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Creative Writing: the story unfolds

Creative writers are finding inspiration at Greenwich. A strong teaching team of prize-winning authors, the vibrant Greenwich Book Festival, and literary associations going back to Chaucer are just some of the attractions.

Dr Alex Pheby, programme leader

The programme also has strong links with industry. Students produce an anthology of their work each year, they pitch to agents and publishers, and also try out digital and self-publishing.

Programme leader Dr Alex Pheby, whose novel Playthings was shortlisted for the Wellcome Prize this year, says: "One of the country's most prestigious small publishers, Galley Beggar Press, which discovered Eimear McBride (A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing) is collaborating with us to give students insight into the modern publishing industry."

Paul Stanbridge (Forbidden Line) is the new Writer in Residence, taking over from Paul Ewan (Francis Plug: How to be a Public Author). Paul promises that his next novel will be set in a university not dissimilar to Greenwich.

Student numbers are on the rise. Greenwich currently has a community of around a hundred students on the Creative Writing BA degree programmes (either single honours or combined with English Literature), with many more on related drama, digital media and communication courses.

The permanent teaching team includes poet and novelist Cherry Smyth, experimental writer and performer Dr Emily Critchley, and playwright and screenwriter Ade Solanke. Students might even get a class in how to write comedy, along with their digital media and journalism sessions delivered by broadcaster and comedian Simon Hardeman.

Dr Pheby says:

"At Greenwich, students can draw on expertise in traditional forms – fiction, poetry and plays – and develop skills in screenwriting, performance of all kinds, and even electronic theatre, which pushes the boundaries of technology. There is an explosion in form to explore."

Commitment to cross-genre innovation

Ade Solanke, playwright and screenwriter

Dr Critchley coordinates the Creative Project, which gives final-year students the opportunity to produce work in whatever genre, style and form they want. "We are committed to cross-genre experimentation and innovation," she says. "I have seen students produce radio plays, sculptures-with-words, video art, concrete poetry, spoken word and sound poetry with original music, as well as works in more traditional genres.

"Supervisors focus especially hard with students on editing, looking at contemporary literary scenes and how to get work published and produced. Student projects become calling cards in the industry, and we will recommend students to publishers: for instance, last year Filippa Bahrke got her poetry accepted for publication even before she graduated."

Focus on employment skills

Some students, such as Greenwich alumna Jenni Fagan, one of Granta's 'Best Young British Novelists', go on to successful careers as authors. Several poets have also secured swift publishing deals, including Juste Semetiate, whose collection Parted is published by Corrupt Press.

Others channel their skills into publishing, journalism and other media careers, as well as teaching and arts administration. A significant number also complete MAs and PhDs.

All students develop research and analytical skills as well as building creative and communication abilities, opening them to a wide range of career options.

During their three years at Greenwich, students have numerous opportunities to meet, collaborate and learn from people working in the industry at every level.

Research in the Department of Literature, Language & Theatre

Creative Writing is taught in the Department of Literature, Language & Theatre, which carries out a wide range of research. Staff research interests and professional practice have a direct impact on course design and delivery.

The department has two research groups: Literature & Drama, and Applied Linguistics, as well as housing and researching the Reminiscence Theatre Archive. Its definitions of 'literature' and 'drama' are broad and inclusive, from canonical authors printed in volumes to texts created in the moment by the interactions of performers and audiences.

open-book

Creative Writing researchers include Dr Critchley who is a widely-published editor, critic and researcher on contemporary poetry, feminism and phenomenology. She edited international contemporary poetry anthology Out of Everywhere 2 (Reality Street, 2016) and is currently co-authoring a book, What Poetry Is, along with fellow poet and academic Dr Tim Atkins (UEL).

Royal Literary Advisory Fellow Cherry Smyth is a regular critic for Art Monthly and writes widely on visual art. Current performance projects include writing a libretto for composer Guy Harries about Russian feminist conceptual punk band Pussy Riot, and recording a poem commemorating the 1916 Easter Rising for multi-media exhibition If The Ground Should Open, by Jaki Irvine at the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

Ade Solanke's research into African theatre, cinema and storytelling forms, together with her long-running practice-based research within fictional narrative filmmaking and contemporary theatre, has led to two award winning plays, Pandora's Box and East End Boys, West End Girls, and two award-winning films about sickle cell disease: a feature-length movie, Dazzling Mirage; and an NHS-commissioned short script, The Family Legacy.

Dr Pheby's writing relies on a combination of factual research and imaginative recreation. He is currently writing his third novel.

The department is part of the university's Faculty of Architecture, Computing & Humanities.

Greenwich Book Festival enters its third year

Greenwich-Book-Fest
Greenwich Book Festival

Novelists Kate Summerscale, Chris Cleave and Laura Barnett, and stand-up Sara Pascoe, were just a few of the authors arriving at Greenwich to speak at the 2016 Greenwich Book Festival.

The university hosts the festival and Dr Alex Pheby has co-organised the first two years with two local mums who happen to be in the book business themselves. Auriol Bishop is Creative Director at publishers Hodder & Stoughton, and Patricia Nicol is an author and arts journalist. An idea which started at the school gate has flourished into a successful three-day event, with a big children's festival running alongside the adult programme.

Dr Pheby says: "The festival goes down brilliantly with our students. They give writing workshops to local children, help world-famous authors feel at home and get completely involved with London literary life. It also gives us the chance to let the great and the good see the wealth of talent here at Greenwich."

Greenwich: home to creative writing since Chaucer

Greenwich has been home to creative writing since Chaucer mentioned the risk of falling in a chalk pit while star-gazing from the hill behind the town. Shakespeare performed with the Lord Chamberlain's Men before Elizabeth I at her palace in 1594. Greenwich was well known to Pepys, Dr Johnson, Dickens and TS Eliot, and features in their work.

Popular watering hole Trafalgar Tavern, right next to the university's historic campus by the Thames, was the scene of the wedding breakfast in Dickens' novel Our Mutual Friend.

Creative Writing programmes 

See creative writing programmes and related degrees at Greenwich below.

See also Professional Writing Foundation Degree at North Kent College.

For further information about specific programmes visit our undergraduate prospectus pages.