding separate workshop meetings in between and even proposed a modular arrangement with the main group meeting as usual on a monthly bases but having an number of interest group meetings in between. These would be around Dram writing / Poetry/short story and novel writing and workshop sand performance skill sessions. It This seemed a a great proposal but was rejected by the TWW committee.In the end, to solve the problems Pete Roberts proposed that CAM set up a WEA Creative Writing Course and asked Trev Teasdel to tutor it. This was Trev's first Creative Writing course in the area (and the first of many over a fifteen year period). The 6 week course was held in January 1986 at the Albert Hotel in Middlesbrough (where the group met) and attracted current and former members of TWW as well as being open to new students via a press release.

20 students joined the course and as a result a new workshop group was formed called WRITE NOW and from that group OUTLET Magazine was finally launched.

Some of  Write Now continued to be involved with TWW as well and both groups continued for awhile. More on Write Now in another post.

Peter Stockill, Johnny Nichol, Alan Watkiss, Jerry Slater in the 1990's
Teesside Writers Workshop continued to about 2000 thanks to the work of  Peter Stockill who continued to hold meeting in his flat at Berwick Hills, continued to be involved with Write Around and Merlin's Cauldron and produce periodic anthologies with help from Middlesbrough poet Alan Watkiss.

Community Arts Middlesbrough sheet for TWW 1985

In the 1990's Peter Stockill kept TWW going with a series of booklets and soirees. This one marked 10 years.

Community Arts Middlesbrough sheet for the 1st Anthology 1985

John Miles Longden's Book published by Mudfog 1995 and launched posthumously by Write Around.

One of the Wordshop series produced by Peter Stockill and Alan Watkiss for TWW in the 1990's

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