Posted: Wed, 22 Apr 2015 13:11 by Sarah Vallance
It's been a pleasure for the Centre for New Writing to work with nine talented writers, who produced outstanding commissioned writing in five literary forms for the Affective Digital Histories project.
The project is timely. As I mentioned in my introduction at the book launch of Hidden Stories, Leicester has been generating a lot of history from above lately, with wall to wall coverage of Richard III. Complementing this, the creative writing commissions focus on histories from below. The quality of the writing is evident, and it has won two awards so far. So, too, have we collectively established the full value of academic collaborations with skilled communities of practice.
The commissioned writers did a lot of research, assisted by Simon Dixon of the David Wilson Library. Our digital archives informed and shaped their writing without overloading it. It's really worth reading the author introductions to each commissioned piece in the book, where each writer explains her/his creative research processes.
I have also been struck by the extent to which two of the writers were umbilically connected to the Cultural Quarter, showing how postcolonial Leicester's industrial heritage really is. Irfan Master's play featured his mother's experiences of misunderstanding colloquialisms when she arrives at a factory, gluing soles to shoes. The comic tone of his play offers something different from the more familiar (if justifiable) grimness of many post-immigration stories. His mother was at the launch: living history in the flesh. Divya Ghelani also has family ties to the Cultural Quarter. She brought the typewriter that inspired her flash fiction sequence 'An Imperial Typewriter' to the book launch. Mark Goodwin ended off the evening with an evocative film poem, featuring Volcrepe Mill in Glossop.
Thanks are due to Ming Lim, whose resourcefulness enabled the publication of the commissioned work in book form, and to the wonderful Phoenix for carrying off the launch with such panache. Cuttlefish and Phoenix have linked the book to the Hidden Stories app really beautifully.
Dr. Corinne Fowler
Director, Centre for New Writing, University of Leicester
Photo: Writer Pete Kalu at the launch of Hidden Stories
(Image courtesy of Pamela Raith Photography)