On the first anniversary of the unprecedented announcement of the UK’s first National Lockdown, Imagining History UK is proud to announce the publication of an anthology – Times Shifting – New Voices from a Changed World. This collection showcases the writing and thinking of 15 writers aged between 14 and 24 from across the world. Between May and July last year, as the world experienced a remarkable and collective upheaval, the writers were mentored by a faculty comprising a professional writer, an academic historian, a digital content creator and an arts educator. Following a programme of guided exploration, discussion and writing, they were commissioned to write 2,000 words in a genre and style of their choosing, to reflect their journey through this very changed world of ours.
Imagining History UK, as does its sibling The Young Walter Scott Prize, invites young writers and historians to follow the example of Walter Scott as a young man. Driven by curiosity, he travelled as widely as he could, read as much as he could, and listened to and spent time with people who had a story to tell. From the understandings thus gathered he built the foundation of his life’s work, initiating amongst many other things the genre of Historical Fiction.
Central to the project was the possibility of an exchange of information and ideas between writers from diverse backgrounds and differing national contexts. We invited the writers to share with one another their thoughts, insights and writings on their experiences of lockdown. But TImes Shifting had an additional, counter-intuitive demand to make of its participants – study your present from the point of view of a historian studying events, live your present with the awareness of a writer looking for inspiration, then approach your writing write from a point of view some time in the future looking back and trying to make sense of it all.
What sets it apart from similar projects is that this is not simply an attempt to encourage teenagers to write for writing’s sake, but it is also trying to create historical evidence for the future which adds a unique level of depth to what is being created.Joseph
Historical records are partial and often lacking in first-hand on-the-ground detail from which to build clear hypotheses about the way people actually lived. By converting the present into the past, our young writers of Historical Fiction suddenly had a hugely valuable primary source for their writing.
Times Shifting is designed and led by a team skilled in techniques of historical exploration, creative writing, digital collecting/presentation and somatic and intellectual learning. The writers first had to develop the categories necessary to create the kind of historical source that their writer’s mind would begin to feed off. Tasks taken from techniques of mass observation and the development of dramatic characters in the theatre were interwoven with creative thinking and writing tasks that live in the moment just before a story emerges. It was important to develop their understanding of themselves as writers in the moment of perception of our suddenly changed world.
For Walter Scott the exploration of his world – both natural and imaginative – was a way of mitigating and calming the troubles that life threw in his path. He writes tenderly and candidly about his mental health following major disruptions to his own life. And he allows his insights to help him develop his characters and story lines. At the heart of the Imagining History UK process of working is the sense that a young writer’s voice will develop at pace if we hold the creative space around them in a non-directive way free from the idea that there is a ‘correct’ way to do things. For our writers and for the good of their psychological future it is important to find as many different kinds of pleasure in doing what they feel confident in doing. Our mentoring process integrates exercises in the understanding of historical processes, writing tasks that assume that an idiosyncratic voice will emerge and invitations to explore that perhaps alter the lens through which the writers might see their world.
Along with the irresistible prospect of writing again, the chance to meet new people and explore creative processes as a healthy outlet and escape from everyday life was a big draw to the projectRosi
As Scott himself well understood, a different kind of curiosity arises with the realisation that the everyday might carry historical significance. Observations of worn patches in a garden, the changing significance of doors to the outside, the sensation of deserted school grounds or the intrusive everyday diet of public statistics amongst so much more are transformed into a source of inspiration for the mind of a speculative Historical Fiction writer.
No-one has expected the wheels of history to rattle round the way they have. In editing their work, we gave the writers a chance, two months on, to reflect upon their writing and their writing selves during the project. My colleagues and I are deeply proud of the depth and incisive care of the insights contained in both their writing and their reflections. With their feet in two pivotal historical moments, they have been able to respond creatively to one, then at a later point with clarity in hindsight, to respond to themselves responding. We could not have predicted the richness of Times Shifting, from both a creative writing and a creative living perspective.
Our writers first dig where they stand. In their own lives, events and relationships they find threads that, like the underground communication fibres in a forest, connect them to farther and wider visions.
There has been a shift in the way I think, I am looking at the way in which we interact with each other in a different wayMolly-Rose
Times Shifting- New Voices from a Changed World is available to buy for a very reasonable £5. Contact IHUK for details.
Dina Gusejnova: The Tarpaulin-A Biography
Follow this link https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b083n15m
To a BBC documentary made by our historical adviser, Dr Dina Gusejnova in 2016. You will hear how something as mundane as a sheet of Tarpaulin opens up stories untold of lives lived and events experience.
Dina’s approach is an excellent example of how the existing historical record might be the source of high quality Historical Fiction. It also shows that History, as a subject to be studies is anything but the stuffy procession of names and dates that it is often made out to be.
No historical facts are too mundane or “boring” if, with a writer’s mind, you are looking at them for their human value and for the stories that hide behind them.
Launch of Suffragette Stories in Norwich
Photos from the Launch of Suffragette Stories.The resource, centred around the Annie Kenny archive held at UEA, includes stories written by professional authors and young people based on both historical details of Suffragette lives and inter-generational interviews with older women in Norfolk.
In July Alan Caig Wilson and Elizabeth Ferretti of The Imagining History Programme UK ran a training event for MA Creative Writers at UEA in techniques of inspiring Historical Fiction writing for young writers, at the invitation of the British Archive of Contemporary Writing.
From Source to Page to Stage. A performance to remember following their involvement in a Young Walter Scott Prize Imagining History Project. Thanks to the students at Sir James Smith’s Community School, all at North Cornwall Book Festival, Patrick Gale.
“these young authors brought a thoughtfulness and honesty to their work..” Laura Wood
See how assured and connected the readers look as they present their work. A fascinating and moving event. We wish them luck with their entries to YWSP2018.
18th September 2018 – Into the woods, time-traveling the centuries back to the 1300s.
20 young writers from North Cornwall, digging with minds and pens to uncover the hidden voices of Penhallam Manor.
Results of their creative excavations will be presented at the North Cornwall Book Festival on 5th October.
Maybe there’s a winner of the 2018 Young Walter Scott Prize emerging amongst them, with the closing date of 31st October fast approaching.