The National Centre for Writing (NCW) has today revealed a series of new commissions that will form the Open Doors programme, in which writers, artists and scientists explore new ways of connecting with audiences and reflect on the role of the writer.

The programme will include an immersive play, new essays, interactive writing resources and micro residences. Derek Owusu, Kerri ní Dochartaigh, Rowan Hisayo Buchanan and Abir Mukherjee are among those who will create new work as part of the programme. Open Doors is funded by Arts Council England via the Ambition for Excellence programme.

Peggy Hughes, Programme Director at NCW, says:

‘Open Doors is a programme of exciting new work and collaboration, commissioned during this most extraordinary year of closed doors. While creative livelihoods and outlets have been imperilled and risks have been very near and frighteningly tangible, it felt vital to encourage artists to create and to support them to imagine other vistas. It is, after all, as Rebecca Solnit says in her book, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, ‘the job of the artists to open doors and invite in prophesies, the unknown, the unfamiliar’. Open Doors has enabled us to commission new work and to try new ways of working – something of fundamental importance as we prepare to reopen our venue doors to a changed world and the new possibilities it brings.’

Open Doors includes:

Weather with You
Through essays and podcast interviews Kerri ní Dochartaigh, Abir Mukherjee and Derek Owusu will reflect on how the experience of the past year has impacted on their work and their perceptions of the role of the writer.

The Group
A new interactive play from Jack McNamara and musician Angharad Davies. The Group is a three-part anthology told live via WhatsApp. The play experiments with the manipulation of the reading process by controlling the speed of delivery. As well as being a gripping story, the play questions our confidence in, and reliance on digital communication. (Premiering at Norfolk & Norwich Festival, May 2021). 

Jack McNamara, theatre maker and creator of ‘The Group’ says:

‘Our first WhatsApp play Stay Safe caused a bit of a stir last year, with one reviewer warning that audience members may drop their phones in shock. It’s a crunchy medium to work with, offering you the chance to make language feel very dynamic and alive. I am totally thrilled that the National Centre for Writing have commissioned me to really expand on this form and its possibilities, with a highly ambitious new WhatsApp play. By working with the acclaimed Welsh violinist Angharad Davies we aim to create something immersive, unsettling, and thought-provoking, all in the palm of your hand.’ 

Looking, Large and Small

Nature writer and environmental historian Jessica J. Lee and novelist and illustrator Rowan Hisayo Buchanan present an online seasonal pack of observations, illustrations and exercises which provide audiences with the tools to connect with nature close to home.

A Room of One’s Own

Five micro writing residencies at the National Centre for Writing’s medieval home, Dragon Hall, have been awarded to Anne Amienne, Alexandra Birrell, Megan Bradbury, Carrie Patten and Julia Webb. Their work-in-progress spans creative non-fiction, poetry, and fiction.

Translating Science

Through a series of commissions, roundtables, and public events NCW is partnering with Norwich Research Park to explore points of misconception and connection between storytelling and the sciences. The activity will explore new ways to approach the public understanding of life sciences, health, and medical research.

NCW Open

NCW is working with artists to connect with the communities around NCW’s venue Dragon Hall. Among the first of the projects is a new writing experience aimed at young people delivered by Lewis Buxton and Daisy Henwood of poetry collective TOAST.

Open Doors has been made possible with the support of Arts Council England’s Ambition for Excellence fund.

Hazel Edwards, Area Director, South East, Arts Council England, said:

‘We’re really pleased to have supported the Open Doors programme thanks to National Lottery funding. These new commissions will enable writers, artists and scientists to research and develop exciting new ways of working – ones that may transform how we create work, as well as influencing how audiences can and do engage with it. I look forward to seeing all these projects come to fruition.’

“The year has been full of closed doors. Bad news, rising peaks, strange weather, grief. But in these awe-struck days, the strangest of our lives, art has consoled and comforted, challenged and enlivened, brought hope. To open a door, as Miroslav Holub reminds us in his celebrated poem, is to allow other worlds in, as well as gardens, trees and woods. To imagine that something else and some other place is possible. In this season of new work, we invite you to open new doors.”

Peggy Hughes, Programme Director at the National Centre for Writing