March 16

A Visit to Monk’s House, by Manon Martini

‘An unpretending house, long & low, a house of many doors;’


As a  student of English Literature, it is easy to spend your days getting lost in a remote vacuum of theoretical analysis and critical thinking, particularly when studying the complex works of Virginia Woolf. But sitting on a bench in the Monk’s House gardens, gazing off into the rolling South Down hills on a warm October afternoon, I was overcome with a sense of tranquility and a new closeness to the texts over which I had been losing my mind.

Photo of Manon Martini

Manon Martini, 3rd year English Literature Student

The modest little cottage in the village of Rodmell, East Sussex was described by Woolf herself as ‘An unpretending house, long & low, a house of many doors;’ One cannot help but notice the parallels between the writer and her dwelling. The wonky little rooms and low windows seem timid at first, but with some patience you will find Woolf’s true personality shining through the exuberant blue walls of Monk’s House. From Vanessa Bell’s portrait of Virginia in the dining room to Tomlin’s unfinished bust on the windowsill, the cottage is saturated with her vibrant essence, and she watches as we meander through her home.


Virginia Woolf's writing room in garden

Virginia Woolf’s Writing Room at Rodmell

The reoccurring little doorways that appear through the length of the house transport you from one room to the next, little pockets of palimpsest, each with its own story to tell. The dining room for example, a converted bedroom with its wooden table and matching chairs, decorated by Woolf’s sister, Vanessa Bell. The room where the Woolf’s would have enjoyed tea with the likes of T.S Eliot and E.M. Forster. Or the tiny kitchen where she liked to make jam and bread, adorned with a painted cabinet and a little dog bed. Exiting the kitchen, you ascend a flight of steps and find yourself back in the garden.


Garden path at Rodmell

Autumn in Woolf’s garden

Portrait of Virginia Woolf by Vanessa bellWandering along the garden’s brick paths I reach the pièce de résistance: The Writing Lodge. Neatly contained behind a glass screen like a puppy in a shop window, the room is on its best behavior, it wasn’t always this tidy! An unorganised writer, Woolf admits in a dairy entry: ‘the litter in this room is so appalling that it takes me five minutes to find my pen.’ From my place behind the screen, I could not help but imagine Virginia rustling through crumpled papers and manuscripts in search of her pen and ink. It is funny to think such a great mind can be so deeply human.

Wall of various editions of Woolf's 'A Room of One's own'

A Room of One’s Own – the many editions


Its not every day one gets to see the birthplace of such great texts as Mrs Dalloway, To the Lighthouse and The Waves, but doing so left me feeling inspired. Inspired to read, to write and to think. I would recommend paying a visit, Literature student or not.

Portrait of Virginia Woolf

May 12

Making sense of the world through writing with Akila Richards

From group exhibitions printing poems on textiles to programming for Mboka literary festival between Gambia and in UK, Akila Richards has worked in variety of settings as a community writing facilitator and poet.

After a residency at Creative Future, where she edited an anthology, delivered writing workshops and developed her own practice, Akila has most recently facilitated a group of fifteen writers living and working in Brighton for a large installation ‘Tenebrae: Lessons Learnt in Darkness’ at Brighton Festival 2021. She brought the writing community together during lockdown and spent four intense weeks (on Zoom) supporting them to put into words their feelings about the losses and strengths the last year has presented.

University of Brighton Creative Writing MA student Joseph Lee, also part of the Tenebrae project, met with Akila online to discuss how we can better make sense of the world through writing, opportunities to be part of a diverse writing community in Brighton and why ‘intense homework’ was the key to deliver high-quality work for the city’s internationally renowned arts festival.



Who is Akila Richards?
Akila Richards is a poet, spoken word artist and writer who engages with different genres. I have taken part in international cohorts of writers in the Caribbean and Europe, programmed literary festivals between UK and Gambia. I feel very fortunate after a lot of crafting and hard work that I can lend my skills in the arrival of new projects such as Tenebrae.

