This Autumn we have been working with New Writing North to enable elements of Durham Book Festival to engage with communities along the Bishop Line.

On behalf of the partnership, New Writing North produced a series of interactive creative reading and writing experiences for community groups inspired by the themes of community connection and travel.

The work aimed to increase wellbeing by connecting communities and building creative confidence, develop creative talent, and increase literacy levels.

Funding from Northern and CrossCountry helped us deliver three major elements within the community.

  1. Turn up for the books
  2. Balance the books
  3. The little read

Turn up for the Books 

Turn up for the Books is a project designed to give young people from the North of England, aged 16-25 an insight into careers within literature, a traditionally London based industry.

14 young people received a series of online workshops between September-November 2022, focussed on event planning, reviewing and developing publishing industry-based knowledge. They worked together to programme a public event at Durham Book Festival in October showcasing 3 Black writers (a poet, an activist and a novelist), as well as attending and reviewing events for the DBF website.

Two young reviewers have written about their creative and professional journey working on the festival.

My experience planning and chairing an event for Turn Up For The Books 2022 – Durham Book Festival 

My experience taking part in Turn Up For The Books 2022  – Durham Book Festival

Balance the books

Balance the Books is a new project that invites young people to discover brilliant new books by authors from underrepresented backgrounds. We know that the best books act as both a mirror and a window: reflecting back to us our own experiences and feelings, while also revealing a wider view of the world.

This element of the project aimed to develop connected communities across 5 secondary schools on the Bishop Line by supporting them to be involved in Balance the Books and further co-creative projects inspired by the project’s themes of inclusion and diversity.

The Little Read

This year’s chosen picture book is Polonius the Pit Pony by Richard O’Neill – a Romani storyteller from the North East of England.

This beautifully illustrated book depicts instantly recognisable illustrations of Durham, whilst also introducing readers to the lives of Gypsy/ Roma/ Travellers – the GRT community is the largest ethnic minority group in the county. It is a story of a brave pony’s journey of courage and tenacity that we hope will inspire children and families across Durham.

This collaboration provided a set of 30 copies of the books to all 24 primary schools along the Bishop Line, along with resources for teachers.

It also helped provide half term community workshops for families, at Greenfields Arts, Darlington Hippodrome and Bishop Auckland Library.

Thank you for everyone who has engaged with this project, there are more activities to come in schools and we will update you on those in the spring.