Innovative programming celebrates 50 years of Creative Writing at UEA

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Beginning on 1 October, the University of East Anglia (UEA) celebrates 50 years of its pioneering Creative Writing programme.

As we head into our 50th year we are excited to launch an ambitious series of international events, projects and initiatives. Building on its extraordinary heritage, the Creative Writing 50th anniversary celebration will explore key trends shaping literature today, uncover the next generation of global voices and push the boundaries between contemporary writing and creative technology.

Professor Henry Sutton, Director of Creative Writing, said: “UEA’s Creative Writing programme continues to go from strength to strength. These initiatives are a testament to its questioning, questing spirit for knowledge, excellence and creative expression.”

International Chair of Creative Writing – Tsitsi Dangarembga

Today UEA announces its new International Chair of Creative Writing (ICCW) and Global Voices Scholarship programme, which celebrates leading writers from around the globe while continuing UEA’s tradition of nurturing the world’s most promising emerging writers. Its first chair will be the internationally acclaimed Zimbabwean novelist, playwright and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga. 

Tsitsi Dangarembga’s most recent novel, This Mournable Body, is shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize. Supported by UEA colleagues, she will deliver an ambitious programme of literary events, classes and workshops across the African continent and in the UK during 2021-22. 

This new position of International Chair has been created through philanthropy, and will be offered to four more prominent writers over the next five years from the Asia, Australasia, the Americas and the Middle East, each with a year-long remit to find, nurture and promote new voices from that region. The Chair will be supported by UEA’s Creative Writing department to deliver events, masterclasses and workshops. The International Chair initiative will be complemented by Global Voices scholarships, offering 50 fully paid places on UEA’s competitive MA course over five years. 

Tsitsi Dangarembga said: “I am honoured to be appointed International Chair of Creative Writing (Africa) at UEA. This position enables me to continue to pursue my long-time passion of raising awareness concerning the importance of creative writing in society in southern Africa.  It is a welcome opportunity for me and emerging African writers to connect with the highly distinguished UEA programme in Creative Writing.”

Professor Jean McNeil, International co-ordinator for Literature, Drama and Creative Writer and responsible for the ICCW programme, said: “We are incredibly excited and gratified to appoint Tsitsi Dangarembga to this position. Tsitsi is one of Africa’s best-known and respected writers. She is also a filmmaker, mentor to writers and filmmakers, and advocate for the arts. We also applaud that her novel This Mournable Body (Faber, 2020) has been shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize.”

Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Arts and Humanities Professor Sarah Barrow said: “UEA is committed to outreach and diversity in literature and across all our subjects. This appointment reflects our values of diversity and inclusion, internationalisation, equality and access to higher education. This appointment and the ICCW programme is also in line with our commitment to decolonising the curriculum in literature and the creative arts.”

Specially commissioned video featuring Ian McEwan

Today also marks the launch of a suite of videos celebrating the heritage of Creative Writing at UEA and looking forward to the future. Made entirely during the strict lockdown period from March to June, this is a personal look at the course and its literary legacy from the perspective of several of its graduates. Among the contributors are Tracy Chevalier, Louise Doughty, Tash Aw and Ian McEwan, who shares memories of writing his first-ever published short story on the course; Ayanna Gillian Lloyd, who has just signed a major global book deal, reflects on her journey from Trinidad and Tobago to celebrated author.

More videos featuring established writers and fresh talent from UEA’s Creative Writing programme will be released soon. 

See our CW50 video at: https://tinyurl.com/y373k78o

The future of writing in a digital world: Future and Form

As well as looking back to our impressive legacy, UEA is looking forward to the future of imaginative writing. 

The university, with Arts Council England funding and backing from regional cultural and educational organisations, has commissioned six leading writers, representing prose, poetry, script and children’s fiction, to explore the interface between contemporary literature and creative technologies. The partner organisations are: Norwich Theatre Royal; Millennium Library/Norfolk County Library and Information Service; Norfolk Museum Service/Norwich Castle Museum; National Centre for Writing; Norfolk Wildlife Trust; The Forum Trust; Sainsbury Centre; British Archive for Contemporary Writing; Norfolk and Norwich Festival; Ormiston Academies Trust

Over nine months, writers Ayòbámi Adébáyò, Mona Arshi, Tash Aw, Imogen Hermes Gowar, Mitch Johnson and James McDermott will work alongside creative technologists (Mutiny and Guildhall Live Events), local young people, schools and cultural organisations to find new ways to create, share and experience literature and storytelling. 

The interactive work will be displayed online and in a region-wide exhibition in Norwich in spring 2021. 

UEA Live – A dynamic and inclusive literary festival

Image above: Lee Child, credit Brian Aris

UEA Live is the new name and direction of the renowned UEA Literary Festival. Our CW50 year line-up offers diverse, challenging and engaging voices. Its autumn 2020 event series is launched online, featuring literary legends Lee Child, Ian McEwan and Bernardine Evaristo. Spring highlights will include Ali Smith, Tsitsi Dangarembga and Anne Enright. For both seasons, the festival’s focus celebrates 50 years of Creative Writing at UEA. The impressive line-up of writers all have a connection to UEA’s courses.

For the first time, all the autumn events will be available to watch for free. The autumn festival runs from 7 October to 18 November 2020, and the spring festival from 10 February to 24 March 2021. 

For more information see: www.uealive.com.

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