Saturday, 23 January 2016

The last Yorkshire Writers' newsletter

For those of my followers that have not heard the news, Writing Yorkshire, Yorkshire Writers' Newsletter has come to an end and this will be the last newsletter that I can share:

Writing Yorkshire




Yorkshire Writers' Newsletter



Writing Yorkshire

Hello and Goodbye

A message to you all from Geoff Briggs.
Writing Yorkshire Office & Information Manager

Hello, and what a way to start a New Year - by saying “Goodbye!”
We’re so sorry to have to break the news but, due to circumstances way beyond our control, Writing Yorkshire is no more.

We're now in the process of closing the organisation down, stories are being stored away, paragraphs have been packed into boxes, sentences have been sentenced to the sidelines and the brush is sweeping out the odd words that, over the years, slipped behind the cupboard or got pushed to the back of the drawer. Among the paperclips, buttons and pen tops there’s quite a pile of lost words really and probably enough for a short story, such tales they could tell if only we had the time, but we don’t so I’ll have to save those until we meet, I’m sure we will at some point. For now I’m going to pick out just a couple of words at random from the pile, I’ll shut my eyes to make it totally unbiased ......

And the first word is “well” - Well, indeed, what a journey. At our start we bubbled in the crucible of Furnival House where, thanks to the feedback from the writers of South Yorkshire, we were slowly moulded and fettled into Signposts Writing Development Project and, after ten years, we emerged, quite polished and shining brightly (albeit with a few dents and scratches). From there we did five annual rings around The Circle under the kind and guiding hands of all at Voluntary Action Sheffield until we finally flitted to Bank Street Arts, that fine old building full of stories and the many wandering ghosts of past inhabitants, each one still trying to complete their "unfinished" story. Three years of twisting and turning as Writing Yorkshire and we find ourselves at the end of the journey, grateful to that deep deep “well” full of supporters that we’ve been able to reach into for help and advice whenever we’ve needed it.

And the second word is..... part of an old torn vinyl record cover by the “Fun Boy Three”, not sure who that belonged to. So, we have three words to choose from.... Of course I’m going to choose “fun”, how could I not? I could also choose inspiring, scary, exciting, puzzling, heartening, educating, frustrating, energizing, rewarding and gratifying to describe what it’s been like to work with Writing Yorkshire and the writers of Yorkshire but overall it had to be fun, and it has been, thanks to the many who we met along the way and who made it so.

I think I will delve into the word pile just once more. And this time it’s .... “always” - Hmm, well, I think as an organisation we’ve come to realise that there’s always an alternative, always another way to do something and that’s what we’re all thinking now. Writing Yorkshire has gone now but new opportunities always appear and new paths always emerge from the mist, keep your pens poised and good luck in seeking them out.

A few more words from me at the end of the newsletter but now some messages, along with a few pointers to the future, from my Writing Yorkshire colleagues.

A note from Matt Black, who started Writing Yorkshire (a.k.a. Signposts)

I just want to offer an oversized, indeed a Mad Hatters', mad hatful of thanks. For rich, scary, rewarding and jubilant journeying over 18 years. What feasts, furies and flights have flown, during the Nineties and Noughties, from wielded and wordifying biros, laptops, and pencils. Across South Yorkshire there has been quiet buzzing, with our nudging, when we have been able to, in pubs, arts centres, on the streets, and in communities and pockets of brave resistance, craft and creativity. Writing, sharing, learning and laughter. Plays, poems, novels, rants, complaints, letters, confessions and scribbled ideas on the backs of bus tickets. People on journeys from tentative scratchings through to the dizzying world of publication, M.A.'s, Poetry Business pleasures, Off the Shelf odysseys and much more besides. Thanks are to all for bearing with us on the dodgems, the roller-coaster and the big wheel that is part of any small arts organisation's funfair. Far too many projects and people to name but those who have been involved will all know. We hold you in our memories, and I'm sure in our futures too. Thanks are to the fabulous team, and all the wonderful freelancers, particularly stalwart and inspiring long-termers Ray Hearne, Vicky Morris, Sue Shaw, and Bev Ward. A particularly big thanks to the person who has really been the mainstay of the organisation, the generous with time, wise, caring, and hugely considerate Geoff Briggs. Thanks to all who have been on the Board, and again to the enduring and beyond the call of duty long-termers Jim Caruth, Jon Maiden, Susi Miller, Maria de Souza and Jo Carr. Thanks to the Arts Council, and to 3 fabulous Arts Council officers, Steve Dearden, Jane Stubbs and Stephen May, for continuous support, encouragement and funding. But thanks most of all to words, and to writing, for being such an amazing art-form, so inspiring, fundamental, powerful, and life-changing. All power to our biros carries on. In the end is the beginning, as someone once said. Take care, Matt
Matt Black (Director 1997-2011, Board member 2011-2015)

