IGN Insights

New Writing North

Centre for Progressive Policy Francesca Cave square

Francesca Cave

IGN programme coordinator

New Writing North, set up in 1996, was the UK’s first writing development agency, paving the way for similar regional projects to follow.

The agency has catalysed inclusive growth in the region by:

  • Dismantling barriers to a career in the arts and cultural industries
  • Addressing literacy and promoting cultural engagement in areas of disadvantage
  • Growing the North’s reputation as a cultural powerhouse

Developing local talent

New Writing North is dedicated to identifying emerging and talented writers, particularly those from under-represented backgrounds, who may lack cultural capital and publishing connections. Through national initiatives such as A Writing Chance and their flagship talent development programme the Northern Writers Awards, the agency provides writers with the necessary resources to achieve their creative goals, whether that is publication in poetry, fiction or non-fiction; routes into TV, film, or audio production; journalism, or writing for theatre or digital. Grants, mentoring and development programmes provide emerging writers with the time, space and support to develop their writing voice and dedicate themselves to their projects.

Roadshows, led by established talent, promote writing across forms, provide industry insight, and identify writers in northern towns and neighbourhoods. These events, offered at low or no cost, aim to encourage creative writing, demystify the publishing industry and attract new talent to be nurtured by the agency. The agency has a sustainable model whereby writers supported through the programme go on to support and mentor the new generation of emerging writers.

Growing literary engagement and ambition

New Writing North runs deep and ongoing development work in places of socioeconomic disadvantage in the North East. It has year-round ongoing relationships with key schools, community spaces and voluntary organisations to co-create cultural activity with local communities.

New Writing North has also built relationships with a network of local libraries and smaller cultural organisations across the North, again prioritising socioeconomically disadvantaged communities. Local writers are invited into community spaces to introduce their work and facilitate conversations, thereby identifying emerging writers and fostering a new generation of literature lovers. The agency also runs the Durham Book Festival and produces the Gordon Burn Prize for books which challenge expectations and amplify voices from under-represented backgrounds that are often missing in mainstream literature.

New Writing North is expanding its impact by establishing a writing centre in Newcastle to put literature at the heart of the North’s cultural offer. This is part of a wider movement of publishers moving staff out of London to the North East and other regions. The centre will host events, facilitate networking, attract industry partners, support young people’s creativity and incubate new cultural businesses. It will become home to the recently launched Publishing MA course which Northumbria University runs in partnership with the publisher Hachette and New Writing North, a key development in the training of the emerging publishing workforce. By staying in the area, graduates will help to grow the cultural economy by contributing to and helping to develop the publishing scene across the North.

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New Writing North’s pioneering mission has successfully put the North on the map as a regional centre for writing and literacy. Recognising that talent is spread equally but opportunity is not, the agency is at the forefront of efforts to level up access to the cultural and creative sector.

Photograph by Priscilla Du Preez Unsplash.