Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Winning Writers Unveiled along with Radical Shake-Up; A Writers' Scheme Is Being Thrown Wide Open, Reports DAVID WHETSTONE

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Winning Writers Unveiled along with Radical Shake-Up; A Writers' Scheme Is Being Thrown Wide Open, Reports DAVID WHETSTONE

Article excerpt

THE winners of this year's Northern Writers' Awards were announced last night - along with details of radical changes to a scheme which helps talented writers realise their ambition of getting into print.

From October this year, the scheme, previously open exclusively to writers based in the North East, will be open to applicants in the North West, Yorkshire and Humberside.

It follows the expanded brief handed to the Newcastle-based new writing agency by Arts Council England along with an enhanced three-year funding package, up by 50% to pounds 300,000 this year.

For that money, New Writing North chief executive Claire Malcolm and her team are having to cover a vast geographical area, liaising with writers, librarians and organisations across what is starting to be termed in the arts "the greater North".

But the annual awards scheme is to benefit from an enhanced funding pot, up from pounds 25,000 this year to pounds 40,000 from October 2012 when some new opportunities will become available. Also announced last night was a new partnership between Northumbria University and New Writing North whereby the university - keen to be a champion of new writing - will support the awards to the tune of pounds 60,000 over the next two years.

New Writing North is one reason why the North East has been seen as a great place for writers to live.

Under its annual awards scheme, writers can apply for sums of money to help them get published, perhaps by buying the time to complete a novel or a volume of poems.

New Writing North also arranges meetings for its award winners with agents and publishers.

Before last night's ceremony at Northumbria University, Claire said: "We have spent a lot of time over the years saying to writers, 'Sorry, you don't live in the North East', so it'll be nice not to have to do that any more.

"But this is a big up-scaling of what we do. This year is our transition year, the first year of our new Arts Council money when we're able to look at new greater North opportunities."

One of the benefits to all writers across the extended region, she said, would come with the annual Read Regional campaign, whereby writers' work is promoted through libraries and other places.

In being thrown open to writers from Yorkshire, Humberside and the North West, the chosen writers would be exposed to a much larger potential audience and profit accordingly. "I think it's all quite positive and I think there's a lot of stuff we can do in the greater North that will improve things for writers and help what we do here," said Claire.

New Writing North would not be opening offices in other cities or relocating, she said.

"We are a North East-based company and we find that writers like coming here."

But with the expansion would inevitably come more applications to the awards scheme.

"We had about 350 applications from North East writers, and this is quite a small region.

"In opening the doors we are thinking that could rise to 1,000 at minimum."

Newcastle-based Andrew Hankinson wins the pounds 5,000 Time to Write Award.

He is currently writing a literary non-fiction book about the murderer Raoul Moat and has another non-fiction project called You could do something amazing with your life.

Northumberland poet Linda France wins the pounds 5,000 Andrew Waterhouse Award to support work on her new collection, Botanical. …

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