Imagining History

Live Adventures in Time Travel.


The Imagining History Programme offers free writing workshops in historical places during which new and young writers explore the crafting of a piece of Historical Fiction.

Carefully curated imaginative explorations and writing sessions of varying lengths cultivate the sheer enjoyment of discovering unknown worlds. We believe that actual lived experience of historical places gives rise to deep insight and learning.

Our projects bring together social and historical research with a taste for enquiring into the context that creates a good story. To this we add innovative, sometimes suprising practical techniques for developing the idiosyncratic signatures of young writers using their history as a source for their writing.

We have gained the approval of academic historians, archeologists, curators, heritage education professionals, as well as of young writers, their parents, teachers and schools managements. We are committed to developing new ways of connecting young writers with the skills and concepts of speculation based on historical information and processes. In our current world, this must take account of the daily-developing history of Covid19 and our rapidly-changing society, and our lives are moving on in unprecedented ways. Read more about our most recent innovative project that brings together the skills of Mass Observation and the writing of future historical fiction, Times Shifting.

It has become clear, in the years since we began, that our approach can be an important tool in developing a creative, individual and often idiosyncratic ‘take’ on historical and social facts. Imagining History allows students to speculate in a particularly open way. They create their own intellectual and emotional journeys behind the accepted facts and lived lives of historical figures, places, events and occurrences.

read more here about what participants have said.


Where we come from…

The programme was established in 2015 by Alan Caig Wilson, Director of The Young Walter Scott Prize, in association with the East Anglian writer and educator Elizabeth Ferretti. Since then our team has grown organically to include an academic historian, an art historian, and an online content producer.

It is the practical ‘arm’ of The Young Walter Scott Prize, the UK’s only writing prize for teenagers exploring Historical Fiction.

It grew out of conversations with teenage writers in the months following the establishment of the Young Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. Young writers expressed a certain confusion and lack of confidence in understanding the place of speculation based on ‘hard’ historical facts. Our programmes and projects are fundamentally inspired by the actions of discovery and speculation of the young Walter Scott as he sourced the inspirations for a lifetime of creative innovation. The presence of Dr Dina Gusejnova in our core team, herself brought up in Russia on the stories of Sir Walter Scott, gives academic weight to the importance of Historical Fiction in the training of young minds to find their individual and informed voices.

Since then around 800 young writers have explored, researched and written in historical places, often enjoying special access to venues across the Scotland, the East of England and Cornwall. 

for more information about the range and reach of our programme, read more here

Sutton Hoo3

Crucibles of inspiration…

We work in a three-dimensional way bringing together young writers, their schools and colleges, with professional writer- and arts-educators and sites of historical interest.

Young writers and their minds are at the heart of our work. We take the view that for a young person encountering the historical environment for the first time ALL history is historical fiction. Everyone is searching for the ‘story’. We also hold to the idea that the most pervasive channel of discovery and sustainable learning for a young mind is the physical. We weave these elements together in each and every workshop – no matter the length.

Evidence from our first three years of creating workshops shows that the resonance of this kind of immersive, experiential approach to creative writing extends beyond the academic boundaries of English and History. Our programme is based on a carefully developed and guided form of physical, intellectual and creative discovery. This allows our approach, potentially, to reach into many areas of the personal growth of a young mind.

for more information on how we create our projects read more here

The Young Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction (YWSP) – pathways to future inspiration.

The Imagining History Programme UK is umbilically connected to The Young Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, which is in turn umbilically connected to the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. World famous authors of Historical Fiction give their support to YWSP and are on hand to advise and support the work of Imagining History UK.

This gives a unique pathway for young writers to imagine a future for their creative inspiration. From attending a workshop. to entering YWSP, to winning and spending a weekend in the company of the winner and shortlisters of the Walter Scott Prize, a young writer could be enveloped in a totally new world. The top YWSP prize is a £500 travel bursary designed to send our winning writers off on a further journey of inspiration and discovery – this time of their own invention.

Previous winners have visited their family homelands in Indonesia, toured Scottish castles and explored the layers of history of Istanbul.

Every workshop ends with a recommendation to the craft an entry to this innovative competition. In simple practical terms, this gives our participants a goal to work for as they leave the venue buzzing with ideas.

In 2017 the first prize in the younger age-category of YWSP was won by Leonard Belderson, who attended a workshop at the National Trust property at Blickling in Norfolk.

read Leonard’s story and more about YWSP here

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