The group has met in London's cultural spaces for over three years and supported each other over 25 sessions. Teachers have combined business with pleasure by writing together. Writing voices have become distinctively layered, the writing culture has deepened, and the teaching of writing is commensurately rich and inclusive. Such are the professional benefits of this grass-roots project. The evidence that follows is a further contribution to the current conversation about the teaching of writing.
Writing in galleries, museums and parks is enriching, provocative, transformational, unexpected – but it does not always suit. Sometimes a private space is needed. Over the years of this project we have been lucky to find generous partners (British Library, Wellcome, Museum of London Docklands, Whitechapel, Tate) who have provided quiet rooms - for free - in which we have met and shared. The stimulation can overwhelm writers who are already engaged on their own projects, but they still welcome the opportunity to grow together professionally:
- to hear how others have been inspired by exhibits which have resonated with their own condition,
- to ponder the complexity of the writing process,
- to value the discussions that spiral outwards to embrace families, selves and classrooms.
- Louise Bourgeois’ baggy figures in Artist Rooms combined, in the mind of one writer, with images from her recent Polish visit and her reading of the tales of Ossian to create the horrific and visceral depiction of the torture of Carglass, a warrior trussed shamefully on a sacrifice pole: ‘fear flew forward’. It still does.
- Ai Weiwei’s tree - ‘lifeless, leafless, constructed’ stands in the huge grey hall, where all voices blend into one surreal acoustic. For one writer this conjured a dystopic Eden – ‘the hollow bowel of hope’.
- The bridge itself became Bridge – the name of some sinister conurbation in writing reminiscent of Paul Stewart’s Edge Chronicles or Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines quartet.
This project is the stronger, I hope, for being able not just to contribute to teachers’ and schools’ well-being and creative practice, but also to that of the wider community. After all, the world is a very big classroom.