Category Archives: creative writing

Congratulations Coventry –UK City of Culture 2021 – Not Business As Usual

Silhouette Press is very happy to see that Coventry, the city, its citizens and the all of the artists, cultural organisations and the Coventry 2021 Bid Team have been awarded the status of UK City of Culture for the year 2021! Congratulations to All!

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So what could this mean for the city’s writers, poets, performers and publishers?

Coventry is not often associated with writers and writing – but there have been numerous artists and publishers passing in and out of the city – recognition of the city’s literary legacy needs to change – hopefully Coventry 2021 – and the build-up to this will be the year[s] to make this happen – no more “business as usual”!

Here are ten things to consider to get involved and get engaged:

1.Make Coventry 2021 YOUR year to make things happen!

Coventry 2021 – and the three years of build-up towards it – are a great opportunity to start writing or start reading and tell new stories about the changing face of the city at a crucial period in its evolution!

Monkey read, monkey type [x1000]
 2. Fire & Dust – Poetry and Storytelling Open-Mic

Did you know there is a monthly open-mic night open to EVERYONE to come and read their work in front of a living breathing audience – or you can just sit and listen and soak in the words! There also special guests!

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Fire & Dust – FIRST THURSDAY of every month @ The Big Comfy Bookshop [Fargo]

3. Buy / Read / Submit to Here Comes Everyone magazine

HCE is the only literary magazine published in Coventry – each quarterly issue is printed on real [recycled] trees and has a theme – their forthcoming BRUTAL issue will be out in December 2017.

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You can buy the magazine and read blog posts on their website:

www.herecomeseveryone.me

@HereComesEvery1

4. Check out Philip Larkin  [but remember it’s not all about him!]

Philip Larkin remains an important aspect of Coventry’s literary – but there is much, much more to Coventry’s contemporary story – and bear in mind that much of Larkin’s work was produced and most likely influenced by Hull, where he lived for most of his adult life [HULL being the previous winner of the UK City of Culture]

5. Be a Part of Coventry’s 2.2 Mile Ringroad Poem!

Along with the Coventry 2021 bid’s themes of Reinvention there are plans for a 2.2 mile Ring Road poem is set to one of the digital centrepiece of 2021 along with major productions by the RSC and the screening of the entire works of Shakespeare in iconic locations.

Bridge over

 

Make your Mark and get involved!

6. Coventry-Cork Poetry Exchange

Nearing its 10th year, the Coventry-Cork poetry exchange has seen Coventry and West Midland writers visit Cork, Ireland and for Cork writers to visit Coventry  and perform their work. Coventry invented twinning as part of its post-World War Two movement towards peace and reconciliation and the Exchange is a result of this. Find out more about the Coventry poet’s experience here: COVENTRY – CORK – POETRY EXCHANGE 2017 

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7. Buy / Read Silhouette Press Books

Silhouette Press is a publisher, primarily of poetry books, we like to think we have grown our own audience, and have published writers from across the UK [hey, it’s not all about Coventry] – we’re still seeking new writers [see the SUBMISSION page on our website] check out our BOOKS [they are also available to read for FREE in Coventry Central Library]

@SilhouettePress

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL PRESS AND LIBRARIES!

The Best of a Bad Situation – by Jamie Thrasivoulou

The Africa In My House by Andrea Mbarushimana

Love And Loss And Other Important Stuff by Jonathan Pinnock

Exclamation Marx! by Neil Laurenson

8. Meet/talk to your Coventry authors…and find new ones!

There are lots of great contemporary writers from Coventry, some published others on the cusp of being published – connect with them – start a conversation about your own writing and support the author!

Here are just a few names:

Antony Owen, Andrea Mbarushimana, Barry Patterson, Alan van Widjgerden, Raef Boylan, Felicity Rose Barrow, Mantra, Leanne Brigewater, SuCat, Richard Houguez, Russ Berry, Emilia Moniszko, Martin Green, Aysar Ghassan, James Grady, Cathy Galvin,  Josie Allen…

Did we miss anyone? Probably…so get yourself out there!

