The 28th of January marked the reopening of The Writers’ Block in The Ladder, Redruth. By Leonora Ellis.
Children, and adults, love stories; tales that might have been left behind are now emerging into the written and spoken word thanks to The Writers’ Block. The charity uses an immersive approach to learning which is proven to be effective in increasing skills and leading young people on their way to becoming confident writers. I spoke to the founder, Amanda Harris, about the charity’s pursuit. “People want to tell and write stories but may struggle to express themselves”, she says, “at The Writers’ Block we wanted to help with a dedicated space. We just turned on its head what could a classroom look like, what could you do in this space that you can’t do in a classroom.”
As soon as Amanda started to talk it was obvious that she has a passion for anything to do with writing and imagination. She wants to give children, young people, and adults a chance to share that passion. “It’s about confidence building.” Everyone, professional or not, has moments of doubt about their work. But it is a particular barrier for children. “Often the reasons children cite for not liking writing or not being able to write was: oh I’ve got nothing to say, another was I’m scared of getting it wrong, and the third, I’m frightened people will laugh at me.” How does the Writers’ Block combat this, I ask.
“We created a space where nothing was wrong”. The idea being that the bit of imagination that might have been turned off, is being accessed here with inquisitiveness and curiosity.
Children might find that bit of imagination hard to access or find because Amanda reminds me that everything children see now is amazing, very little is simple. “From the age of 2 they’re playing games on mobile phones that are so complex. Where do I fit, where does my simple little narrative fit into that?” To engage with children’s imagination The Writers’ Block workshops create a journey through spaces, so that by the end of moving through them you are just “bursting” to write. When the children do get into the space to write area, they can choose where to sit and write.
“You could go and sit on your own, sit in the dark with a torch. Or snuggle up around the radiators like puppies. Others would rather be on their own. It’s an opportunity which you don’t get much in school, is just to quietly sit on your own and write.”
The Writers’ Block are particularly involved in the Cornish community, enabling children from disadvantaged areas who may not have many opportunities or experiences in the creative world. The Writers’ Block wants to make these children feel like writers. Amanda recalls moments when children, often teenage boys, who might not have felt they could write, coming up to her and saying ‘Look! I’ve written a whole side’. “I was out walking on Penberth Cove and met this mother, she said My son’s been doing this thing with the Writers’ Block, and how amazing it had been. He’d been struggling at school, he’d been home educated, she said he’s back at school now. That was total serendipity. I think those are the things that drive me forward, that’s the motivation.”
The Charity also works with adults, usually through social prescribing. “If people can get out of themselves a bit, we can help build their confidence and networks again”. Whoever works with The Writers’ Block for an extended period of time will always have an audience for their work at the end too. “So it could be through audio, or publishing, or performance.”
Redruth is growing into a hive of activity, and The Ladder is another place for the community to connect with the arts in a friendly and accessible way and the arts to learn from the community. The Writers’ Block are now based in the emerging space in Redruth, The Ladder, run by Joshua Nawras and Felix Mortimer. The former Redruth Library on Clinton Road is under building work from January to April, to open up a variety of new spaces that can host a variety of workshops, performances, and residencies. Amanda says their ambition is that this will be the writing centre for Cornwall. “We would like this building to be part of the regeneration of Redruth, there’s a lot going on here culturally.”