T: 0151 703 0020

T: 0151 703 0020

Can writing restore communities?

In a world of social media, stressful jobs and difficult family life it has become easier and easier for people to lose touch with one another. The sense of community we once had is fading and nobody seems to be doing anything about it. But how do we restore it? What would bring people together, get them talking, discuss something other than the gripes of their day job, having a real conversation rather than communicating through emojis, getting to know someone without swiping right first. The answer is simple – writing.

Liverpool itself is a very diverse community with its own unique culture. 8% of the population are Black, Asian or belong to another ethnic minority. The city has the oldest Black African community in the United Kingdom and the oldest Chinese community in Europe. Additionally, there are over 94,000 LGBTQ+ persons living in Liverpool and they host many events to celebrate their community such as Liverpool Pride festival and the LGBT Trail. We also feel very proud of the culture in our city – Liverpool has been named European capital of culture. It is the home of many incredible writers, musicians, poets as well as rich history of theatre and visual arts.

At Writing on the Wall, community is at the heart of everything we do. Our projects are centred around uniting people and helping them to gain skills to better their lives.

Our Write to Work campaign gives unemployed learners the opportunity to develop and learn new creative skills. Between April 2018 and May 2019, 11,100 people in Liverpool were unemployed. Being unemployed can lead to a very isolated and lonely life – it has consistently been related to depression and other mental health illnesses. In fact, 2.3 million people with mental health conditions are on benefits or out of work. This can lead to unemployed people withdrawing themselves from their community. Our project helped learners to openly discuss their experiences and write about them. Learners left us feeling more confident and hopeful about what they could go on to achieve. As a result, 47% went on to find employment or pursued further education.

It’s not only unemployed people who are susceptible to becoming withdrawn. The hustle and bustle of working life is making people less sociable and is reducing social interaction. We are all guilty of quickly walking through a crowd with our head down, avoiding eye contact at all costs because we’ve had a stressful day at work and just want to get home. But if this is something we all have in common surely we should spend that commute home exchanging a knowing eye roll or stories of our horrible boss and incompetent co-workers. Our Write for Work project aimed to bring together those already in work and help them broaden their skills and progress in their careers. Currently around 55% of people in the UK are unsatisfied with their job so it is vital we give them the skills and knowledge to steer their career in the way they want. This is something they would not have achieved if they had kept themselves locked away.

All the projects we host end with an anthology of work produced by participants. It’s such a positive outcome for them. They start their journey with little or no writing experience and leave as published authors. Our book launches help people to discover these new writers and give us the opportunity to celebrate together.

In February this year, we held our City of Light, City of Sanctuary project. Writing on the Wall partnered with the Lantern Company to create a mesmerising floating city of light on Sefton park’s boating lake. The event was attended by thousands of people, who enjoyed listening to the soundscape compilation of people’s stories about the theme of home. The event involved writing workshops focusing on light, home, city and belonging. The best part of this project is that it was open to everyone. It was completely inclusive as arts should be. We engaged with and created a community with this project through a shared love of creativity. There is no better way to bring people together.

  Writing on the Wall gives authors the opportunity to share their stories and build their own community with their writing. We worked with Rose Thomas to publish her book ‘Bess’. The novel follows a young, black woman who is part of a new generation growing up in post-war Liverpool facing age-old racism amidst new opportunities for work, and personal, social and sexual exploration. Rose Thomas became the first ever Liverpool-born black woman to be published. Since publishing her book, she has read extracts at a variety of events with us including an event with Collegium for African American Research (CAAR) conference in Liverpool Hope University. Her novel has brought her closer to people who have had similar experiences or who want to learn more about hers. Her writing has allowed her to build her own community with people she may not ever thought of mixing with. This is the power of writing. 


