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.