Programme Overview

Active thinking in Time and Space

The Imagining History Programme sets up triangular partnerships between Heritage venues and their staff, professional writers and arts educators, and young creative writers.

Since 2015 it has built an innovative offer to young writers, allowing them to enter the physical space of history guided by tasks designed to enhance and expand research and thinking skills. Our programme develops abilities and talents that cross the traditional disciplinary borders between the study of English language and literacy on the one hand and history and society on the other. The programme is inspired by the multi-faceted qualities of the genre of Historical Fiction.

Imagining History UK was established in 2015, as the education project of The Young Walter Scott Prize, the UK’s only writing prize for ytoung adult writers exploring Historical Fiction. It grew out of discussions with young writers who asked questions about ways in which to marry the fact-based writing of history and the limits of fictional speculation around these facts. Since the first workshops however, with the help of our participants and their teachers, schools and parents, it has become much, much more. It has evolved into a place in which young creatives feel free to use what they know to make sense of what they experience in the present moment.

Since its establishment around 400 young writers have allowed themselves to be immersed in the history of a range of venues across the UK, and have been able to develop their informed, idiosyncratic voices as writers. 

Our workshops provide the inspiration and support necessary in the development of a satisfying piece of creative historical fiction. Writers of secondary school age develop confidence in the value of their thinking and writing, as well as their talent for writing. Professional writers working together with experts in arts and heritage education expand on techniques of active historical research, language and literacy to support young writers to create satisfying works of fiction.

Feedback from participants tells us that even the most sceptical of young writers finish their immersive explorations with new ideas, and a new feeling of flow in their creative writing and thinking. 

Imagining History workshops and residencies are developed and delivered by a committed team of artists and educators skilled in a wide variety of approaches that cajole, inspire and support young creative minds.

read more about our team of professional educators here.

To date our venues have included:

  • Trinity House of Leith an ancient maritime institution in Edinburgh.
  • AbbotsfordSir Walter Scott’s own ‘conundrum castle’.
  • Bowhill Housea working Victorian stately home in the Scottish Borders.
  • Drumlanrig Castlea medieval site in the Dumfriesshire hills wrapped in the history of early Scotland.
  • Douglas, Isle of Mansite of internment camps for WW2 ‘enemy aliens’.
  • Boughton House‘England’s Versailles’.
  • Blickling Halla Norfolk stately home with links to the Tudors.
  • Holkham Hall – a working stately home with surprising hidden corners.
  • Norwich Castlea people’s museum.
  • Museum of Norwich at The Bridewell – a museum of social history
  • Flatford Milla water-mill and boat-yard dating from the early 18th century.
  • Sutton Hoothe crucible, some say, of the beginning of England.
  • Launceston Castlean expression of mediaeval hard power in Cornwall.
  • Penhallam Manorthe remnants of a 13th Century defensible merchant’s country house hidden in Cornish woodland
  • Trerice – a secluded country house with links to the English Revolution
  • Great Yarmoutha town made by the relationship of land to sea.

Although workshops focus on the act of writing, the techniques developed by the IH team cross disciplinary boundaries and are relevant to the study of history, human geography, art, architecture, politics, psychology and society.

We ask every student writer to feedback their appreciation and understanding of their time with us.  Teachers, parents and venue staff are also canvassed for their opinions. Their comments allow us to develop and tailor the development of our workshops.

for more information on how we devise our programme, read more here

Past participants said:

I could come up with an idea from something I had no knowledge about at the beginning…

I managed to come up with ideas and feel stories coming to me when I usually find it hard to write…

…a fabulous opportunity to encourage my imagination to go to places I’d never have been able to reach…

Their teachers said:

They were treated as writers and they connected their imaginative ideas with real people and places.

You created a supportive and safe environment where the pupils could overcome any inhibitions about writing.

They like that they were given time and space to ponder and for their writing to develop over the course of the day. Quite a few of the students said that they’d never really had an experience like it and a few of them said that, to get the same feeling again, they were going to make an effort to get themselves out into nature and leave technology alone sometimes.

read some more comments here

If you would like to know more, we would like to hear from you. For more information please contact Alan Caig Wilson or email YWSPrize@outlook.com

for more information about the organisational collaborators who make our programme possible read on here!