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The Way of Words is an innovative project based in Lambeth which takes participants through the entire creative process from page to stage. This creative writing and live literature project had its humble beginnings in January 2000 at the Bonnington Centre in Bonnington Square, Vauxhall; the hub of a unique community in the heart of Lambeth. Since its initiation The Way of Words has attracted many participants, guest writers and artists from diverse backgrounds from across London. Their shared wealth of experience, enthusiasm and commitment to the process combined with the centrality of the method of disciplined free writing in response to prompts and a variety of other exercises has produced work which is rich and varied, profound and strong. Participants are always given the opportunity to take their work to an audience. Many have taken up this challenge and the result has been a series of anthologies and events where writers worked with poets, musicians, vj’s and dj’s.

The Way of Words was founded by artist, author and activist Anne Enith Cooper seedsandfuses.wordpress.com

Featured image: Poet Michelle Taylor performing at the launch of And Then There Was Light. Photo credit: Christopher Sharpe.

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Ethos

The Way of Words is based on the belief that we are all inherently creative and as unique individuals with a unique journey through life we each have an inherent value and worth. This belief is integral to all that we do and is underpinned by our ethos; that we are all learning and growing and have something to contribute, and supported by our values; compassion, empathy, kindness, social justice, embracing diversity, respect and responsibility. These are reflected in our actions, decisions and behaviours in our work together and promoted in our work. 

Workshops are open to all, unless otherwise specified, the only prerequisite being a willingness to write and a commitment to the group. The workshops and subsequent performance are strongly influenced in terms of methodology by The Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paula Freire and draw heavily on Julia Cameron’s The Artists Way and Natalie Goldbergs work in particular Writing Down the Bones. Founder, Anne Enith Cooper states, we work in agreement with the writer Nicki Jackowska when she says, “In writing most deeply from myself, I tap all human sources. The problem is to get there, to touch oneself, track them and channel. The personal and the universal are most intimately interconnected… And in doing so, propels forces through and onto the page. This is always an act of faith – and an act of love whatever the subject.”  

Workshops are held in a safe and supportive atmosphere with exercises designed to enable writers to express themselves more freely, to “get there.” Using the simple method – don’t think, just write – in response to a variety of prompts. This requires spontaneity and discipline, flexibility and focus, an openness to intuition and a readiness to put it to work. It has proved a successful and can be a journey of expression and discovery. In addition participants can learn performance skills for voice, body and breathe to give them the confidence to relate to an audience and be the best vehicle for their words.

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Testimonials

What people have said about The Way of Words

“an enjoyable scheme – flexible but well directed”

“extremely satisfactory”

“‘excellent atmosphere'”

“Lots of useful tips, inspiring and also very freeing with regard to writing without being too critical. It has inspired me to keep writing and to be more aware of the things that help writing, uses of senses, visual prompts. It has provided me with freedom, but yet understanding the need to have some structure and revision.”

“Anne is very encouraging whether you’re just beginning or experienced. It’s taught me valuable ways of getting around ‘blocks’ and just writing freely, rediscovering fun. Very good for overcoming unnecessary fears and encouraging creativity – would recommend it to anyone.”

“I liked the people, the exercises, the communication, the sensitivity, the flow of ideas, the reading in the café, the idea of an anthology, the general stimulation. I found other people particularly sensitive and friendly, a nice atmosphere. I used to just ‘block’ things out of terror before I began the course, whereas the course got me writing…” 

“Got me moving. The Freedom. No pressure. Felt supported. Was aware ‘anything’ could go and yes, did not feel threatened by criticism.”

“Definitely now thinking about ways to publish! Can’t believe it! Haven’t written for about a year, now getting going. A stimulating and interesting environment, accepting feedback challenged me. Thank you so much Anne.”

“The exercises were very inventive and freeing. I loved the handouts and tips…I now see it [writing] as an activity which has an enjoyable craft and skill and doesn’t have to be a painful lonely experience.”

“Well presented, organised and timed…it has helped me decide on things that I want to work on at home …it has challenged me in the sense that I wrote things that I would not normally write. The atmosphere was supportive that I felt comfortable doing this.”

Featured image: Asher Hoyles at the launch of And Then There Was Light. Photo Credit: Christopher Sharpe.

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History

The Early Days

In the first few years the workshop held three ten week terms each year and at the end of the first two terms held unplugged live literature events at the Bonnington Square Cafe each attended by, on average, 50 people. This gave workshop participants the opportunity to find a genuine audience for their work and gain in experience and confidence. In addition the workshop published a series of pamphlets anthologies of work, ‘Word-art’ annually. Each issue of Word-art was produced as a limited edition of 100 copies with a hand made cover designed by a local artist and launched at an evenings of live literature and music bringing together, among others; dj Arv (Simply Boogie), dj Niall, (Dogstar) and guest poets from the legendary Poets Know it.