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9. START YOUR OWN writing/press/magazine/zine/poetry gig

Silhouette Press and Here Comes Everyone magazine are a DIY effort, started in 2012 due to a lack of publishing opportunities in the West Midlands and to avoid the Londo-Centrism of unpaid internships and personal debt [the founders are now retired or assumed missing at sea…] but Coventry needs more literary events, more writers out of the woodwork, more publications to tell its ongoing story!

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Great article about the process here

10. Be an Ambassador for Writing in Coventry

Silhouette Press currently divides its projects between Coventry and London – why? Because there is a whole world of writing out there, and its important that as much as Coventry develops its own writing scene, the city and its authors connect and grow links with other communities and places across the UK, indeed, The World.

L-R: Neil Laurenson, Dwane Reads, Antony Owen

Check out the very funny and profound meanderings of the blogger/author, Coventry Conch

SP did a book launch for our three most recent books at Housmans Bookshop in London  – WHY? Because it’s important for Coventry artists to be represented EVERYWHERE!

So take your mad, wild, brilliant words far and wide and help make Coventry 2021 the year of the word!

 

 

 

THERE’S MORE TO LIFE THAN BOOKS, YOU KNOW, BUT NOT MUCH MORE…

 

Write & Eat meets Food Union – The Story So Far…

SP Creative Projects Lead, Adam Steiner, looks back on 5 months of food, fury and creative fun!

The Write & Eat meets Food Union project – a collaboration between The Pod, a Coventry City Council mental health community resource, and Silhouette Press – has now been running for 5 successful months. Following a series of summer creative writing pilots in 2013, we have worked alongside The Pod and an award-winning chef to cook healthy and affordable food that also tastes good and engaging new audiences in creative writing.

Soured cucumber and mango salad (with harissa yoghurt)
Soured cucumber and mango salad (with harissa yoghurt)

How Does It Work?

The set-up is simple: the free sessions are open to everyone and people come to The Pod mid-afternoon, where we utilize the training kitchen space where cook and then eat together in the welcome space of The Pod’s Revive Cafe. Everyone involved works from a series of themed recipes, such as Veggie Blitz, Valentine’s Day and Healthy Ready-Meals (after Jack Monroe) which means that a variety of food is on offer and people are encouraged to work together and pitch-in with other tasks such as washing-up or cleaning down the kitchen area.

Shortly before eating, I run a brief poetry workshop which often yielded interesting work as I encouraged people to work around spur words from the recipes and to think about different aspects of the cooking.

Why Food Union?

The Pod project aims to work with members of the community to build their capacity and resilience in cooking healthy and tasty food on a budget.

Healthy,tasty home-cooked ready-meals!
Healthy, tasty home-cooked ready-meals!

 

 

 

 

The Pod recognised the growing pressure of welfare reform changes upon everyone who is in receipt of benefits as the system gradually changes into the potentially confusing Universal Credit scheme – in particular the impact this is having upon the people they work with who often live with severe or enduring mental ill health. A strong emphasis is placed upon the sustainability of the food, we often work from a budget of £40 of locally-sourced ingredients, the majority of which is bought fresh from Coventry indoor market, and we feed on average 20-30 people (a cost of less than £2 per head).

The project has provided different people different benefits or opportunities: some people wished to expand their cooking skills by producing cost-effective food that they can produce en-masse and store as an alternative to unhealthy and over-priced ready-meals; others simply attend to enjoy a sociable cooking environment or learn more about writing poetry from challenging themes. Food Union is currently evolving to work more closely with local volunteers, universities and the community.

You can browse more of the individual session themes on the Write & Eat project page, here is a quick overview of some of the food and poetry produced so far:

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Write & Eat meets Food Union – Sugar & Spice!

Write & Eat is an ongoing Silhouette Press project that invites authors and other creative types to chat, craft and chow-down at The POD’s Revive Café in Coventry.

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Two satisfied chefs!

The project is constantly evolving and after hosting a successful Pecha Kucha 20×20 event of quickfire presentations on food banks, global poverty and cheese in 2013, January’s Write & Eat was all about Sugar and Spice.

another happy citizen - getting stuck in!
another happy citizen – getting stuck in!

