I just have to add my voice to that of a poet and teacher who has in many ways changed my life for the better.
Two things I HAVE to say. First of all, the fact that this ‘report’ is written with the protection of anonymity. I’d say that in itself that’s an act of intellectual and moral dishonesty and cowardice. If you’re going to write something that threatens the livelihood and wellbeing of others, do it in the open, or just button it.
Second: my own involvement with Arvon..and Lumb Bank in particular…. started in the 80s. As an LEA English Adviser, one task I inherited was to arrange an annual residential writing course for 6th form students in my authority. Not hobbyists, not retirees…young adults whose lives in some cases were changed, as mine was, for the better. Then there were collaborations with Yorkshire Arts..courses for would-be Writers in Education in collaboration with heads of English from the secondary schools in my LEA. Most participants mainly in their 30s. Among them, Lemn Sissay. I might rest my case right there.
And then, the residentials I’ve been on. Not Ty Newydd, as it happens, but courses run by The Poetry Business, Kim Moore, Almaserra Vella. Till I went on them I published nothing, and had no plans to do so. But since then (in the last 5 years) I’ve had 2 collections published, and four pamphlets. I’ve won competitions judged by, amomg others, three poets laureate. I’ve even come to the point when I can be asked to run a writers workshop at a Poetry Festival.
What do places like Lumb Bank and Ty Newydd offer professional writers? Well..employment is a word that springs effortlessly to mind.
I’ll set aside the evidently not-right-on sneer about ‘retirees’. I doubt that the report would ever have dreamed using a phrase like ‘hobbyist women‘ or ‘hobbyist people of colour’. Apparently equal opportunities don’t apply to older folk. As a 74 year old I find that insulting. There you go. Apparently wanting to continue living a full creative life doesn’t meet whatever criteria the reporters have set for themselves. It’s interesting, I think, to ask who actually pays for them to write their report. I imagine it’s the taxpayer. Just for the record, I’ve been paying taxes for over 50 years.
So, to the anonymous and unprincipled jobsworth who wrote the section of this report quoted by Kim I’d say: engage brain before opening your mouth. And have the courage not to hide behind the anonymity of a damaging and inaccurate piece of misinformation.
Last week, I saw via a post on Facebook that an Independent Review of Support for Publishing and Literature in Wales had been published. Within those pages the Tŷ Newydd Creative Writing Centre had received damaging criticism, which is so at odds with my experience of Tŷ Newydd that I feel obliged to write this in support of Tŷ Newydd
You can find the report here
The paragraph below is taken directly from the report.
Tŷ Newydd seems to be mainly aimed at ‘retired hobbyists’ but it was unclear who Tŷ Newydd caters for and why it is receiving public subsidy. It was also unclear how many individuals, who have attended a course at Tŷ Newydd, have gone on to publish a book. This kind of residential literary course is viewed by many to be outdated in the current creative writing boom in the digital age . Tŷ Newydd offers little…
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