And Then There was Light

And Then There Was Light is a book collection from The Way of Words creative writing workshops and live literature events. The anthology celebrated the first few years of the project, in all it features the work of 24 writers. The work, in its diverse forms and styles, was submitted following involvement with the workshops. Each piece is distinct in tone and mood. Together they weave around the themes of love and war, sex and death and more with tender moments, dark humour and sublime and surreal insights, this stimulating collection challenges the reader to look again, shedding light on our contemporary experience with an introduction from Malika Booker. It was launched at Plan B in Brixton contributions to the book were joined by mc Gypsy Love, the Rev Be Atwell and Errol T from Alabama 3, Miss Feelgood and Sir “Eddie” Real on the decs with visuals from punk vert vj’s Emma and Paul Blackwell.

Speaking In Tongues

Speaking in Tongues was a collaboration with the Stockwell Park Community Centre and The Way of Words creative writing workshop. A project based on East of Acre Lane, the second novel by local writer Alex Wheatle. Participants were asked to address the text and engage with it, creatively, critically or tangentally. A series of generative workshops were held in response to the text while members of the community centre designed their responses. An event was held in the community centre to showcase the results.

Alex Wheatle opened the evening with a reading from the book, joined by poet and journalist Michael Archangel and former police commissioner Brian Paddick who gave their responses to the novel; a story of love, family and the struggle to survive set against the backdrop of Britain in crisis and rising tension on the streets of Brixton in 1981, culminating in the riots. Acts from the community centre included musicians – Acts from the community centre included musicians – Scarman’s children, and drama from group Mentality in collaboration with Tom Mac Askill from The Way of Words. Crispin Swayne, Akua Ofosuhene and David Leakey from the workshop presented poetry, short stories and song. While local dj Offshore (Breakout) took care of the decks, the mc of the evening was workshop coordinator and founder of The Way of Words Anne Enith Cooper in her role as poet Anita Divine.

This was followed by an open forum where the audience were invited to share their opinions of the book and the issues raised by it. A spirited discussion was held, perhaps a unique at a live performance event. Attended by over 100 people, it was a highly successful event providing entertainment and addressing issues that face Brixton today as well as an evaluation and reflection on the past.

The Eyes Have It

The Eyes Have it: Location, Image and Imagery for the writer a series of workshops combining a walk, talk and visit held at The Southbank Centre alongside and in response to an exhibition at the Hayward gallery called Eyes, Lies & Illusions described as ” a world of optical wonders…a voyage of discovery through light and shadows. Strange effects and weird devices combine for a head-spinning experience.” Participants were encouraged to bring all their senses to the page in response and, in this season of pumpkins and bonfires, of “mists and mellow fruitfulness” to mark the end of the season in a ritual reading by the Thames, casting the words into the river and making a presentation for of passers by.

Of Love and Loss

The Way of Words were invited to collaborate with The Well, an exhibition at the Danielle Arnaud Art Gallery. The exhibition focused upon relationship and loss and coincided with the launch of a bookwork ‘NGC 4038-39’ by artist Jo Wood, who died in 1998, to commemorate her life and work which featured in the show. The show was co-curated and with new works by Mark Osterfield, Judy Price and Kay Walsh, the exhibition is inspired by their personal and professional relationship with Jo Wood ‘NGC 4038-39″ is selection of Jo Woods writings, published posthumously, named after a colliding galaxy.

Loss creates an absence, a void, a well to be filled…it can become a generator of new relationships, an attempt to make sense of the absence, to experience the well as full rather than empty.

Participants were invited to view the exhibition and take notes, then take a short walk to The Durning Library where they were encouraged to respond using the exhibits as prompts and reflect on the themes it addressed. Participants also had an opportunity to evaluate and revise their work; experimentation with style and form was encouraged along with constructive criticism with an emphasis on respect and support given the sensitive nature of the themes. A sharing of the work took place back at the gallery with the curators of the exhibition and invited guests.

Moving beyond

Founder and director of The Way of Words, Anne Enith Cooper, has taken the method and ethos of The Way of Words to further collaborations and involvement with Age Concern Camden, The Vauxhall Festival, The Social Hope and Recovery Project (SLaM), The Recovery College, Lambeth Mind, Friends of Lambeth Library’s, a care home, a mental health rehabilitation unit and a housing estate. Each project saw participants grow in confidence in their self and their writing, the core aim of The Way of Words.

References

“Anne provided a much needed avenue for people to explore their creative writing skills.  During her sessions students’ belief in their ability to write increased, leading to greater sense of confidence and self esteem.  In the sharing of her skills, she offered students an opportunity for self development which, truly, is what the Recovery College is all about.”

Leila Persaud. Coordinator at St Mungos Broadway Recovery College

“I have worked with Anne on many occasions. She was influential in establishing The Word is Out Creative writing project, involved in designing the project, facilitating workshops and leading on producing an anthology of work. This led to an innovate model of working, involving true co-production, with a series of workshops, covering different genres of writing, being held in various community locations, including theatres, inpatient wards and cinemas. She has always been enthusiastic, professional, with an amazing skill to engage clients and pitch sessions perfectly, as well as being able to hold a safe space to bring out peoples creative flair.”

Anna Croucher, Senior Occupational Therapist, Service development lead & Evaluator S.H.A.R.P. SLaM.


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Contact

For information just get in touch