Sue Shaw – Creative Development Officer
Sailing with Signposts/Writing Yorkshire…

I came on-board in 2007, working with the already-established Sheffield Young Writers’ group alongside Vicky Morris. We decided to create and develop opportunities for young writers across South Yorkshire and so, in 2009, I sailed away to Barnsley and began working with a large and lively group. By 2010, I also had an enthusiastic group of young writers on the island of Doncaster. Vicky, meanwhile, cast off for Rotherham; but also continued to work with the Sheffield crew. There have been hundreds of sessions and many projects, artists and writers over the 8 years since then and participants have joined, moved on and been replaced with new young people, in a rolling, challenging and supportive group sort of a programme. Underpinned by a process of fortnightly sessions, several finished products spring to mind:

‘The Cromford Weekend’ for Sheffield Young Writers, which was a great adventure, but probably best illustrated how not to carry out a residential! Memories of young people cooking Sunday dinner and eating chips around a bonfire in the snow are, however, hard to beat. Arvon Residentials have now replaced our early attempt.

‘Reflections’ project. Having produced a poetry pamphlet book, Barnsley Young Writers were offered POD2 (a disused shop in the town centre) and the opportunity to create an installation of huge text and painted/photographic portraits. For 2 weeks, they supported the space as a writing and reading drop in centre and exhibition space for the shoppers and half-termers of Barnsley, with an evening of performance as finale.

‘O pen’ book of stories for children. Written and illustrated by the first DYW group (10 young women). This was a long, committed process, involving analysis of fairy stories, character and plot development, world creation, storyboarding, writing, drawing, redrafting, editing and designing until (fanfare of trumpets) PUBLICATION!

 ‘Our Personal Landscapes’ – a Youth International Project in collaboration with German artist Susanne Palazer. Doncaster young writers explored writing, photography and audio to create individual maps and make social and creative links with other young people in Europe.

Just a few of the many projects that we worked on with the young writers of South Yorkshire.
In 2013 I set sail for Barnsley once again and began working with a new group - ‘Onwords and Upwords’ - for adults with health issues who are interested in writing. This is now a supportive, creative, enthusiastic and welcoming group. Members have entered into all sorts of writing challenges and explorations, with an emphasis upon starting points and short stories, but also including poems, monologues, life chapters, flights of fantasy, borrowed plots, recycled text and the pilot episode of a potential radio drama series.

In June 20015 Onwords and Upwords celebrated a second birthday with an evening of poetry and performance at Sara’s Flowers CafĂ©, with the support and piano playing of our good friends at ‘Creative Recovery’. Not to mention a chocolate birthday cake too! Now there’s talk of working towards an anthology, not only by reviewing writing so far, but also sparking up new stories and poems.
2015 sadly saw Writing Yorkshire sail through stormy waters and eventually the ship went down. Fortunately, some of us made it to the lifeboats and are looking at future funding and projects; so this isn’t necessarily the end of the voyage.
Sue Shaw, January 2016

Ray Hearne - Creative Development Officer
Writing in Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham

So what remains after something like three years’ worth of writing development in the post-mining communities of Barnsley, Donny and Rotherham?
A tidy bunch of people writing better quality stuff, on a more regular basis, with a sustained determination to improve. That's a significant claim. Given that the rug was pulled out so suddenly from under the work, allowing for no formal evaluation, it will have to be borne out by the body of achieved writing itself, published, performed, broadcast, or simply read aloud to fellow group members.

Writing in South Yorkshire is healthier, more challenging and robust, and has become more meaningful to more people as a result of relationships forged with Signposts/Writing Yorkshire in that short period. And of course it continues.

For instance. Two seasons of well-attended workshops at Experience Barnsley brought together a vibrant gathering of poets in the main, the majority being women. It was a great privilege to be able to fund writers as highly regarded as Charlotte Ansell and Suzannah Evans to augment the confidence and extend the accomplishments and imaginative ranges of participants. Writing Yorkshire’s physical legacy in Barnsley is embodied in the form of the Tom Treddlehoyle Open Mic night, run on the last Tuesday of the month. This is entirely down to the energies and dedication of Sam Morgan, poet and stand up star of the South Yorkshire Open Mic circuit.