In terms of who I am and as a poet I believe in the community, in our community of writers, poets, be it emerging, be it published, be it famous, we are a particular community and I really believe in that.

For many writers, including myself, writing is a long journey. Maybe we start writing as a child, after a particular life event, trying out of different genres. For me I wrote as a child, then stopped.

I did other things, then wrote again and stopped. But there was something under the bed, in my words, in my sentences in my dreams, that was forming. They knocked louder and louder – there was this point when I could no longer ignore.

There was a callout for an anthology asking emerging writers asking to share a bit about them growing up and their writing journey. I remember taking my heart into my hand and I thought go for it! This was the beginning where I thought, ‘I love this’, it was the impact that it made on my life.

For many years now, when I write, the world makes sense to me. For all the chaos, destruction in the world, especially what we’ve experienced in the past year throughout COVID and lockdown – writing makes sense to me and puts things into perspective.

You have worked with a range of different communities and people – is there a stand out project you’ve been involved in?

I was invited to help program for the Mboka arts and culture festival between Gambia and UK. Africa as a continent has many countries and each country is unique as if you were to compare England with Sweden! Unique cultures, traditions and ways of being all connected the programming of this festival, working with International Artists from the US and in Gambia, we treated issues around the black diaspora. It really interested me how all these perspectives, discussions and types of creative genres came together.

What is your connection to Creative Writing at University of Brighton and more broadly Brighton as a place of creativity?

It took my a while to shift my gaze and perspective from London to Brighton. As a LGBTQ+ city, Brighton is an interesting and diverse place to live. Also, it’s not often seen and talked about bout its a very diverse town in terms of race. There are many different communities, older settled migrant communities, refugee communities and creative communities. The fresh blood from University of Brighton and Sussex University brings younger people into the city, in a small place this really adds an energy and vibrancy. The city has such a creative, open approach, I believe that every second person who lives in Brighton is an artist, one way or another!

Two Creative Writing MA students at Uni of Brighton are involved in a big project for Brighton Festival 2021 held at Theatre Royal on 22nd May, which you facilitated as a Community Writing Curator. Could you share a little more about what this project is and what it means to you?

Tenebrae: Lesson learnt in Darkness was a vision over many years by Neil Bartlett. I’m honoured to have been brought into this project to give it my perspective, craft and experience – it means a lot to me. As Brighton Festival is an international festival, it usually means that not many local artists get the opportunity to be part of the project, even more so not many local BAME creatives get the opportunity to be part of it.

What I brought in was that locality, greater diversity, but not in a way of box-ticking but to be an integral part of our project. We are a mixed team, both on the mentoring side within the writers’ cohort in terms of age, background and experience. This differences are brought into perspective as the project launches now, it has made a huge impact – it is not your usual suspects. We took great care to treat every person with respect, no matter who they are, despite their status as a writer, respecting each person’s individual process.

How did you facilitate this huge project remotely during lockdown?

Managing this project on Zoom was not our preferred version. The first workshop session did not go to plan at all with lots of technical difficulties but we overcame that as the weeks went on. What I did know throughout is that we really had to benefit the writers, who had not really met each other before. We respected the differences of everyone involved but also similarities that the cohort were all writers and the priority was for people to write. We demanded a lot. We asked each writer to write new material in the space of four weeks, in constructive sessions and gave ‘intense homework’. We used a biblical text thousands of years old, used a piece of music that is 300 years old, through a verse structure and asked each writer to deliver their work.

Each writer took this so seriously. Some people did get stuck or didn’t understand where they were going next. There were clear indications that each writer gave their best and used many more hours than they anticipated. There was an appreciation that as a group of creatives we were going to provide something instrumental to the Brighton Festival during unusual times.

As a performance coach, how can writers develop confidence to share their work?

It is really important to remember writers are almost continuously ‘in process’.

This means that as a writer, you have to put the work in. Whether your write morning pages, work at night or write intensely for 24 hours non stop at the weekend.

