Nearly three years ago I joined Central Saint Martins to set up their first ever creative writing degree. I'd heard of Central Saint Martins at that time mostly via their great MA in Fashion, which has produced designers like Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney and was famous for being the only MA in Fashion to be part of the official schedule of London Fashion Week.
This got me thinking. It looked like Central Saint Martins had been involved in setting up London Fashion Week, at least via its staff members as far as I could see (I read about the brilliant Wendy Dagworthy, former Course Leader for MA Fashion at Central Saint Martins and one of the founders of London Fashion Week). What if Central Saint Martins was then also involved in setting up a writing version of London Fashion Week?
That thinking led to, last year, a small pilot of London Writers' Week taking place, advised by those I could think of who had led the way in the industry in terms of new writing - Kate Rowland, founder of BBC Writersroom, John Yorke, founder of the BBC Writers Academy, Ola Animashawun, founder of the Royal Court Theatre's young writers' programme, Lucy Kerbel, founder of Tonic Theatre, Caroline Jester, former Dramaturg at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and author of "Playwriting Across the Curriculum", Steve Winter, co-founder of the Old Vic New Voice 24 Hour Plays and TS Eliot US/UK Exchange and Director of the Kevin Spacey Foundation, Fin Kennedy, founder of Schoolwrights and Artistic Director of Tamasha Theatre Company, and Philip Shelley, founder of the Channel Four screenwriting course.
This year we're launching the full version of London Writers' Week in partnership with some of the leading writing organisations in the UK - BBC Writersroom, The Writers' Guild of Great Britain, Central Saint Martins, Writers at Work Productions, NAWE, the London Playwrights Blog, Playwrights' Studio, Scotland, and others.
The theme for this year is to provide access to and showcase some of the best new ideas going on in theatre writing in the UK.
Contributors include The Arts Council of England on their funding strand Grants of the Arts and their funding priorities in terms of theatre, BBC Writersroom on how to make the transition from writing for theatre to writing for radio and screen, Tamasha Theatre Company who are showcasing their new project, Tim Crouch, one of the most innovative practitioners in the UK, the Bush Theatre on diversity, Oberon Books on how theatre publishing works, The Writers' Guild on Fact Based Theatre and Book Writing for Musical Theatre, with contributors including co-Chair of The Writers' Guild's theatre committee David Edgar who has been produced at the National Theatre and RSC and is one of the UK's leading playwrights, to name but a few.
Most of the events are free and each year our aim is going to be to focus on a different theme/ form of writing with the overall aim of annually providing access to and showcasing the best new ideas going on in new writing in the UK.
And why do it? Well, recent statistics from the Cultural Learning Alliance, British Theatre Consortium, UAL and Tonic Theatre amongst others show that around only 30% of professional writers in the UK are women across the different writing forms, that diverse writers are still under-represented, that there is a decline in students at school level studying the arts, that the creative writing A level is coming to an end, and that the new EBACC may lead a further drop in numbers studying the arts. Meanwhile, the arts continues to be one of the most important industries playing a key role in attracting tourists to the UK.
We hope London Writers' Week will address both of these issues, providing access to the best ideas in one coherent, mostly free week, and also showcasing these ideas on a national and international scale.
We're just starting on the journey of building London Writers' Week into a writing version of London Fashion Week but I'm proud to be continuing the Central Saint Martins' tradition in this way.
For more information please go to: www.londonwritersweek.com