More success for ICCWriting Fellow Patrick McGuinness

I’m delighted to announce that Patrick McGuinness, Fellow of the Institute of the Creative and Critical Writing, has won both the Wales Book of the Year 2015 and the Pol Roger Duff Cooper Prize 2014 for his wonderful memoir, Other People’s Countries: A Journey into Memory, which was launched by the ICCWriting in Birmingham last year.

Congratulations Patrick!

Gregory Leadbetter – Director, Institute of Creative and Critical Writing

ICCW Public Event: Next Generation Poets, 6pm, Tuesday 18 November 2014, P350 Lecture Theatre, Parkside

The Institute of Creative and Critical Writing is proud to host the Next Generation Poets national tour at Birmingham City University. You are warmly invited to join us for this special event, held in partnership with Writing West Midlands and the Poetry Book Society.

Next Generation Poets 2014 is a promotion of the 20 most exciting new poets who have published their first collection in the last decade:

Our event will feature the Next Generation poets Emily Berry and Sean Borodale, who will be reading together with Stephen Morrison-Burke, Birmingham Poet Laureate 2012-13.

Wine and refreshments will be served.

This event is FREE to students and staff of Birmingham City University, but PLEASE BOOK by calling The Box on 0121 245 4455.

This is also a public event, charged at £8/£6 for guests who are not members of the University, so please spread the word: public bookings should be made using the following link:

Here is some more information on the poets:

Emily Berry wp

Emily Berry grew up in London and studied English Literature at Leeds University and Creative Writing at Goldsmiths College. She works as a freelance writer and co-edits the anthology series Stop Sharpening Your Knives and is a contributor to The Breakfast Bible, a compendium of breakfasts published by Bloomsbury. In 2008 she received an Eric Gregory Award and her first pamphlet stingray fevers was published by tall lighthouse. Dear Boy (Faber) was awarded the 2013 Forward Prize for Best First Collection.

Discover Emily Berry’s poetry

Sean Borodale wp

Sean Borodale works as a poet and artist, making scriptive and documentary poems written on location; this derives from his process of writing and walking for works such as Notes for an Atlas (Isinglass, 2003) and Walking to Paradise (1999). He was selected for the Granta New Poets series in 2012 and his first collection of poetry, Bee Journal (Jonathan Cape, 2012), was a PBS Recommendation and was shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize. His second collection, Human Work, is published in February 2015 by Jonathan Cape. He lives in Somerset and is currently Creative Writing Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge.

Discover Sean Borodale’s poetry

Stephen Morrison-Burke square

Stephen Morrison-Burke is a Spoken Word Artist/Poet from Birmingham who has won multiple poetry slam competitions, taken part in theatrical projects and performed at various festivals in front of hundreds of people. Stephen has supported the likes of Buddy Wakefield and Linton Kwesi Johnson, performed in front of Prince William, and was named National Slam Champion in 2014. He recently performed his work on a special Midlands edition of Poetry Please on BBC Radio 4. Stephen was Birmingham Poet Laureate 2012/13.

Follow Stephen on Twitter


I hope you can join us – and look forward to seeing you there.



Dr Gregory Leadbetter

Reader in Literature and Creative Writing

Director, Institute of Creative and Critical Writing

Director, MA in Writing

ICCW Day guest author: Charlie Hill – 3pm, Wednesday 12 November 2014

This event is open to the students and staff of Birmingham City University.

ICCW Day guest author: Charlie Hill – 3pm, B609, Wednesday 12 November 2014

Join us for our second ICCW guest seminar of the year, featuring novelist and short story writer Charlie Hill:

Charlie lives in Birmingham. His first novel – The Space Between Things – was published in 2010. His second novel, Books – a comedy of ideas about art and books – was published by Tindal Street Press in 2013. His short stories have been published in Ambit, Stand, The View from Here, Litro and Neon. Charlie has also written for the Times Literary Supplement, The Independent on Sunday and The New Statesman.

His short story ‘Ah, Birmingham’ is available here, at Writers’ Hub:

Charlie will be discussing his life and practice as a writer. After Charlie has spoken, and read from his work, there will be time for questions and conversation.

I look forward to seeing you there.



Dr Gregory Leadbetter

Reader in Literature and Creative Writing

Director, Institute of Creative and Critical Writing

Director, MA in Writing

Immersion: John Wright reviews Dip, by Andrew Fusek Peters


 Dip cover

DIP: Wild Swims from the Borderlands

244pp. Rider.  £16.99.

978 1 846 04447 2

Andrew Fusek Peters seeks out the wilderness of dark pools and out of the way rivers.

Dip is a personal journey of Andrew Fusek Peters’s ‘wild swims’ in and around Shropshire and the Welsh borders. After I adjusted to the idea that bathing in cold water may, in fact, be invigorating, with many positive side effects, I began to take vicarious pleasure in his quest for those Borderland waters.

The more I waded in, the more I found the book drawing me deeper under the surface as the author, skilfully and with rare candour, reveals the dark world of his own depression and his short confinement in psychiatric hospitals where he wrestled with the devils of his own psyche.

