Funded by the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership, these sessions are delivered by Steve Ely, a novelist and award- winning poet. He teaches creative writing at the University of Huddersfield and also published a biographical work about Ted Hughes’s time in Mexborough. Special thanks goes to Right Up Our Street and Arts Council England for developing the first phase of Write On Mexborough! and the Ted Hughes Project (South Yorkshire) for their support.
Write On Mexborough!: a personal view
I have certain trepidations when attending writers’ groups, which have usually formed on the back of past experiences: ‘know-it-alls’ who hog the limelight, people being overly polite and not giving useful feedback, freezing cold facilities, low attendance, etc. Despite this, I am open to try them as I find them a useful tool in the frequently isolated life of a writer.
When I discovered that there was to be a group starting in Mexborough, I was enthusiastic. I was also very glad to see that there was an application procedure; perhaps this would mean that I could forget about my trepidations. Although the application procedure wasn’t lengthy or overly complicated, it would hopefully mean that the extra effort to join would attract only serious participants.
I think it does. I have just completed my second ‘term’ as a member of Write On Mexborough! (WOM). I can safely say it has been a delight. I have met some fantastic individuals; diverse, serious about their work and generous with their feedback. There is a workmanship quality to the group, people are open to learning new things and taking on board new ideas. This is encouraged by the experienced, knowledgeable group leader: Steve Ely. The format of the sessions means that ‘taught’ sessions are in equal measure with peer critique sessions.
What makes the group special, in my opinion, is the standard of ‘delivery’. Steve Ely is not only a published poet, academic writer, and expert on Ted Hughes (specifically Hughes’s years in Mexborough,) but also a practicing lecturer in Creative Writing. I have personally felt very privileged to be participating in free university-style seminars on all manner of writers and writing techniques. It has opened my eyes to many aspects of writing I plan to use in my own practice. It has given us all the opportunity to experience a taste of university-level teaching and dialogue, at no cost. This is a rarity!
There are also the ‘masterclasses’ which have consisted of an eclectic variety of published writers coming in to talk about their work. Also free! These are a special treat and an insight into a world only imagined (at this stage) by most of us aspiring writers. Guests have included prose writers Simon Crump and Michael Stewart, and poets Helen Mort and Carola Luther.
I realize that I may be in danger of making the WOM group sound very formal. It is serious about its vision in encouraging and nurturing writers in Mexborough and the local area, but by no means is it intimidating, pretentious or uninviting. Hobnobs and a cuppa are mandatory half way through, and this extends into a friendly pint in the local pub afterwards. A Christmas curry party has become an annual tradition and invites to other literary events are a-plenty. There are no daft airs and graces or competitive back-biting. WOM is all about support and generosity. It doesn’t matter what genre you write in, everyone is welcomed.
If you are a writer (or want to be), become a member of WOM. Leave those trepidations at home.
A Write On Mexborough! Writer, April 2017
Write On Mexborough runs weekly from September to March, with an extended summer break. If you’re interested in joining the next iteration, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll add you to our mailing list.
Watch the Write On Mexborough! film (produced in association with the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership):