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Festivals, book launches and tables full of wine

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Ed Cottrell

Creative Media Officer at Writers’ Centre Norwich

DCMS Jerwood Creative Bursaries - Bursary Blog
Ed Cottrell of Writers’ Centre Norwich guides us through his experiences of attending book launches, preparing for summer festivals and promoting poetry as he gets his first taste of working in the arts.

For a couple of months now, I’ve been working at Writers’ Centre Norwich as Creative Media Officer through the DCMS Jerwood Creative Bursaries Scheme. I’ve had an incredible time so far, learning my way around the city of Norwich and getting to grips with a few of the ins and outs of literature development.

Literature development

It’s possibly worth spending a few words explaining what literature development is, at least in the context of the work at Writers’ Centre Norwich. On the one hand, it’s the artistic development of up-and-coming authors through programs such as Escalator and through offering workshops run from the Writers’ Centre Norwich building. But much of the work done by the centre promotes literature’s “embedded-ness” (for want of a better word) in everyday life – an incredibly varied task: the more it’s considered, the more incredible-slash-seemingly-overwhelming it becomes.
I’ll quickly outline some of what it entails. Our Worlds Literature Festival, for example, brings writers from around the world together for discussion, readings and events. Summer Reads promotes new works in fiction and poetry (one of these is Simon Armitage’s Seeing Stars, which I’ve been reading) and encourages people to discuss them online. The City of Refuge programme hosts writers in exile, engaging questions of asylum, persecution and belonging through creative writing. There’s also Well Versed, a pilot scheme to encourage the teaching and creation of poetry in schools. And on top of all that, Norwich is also taking part in a bid to become a UNESCO City of Literature – a bid led by Writers’ Centre Norwich.

Book launches

As Creative Media Officer, I have (among other things that I do) had the opportunity to attend poetry readings and book launches in order to develop video and audio resources, such as attending the Well Versed showcases to record them. I’ve also gained a much broader insight into how arts organisations are run, from marketing to web development.
One of my first tasks was to attend the book launch for Guy Saville’s novel The Afrika Reich. Once a winner of the Escalator competition (run by Writers’ Centre Norwich), he’s now received a two-book deal from Hodder & Stoughton. To get a snapshot of how one literary development path proceeds, you couldn’t do better than listen to this talk from Guy Saville and this speech from Writers’ Centre Norwich director Chris Gribble.

I’ve also attended the book launch for Heidi Williamson, whose first collection Electric Shadow has been published by Bloodaxe. It has also received a prestigious recommendation from the Poetry Book Society. Heidi was an early attendee of the workshops run by Writers’ Centre Norwich.
Neither launches were red carpet affairs, but those who prefer tables full of books and wine were in luck.

Festival season

With the festival months now upon us, I’m excited about covering an increasingly broad terrain, and to cover more events as I develop skills in video and audio editing. There’ll be much more to cover and get involved with, such as The Granta F Word Launch in June (and a lot more on our events listings).
The opportunity to contribute to discussions and learn about arts organisations and events is incredible and from reading preceding blog posts from recipients of DCMS Jerwood Creative Bursaries, I realise I’m no exception.
So what do I think the future holds? Well this placement has already been an eye-opener. The next few months will, I’m sure, be enjoyable, hectic, rewarding and full of immense variation.

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