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Lost City


14 March 13 words: Viv Purkiss and Pippa Hennessy
Imagine Wife Swap for writers...


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Participants from Europe gathered in Nottingham for writing workshops

Dovetail, the European funded Community Arts project run by Nottingham Writers’ Studio, hosted visitors from Hungary and Germany in February.  Funding for this project was obtained from the European Commission’s Grundtvig project, one of three funding streams from the European Union.  From 2007 until 2013 Grundtvig has focussed on inspiring a love of learning in adults. In 2012 the British agency approved funding for 147 projects out of a total of 450 applications received.  Projects funded were diverse, including Let’s Go Cooking in Europe, Art as an Agent for Change, and Combating Xenophobia in the EU, as well as Dovetail.  Pippa Hennessy and Viv Purkiss, leading the project for Nottingham Writers' Studio, completed a tough application form and found two other European partners.  That’s the catch – to qualify for funding, applicants have to find European Partners for the project, who also complete applications in their home countries, and all partners have to be awarded the funding for the project to go ahead.  Our Hungarian partners came through a contact from a member of the Writers’ Studio and our German partners through the city in Germany that Nottingham is twinned with – Karlsruhe.  Needless to say, we were all delighted to discover in July 2012 that funding had been approved in all three countries.
That’s when the work began.   Our project, now christened Dovetail, is all about writing – after all, we are Nottingham Writers’ Studio.  But we wanted to appeal to people other than those who were already members of the Studio – people who might have some difficulty in expressing themselves, who may perhaps not be fluent with English because of problems such as dyslexia or not having English as their first language.  We came up with a project plan, deciding to hold monthly creative writing workshops in the evening and a number of full-day workshops for our participants, as well as hosting a 6-day workshop in Nottingham for our European partners, which coincided with Nottingham Festival of Words.  We put this to our partners who agreed enthusiastically, confirming that they would also host workshops in Hungary and Germany over the two years of the project.  We put out publicity through every channel we could think of.  And then we waited.
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Mortimer's Hole

So far, we have ten regular participants.   We have loads of help through the Writers’ Studio.  We’ve run four evening workshops and a one day workshop where we visited Nottingham Galleries of Justice.  They kindly made a room available and we took the tour of the Galleries and used the resources available to stimulate writing – the human interest stories available in the Galleries inspired loads of good pieces.  And we’ve hosted the first international workshop of the project – our Hungarian and German partners arrived in Nottingham on 12 February and departed on 17 February, a total of 24 people. We arranged accommodation for them, together with most meals – on a couple of days a local supermarket was relieved of most of its stock of sandwiches as we bought lunch, and we took dinner together on most evenings, including a traditional fish and chip supper at the Writers’ Studio on the last evening!  Our British participants joined in where they could, work demands permitting.  We had a trip to Nottingham Castle during the snowstorm in February, where we took the group down Mortimer’s Hole as well as exploring the museum.  This contrasted with the beautiful weather later on when we spent time on the Nottingham University campus, enjoying the campus and being shown and handling the artefacts at the Archaeology Museum.  The weather was confused and confusing – many asked, “Is this typical weather for England?”  We were forced to say there doesn’t seem to be typical weather for England these days.
We also visited Nottingham Contemporary and enjoyed the exhibitions there on Collaborative Effects by Piero Gilardi, and Ecologies of Value by local artists John Newman.  The Contemporary kindly made a room available for us to write in, and we wrote and shared our pieces in all three languages.  We might not have understood the words, but we understood and appreciated the feelings they evoked.  Our visitors loved the Festival of Words and they took part in workshops, went to talks and performances, and even got LGBT tarot readings!  And on Sunday 17 February they all returned home, amidst tearful goodbyes, and promises to see each other again soon.
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Flash mob outside the Council House

So what next?  The Hungarian workshop, timed to coincide with the Budapest Book Fair, takes place in early June this year, when British and German participants will fly to Budapest and take part in Hungarian life and culture for a few days.  One of the aims of the Grundtvig programme is European integration and this has certainly been achieved so far.  We’re expecting to visit Karlsruhe early in 2014 as they offer their reciprocal workshop.  The Nottingham project has another couple of one day workshops, and regular monthly evening workshops, running until the middle of next year – it’s not too late to join in, so if you are interested, contact Pippa or Viv on the e-mail addresses given.  We have a website where work produced from all the workshops is displayed, and we’ll be producing a printed anthology of work at the end of the project.
Contacts: pip (at) or vivpur (at)

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