First Story Anthologies

As a First Story Writer-in-Residence I work with secondary schools in Yorkshire. First Story encourages and supports young people from all backgrounds to write creatively for pleasure by placing professional writers in schools for residencies. At the end of each residency, the students publish an anthology of their work. These are some of the anthologies I’ve produced with my students.

Stories from the Forests of Leeds

Stories from the Forests of Leeds is a treasury of tales and artwork that imagine an alternative Leeds – a forest of weird and wonderful fairytale characters. Created through a series of workshops I led with local writers, it tells the story of those who live on the fringes of the Forest through the eyes of Clarence the water rat. The stories, written by a whole range of people, from an 11 year old, to a professor of English, are beautifully illustrated by Simon Smith. This is a world inhabited by the Witch of Woodhouse, Guisely the mask maker and the three headed giant of Headingley.

Why a Forest?

In stories, the forest is a place of transformation. It’s a place people venture into, away from the established order, to confront the problems that face them. Cities, like forests, are complex, diverse places with no wide landscape, where roads thread between buildings, connecting people and communities. We used the image of a forest as a fun way to think about the challenges the city faces and how solutions to some of those challenges might arise.

The book was commissioned by Leeds Church Institute and is published in partnership with Leeds Big Bookend Festival. The book is currently out of print.

The Leeds Story Cycle

“…moving, shocking, humorous, sad and hopeful.”

Dr Helen Reid

Published by LCI and The Leeds Big Bookend Festival

It’s 5th July 2014 and the world’s biggest cycling race is about to depart from Leeds. 22 teams, 198 riders, 2,000 journalists and 4 million people are converging on this Yorkshire city. Among them are Gizmo the dog, with his owner; a woman carrying a tin full of memories; a refugee with a rose in their pocket; a student; a grandad and grandson; and X. For each of them, 5th July will turn out to be a life changing day.

I curated this book, created by community groups from across the city. The Leeds Story Cycle is what you get when you put a group of young people, asylum seekers, students, retired church folk, writers and recovering addicts in the same room and ask them to tell a story about their home town. This unique collection of stories was written in partnership with author Chris Nickson; lyricist Testament; poet and playwright Rommi Smith; poet Jane Steele; playwright Lorna Poustie; and theatre practitioners Simon Brewis and Lynsey Jones.