A Life Written

A Life Written, delivered in partnership with Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), creates life-writing workshops for the over 70s.

Initiated by ARU’s Tory Young, Associate Professor of English Literature, and delivered in partnership with NCW with Age UK Norwich support, this programme uses memoir and life writing to build confidence and foster connection through a series of writing workshops. By involving students from ARU, intergenerational engagement is encouraged and supported. The cohort works towards publication of an anthology and hosts a showcase of their work for friends and family.

The further aims of the project, to form writing communities and combat loneliness, became even more important when the workshops finally ran in Autumn 2021, supported by ARU undergraduate students, following COVID lockdowns and isolation. Demand for the programme was huge, with all the places filled in less than 24 hours, and author Kit de Waal, after seeing them advertised on Twitter, offered travel subsidies for those who could not otherwise afford to attend.

On initiating the project, Tory said:

‘Before the pandemic, I was concerned by the media’s polarising stereotypes which figured the old as either reactionary and wealthy home-owners or conversely a burden on those in work; millennials, on the other hand, were self-absorbed moaners.

‘I wanted to do something to bring these groups together to talk to, learn about and learn from each other. I have always loved reading autobiographies and am fascinated by the ability of writing to prompt long forgotten memories.’

Hear from Steve Downey about his experience

Steve Downey is a 77-year-old visual artist, filmmaker and writer. Hear more about his experience of A Life Written and his achievements since the final showcase.

Steve also created a short film about the programme. Watch here.

Read more

A Life Written has had four phases so far which have been funded by the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (AHSS) ARU, Cambridge and NCW.

Autumn 2021

A cohort of 12 participants aged 70+ took part in a series of workshops led by Sarah Passingham, resulting in pieces for an anthology which were edited by Kate Swindlehurst and which was launched at Dragon Hall in February 2022.

Spring 2022

As above. Five English Literature & Creative Writing students responded to individual pieces and all were included in the anthology launched in September 2022

Autumn 2022

As above. Taught by Sarah Bower, with student responses. Anthology launched in April 2023.

Spring 2023

As above. Taught by Sarah Bower online., with student responses. Anthology launched in July 2023.

Download the Spring 2023 anthology

During this course, I learnt that life writing can have a very positive impact on wellbeing and mental capacity. It gave me a new channel of expression and I now often find myself compelled to write about my own experiences. An opportunity for reflection and active recollection.

A participant

A Life Written is not currently open for applications.


If you’re interested in more information about A Life Written and future plans, please email [email protected].