From the DirectorsAt Writing on the Wall, the co-directors lead the organisation in a forward-thinking manner. They are hard-working, professional and are at the cutting edge of all things literature. Mike and Madeline manage their ever-growing staff (currently at seven) and liaise with them on decision-making, fundraising and festival queries. With their vast and diverse experiences, Mike and Madeline run WoW daily and report to their Board of Trustees on finances and other matters.
Madeline Heneghan became WoW’s first full-time Festival Director in 2006 and was ultimately responsible for the delivery of the annual month-long Festival and all WoW projects. Madeline has an MA in American Literature and History, and prior to joining Madeline was the Action Plan Coordinator for The Black and Racial Minority Network. As a former Equalities Consultant, Madeline gained a thorough understanding of the needs and preferences of different communities and hard to reach groups. Her excellent community engagement skills and expertise in diversity and audience development have been the driving force behind WoW’s growth and its diverse audiences. In 2017, after WoW were judged ‘Outstanding’ in by Arts Council England under their ‘Creative Case for Diversity‘ criteria, she was invited to become a ‘critical friend’ for the Creative Case in the North. Madeline has organised and led on many festival events and projects. Most recently Madeline and has written and published, with Emy Onuara, a book based on the findings of the Great War to Race Riots Creative Heritage Project. Madeline is now delivering our latest Creative Heritage Project based on the archives of the Liverpool 8 Law Centre, and working to shape WoW’s long-term strategy and development.
Mike Morris is a founder member of WoW and has a background in community activity, in education - working as a Learning Mentor in Anfield CC School, and film-making as a writer on Dockers (Channel 4, 2000), and as co-director and producer of a ground-breaking documentary, Liverpool’s Cunard Yanks (Granada, 2008). He studied Literature & American Studies at Liverpool John Moores University and has an MA in Creative Writing. He is a playwright, with his first play Waiting for Brando, which he wrote and produced, appearing at Liverpool’s Unity Theatre in 2012 and 2013, followed by a short tour of UK theatres. His second play, Subterranean Theatre: The Maurie, based on a short story by George Garrett, was produced as a site-specific piece in Liverpool’s Cunard Building during the city’s Three Queens celebrations in 2915. Mike created WoW's Pulp Idol competition and is responsible for the editing and publishing of WoW's annual Pulp Idol - Firsts (a book of the finalists’ First Chapters) and leads on WoW’s publishing strategy. Mike created and directed the George Garrett Archive Project and is currently working with actor and director Raymond Waring to produce George Garrett’s second play, Flowers and Candles, for June 2018. Mike is also working with Madeline on WoW’s long-term strategic aims and development.
Like Liverpool itself, WoW is a radical combination of artistic and literary excellence with a passion for social and economic justice for people and communities across the region. As Directors of an arts organisation and festival born from struggle, we are proud of our roots, and have turned our love of literature, writing, spoken word, poetry and all forms of writing, into a powerful tool for personal and social transformation – with a lot of fun and laughter along the way.
WoW has always stood out from the crowd as a writing/literature organisation and has always maintained at its core, side by side with artistic excellence and diversity, social and economic injustice. We believe in the ability of creativity to transform lives, and we work best in our projects with those communities and individuals who suffer injustice and deprivation and are striving for transformation.
Writing and creativity takes people on a journey of discovery, one which is only truly complete when it connects with an audience. Our aim, always ongoing, is for WoW to provide people from across the North West with everything they need to make that journey, and to offer audiences themselves the opportunity to discover and participate in the very best of writing, spoken and literature.
We know from our feedback from the many people who have taken part in our projects, been published, and showcased their work that writing and creativity have the power to transform lives. How many times have you heard someone say they’d love to write a book? We can’t guarantee they can achieve this simply by attending our projects or festival, or by entering our competitions. What we can and do offer, is a platform where those willing to put the effort in – the 99% perspiration after the 1% inspiration has had its day – can achieve their dream. We provide the structure, led by brilliant writing tutors and spoken word artists, where would be writers can start the journey of finding their voice and telling their story – whatever that may be in whichever form it may be.
Writing on the Wall is one of those organisations that you could easily miss. We’ve lost count of the amount of times that people, who have come to one of our festival events or projects, and find out we’ve been going since 2000, have told us – ‘I’d never heard of you’. Yet, once discovered, never forgotten; we inspire a loyalty among our audience and project participants, many of whom go on to become volunteers and project participants themselves, and in many cases, through our projects and our Pulp Idol novel writing competitions, become published writers themselves.
There are many examples of people whose key to unlocking their potential was through the creative platform we offer. The woman who took part in our mental Health ‘What’s Your Story? Project’ who went from being a ‘hermit’ to having her work published and addressing an audience of mental health professionals, to writers such as James Rice, who signed a two book deal with Hodder and Stoughton and had his debut novel Alice and the Fly published as a direct result of our annual Pulp Idol novel writing competition, are just two of these examples. Our impact has often been long-lasting and inspirational.
WoW began as a small but ambitious festival. The early years of WoW brought some great success. Alongside delivering the annual festival, our other film projects involving young people was acclaimed by winning awards at The Chicago Children’s Film Festival and the UK Film Council’s First Light Awards. We had a mission, but it wasn’t clear how that was going to be carried out. Funding, always a struggle in the arts world, meant we worked without full-time staff. Mike can remember at one point that it was down to him, after clocking off from his job as a Learning Mentor, to call into the office on Duke Street to collect mail and check emails. But, with the support and involvement of many people, we still delivered the annual festival and tried to develop new projects. In 2003 we achieved charitable status, and following that, a grant from Arts Council England that allowed us to take on our first full-time co-ordinator, Madeline Heneghan. Madeline’s drive and expertise itself transformed WoW and initiated a new, ongoing period of growth. We strengthened the Board of Trustees and began the journey towards what we have become today – an annual month-long festival and an annual programme of projects, that together have touched, and sometimes transformed the lives of the many, many audiences and project participants we have worked with.