A project that helps young people in Kirkcudbright to develop their creative writing skills by working with award-winning authors has received funding to take it into a second year.
The project is a collaboration between Kirkcudbright Academy, lead tutor Hugh McMillan, supported by fellow poet Stuart Paterson, and Kirkcudbright Book Week Society, which runs the Dumfries and Galloway town’s annual literary celebration, the next one of which takes place between March 4 and 10, 2024.
The first year of the project ran in the months leading up to Book Week in March 2023 and included the production of Factory Fresh, a collection of poems and small fictions written by the students.
Now, one of the organisations that provided a grant for year one has awarded funding for year two. The Holywood Trust has agreed to pay £2,525 which will allow Hugh to organise workshops in the months leading up to the next Book Week.
The first year saw 17 hour-long creative writing sessions held with four classes, reaching 54 pupils. Sessions occurred mostly on Monday and Tuesday mornings between October 2022 and February 2023. They were delivered mostly by Hugh McMillan, with Scots language input provided by Stuart Paterson.
The workshops involved S3 and S5 pupils and the finished work was exhibited at Kirkcudbright Library during Kirkcudbright Book Week. Pupils were also filmed reading their work for the school’s and library’s websites.
Hugh said: “We are delighted that this project has received funding to run into a second year and are very grateful to the Holywood Trust.
“Much quality work was developed in both poetry and prose in the first year. Some of the finest work was by young people who had not written creatively much, or at all. We helped them interpret aspects of their own experience in a creative way, as well as unloosing their imaginations, all of which made for a very worthwhile and rewarding project.
“We plan to build on the success of year one over the next few months by broadening out the involvement to include school students of younger ages and involving writers from different disciplines, including spoken word and Scots. It’s envisaged that this would include up to 20 sessions, culminating in a performance and publication in Book Week 2024.”
Author John Dean, one of the Kirkcudbright Book Week Society members organising Book Week, said: “We are delighted to have received funding to take this project into a second year. It’s an inspiring venture and fits in well with one of our key aims, namely to reach out to the next generation of readers and writers.”
Amy MacDougall, PT English at the Academy, said: “Our senior classes loved having Hugh in to work with them last year and quite a few benefitted from being able to use their writing pieces in their folios. As teachers, we enjoyed having a fresh set of ideas in the classroom and have used Hugh’s advice to further our own teaching of creative writing. The book that Hugh published with our pupils’ work was very well received by the school community and pupils were proud to have their work in print.”
Karen Ward Boyd, Director, The Holywood Trust, said: “The Trust was delighted with the outcome of the first project last year and is pleased to be able to support the creative collaboration for a further year, with Kirkcudbright Academy pupils, Hugh McMillan, Stuart Paterson and Kirkcudbright Book Week.”
The aim of Kirkcudbright Book Week is to showcase and celebrate the developing literary scene in the town and surrounding area. The 2024 week will include more than twenty events and include appearances from authors working in genres ranging from poetry, short stories, novels and non-fiction to children’s writing, crime fiction, romance and memoir.
Catering for young people is an important part of Book Week, which will include free events for young readers at Kirkcudbright Library on World Book Day (Thursday March 7 2024). There will also be a ghost story competition for young writers. Full details of the programme will be announced on October 24 via the website – www.kirkcudbrightbookweek.org