Queens Award for Voluntary Service

Creative Writing Workshops

In 2015 the Fairfield Association ran three creative writing workshops to see if any of our members and local residents were interested in writing about the Fairfield Nature Reserve.

The Fairfield Nature Reserve not only enhances our lives as a place to walk through, sit and enjoy, it also provides a rich source of inspiration to writers and artists. Being inspired by the local landscape in my own writing, I wanted to share this passion and hopefully inspire others to write too.

When Tony Finn, Sue Nieduszynska and I were planning the workshops, we had no idea what the response would be. But we needn’t have worried; ten people came along to the first session and by the end of it, everyone had written at least one haiku poem and read it aloud to the rest of the group. As most of the group confessed to never having written poetry before this felt like a great success!

Photographs from the workshops

During the next two workshops it was a privilege to see our writers develop in confidence. We had a total of fifteen different people attending, ages ranging from seventeen to retired. People came from as far afield as China and Bolton-le-sands! In the workshops we explored a variety of form and genre. We looked at nature poets such as John Clare, Norman Nicholson, and Jean Sprackland; nature-writing from Robert Macfarlane and Helen Macdonald; and not forgetting the great master of landscape-inspired fiction, Thomas Hardy.

To get our creative juices flowing, we immersed ourselves in all things ‘Fairfield’. We used artefacts from archaeological and detectorists’ finds to explore the fascinating history of the land. We created haiku-style captions to a set of stunning photographs Ian Nieduszynski has taken of the Reserve which can be viewed in the slideshow below (thank you, Ian!). And I set some homework for our writers – to visit the nature reserve and spend some time writing about what they could see, hear or smell. Following this exercise, we looked at developing a character from the landscape, and many of the pieces below emerged from this highly creative session.

Mandy Bannon


Slideshow of Ian Nieduszynski’s photos, with captions from the workshop sessions

Showcase evening

The Write Around Fairfield showcase evening was the culmination of the workshops, and a lovely opportunity for our writers to read their work to friends and family.The evening’s readings comprised: stories told in the oral traditional inspired by fairytales and legends; haikus – the traditional Japanese 3 lined poem, used to caption photos of the nature reserve; anecdotal memoir pieces and short stories depicting a diversity of characters, including: a bullied teenager, a medieval peasant, and even a dog!

There’s fiction, non-fiction, pathos and humour – but the thing that is common to all the work, is that it has been inspired by Fairfield Nature Reserve. So many thanks to the writers who attended the workshops and showcase evening – and have shared their writing on the website – see below. Thanks also to Mick for reading out poems about nettles and ragwort by A.E. Housman, Edward Thomas, Josephine Kermode and John Clare. Thank you to Loura Conerny, for helping us with the power point presentation, creating a magical atmosphere with leaf-filled lamps etc, and for taking photographs of the event itself (see above). Thanks also to Jenny and Maggie aka Asmara who provided us with their wonderful music. For a more extensive expression of gratitude, please see Hilary’s unique alphabetical Fairfield Thank you poem, which she read out at the end of the evening.

The writing

All the written pieces can be viewed as PDFs

There is also a short video of Tony Finn reading his piece.

Video excerpt of Tony Finn’s piece

NB ‘Consequences’ poems

As a way of involving the whole audience during the Showcase evening, each table had a piece of paper with the first line of a well-known poem written on it. Everyone on the table was invited to add a line to the poem, then fold the paper down so that the next person only saw one line above. The six poems were read out at the end of the evening and I’m sure you’ll agree, the results are very impressive!

Fairfield Consequence Poems

If you would like to share any of your Fairfield-inspired writing with us, please get in touch with me, Mandy Bannon (email: bannon_mandy AT yahoo DOT co DOT uk.