Several citizens joined an award-winning chef to create a variety of dishes from rocky road to spicy Moroccan chicken and were able to feed a number of café visitors. The poetry workshop focussed upon taking inspiration from the ingredients and spices used in cooking as a launchpad for poetic ideas, from climbing for mangos, a child’s first taste of pepper to a heart of Jerusalem artichoke meeting Carol Ann Duffy’s infamous onion.

Spicy lentil salad
Spicy lentil salad

Write & Eat meets Food Union is a free event that is open to everyone to attend and get involved with cooking a variety of dishes and/or writing about different aspects of food on the monthly theme.

Soured cucumber and mango salad (with harissa yoghurt)
Soured cucumber and mango salad (with harissa yoghurt)

The next Write & Eat sessions will be held on 12/2/2014 (Red Winter) and 14/2/2014 (as part of Love Arts and Creativity Event) at the usual times of 2pm to start cooking, a poetry workshop at 4.30pm and finishing at 6.30pm.

Write & Eat is supported by Coventry City Council in cooperation with The Peapod Collective and The POD.

The POD, CV1 4AE
The POD, CV1 4AE
The Peapod Collective
The Peapod Collective

 

Creative Writing for Homeless People – Why Not?

Today, I met several homeless people in Coventry to gauge interest in a future SP project. The classic question levelled at such ventures, usually from people who aren’t homeless themselves, is why would anyone living on the streets want to waste their time writing? Surely they have more important things on their mind; where there next meal is coming from, where they are going to sleep tonight?

This is undoubtedly true. However, some of the people I met were very keen and interested in telling their version of the realities of homeless life: being trapped in a cycle of deprivation and minor debts (amounts that would seem trivial to most people) that sees the homeless endlessly shuttled from council accommodation to sheltered housing and hostels, always on the lowest rungs of the property ladder. Homeless life sounds hard and that’s because it is.

The one thing most homeless people do have lots of is time. Most of us trudge restlessly through our gainful 9-5, from home to work and back again, unwilling to reflect on the alternative. There are few constructive outlets for homeless people beyond volunteering and every day is a genuine struggle to survive, especially as winter approaches.

For the majority of us, who have never been homeless, we harbour a great deal of misconceptions  about what homeless life is really like, stigmas range from widespread drug or alcohol abuse, mental health issues and no desire to work: effectively self-inflicted destitution. These are elements of homelessness that apply to only a minority of homeless people I met.

The closest most of us ever get to learning about homelessness is often third-hand, either from the mainstream media (who exploit stats and are prone to demonise) and the memoirs of authors such as George Orwell who step in and out of homelessness as a social experiment, always able to return back to their “normal” life (The Big Issue provides a much needed antidote). As my SP colleague once pointed-out, as a society, we often choose not to see people sleeping rough, we expect little from them and rarely come into direct contact, this adds to the invisibility that hides the problem of homelessness.

Some homeless people I spoke to wanted the chance to explore the possibilities of poetry or create stories from scratch, but most wanted to talk, and to write, more about their lives, day-to-day, and provide a genuine account of how each homeless person has a different experience of falling into poverty, and how they begin their journey of recovery.

I was challenged on the “use” of both creative and factual writing, and, forced to think on my feet, admitted to the experimental nature of the project (particularly the fact it might not work at all), but I countered by saying that writing, in all its forms can be a rewarding form of self-expression and communicating one’s view of the world to others.

We all depend on words and improving your writing, and being able to write well can open-up many surprising doors and helps to make a person more employable. Lots of people who aren’t homeless enjoy sufficient financial and physical security to write as a purely creative endeavour, as a (sometimes) pleasurable end in itself – why shouldn’t homeless people be offered access to the same creative support? Many people assume that the answer will always be “No” and that homeless people have nothing to say. Like any experiment, this project will probably benefit some more than others, but who cares? It might some people to rebuild their self-confidence, spark a new relationship with writing and reading and encourage people who have already decided that they can’t write, and are not expected to, to have a go and try – whatever writing comes out of the project, I feel the work invested by participants will help to humanise homeless people, educate the public  and turn the tide on a popular stigma and social exclusion.

Why creative writing for homeless people?

Well, why not?