First Story’s annual summer residential provides an incredible opportunity for a small number of Young Writers Programme participants who have shown great promise during the academic year. Students get to further develop their creativity, confidence and skills by working intensively for a week with professional writers. After two years of virtual provision due to the pandemic, everyone was excited to return this year to the residential’s usual home at Arvon’s Lumb Bank writing centre in rural West Yorkshire.
During the 2021/22 academic year, hundreds of young people in schools across London, the East Midlands and Yorkshire took part in First Story’s intensive Young Writers Programme. Following an open application process, sixteen students from around the country were selected to attend the residential, based on their ability and potential, as well as application personal statements. Sadly, three could not travel due to Covid. Our final thirteen young writers represented places as different as Hackney and Scarborough, and heritages as diverse as African, Pakistani, Caribbean, Turkish, Iranian, Irish and English.
Our course tutors for the week were Christina Lewis and Ashley Hickson-Lovence — both talented professional writers and also experienced First Story Writers-in-Residence. The residential week is structured between group workshops in the morning, followed by one-to-one tuition in the afternoon, supporting participants to refine their work in progress for performance and publication.
Guest writer Testament visited on the Wednesday, to perform some of his own work and take part in a lively Q+A. As a beatboxer, playwright and prose writer, he talked about his own background, identity and his journey as a writer. He was generous and encouraging and a fantastic role model for many in the room.
Throughout the week there is plenty of free time in the schedule for participants to write (of course!) as well as spend social time together, play games and explore the local environment. Group hikes were a popular activity; one such walk included a visit to Sylvia Plath’s grave. During a free writing exercise early in the week, some of the group produced the following piece, inspired by their idyllic surroundings:
Lumb Bank is natural Quality views and quality food Reasons to be inspired are everywhere Intriguingly ambiguous Writing, intriguingly ambiguous people Gruesome killing cat named Ted Candid landscapes Greenery surrounds us, we're an island in the sea Lovely people Trees as tall as houses Vistas to enjoy Bees Running away with our imaginations Actuality is forgotten Dangerous cliff faces Bees
The Arvon ethos builds in teamwork and responsibility around cooking and cleaning up after meals. Divided into teams, our participants took on the challenge full-heartedly. By the third morning, several students were up at 7.30am cooking pancakes for the whole group. It was a joyful, collegiate atmosphere.
The residential week culminates on the Thursday evening with a showcase performance of participants’ writing. This year it was followed by an impromptu party that went on late into the night! At the final performance, compered by one of our participants, everyone had rehearsed and gave composed and compelling performances. The level of energy in the room remained for several hours.
Participants’ work will appear in a special residential anthology which will be published this autumn.
First Story’s summer residential 2022 was generously supported, for the fourth consecutive year, by teamArchie.