The book makes clear that Peters’s lifelong habit of wild swimming is not only a source of joy to him, but also a cure – a means of recovery when the pressures of daily life became too much. We are taken on the journey into his life, meeting his wife, family and friends, as we learn how the wild swims have taken him from a lonely, fear-filled place back into the warmth and joy that of his family life.

Given Peters’s record as an author and poet, we should not be surprised to find that his language in describing these adventures is vital, vivid and full of unexpected metaphors and sonorous alliterations. His language drew me in like a charm.

The book also contains a series of black and white photographs which not only complement his powers of description but also open up the landscapes of wild swimming to those unfamiliar with the terrain.

Dip is a testament to the healing virtues of two great powers: that of water and that of writing. The book reveals the catharsis he undergoes not only through swimming but also the act of writing his experiences.

I put the book down feeling uplifted, aware of a somewhat subversive thought niggling away at me: that a dip into untamed water on a hot summer afternoon might do me the power of good.

Andrew Fusek Peters is appearing as part of the Birmingham Literature Festival on October 9 @ 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm in the Studio Theatre, Library of Birmingham: Writing In The Wild: Tim Dee, Andrew Fusek Peters & Jean Sprackland

ICCW Review of the Year 2013-14

The new academic year is upon us – and with it the pleasures of the ICCW’s autumn programme. Before we move on, however, let us recall what the ICCW’s second season held…

3 October 2013: The ICCW sponsored the opening event of the Birmingham Literature Festival, featuring the Poet Laureate of England, Carol Ann Duffy, reading together with Imtiaz Dharker. N.B.! The ICCW is also sponsoring the opening of this year’s Festival, featuring Jackie Kay, on 2 October 2014!

9 October 2013: Poet, award-winning author of the novel The Last Hundred Days and Fellow of the ICCW, Patrick McGuinness, on the art of the novel

17 October 2013: Dramaturg, playwright and Fellow of the ICCW, Caroline Jester hosted a public seminar on ‘Europa’, a multilingual, pan-European collaborative theatre project

23 October 2013: Poets David Morley (The Gypsy and the Poet) and Gregory Leadbetter (The Body in the Well) – a Fellow and the Director of the ICCW, respectively – give readings of their work

20 November 2013: Poet and fiction writer Catherine Smith on short stories, poetry and collaboration

28 November 2013: Poet and Editor of The Poetry Review, Maurice Riordan, reads from his latest collection, The Water Stealer, together with poet Angela France, reading from Hide

4 December 2013: Academic and biographer Nicholas Roe discusses the methods and discoveries of his latest biography, John Keats: A New Life

5 February 2014: Alan Mahar, novelist and former Chief Executive of Tindal Street Press, lecture on the past, present, and future of literary fiction

5 February 2014: Poet, editor and publisher Peter Sansom leads a workshop on poetry

18 February 2014: ‘Break, blowe, burn, and make me new’: John Donne and Benjamin Britten: Words into Music, at Birmingham Conservatoire – Combining poetry, music, biography and performance, with Professor Ronald Woodley (piano), James Geer (tenor), Dr Gregory Leadbetter, Professor David Roberts and Dr Kate Kennedy

12 March 2014: Leading journalist Nicholas Lezard on the art of the literary critic

19 March 2014: Book launch and reading of Patrick McGuinness’s memoir, Other People’s Countries: A Journey into Memory

28 March 2014 – Beats and Birmingham: Poets and the City, with live music from The Beat Generation, at the Library of Brimingham, as part of the Frontiers Festival 2014 – featuring award-winning poets Luke Kennard, Bohdan Piasecki and guests

2 April 2014: Literary agent David Smith from the Annette Green Authors’ Agency on what agents are looking for and how they help their writers

26 April 2014: The ICCW sponsors the Outdoors Writing Workshop with Fellow of the ICCW, David Morley, together with a poetry reading by David Morley, Gregory Leadbetter, and participants in the workshop, at Wenlock Poetry Festival

25 June 2014: Birmingham City University Creative Writing Summer Show, featuring as guest author the thriller writer, R.J. Ellory

It was quite exhausting just writing that…but also rather wonderful to relive a year’s worth of wonderful events.

Join us again this year: news of our autumn programme will be released soon…

Dr Gregory Leadbetter – Director of the Institute of Creative and Critical Writing


The ICCW exists to cultivate the literary arts and the life of ideas. Six events a year are run on-campus at Birmingham City University, and feed directly into our creative writing programmes at both postgraduate and undergraduate level. Our other events are open to everyone, usually (but not exclusively) at city centre venues in Birmingham.

The ICCW has a core group of contributors, known as Fellows of the ICCW, who contribute to its aims and its programme, through readings, masterclasses, and in some cases, tutorial roles. Our Fellows are: Helen Cross, Caroline Jester, Ian Marchant, Patrick McGuinness, David Morley, and Sally Read.

