Due to the Covid-19 crisis, we had to quickly adapt to carrying out all of our workshops online. Our courses attracted even more participants as there was a greater need, but also because many people respond positively to the accessibility and anonymity that online courses provide. We added a brand new mental health course to the programme, aimed specifically at those feeling isolated due to the current situation. We also chose to produce an additional anthology with Standing Proud (our LGBTQ+ writing group ran in partnership with Out2gether) – one that focused exclusively on LGBTQ+ experiences of lockdown.

Creativity Unlocked

Creativity Unlocked was a project that we were commissioned to run in connection with Severn Arts and Worcester Probation Service. Holly and Giovanni each ran a block of workshops with a group of probationers, before editing their poetry and producing an anthology of poetry in March 2020. The title of the book was agreed by the group, and the wonderful original artwork was produced especially for the project by Rosa McCarthy, one of the participants of the project. The participants engaged well with the project, the feedback from the group was immensely positive with reports of increased confidence and therapeutic benefits.

You can read the full digital publication here.

Words To Live By 2020

We were delighted to receive funding from the National Lottery Community Fund to run Words To Live By for another year. This 12 week therapeutic writing course is aimed at those who have been affected by poor mental health. The anthology of the participants work was published in September 2020, and was distributed throughout Worcester for free. The beautiful photograph for the cover art was provided by participant Emma Lord, who also went on to win 2nd place in the Foxes’ Retreat Summer Short Story Writing Competition with a story based on a piece she wrote during the course.

Due to our concerns about isolated individuals during the Covid-19 crisis, we not only extended the course to run for 6 months (rather than the 3 months we initially intended) but we also setup a second course that was open to people outside Worcestershire who were struggling with their mental health during the pandemic. Participants of this course were also invited as allies to contribute to Rainbows Behind Glass – the lockdown anthology produced by our LGBTQ+ writing group. We also opened up the final section of the Words To Live By 2020 anthology for any members of our LGBTQ+ group who were battling with mental health issues and would benefit from the experience of writing about them. Contributors from both groups read their work at a moving and emotive virtual launch event for the Words To Live By 2020 anthology in September. This was well attended and the quality of work shared was remarkable.

You can read the full digital publication of Words To Live By 2020 here.

Standing Proud

Prior to lockdown we arranged a 10 week writing course for the LGBTQ+ community of Worcestershire with support from Out2gether and a One Worcester Community Grant from Worcester City Council. Our original intention was to produce a single anthology of poetry to be distributed for free at Worcestershire Pride. After a handful of meetings in person, we had to move online once the first lockdown struck. It soon became apparent that this group benefited hugely from the social, therapeutic and creative benefits that the course offered and so we decided to extend the sessions. Due to support from The Elmley Trust and Worcester County Council councillor Matthew Jenkins, we were able to not only extend our sessions but also produce a second anthology with this large and vibrant group. One anthology reflects on Covid-19 and this period of isolation, while the other explores LGBT+ experiences. Both books were distributed throughout Worcester for free in September.

The artwork for the Standing Proud anthology was provided by Amanda Hickling who created the piece ‘SHOUT!’ specifically for the project. Another participant, Oliver Bliss created the collage for Rainbows Behind Glass.

During our 2020 course we created a collaborative poem in honour of the NHS (which was shown through The Hive, Worcester’s Poetry On Loan series), we were commissioned to create an online performance for Loud & Queer Festival in which several of our participants read their work and we created a curated selection of poems for the LGBT+ Partnership Cheltenham for Hate Crime Awareness Week. We collaborated with BSL performer Ciaran Stewart for both our contributions for Loud & Queer and LGBT+ Partnership Cheltenham.

The group (now known as The Standing Proud Writers’ Group) still meet on a weekly basis as part of the wonderful schedule of events ran by Out2gether. Holly returned to them for 12 weeks in the summer of 2021, delivering a course that explored poetic form from villanelles to haiku, sonnets to tanka, the results of this course were published in the Standing Proud 2021 anthology. We plan to deliver courses with the group each summer, and look forward to producing many more anthologies for them.

You can read the full digital version of the Standing Proud 2020 anthology here.

You can read the full digital version of the Rainbows Behind Glass: A Lockdown Anthology here.

You can view our playlist of videos created for Hate Crime Awareness Week here.

Community Spirit

We were delighted to be chosen by Live & Local as one of 12 artists/art organisations to work with communities in producing a unique piece of work. We were paired with Harbury Village Library and chose to produce a book to reflect their unique experiences of lockdown. The book includes writing submitted by members of the local community (based on an online workshop facilitated by Holly), transcripts of conversations with groups of villagers and a collection of poems that Holly wrote in response to the conversations she had with this community.

The cover photograph was taken by The Word Association director, Gerard Hughes.

You can read the full digital publication here.

Magg’s Day Centre Homelessness Project

We were looking forward to working with Magg’s Day Centre in providing writing session for those whose lives have been affected by homelessness. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 crisis prevented this from happening, but we hope to complete the project in 2021 and will be producing an anthology at the end of the course.