Writing Yorkshire’s Doncaster group still meets monthly on a Tuesday evening, 6.00 – 8.00. A couple of its founder members went on to devise and bring to life the sensational and widely acclaimed Doncopolitan magazine. (Look it up if you haven’t come across it!) Others have helped to initiate and to sustain the increasingly popular ‘Well Spoken’ Open Mic evening on a monthly basis at the Brewery Tap, on Young Street. Children’s writing, poetry, short story, script- and song-writing are all the healthier and more broadly developed in Donny thanks to many of those individual group members.

Rotherham Riverside Group meets on a monthly basis on Friday afternoons at 2.00 pm. Group members’ work covers the whole gamut of writing forms; poem, short story and song most particularly. In addition, some expertise in crime fiction and writing for performance is available.

Every group’s development has been facilitated sumptuously by the regular dissemination of this very newsletter. Newcomers come along all the time as a result of information gleaned from these columns. Another palpable success for Writing Yorkshire.

Whatever South Yorkshire folk want to write, opportunities in company that is both welcoming, encouraging and supportive, still exist. Get in touch.

Information about any of the above is available from Ray Hearne: or 07903241947

Beverley Ward -
Professional Development Manager

It is very sad to see Writing Yorkshire go as I know from personal experience and from talking to others how much the organisation of Signposts and latterly Writing Yorkshire has meant to local writers. So many of the published or nearly published writers of my acquaintance can remember the first time they spoke to Geoff in the library, or came to a workshop or discovered the newsletter and how this set them on a writing journey. The organisation has done some fantastic work over a lot of years, and a lot of it invisible to you, our newsletter subscribers.

Unfortunately,  it seems that, owing to circumstances beyond our control, Writing Yorkshire is one of those good things that must come to an end but, in other cliches, as one door closes........

It falls to me to offer a small ray of hope and to let you know that we're not entirely letting go of all of the aspects of our work. There are plans for potential funding bids to continue some of our community writing projects and young writers' groups and I have decided to try to develop what was the Professional Development side of the organisation, albeit a scaled-down, currently rather vague version. I don't know yet what form it will take or what it will be called but the membership and studio will remain for those who have taken out  membership and I hope to get some masterclasses back off the ground in the near future. I'll also be continuing to organise coaching, mentoring and manuscript feedback. It is also possible that we'll keep some form of the newsletter. It is all a bit unclear at the moment and will take a few more conversations with partners and members to refine the new vision. What is certain is that it will be some kind of new venture which won't replicate or entirely replace Writing Yorkshire and, at the moment, there's no funding other than membership fees to keep something going.

So. it's au revoir, rather than goodbye from me and no doubt you will be hearing from me once plans are more clearly in place. In the meantime, you can get in touch with me on

I'd like to say a personal thank you to Signposts and especially to Matt and Geoff for all of their wonderful work and to the other colleagues and writers who have been part of the journey.  We'll all stay in touch, I'm sure.

Happy writing, folks.


The final fling ......

The mailing list that we have used for the newsletter will be held safely and, if a new version rises from the ashes, then you will all be the first to hear of it. You can always "Unsubscribe" by clicking on the link at the bottom of this newsletter if you prefer to.

Our Writing Yorkshire contact email address - will be kept open and running up to the end of February for anyone who requires last minute information, wants putting in touch with anyone or just wants to say goodbye, all will be welcomed and I'll reply to everyone as quickly as possible.

Good wishes and thanks a-plenty for the dance from me to Matt, Beverley, Sue and Ray and the Writing Yorkshire board members.
Special thanks to Jon Maiden for his support, guidance and vision, to Iain Broom for making the "tech" side of things work smoothly for us and to Ellen McLeod, a particularly bright light during our transition from Signposts to Writing Yorkshire.

Thank you also to all of the lovely people that I've met over the last eighteen years - good wishes to everyone of you.

Geoff Briggs
Writing Yorkshire

Copyright © 2016 Writing Yorkshire, All rights reserved.
Our mailing address is:
Writing Yorkshire
Writing Yorkshire
Bank Street Arts, 32 - 40 Bank Street,
Sheffield, South Yorkshire S1 2DS
United Kingdom


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