When you are a writer or poet you need to bring in regularity to your craft and really respect it. Inspiration comes when you practice your craft and sit down write.

Read your work out loud. Ask yourself how the words feel in your mouth, do you get stuck on certain words, or do some lines flow? This is trying to tell you something, it tells you what works and where you need to hone it.

Print out your work and see it visually. When you have a collection of poetry or short stories you should see how how these narratives combine. Particularly in poetry the shape and form of how it looks and feels on the page is so important.

If you have a poem and don’t know what to do with it and you are getting stuck. Give it time and space, walk away and let it marinade on its own. Don’t look at it, just leave it alone. Whilst it is resting, it is ruminating in your brain. Then you can come back and you might have the answer.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their journey as a writer is struggling to connect with a writing community?

Writers need to take initiative. Certainly in Brighton there are so many writers groups and book clubs which have particular focusses on which community you associate with. Go to events, debates and network. When you become a writer there is a whole new world around you. As writing can be a solitary experience it is important to take part in workshops either online or in person. Make sure you submit your writing to competitions, submissions and commissions – being rejected helps you understand the process better when you do get accepted.

Writing Our Legacy raise the voices of the BAME writing community in East Sussex.

Creative Futures  run workshops, masterclasses particularly for people who have experienced mental health issues.

New Writing South have a fantastic project where you can take part as an emerging writer using prompts.



Tickets for Tenebrae have now completely sold out, but you can find out more about the installation here on the Brighton Festival official website.

Article written by Joey Lee

May 10

Queer fiction and the ethics of historical fiction with Dr Bea Hitchman

We caught up with the newest tutor on the Creative Writing MA block at University of Brighton, Dr Bea Hitchman, who shared her experience as a novelist and academic exploring contemporary queer fiction, ethics of historical fiction, recommended reads and the impact of early cinema on people’s romantic subjectivity.

Bea also reveals how best to approach the ending of a novel… and so much more!

Read through the interview or watch the full discussion below (or both!)


You are the newest addition to the Tutor team on the Creative Writing MA at University of Brighton – how are you impacting the course?

I am a new lecturer in Creative Writing, I joined in January. I teach across all levels right from first year all the way up to PhD supervision. I’m a prose specialist, I have a go at poetry but I’m a little lost if things go beyond a sonnet. I’m always doing my own practice based research and hopefully feeding those insights back to students – but teachers learn as much from students!


Your research focuses on contemporary queer fiction, the ethics of historical fiction and writing the remote past – what is it about these areas that interest you?

My research is really around contemporary queer fiction, ethics of historical fiction and increasingly writing the remote past. I’m always drawn to this idea that history is a site of possibility for us, but also a contested site. Margaret Atwood says “if you are going to delve into the past you’ll have to deal with those from previous layers of time”, it’s

this idea that you are always in dialogue with the past, in some way owing something to the people that have gone before. This comes into sharp focus when we think about queer communities of the past when the history has been lost or warped, or only exists through criminal record for example.

There is a whole sense of affective imaginative sense of community that isn’t there. I’ve been really interested in how we go about doing things like ‘imaginative recovery work’ – building an imaginative sense of a useable queer past. But of course this presents ethical questions about how much you can make up.

Most recently I’ve become really interested in what happens if we try to write a past where there isn’t a written record, pre-alphabet. I’ve become fascinated by decorated caves and art representations. We are starting to see now that it wasn’t potentially homosapiens who were the first artists. That can be challenging to us with our anthropocentric ideas, but the evidence is changing and that impacts how we as a species see ourselves.


What reading do you recommend that explores queer fiction, ethics of historical fiction or writing the remote past?

Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art by Rebecca Wragg Sykes – a science book about how we re-interpret the evidence around Neanderthals to see them as fully formed communities and not knuckle-dragging savages.

The Ethics of Opting Out – Queer Theory’s Definat Subjects by Mari Ruti – intervening in a debate of lived reality for lots of LGBTQ+ people around how we exist in this neo-liberal matrix and how we manage different feelings of shame, panic, loss, and how much we try and blend ourselves into the hetero-normative matrix.

