[Press Release] Cumbria’s Literary Greats Inspire New Writing by Older People

Elements Festival at Dove Cottage 15

Press Release

For immediate release                                     13 October, 2016


Cumbria’s Literary Greats Inspire New Writing by Older People

Elements festival welcomes the public to hear readings and to meet experts on the Wordsworths and Norman Nicholson

A series of special events is taking place across Cumbria where audiences can hear new writing inspired by the county’s remarkable literary heritage.

Two will include talks by special guests who are experts on the Wordsworths and the poems of Norman Nicholson and a third will include a special movie screening.

The events are part of the new Elements festival, which takes place all this month and is a celebration of age and diversity.

The writers are older people from the Copeland area who have been taking part in the West Lakes Writers’ Residency led by renowned poet Pascale Petit – who will also be reading her own new work at the events.

They have worked in collaboration with a number of organisations including the Wordsworth Trust at Grasmere.

Pascale said: “This has been a tremendous project and has helped people discover abilities as writers that many never knew they had.

“The county, its countryside and people have inspired many different forms of writing – including poetry, novels, children’s stories and also the glorious descriptive guidebooks of Alfred Wainwright.

“It has been wonderful to learn more about the enormous literary heritage of Cumbria and we are really looking forward to sharing the new writing we have created with the public – and to introduce them to some of the special guests who are coming along.”

The West Lakes Writers Residency included six workshops at the Florence Arts Centre, Egremont.

There were also study trips to locations relevant to poet Norman Nicholson, to the archive of painter and prolific letter writer Percy Kelly, and to the north Lakes where Sir Hugh Walpole set his celebrated Herries Chronicles. The group also saw some of the stunning locations illustrated in Alfred Wainwright’s guidebooks.

The visit to Dove Cottage involved a session in the Jerwood Centre with Curator Jeff Cowton who talked about the lives and times of William and Dorothy Wordsworth. He revealed how much some of the poems were a combined effort and went through many drafts before finally being published.

Susan Allen, Community Outreach Officer for the Wordsworth Trust said: “It was an absolute pleasure to welcome Pascale and members of the West Lakes Writers Workshop to Grasmere.

“Spending time with the group in Dove Cottage, where William and Dorothy Wordsworth lived during the poet’s most creative years and where his sister wrote her remarkable Journals, was inspirational.

“We were also able to explore the garden they created together and look out on the views which formed the backdrop to their everyday lives and writing in the early 1800s.

“Looking at manuscripts in the reading room with Jeff we all had the opportunity to see how Wordsworth approached his writing and the conversations prompted by this were fascinating.

“We are really looking forward to hearing some of the writing which Pascale and members of the group have produced over these past weeks and hope that as many people as possible will be able to join us on the evening of 20 October.”

The West Lakes Writers Residency was set up for over 60s in Copeland and is supported by Arts Council England and Copeland Community Fund. Other partners include Age UK West Cumbria, the Beacon Museum and the Cumbria library service.

A publication will also be launched towards the end of the festival.

Tonia Lu, Elements festival producer, added: “Elements is all about celebrating older people and giving everyone the chance to enjoy and be involved in high-quality arts, whether it’s literature, film or photography and the residency has certainly achieved that.

“It’s fantastic to be able to bring together a group of older people to create new work and then share this with the public, along with fresh work by a poet of the stature of Pascale.

“Cumbria, and Copeland in particular, have a rapidly growing older population and face growing demands for health and social care. These are some of the least well catered for groups in our community and the residency has been a way to enhance lives with creative and enjoyable activities.”


Pascale Petit and participants present their new writing at a series of events, some with special guests and screenings:

  • With Neil Curry, poet and editor of Norman Nicholson’s Collected Poems. The Beacon Museum, Whitehaven. Wednesday 19 Oct, 7pm.
  • Joined by Jeff Cowton, Curator of The Wordsworth Trust. Jerwood Centre, Dove Cottage, Grasmere. Thursday 20 Oct, 7pm.
  • Theatre by the Lake, Keswick, Sunday 23 Oct, 2pm.
  • The Bradbury Centre, St George’s Road, Millom. Monday, 24 October, 7pm.
  • Followed by screening of
Salma – documentary about
an extraordinary woman who becomes an activist, politician and poet. Florence Arts Centre, Egremont. Tuesday, 25 October, 6pm.


Meet the writers

Meet Pascale and some of the participants and hear about their experiences at the following drop-in sessions.

  • Whitehaven Library, 2-4pm, Wednesday 19 Oct.
  • Millom Library, 2-4pm, Monday 24 Oct.
  • Egremont Libray, 2-4pm, Tuesday 25 Oct.


– Ends –

About the writing programme


About Pascale Petit

  • Pascale Petit is of French, Welsh and Pakistani heritage. She has published six previous collections, four of which have been shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize.
  • Her seventh poetry collection Mama Amazonica will be published in September 2017.
  • Pascale is the recipient of a 2015 Cholmondeley Award and was the chair of the judges for the 2015 T.S. Eliot Prize.
  • She was Poetry Editor of Poetry London from 1989 to 2005 and is a co-founding tutor of The Poetry School. She taught popular poetry courses at Tate Modern for nine years.


About Elements

  • Elements is a legacy of CELEBRATE: LGBT History in Cumbria project.
  • Elements is organised by OutREACH Cumbria, with partners across Cumbria.
  • The festival is funded by Arts Council England, Copeland Community Fund, Cumbria. Community Foundation and Heritage Lottery Fund.
  • It involves a variety of partners such as Age UK West Cumbria, Florence Arts Centre and the Wordsworth Trust.


About CELEBRATE: LGBT History in Cumbria

  • CELEBRATE is the first project to explore and uncover the living history of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) community in Cumbria.
  • CELEBRATE is a partnership project between OutREACH Cumbria and Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery, funded by Heritage Lottery Fund.
  • You can contact Tonia on 07956 336872 or by emailing tonial@outreachcumbria.co.uk
  • The website is at www.celebratecumbria.co.uk.


About the Wordsworth Trust, Dove Cottage and the Wordsworth Museum, Grasmere

  • If any community groups would like to visit Dove Cottage or to know more about the Trust’s outreach programme (including talks about the Wordsworths, pop-up poetry sessions and What are Words Worth shared reading groups for people living with dementia, their friends and families) contact Susan at the Wordsworth Trust on 015394 35544 or by emailing s.allen@wordsworth.org.uk
  • The website is at www.wordsworth.org.uk