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Public engagement – Climate Writer in Residence New Writing North

New Writing North is the regional writing development agency. From a base in Newcastle upon the Tyne we produce creative projects, festivals, events, talent programmes and a wide programme of work with young people. We reach over 25,000 people through writing and reading activities each year.

We declared a Climate Emergency in Autumn 2019 and began to explore our role as an organisation that specialises in writing and storytelling in addressing the urgent environmental situation. Man-made Global Warming is just one strand of our current ecological crisis, but the only one with a deadline. It is the writer’s task to look deeply into the heart of things and bring back what they find there.  Stories of possible futures need telling in ways that inspire action and hope. 

In early 2020 we partnered with Newcastle University to recruit a Climate Writer in Residence to help us practically explore the role of writers in the Climate Emergency and begin public activities where reading and writing might build knowledge and contribute to cultural and behavioural change. We appointed the poet Linda France, who began work just prior to the first Covid lockdown.

The process of transformation required by Climate Adaptation involves a leap in the dark familiar to writers, a cycle of learning, unlearning and relearning. With the support of researchers at Newcastle University, Linda began writing new poems of her own, as well as developing collaborative activities for writers, artists and readers to engage with Climate Change, in the spirit of interconnectedness, entanglement and radical regeneration.

For Durham Book Festival in Autumn 2020, Linda created a mass participation poetry project that led to the collective filmpoem Murmuration (collaborating with artist Kate Sweeney), made from 500 contributions from members of the public – verses in celebration of the natural world and the risks associated with its loss.  Many of the contributors attended a launch event online and the film has been watched by over 7,000 people on YouTube across the world.

Linda has received a significant grant from Arts Council England to continue her work.  During 2021 we will be working with her to launch a new climate and writing themed podcast, In our Element, in association with a number of independent radio stations. She will be contributing to various strategic community forums on Climate. We are also hoping that Murmuration will inspire international collaborations and allow us to create an amplified cultural response for COP26 in November.  The Climate Reading Group will continue, as will a series of Writing Workshops, with guidelines assembled in a digital Writing the Climate Workbook. We will be publishing Linda’s new writing from her Residency in 2022.

To find out more about how to get involved with Linda’s reading and writing projects and activities sign up to New Writing North’s free newsletter here.