Abbey Young


The Minister for Faith visits WoW

The Minister for Faith and Parliamentary Under Secretary of Wales paid a visit to Toxteth Library on Thursday to learn more about WoW's preparations for their Windrush Day grant-funded project: From SS Orbita to Orbital.  The meeting was also attended by friends of WoW: Rose Thomas, Levi Tafari, Ray Quarless and Addae Gaskin. The project will be formally launched at a Windrush Legacy Day on 29 June and commence on 1 August. Keep your eyes peeled for more news...

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Joan Burnett: 'Activism takes all shapes and forms' for WoWFEST19

Joan Burnett, who has worked with a number of local arts and cultural organisations including FACT talks to us about the importance on putting LGBT+ events around the city. For WoWFEST19, our theme is 'Where are We Now?' and events include: 

4th May @ Video Odyssey 6pm - Riyadh Khalaf: Yay! You're Gay! Now what? 
7th May @ Radisson Blu Hotel 7.30pm - Munroe Bergdorf in conversation with Lady Phyll 
15th May @ LEAF 7.30pm - Queer are we now? Peter Tatchell and Cheryl Martin 

Activism takes all shapes and forms, so WoWFEST have brought some of the most vital LGBT+ activists to Liverpool for this year's festival. Both intersectional and intergenerational, in just three events, you can listen to and join in direct debate, listen and be heard. It's a dream to have Lady Phyll here in the city, the founder of UK Black Pride, which should be a template for inclusivity in all Prides, and this years' Grand Marshall for World Pride 2019 in New York. Campaigner, columnist and trade unionist, she's inspirational and has great advice about self-care - essential for surviving the demands of life in this age of gobby attention-seekers wreaking havoc all around us.

Munroe Bergdorf and Riyadh Khalaf represent a new generation of activists challenging lazy perceptions of what LGBT+ life might be. They're using their on-line expertise to enliven print media and TV, to shake up the political arena with their unswerving gaze on what's really going on. Yay, You're Gay, Now What? comes at a time when there has never been more visibility for gay men, but when that exposure isn't always positive, what does that mean for young people coming out and where can they turn? Munroe has been subjected to "word hatred", in Jude Kelly's phrase, for her principled stand on Trans rights. She has spoken powerfully about the relations between Trans and Cis-gendered women and it will be fascinating to see her in conversation with Lady Phyll - I sense we'll all take away an invaluable recipe for resilience. 

Cheryl Martin brought new inspiration for 2018's iteration of Homotopia here in Liverpool and it falls to her and Peter Tatchell to explore the 50 years of activism since the Stonewall Riots kicked off the gay liberation movement. Queer Are We Now? will pull no punches - Peter has put his life on the line to promote LGBT+ rights across the world for a life time and Cheryl, director, playwright, poet and performer, explores subjects as far ranging as colonialism and mental health in her work with searing honesty and warm wit. I can't think of two better people to take that 50 years anniversary and do something positive with it, standing witness to where we are now, making this history meaningful for a new generation. 
Change is in the air. All that is solid, like the icecaps, is melting into air. Things fall apart - can the centre hold? The rich are getting richer, but otherwise uncertainty is the order of the day; Brexit, climate change, class, feminism, gender, race, populism, fake news, digital surveillance, and more, much more, are changing and challenging all our old conceptions. The stage is now set for WoWFest19 to seek answers to the question... WHERE ARE WE NOW?

Go to www.wowfest.uk to see the full programme with over 60 events taking place all over Liverpool!  


WoWFest 2019 with Celeste Bell, Zoë Howe, Riyadh Khalaf and John Crace

Thursday 30th May
The Poly Styrene Story  

British Music Experience, Cunard Building, Canada Blvd, Liverpool L3 1DS

Poly Styrene, Punk Icon and Rebel Queen, satirised the world with a colourful playfulness setting her apart from the monochrome nihilism of punk. Her moving story is told by her daughter Celeste Bell and music writer Zoë Howe (Shine On Marquee Moon, Barbed Wire Kisses – The Jesus and Mary Chain story).