Doctor Who: Writing the Companions

This blogpost is taken from the blog of Dr Gregory Leadbetter, Director of the Institute of Creative and Critical Writing and the MA in Writing at Birmingham City University. It was originally posted there on 6 September 2014.

Steven Moffat has come in for a lot of criticism since taking charge of Doctor Who – somewhat bafflingly, to my mind – but I’ve always admired his scriptwriting and I still do. Less given to sentimentality than Russell T. Davies, he has led the series with humour, verve and intelligence. The plots get a bit convoluted sometimes, but there are worse sins. Matt Smith did a fine job as the previous Doctor, but the excellent Peter Capaldi is – quite rightly – bringing a new edge to the role. Moffat’s priorities look good to me.
      But – since its re-launch in 2005, the writing for Doctor Who has regularly gone wrong in one significant way: its handling of the companions.
      After two episodes of Series 8, Danny Pink looks good, and I’m rather hoping that Journey Blue will not be abandoned by the Doctor after all. But Clara – ah, Clara…
      Leaving aside the deeply misguided storyline in which the Doctor supposedly fell in love with Rose Tyler, (Davies, no!) the companions have too often been drained of their wonder at the Doctor’s universe and installed with a whiny species of self-satisfied insolence, as if untouched by any sense of the mysteries they have been shown. They stay too much their same old selves, in the most extraordinary circumstances. To me, that’s also unrealistic, in a damaging sense (and before anyone says, ‘Realistic? This is sci-fi!’ I would say that sci-fi especially demands psychological authenticity if it is to achieve narrative authenticity).
      Dispiritingly, I suspect that this is because the writers intuitively perceive the offspring of contemporary society to be self-obsessed, lacking in humility and apparently incapable of having respect for anything they don’t or can’t be bothered to understand – and then write the characters accordingly. I have an awful feeling (oh say it ain’t so) that they are trying to write ‘normal’ characters, to which we, as members of that benighted society, can ‘relate’.
      Don’t do that. Neither children nor adults need it.
      Clara has been a lost opportunity in this respect, because she was far and away the most promising companion since the re-launch. In effect, when they picked which Clara Oswald to settle on, they picked the wrong one. Her first incarnations were much more interesting: she was intelligent, with a mystery of her own. Now, despite her charms, of which there are many for sure, this ‘teacher’-variant is too often just another human arrogant enough to hold on to her seemingly uninterested attitude – long after the Doctor, I reckon, would have lost patience with it.
      The Silurian Vastra, played by the wonderful Neve McIntosh, is a lively addition to the Whoniverse – as is/was the not-quite-human River Song: both Moffat creations.
      For the Doctor’s regular companion(s), can’t we have more interesting humans, too?


‘Misterioso’: A New Poem by Gregory Leadbetter, for the Music for Youth National Festival 2014

Greg image

Gregory Leadbetter, poet and Director of the Institute of Creative and Critical Writing at Birmingham City University, has been commissioned by Professor David Roberts, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Design and Media, to produce a new poem in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Music for Youth National Festival, currently being held across Birmingham at venues including the Town Hall, Symphony Hall and the university’s own Conservatoire.

Greg gave the first public recital of the poem to audiences at the Town Hall and the Symphony Hall on Tuesday 8 July 2014, the opening day of the Festival.

You can read the poem here: Misterioso



Helen Cross: Short Stories on Radio 4 and in The Manchester Review


Fellow of the Institute of Creative and Critical Writing at Birmingham City University, Helen Cross has two new short stories out: ‘Who Wants Tortoise?’ is published in The Manchester Review, while ‘An Open Letter to Bees’ will be aired on Radio 4 at 3.45pm on Friday 11 July 2014.

Helen is a member of the superb tutorial team for the MA in Writing at Birmingham City University, offering one-to-one tuition on fiction for the Final Project module, as well as leading ICCW masterclasses on the craft of writing.

Beats and Birmingham: Poets and the City, with live music from The Beat Generation – 5.30pm, 28 March 2014, Library of Birmingham

Beats and Birmingham: Poets and the City – feat. Bohdan Piasecki, Luke Kennard and others – with music from The Beat Generation Cut-up & Fold-in


Café Mezzanine, Library of Birmingham

5.30pm, Friday 28 March 2014

The Institute of Creative and Critical Writing warmly invite you to join us for a blast of poetry and music – part of the Frontiers+ Festival 2014.

Bringing together the Beats, Birmingham and the poetry of city life, it will feature poetry from Bohdan Piasecki and Luke Kennard, with Roy McFarlane (Birmingham Poet Laureate 2010-11), Derek Littlewood, James Horrocks and Ben Titmus – performing both their own work and that of LeRoi Jones, Jackson Mac Low, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and poets of Birmingham Louis MacNeice and Roy Fisher.

There will also be music from Simon King, Sid Peacock and Steve Tromans, performing their new settings of Beat legends Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs and Corso.

This event is FREE – no need to book.

We look forward to seeing you there…

Dr Gregory Leadbetter
Director, Institute of Creative and Critical Writing
Birmingham City University