I was civilly partnered, first in line to do that and my wife and I got married, but all the time there are people around us that thought we were trying to fit in with the heterosexual ideal. There is always this lingering question of how much you want to go along with this late capitalist ideal.

This contribution from Mari Ruti is really helping me think through the strain of my own experience of normative and non-normative. A fantastic scholar and a very clear writer.


Described by the Guardian as ‘Complex and cerebral, (Petite Mort) is softened by beautifully drawn characters, lightly drizzled period detail and an abiding suspicion that love and cinema might be part of the same illusion.’ your novel Petite Mort was published by Serpent’s Tail in 2013, what were the key themes you explored in that story?

That review has really put a finger on love and cinema being part of the same illusion. The themes emerge in hindsight. In the time of writing it I was working on a film set as a runner and a video editor. I was very exposed to the idea that the cinematic hyperreal took a lot of work, it’s so meticulously done. When we watch something on screen we accept it as this beautiful hyperreal reality. Behind the scenes I was seeing the gap behind this glossy image and all the work, effort and ideology it took to make that. There is an anecdote that illustrates the moral panic around early cinema, where an audience in the late 1800s saw a train plummeting towards them and they all darted towards the exit. I was really interested in what mass produced moving image did to people’s subjectivity, romantically.


Petit Mort was also adapted into a ten-part Woman’s Hour drama on Radio 4  – what were your views on this?

Many more people heard an interpretation of the book. That was frightening for a while. Suddenly my name was out there. It did feel a little bit like coming out, particularly with gay content. There was lovely feedback and such lovely feedback.


Over the past year of lockdown and social distancing how has your writing been impacted? Writing is often seen as an individual pursuit, has this period of isolation made it easier for you to connect to writing, or have you faced obstacles that have made it more difficult – what has helped?

A colleague recently made it apparent that writers need quite a lot of selfish alone time. I also feel that during the pandemic we had lots of enforced solitude but I think it has to be a choice to feel productive, otherwise you just feel isolated – I think authors need to be in control of when they sit down to write or when they are social. Even though there has been lots of time available I don’t think it has been that productive.

Sitting down remotely with people on Teams. I’ve been sitting down with friends on Teams and we’ll write for two hours. There’s no talking but there is a presence in the room. Jess Moriarty and I put these ‘Let’s Write’ sessions in place on a Wednesday where people can drop in, have a bit of social time and also accomplish a short burst of writing. I think its about structure.


You have a new book scheduled for publication on 5th August 2021 – what is it and what’s it all about?

It’s called All of You Every Single One and it’s set in 1910. It’s about two women who elope together from France to Vienna. This book is an attempt to see what happens in a very long relationship. There is a lot to contend with politically in Vienna, a lot of Freud and currents of desire weaving through it. It’s a love story set against the birth modernism.


You are a theorist of endings/closure events of novels – what bits of advice would you give to writers out there who are looking to nail the end of their novel?

Coming to the end of a novel, readers are in a weird position. If you think about reading a physical book, you can see you are coming towards the end because the pages are running out – you are approaching that jumping off point where you are going to get thrown out into the world. If you’ve enjoyed the novel you won’t want to go there, but it’s the point where the real world starts to intrude in the story.

I think of the endings of novels are a bit like a beach! You reader is looked forward and back in this weird fuzzy space where they expect to see a plot resolution of some kind, and also some cultural meaning inserted into the text. I think that’s why you often get this weird zooming out moment at the end so you see it in the Line of Beauty, you also see it in the Line of Duty too!

The reader is moving that position of being outside the text, all you have to do is shepherd that and make it enjoyable. Leave them feeling changed in someway, it’s a bit ceremonial. Think of endings of novels like a beach and you won’t go too far wrong!


To keep up to date with Bea’s upcoming publications and projects (Line of Duty obsessions too), follow @hitchmanbea on Twitter .