Saturday 4th May
Yay! You’re Gay!
Now What?
Video Odyssey, 37-45 Windsor St, Liverpool, L8 1XE 

Yay! You’re Gay! Now What? asks Riyadh Khalaf with his debut heartfelt guide for young queer guys.


Wednesday 8th May
The Young, Cosmopolitan City of Stories You’ve Been Missing - Tehran Now 
Toxteth Library, Windsor Street, Liverpool, L8 1XF

Join Orkideh Behrouzan,
Vahid Davar and Niloo Sharifi for
a reading and conversations about Iran's literature and culture.

Friday 10th May
The Rise And Fall

Waterstones LiverpoolONE, 12 College Ln, Liverpool L1 3DL

The Guardian’s parliamentary sketch writer John Crace, who coined the term
Maybot, tells the essential, hysterical tale of her first turbulent year in No 10.

Tuesday 28th May
Who Cares? Justice and Campaigning for
Human Rights
in the Care System

The Women's Organisation, 54 St James St, Liverpool L1 0AB

Join Campaigner and author Sara RyanMark Neary and Deborah Coles to discuss the desperate need for improvement in the care system. 

Wednesday 8th May
My City: Creative Writing
& Storytelling Workshop - Persian Focus

Toxteth Library, Windsor Street, Liverpool, L8 1XF

Grow your confidence, pick up some new skills in creative writing and storytelling, and learn something unexpected about the cities of Liverpool and Tehran. Feast on great stories and Persian foods. Come away with new friendships!

Liverpool Library Tour

Various Locations

Writing on the Wall will be doing a Liverpool-wide tour of events in the city's libraries as part of WoWFEST19. These will include workshops from high-profile writers, events for Children and Young People and open mic performance events.

Sunday 12th May
& Sunday 26th May

1919 Race Riots –
Centenary Walking Tour
Meeting Point: Chinese Arch, 12 Nelson Street, L1 5EW

Join us in this, the centenary year, as we walk those same streets and with the testimony of those most affected, bring this crucial piece of history back to life. 

Wednesday 29th May

Austerity and the Public Role of Drama
Friends Meeting House, 22 School Ln, Liverpool L1 3BT

Victor Merriman’s Austerity and the Public Role of Drama traces how liberal economics has led to the social catastrophe of Project Austerity


#WoWFest19 with Mike Leigh, Munroe Bergdorf, La Violette Records

Monday 13th May
Mike Leigh: Peterloo Screening and Q&A
Plaza Community Cinema, 13 Crosby Rd N, Waterloo, Liverpool L22 0LD

The 1819 massacre in St Peter’s fields, graphically brought to life in Mike Leigh’s latest epic film Peterloo, sent shockwaves throughout society. Legendary director Mike Leigh, whose credits include Abigail’s Party, Secrets & Lies, Vera Drake and Mr Turner, joins WoW for a unique screening followed by Q&A.


Tuesday 7th May 
Munroe Bergdorf in Conversation with Lady Phyll
Radisson Blu, 07 Old Hall St, Liverpool L3 9BD

Join Munroe Bergdorf (first transgender model in the UK for L'Oreal) and Lady Phyll (Co-founder of UK Black Pride) for a frank discussion on the challenges and opportunities of online activism, body image and carving out your own space. Familiar for her refreshing insight into ‘white privilege’, diversity and the LGBT+ community, model and activist Munroe Bergdorf has proven herself as a brave and bold voice. In partnership with Raddison Blu.

Friday 3rd May
La Violette Records Presents: If They Don't Read, Don't F*ck Them
Studio2 at Parr Street, 33-45 Parr St, Liverpool L1 4JN

La Violette Società presents Roy, Nathan O'Hagan, Louise Fazackerkey & Toria Garbutt. Violette Records, launched in 2013 by Michael Head (The Red Elastic Band) and friends, has won acclaim for their democratic ethos & eclectic mix of high quality music and spoken word artists.