Alice Maddicott is an author, tutor and visual artist currently living in Bath. Her work has spanned everything from novels and poetry to scriptwriting for CBBC. She runs workshops in schools and museums across the UK . She was the Writer in Residence for the Yorkshire Dales National Park’s 60th Anniversary in 2009, and the Bath International Literature Festival in 2015.
Alice also works with the Bath Festivals Young Writers’ Lab and this weekend their innovative writing shed has been starting writing experiments at the festival. This Sunday 28th May, she’ll be working alongside our Paper Nations team to inspire young people to write as part of the Bath Festival Family Arts Day. Here she tells us about her creative education projects for young people, her multi-faceted artistic approach to writing and upcoming projects.
Can you tell us about your creative work in schools? What do you love about working with children and young people?
I’ve been working in schools for fifteen years, so my work with children and young people has developed along with my own creative practice until it has become an integral part of it. I work on everything from fiction, to poetry and creative non-fiction; I do a lot of outdoor learning and have a real interest in creating imaginary worlds from our everyday environments, but each project varies and is tailored the school I’m working with.
I love working with children and am endlessly inspired by their ideas. It is a real privilege to get an insight into a young person’s imagination and to know that you have help triggered a love of writing that will hopefully stay with them. Children are great fun too. I think loving just chatting to children is a huge part of the job – you have to enjoy it!
As you say, you’re involved with so many different creative projects, from poetry to script, fiction to visual art – do you have a favourite platform? How do these diverse forms influence your workshops?
I wouldn’t say I had a preference as such, however, I do think children prefer stories – it’s a natural instinct. And because of this I really love the challenge of running poetry workshops. Getting the chance to really show how varied poetry can be and that, because it doesn’t have a full structure, working on poetry can be the freest way to write. I do find having a background in a lot of different forms means that I can adapt and design workshops that really take into account individual children and what they would enjoy to help them reach their creative aspirations.
Are you working on any new projects at the moment?
I’ve been working this month on School Without Walls – a really fascinating project with 5x5x5=Creativity where a whole class from Westfield in Radstock has moved to The Egg theatre for the first half of their summer term to do school more creatively. Essentially it’s a different way of doing school: taking the class out of the normal environment, embedding the children in a cultural centre with teachers and artists working in partnership to develop a more creative way of working and enriching the children’s learning. It’s been really good fun and an interesting challenge.
In terms of my own writing, I’ve been experimenting with travel writing and how can it be done more creatively. I like the idea of blurring fact and fiction, and have been doing this with a book I’m writing on my travels to Georgia. Some extracts of the book will soon be published in Elsewhere – the print journal of writing and place.
In addition to that, I also have a piece of nature writing about Somerset in an upcoming anthology, Waymaking. I’m enjoying playing with how creative non-fiction can be. I’ve also been working on the new series of The Clangers, which has been fun. Though I also feel a new novel is coming on…
Tell us about the upcoming Bath Festival Family Arts Day. What are you most excited to see come out of this?
On the day, I’ll be working with the Paper Nations Dare to Write Library team to run drop-in workshops aimed at creating work that is inspired by the day and the surroundings of Parade Gardens. Children will have the option to complete writing dares, but also to come on creative explorations with me and gather ideas for developing imaginary worlds within the gardens. My main aim for the day is that it gets children to enjoy writing. Writing should be a creative pleasure just like drawing or making music.
You also published the group novel And Then I Realise I Am Lost as part of the Young Writers’ Lab that you ran for the Bath Festival last year. What was the process like of getting it published?
It was a challenge! We wanted to create a collaborative novel length piece rather than an anthology, but one that still allowed the members to follow their own creative paths. So we chose the theme of being lost and each writer wrote their own story that can stand alone or be part of the whole. It is designed to be read either way, which is quite radical for a youth publication. It was amazing to watch the teenagers’ work develop and also to see how brave they were with learning to edit like a professional.
I mentored and advised them through their writing process, and when they were finished, in consultation with the students, I broke up and interwove their stories. I then wrote a poetic joining narrative to act like creative glue, so that the pieces fit together. And of course I managed the crowdfunding initiative to cover the cost of the printing and oversaw the printing process. But everyone did brilliantly and it was so exciting to see the finished product.
What is your best advice for young writers or artists?
Don’t be scared – you can go back and edit spelling and grammar, but with creativity there are no wrong answers. So just go for it. Write about something you’re interested in and care about, experiment, be as imaginative as possible and just give it a go!
Dare to Write Challenge
I’ve come up with two! The first is from a story I started for the Family Arts day. And the second is another idea set in a city.
Here is the first one:
‘The gardens shivered and dripped shadows, as the park began to change – subtly at first, a slight glimmer of something by the bandstand, a movement in the bushes and then…’
The second one is:
‘You are walking down the street as the city begins to change around you. A flicker of movement, dancing shadows and quivers of light; soft vibrations then a change of sound or smell and then…’