Grace Peters-Clarke and Stephenjohn Holgate from Birmingham recently arrived in Dorchester for a visit ahead of their residencies in April and June as winners of the inaugural Bridport Prize Black Writer Residencies, championed by best selling author of My Name Is Leon Kit de Waal.
Kit de Waal is the residencies’ mentor, a former twice winner of the Bridport Prize international writing competition, who later became one of its judges.
‘A wonderful opportunity.’ Kit de Waal
The Bridport Prize international writing competition is committed to giving underrepresented writers a voice. This residency was to discover new writers of African or African Caribbean heritage over 18 who lived, worked or studied in Birmingham and The Black Country, where residency mentor Kit de Waal grew up.
‘I’m delighted to be part of the Black Writer Residency,’ says Kit de Waal. ‘Too often we are thought of as only urban writers, concerned with inner cities and housing estates but here is the chance for two unpublished writers to experience Hardy country and enjoy writing in a rural environment. It’s a wonderful opportunity.’
Residency mentor Kit de Waal’s My Name Is Leon novel coming to BBC One
Kit de Waal’s best-selling novel My Name Is Leon was shortlisted for the Costa Book Award and is coming soon to BBC One in an adaptation with Sir Lenny Henry OBE (The Lord Of The Rings); Christopher Eccleston (The A Word); Shobna Gulati (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie) and Cole Martin in his first TV role.
Lord Paul Boateng: ‘A great idea.’
Lord Paul Boateng sent his congratulations, calling the residency ‘a great idea.’
As well as Dorset Museum, there will also be insight and input from publisher Tinder Press (part of Hachette) and Create Central.
Behind the scenes at Dorset Museum
The writers finally got to see their residency base, which reopened in May 2021 following a £16.4m redevelopment. They explored the new and inspiring spaces developed as part of the project including four permanent galleries and the Museum Library. The Museum’s Interim Director Elizabeth Selby also gave Grace and Stephenjohn the opportunity to explore behind the scenes in the new Collections Discovery Centre, where a large proportion of the museum’s treasure trove of four million objects are stored.
Elizabeth Selby, Interim Director of Dorset Museum said: We’re thrilled that Grace and Stephenjohn will be joining us as Writers in Residence this April and June. We’re excited to see how the two writers will take inspiration from the Museum, our collections and the wider experience of spending a week in Dorset. We can’t wait to how this experience shapes their writing during and after their visit.
Grace and Stephenjohn will visit the museum for five days each at the end of April and in June 2022 staying at The King’s Arms in Dorchester, a favourite of Thomas Hardy and The Beatles.
The Writers in Residence
Grace grew up in the Dorsethills in the Caribbean and now lives in Birmingham where she teaches English in a secondary school. ‘It was fascinating to experience a museum through the lens of those who work behind the scenes,’ she said about her day at Dorset Museum, ‘and to see first-hand the vast collection of artefacts that are painstakingly archived. I was inspired by Hardy’s Dorset gallery and the Elisabeth Frink collection, that writing is often bred by landscapes, artefacts, the cultures of the spaces in which it is created.’
Stephenjohn is a lecturer from the West Midlands. He was born in Jamaica and says of the Dorset residency that ‘the coast was always an important part of my life as a child. It is one of the things I miss the most. I want to explore the Jurassic coast and see what ideas that geography would inspire. It was exciting to go backstage at the museum to see what was not on display, the drawers of beautiful birds were fascinating. The thought of just going to the museum meant I managed to scrabble out a short story. It was inspiring.’