I founded Active Writing Limited when I started a part- time job at Wrexham Glyndŵr University (WGU) in late 2018. It is a social enterprise based out of the Enterprise Hub in Queen’s Square in the centre of Wrexham. I had already been running Cox Bank Publishing. Another social enterprise publishing company, across the border in Cheshire for several years – collecting and publishing stories about people being outdoors and active and how it had changed their lives for the better.
Active Writing was established to explore and write about being outdoors and active in North Wales. In a move away from publishing, I have established a network of contacts with local artists via WGU’s Regent Street School of Art and the Helfa Gelf network, a range of outdoor adventure and activity providers across North Wales, local storytellers and writers and with the National Trust (Chirk Castle and Erddig House).
I have published 10 anthologies of writing, several of them in partnership with Stoke-on-Trent City Council, who commissioned a three-year project in 2015 with CBP to help promote outdoor exercise. A handful of other books have resulted from collaborations with primary schools.
Folk Tales and Fairy Stories!
My plan, which I started trialling in late 2019 and earlier this year, was to run creative writing and illustration workshops in collaboration with local partners. WGU staff encouraged me to work with students from the fields of art, and mental health and well-being. I also ran some workshops at Chirk Castle with the support of the Engagement team there.
These projects opened an entirely new strand for me to explore – asking participants to write their take on folk tales or fairy stories, inspired by their surroundings and by being outdoors and observing buildings or nature. Through the spring, I created further workshops based in Llangollen with Velvet Hills and the Llangollen Walking Festival, Llandegla Forest with OnePlanet Adventure, Adventure Tours UK and local author and storyteller Fiona Collins.
A Complete Rethink
Then, in March, Covid struck! I had to cancel all my scheduled and future workshops and have a complete rethink about my business model. Some local authors, like Sarah Parkinson, have adapted brilliantly to online delivery; see www.sparkyauthor.com for some examples, especially if you have young children. Later in the year, I will look to develop projects with partners to explore the potential for my own virtual outdoor workshops.
My first foray into the online world is a creative assignment with Tŷ Pawb. Part of a series of artist commissions, I was fortunate to be chosen alongside a range of local practitioners to deliver a piece of work based around creating new folk tales for Wrexham.
As part of the assignment, I’ve roped in support from other local artists. Commissioning a vlog recounting a local legend narrated in Welsh by storyteller Fiona Collins. I’ve also ordered a series of illustrations from local artist and WGU student Emma Ford as further inspiration for Tŷ Pawb’s future folk tale and fairy story creators.
Hopefully, Tŷ Pawb will get plenty of interest in the project as I hope to produce a book of the best stories and illustrations. An e-book of course!
A Serious Challenge
Just as lockdown was coming to an end, I was hit with another challenge to overcome when I suffered a severe stroke on the morning of 21st June. Although I was extremely fortunate to get very prompt and world-class treatment at a specialist NHS stroke unit. I’m still working on my recovery and recuperation. I hope by the time this article reaches you that I will have a new series of workshops in development and be back to my normal pursuits of; trail running, wild swimming (with swim buddies in support) and generally enjoying the outdoors!
I will also be continuing my work at WGU as their new Innovation Manager (as of April). Helping local businesses to develop with support from University researchers.
Article by Peter Hooper, Active Writing Limited
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