Article written by Joey Lee



May 1

Enticing stories through music and writing

Music and writing has a close relationship. The words we use to describe music and stories are often the same.

We write music. We read music.

Words often accompany music too, lyrics being the perfect partner to instrumental melodies.

The word lyric comes from the Middle French word ‘lyrique’ meaning ‘a short poem expressing emotion’. It is derived from the Latin ‘lyricus’ and the Greek ‘lyrikos’, both meaning ‘of or singing to the lyre’. A lyre being a small stringed instrument traditionally used in ancient Greece, and typically played while singing or reciting poetry.

So, the link between music and words is clear. But can music be used as a stimulus for writing? This blog focuses on how music can be used as a prompt to write creatively, with exercises to help you approach music as a tool for writing.

In our last blog, student Dr. Mark Price shared his experience of Tenebrae: Lessons Learnt in Darkness a spoken word, light and sound installation to be featured in Brighton Festival 2021. The Tenebrae project uses Francois Couperin’s Tenebres music composition as a main point of focus, a composition originally commissioned over 300 years ago for a church service in France, in 1714.

Within the Tenebrae project, music shaped not just individual verse but a complete project. Listening to the music below it’s hard to not be moved by such powerful sounds, especially accompanied with the compelling operatic voices in this clip!



Steps to help you access music as a writing tool

Step 1 – Open the door…

Choose a piece of music. Maybe you’ve heard something outside a coffee shop and shazam-med it, or maybe there’s a genre that is completely alien to you. Putting personal taste aside, you may feel that certain types of music “aren’t for you”. Thinking open-mindedly about different types of music will enable you to explore feelings, themes and reactions that that you wouldn’t usually access. For example, you might classical music might be a “closed door” for you, or maybe you struggle to connect with grime? Well, what happens if you open that door? Listening to new, strange and beautiful piece’s of music and responding to it with written word can be a rewarding source of inspiration, place of provocation and a source of strength.

Step 2 – Your own space…

Hopefully now you have opened the door, why not have a look around the new space? If  the music is your own private space, you now have a place to focus your attentions on what ever it is that particular place means to you. Get comfortable in this new space and be alone with it. Try listening at different times of the day, in the dark in the light. In different positions, lying, sitting, ‘chilling’. You would be surprised at just how many ways you can connect to a piece of music when you listen to it in a variety of states.

Remember, always have a notebook and pen to hand, or tablet, or phone to jot down images and themes that come to mind !!

Step 3 – What do you really hear?

In a sentence or two, describe what you hear. Make it real. “ I was chilling in my living room and I heard …” What comes to mind within your first reaction of the music? Be literal, be abstract, but don’t worry if your ideas aren’t fully formed yet. That is not the important part. Or, how would a character you are developing react to this new area for exploration? The exact same piece of music can present different ideas when listened to in different states.

Step 4 – What if it was a picture?

Say what you see. what is the music was a picture, what would it look like? Or what particular scene comes to mind when you listen? Does a plane suddenly take off? Does a gaggle of geese try to land on a frozen lake? Does a child cry because its parents won’t buy them sweets? Do you see an egg cooking on a hotplate in a greasy spoon cafe?


Listen to an album – can you write a story using its themes?

Concept albums work best with this approach, albums whose tracks have a wider meaning collectively than they do individually. But maybe you want to try this trick out with a favourite album if music as a writing prompt is a completely new approach for you.

Is one of the most famous concept albums of all time, Pink Floyd’s, The Wall, going to help you bring to life themes of loneliness and Isolation? Or, could you look to  A Grand Don’t Come For Free album, The Streets, to prompt a story of loss, despair and then jubilation at finding something you thought was lost.

Enjoy enticing stories through music and writing!

Tickets for Tenebrae have now completely sold out, but you can find out more about the installation here on the Brighton Festival official website.

Article written by Joey Lee

April 26

Creative Writing is not retirement!

