Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Write Together (Keith Armstrong & Doff Pollard)

Write Together was an annual gathering of Northeast Worker Writer Groups at Castle Chare Arts Centre in Durham (later Darlington Arts Centre) between 1984 - 86.

It was initiated and organised by Keith Armstrong (Durham Voices) and Doff Pollard (AGFA - Association of Community Arts North) in association with The Federation of Worker Writer Groups.

This was an important and much missed initiative that brought together a range of community based writers groups from Durham, Tyneside and Wear, Horden, Edinburgh and Teesside for a day of workshops, discussions and Performances and networking. An opportunity for writers to discuss issues ranging from writing techniques, community publishing, performance skills, funding, aims and objectives and more; to share work; see each group's performance presentations and listen to guest poets and writers. Importantly it was a great networking opportunity resulting in mutual group visits eg between Teesside Writers Workshop and Horden Writers Group (Kevin Cadwallender group).

There were also talks and material available from the Federation of Worker Writers Groups.

Write Together Regional Publication Venture
In 1985, after a summing up by Keith Armstrong, Trev Teasdel of the Teesside Writers Workshop
proposed the formation of a Write Together Regional Publishing Venture, seconded by Pete Roberts of Community Arts Middlesbrough. Soon a working group was formed consisting of Keith Armstrong, Kevin Cadwallander, Trev Teasdel and Clive Rawson (who had replaced Pete Roberts at Community Arts Middlesbrough).

Trevor produced a set of proposals and the group met up variously in Peterlee and Middlesbrough to take the ideas forward and explore funding. (The basic proposals will soon be available as a pdf file here.). The proposals were in response to issues raised by various groups and included a regional Write Together magazine; pooling of printing community resources; development of a regional distribution network so groups get their publications to a wider audience; workshop on DTP layout designs; editing styles and other aspects of Community Publishing. Meanwhile Trev Teasdel, Clive Rawson and Kevin Cadwallander were added to the Write Together main organising committee and were involved with organising the 1986 (and last) Write Together, this time at The Darlington Arts Centre. Trevor also did a workshop in music and poetry at the 1986 Write Together.

Ultimately, owing to funding issues (Northern Arts were veering away from Community Arts funding at the time) and to disagreements, the Regional Publications Venture never came to fruition. There was a feeling in Cleveland that Teesside Writers were the poor relation when it came to Arts funding and that writing and support for it was under-developed as a result. During this period Trev Teasdel, Clive Rawson and Terry Lawson took the decision to concentrate on developing writing in Teesside and County Cleveland rather than on a regional basis. Soon they would launch Outlet Magazine in autumn of 1986 for Cleveland writers and initiating talks towards the Write Around Festival which came to fruition in 1989.

This focus on Cleveland was heralded by Cleveland writers but various arts officials and regional editors charged us with 'parochialism' . However Trev Teasdel and the Outlet editors fought their ground citing long term neglect (as compared with Newcastle) of arts and writing development in the area.There had been some but not a lot! They also argues that the strategy was like the idea of Women or black caucuses in Trade Union groups. The idea of the Cleveland focus was to build the skills, confidence and resources for Cleveland writers so that they could participate in regional events on more equal footing. 

The new strategy under the newly formed OUTLET magazine was  -

OUTLET - a free (through libraries) poetry magazine giving info, providing a launching pad for new
Keith Armstrong
initiatives, publishing work from writers, many of whom were just starting off or developing confidence and campaigning for more facilities. The magazine was financed by Northern Arts and Cleveland County Libraries and Leisure.
WEA CREATIVE WRITING COURSES - through work with Community Arts Middlesbrough, Outlet Magazine and WEA Middlesbrough Branch Committee, Trev Teasdel launched a range of Creative writing courses around the area to develop new writers, build skills and confidence. Those contributed to Outlet were invited to join a curse and those on a course could submit work to Outlet.
WRITE AROUND - Trev Teasdel and Terry Lawson took the idea of a wider forum - the proposed annual Write Around Festival forward - contacting Cleveland Arts for support in 1987. By 1989 negotiations were complete and the festival launched, lasting 11 years thanks to the continued support of Andy Croft. Write Around became an important launching pad in itself.

AGFA _ Write Together
So while the Write Together Publications initiative failed to get off the ground, the Cleveland / Teesside
writers movement did. Much of what followed was a result of these initiatives and current development by Bob Beagrie came out of this with Bob building on it and developing it further through Cleveland Arts and Teesside University resources.

Although later activists brought into the notion of our perceived ' parochialism' too, what we actually did was to focus on the underdevelopment of the area and build a platform for local writers which later enabled them to develop out again into wider regional and national networks for writers, but, this time with strength.

Write Together Mins

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