Last month, we were a part of StoryFest at the Eden Project, where we launched our Dare to Write Library installation; a series of writing and book making workshops for young people. Visitors were invited to move through the four stages of the Dare to Write Library. They began by making their very own books, before visiting our library of writing ‘Dares’ and zines created by other young storymakers to get inspiration. After spending time writing and crafting their story, this was then turned into a limited edition booklet by our RISO printing press. Copies of the stories could be then be taken home as well as added to the Dare to Write Library. It was truly fantastic to see young people with their parents and carers developing and sharing work together. And we loved every minute of it.
One of our team members on-site was Holly Graham, a visual artist and writer based in London. We asked her a few questions about her work and what it was like to be involved with our Dare to Write Library.
Tell us about your own work:
I am a visual artist working mainly in print, but also dabbling in oral histories through text, moving image and sound. Much of my work circulates around storytelling and memory. I also enjoy writing short fictional pieces. More recently I have been drawing my writing and my visual work together, developing a performative reading of a collaboratively written text with two other artists.
What made you want to be involved with the DTW Library?
I’ve been working with children and young people as part of my art practice. This is something I really enjoy and so when Lily Green told me about the workshops – and in particular the concept of the DTW Library combining writing creatively with thinking about how that writing takes form visually and in print – I thought it sounded like an exciting project to be a part of. I also think it’s really special to be involved in creating spaces which celebrate writing and storytelling outside of a structured school environment.
How was Dare to Write Library space set up? And how did the young people interact with the exhibit?
We had a large classroom-type space to work in which had four main stations – book-making, the Dare Library, a writing area, and our publishing corner. Writers could sit together at a long table, or on cushions on the floor. The atmosphere was buzzing with people coming in and out, but the young people were really focused on their projects. Everyone got really stuck into their writing. Parents worked one-to-one with their children, and we, the Dare to Write Library team, were on hand to introduce the workshop to new participants and to check in on how they were doing along the way. It was really rewarding to see each young writer through the full process from start to finish and read their imaginative tales.
What was the highlight of the event for you?
There were several. I was really impressed by the creative tales that emerged and I loved seeing how much some of the young people were enjoying the space. I was super impressed by how willing many of the young storymakers were to sit and focus for long periods of time to work on developing and finishing their pieces. One visit in particular stays in my mind. One boy came in and wrote a book called Tom’s Marvelous Fight, a tale about a boy who gets transported to a different place in time and space. The writer was so inspired, he came back that afternoon to write part 2. He even returned the following day to write parts 3 and 4! It was great to see his enthusiasm.
Have you picked up any tips from the young people you’ve worked?
Be free and write! Let your imagination carry you – you don’t need a plan at the beginning.
What has the response been from parents?
Parents have been taking time to work closely with their children, helping them to structure their narratives and being on hand to offer support with spelling. One mother sat with her son for an hour helping while he wrote an excellent tale about a dream of a roaring football stadium surrounded by magical stars. She said it was a challenge to get him to write anything at all down at school, but that the framing of the Dare to Write Library meant he had wanted to engage and created an excellent piece of work. Other parents have been particularly struck by the simple book-making technique, often paying close attention to the process in order to be able to use it again at home.
Do you have any advice for someone interested in being a writer and artist?
It’s exciting and incredibly satisfying to see your ideas through to completion. But being faced with a blank page can also be pretty daunting. I sometimes find that the best way to get started is to dive in and just do it. Start writing without worrying about how good or bad your work is or where the story might go. Often when I work in this way, the story takes on a life of it’s own and pretty much writes itself. Give it a go!
Do you have any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
I’m working towards an exhibition this summer in a project space in London called 53 Beck Road. The venue is actually the front room of a house belonging to two artists. The street the house is on also has a rich history as a home for creative practitioners. It was purchased by ACME in the 1970s to provide affordable live-work spaces for artists and those who lived there campaigned to keep their homes intact under the threat of redevelopments in the 1980s. The exhibition will provide a chance to respond to the space and celebrate its history.
Dare to Write Challenge
Lots of my work engages with domestic space and objects as vessels for memory. I dare you to think of an object or an everyday item from a tea cup to a t-shirt and use this to tell the story of a memory. The memory that the object inspires and contains can be big or small, impactful or trivial, it can be about a person, place, moment, feeling, all of the above, or something else entirely. I dare you to begin your story with the words ‘I remember…’