Creative Writing student at University of Brighton Dr. Mark Price shares his experience of the MA course, collaborative projects and how COVID-19 has impacted his practice. When he’s not participating in poetic analysis or journaling for poetry and prose modules, he also remotely teaches on the Doctoral programme at St. Mary’s University Twickenham, London.

Well, actually, Mark may have used a little more colourful language than that. It is clear that he still has that lust for learning and that youthful energy, he certainly knows how to command an audience, even if it is over Microsoft Teams.

“I’m not retiring! It’s been brilliant because it meant I had something to look forward to. I don’t imagine myself as somebody that is 62.”

This course meant something that I could immediately step onto, obviously hacked off because of COVID but it gave me something that I could be different again in. I wanted something that would give me a place of being, something that would stretch me and I knew I’d be asked to do things that I wouldn’t normally do.”

I can agree with Mark on that latter point. I packed up my marketing job in London to move to Brighton, to dive headfirst into the University experience and thriving spoken word scene in the city. Only to find (after I’d signed my lease to a rental property in Seven Dials, Brighton) the whole Creative Writing MA 2020/2021 academic year would be delivered remotely, online. *Deep breath in… and out*, it’s fine though, because London doesn’t have a beach.

The writing on the MA has also taken me into new places with my day job too, which is brilliant.”

Whilst doing this course, Mark is also continuing to write academically too, having Journals published throughout 2021.

I’ve met new people. It’s been one of the best things of my life. I feel more rounded, I feel like I’ve got this, I’ve got that. I’m not just Dr Mark Price full-time in academia. I’m a student on the MA, I’m doing Tenebrae for the Brighton Festival, I’m developing my writing. I’ve never felt more fulfilled workwise in my life.”

This course has certainly made a positive impact with Mark. The opportunity to become part of the writing community in Brighton isn’t the only highlight of this course. It also enables students to really push perceptions of what writing can be, challenging preconceptions and empowering their voice as writing practitioners.

Mark is pleased to share his experience of the Tenebrae: Lessons Learnt in Darkness a project inspired by The Old Testament ‘Book of Lamentations’ and Francois Couperin’s Tenebres music composition, which will be featured in Brighton Festival 2021. The project was the creative vision of Theatre Director, Neil Bartlett, with writing facilitator Akila Richards, who mentored 15 diverse writers to produce, record and showcase their poetry to illuminate the Theatre Royal – which has sat in darkness for the past 12 months.

Tickets for Tenebrae have now completely sold out, but you can find out more about the installation here on the Brighton Festival official website.

In terms of process of collaboration, on the Rhetoric and Narrative modules, we wrote collaboratively – I really enjoyed that process!”

“The Tenebrae project came up from Craig Jordan-Baker (Senior Lecturer in School of Humanities, University of Brighton). It was incredibly evocative; I liked the idea that I was signing up to something where somebody else was directing. I love the intensity of being in a project that takes over.

In terms of collaboration in the Tenebrae project, I don’t feel that I’ve collaborated with anybody else. I’ve enjoyed hearing people speak and sense some of the cohort. I don’t feel I’ve collaborated with other writers, but it’s a piece of work I feel hugely proud of and pleased to be a part of – I feel that my part in it is just one small bit, it’s a piece in itself that Neil has conceptualised and directed. I loved it – what a fantastic opportunity.”

COVID-19 and a remote learning delivery has impacted the student experience.

“The whole experience has been positive in the fact that I’ve learnt lots and I’ve taken lots out of it. There has been a convenience to the remote learning, I haven’t had to travel into the University but that is pretty much the only advantage. I feel like I’ve lost direct contact to students and tutors.”

On a Masters level course, the tutor/student relationship is so important, a pivotal point where students identify as academics, potentially going on to PhD studies. Mark is a part-time student and of course, already a distinguished academic. He is doing the course over a couple of years and next year hopes that he and other students can experience face-to-face classroom teaching, post-lecture corridor natters and physical meet-ups. The experiences that are both so important, academically and socially.


Article written by Joey Lee