To mark the launch of Dragon Hall Retreats, Associate Programme Director Kate Griffin reflects on the the international writer and translation and residencies we have offered over the years in Dragon Hall’s Cottage.
About Our Residencies
NCW has been offering residencies in the cottage at Dragon Hall since 2018. Over the past five years, albeit with a hiatus during the pandemic, we have hosted over 60 writers and translators from the UK and around the world.
Our residents stay in the Dragon Hall Cottage. Dating from the late 19th century, the cottage was originally the family home for the head brewer from the brewery next door (sadly no longer in existence). It’s a small house, with two bedrooms (up steep stairs in typical Norwich style). Downstairs, there is a sitting room, study, kitchen-diner and bathroom. The cottage opens onto the Dragon Hall garden; residents can enjoy a terrace planted with shrubs and herbs.
Over the years, we have welcomed creative writers and literary translators from as far afield as Indonesia, Korea, Singapore, Belgium, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania and the USA, supported by generous funders and partners. The focus of the residencies has been on time to write, translate, research and explore Norwich. Their interests are wide-ranging, from the history of Strangers to the traditions of textiles in Norwich, agriculture in Norfolk to ghost stories and the supernatural. Julian of Norwich is always a source of fascination, with her cell across the road from Dragon Hall offering a place for quiet contemplation. We invite our international residents to the monthly Dragon Hall Social to meet the local literary community and share ideas and inspiration.
We are a member of the RECIT network of European translation houses. You can find their mapping of literary translation residencies across Europe. This year, we offered three residencies to literary translators from the Western Balkans who translate from English into Macedonian, Montenegrin and Albanian, as part of the Translation in Motion project, led by RECIT and co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union. The visiting translators appreciated the opportunity to find out more about contemporary British writing and find new writers to translate into their languages. We also host creative writers from the UK, as part of our Early Career Awards, and UK-based Black, Asian or Ethnically Diverse literary translators as part of our Visible Communities programme.
We ask our residents to contribute a piece to ‘Walking Norwich’ – an opportunity to reflect on their experience of the residency, and of Norwich itself, each time showing us a different and often unexpected side of our multifaceted city.
The Benefits of a Residency
Hear from four of this year’s residents about how a residency has helped them.
Gabriela Manova from Bulgaria used her time in Norwich to work on her translations of contemporary Bulgarian poetry in English, mentored by the poet and translator George Szirtes. Her residency was supported by the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation.
‘Not to rephrase Virginia Woolf, but I do believe it is very important for a woman to have a room of one’s own to write in peace, and the same thing goes for translators. We need stability and tranquillity, and most of all – time, without too many distractions, to be able to work on our translations and really focus on them with the attention to detail that might be unavailable when we are surrounded by other mundane tasks back at home.’
Meihan Boey came from Singapore to research the third in a series of novels featuring the Formidable Miss Cassidy, mentored by the writer Sarah Bower.
‘My research is related to textiles, an industry with a very strong and intricately recorded history in Norwich, so the total immersion has given me a very vivid palette from which to build the world that exists in my work. The residency also allowed me to go beyond just looking at things behind glass in a museum, and actually see, touch, and even handle items that have made the things I’m writing about come very much to life.’
Wayne Rée, a short story and comics writer from Singapore, spent his residency working on his first novel, mentored by the writer Ian Nettleton. Wayne and Meihan’s residencies were supported by the National Arts Council of Singapore.
‘That’s what I feel is the real value of the residency [is], to allow me to live in that love of storytelling that I always knew drove and shaped me, but never really understood just how much.’
Margot Douaihy came to Norwich from the USA to deliver the Noirwich Lecture, in partnership with UEA. During her short residency in the cottage, she outlined the third book in her lyrical mystery series, including a short segment inspired by the story of Julian of Norwich, and worked from the Dragon Hall garden to sketch out a new Virtual Reality noir experience.
For her, the residency offered: ‘Community, knowledge, confidence, peace, quiet, inspiration, joy, delight.’
Dragon Hall Retreats
Inevitably, the Dragon Hall Cottage is rather popular and gets booked up far in advance, so we have decided to reserve a couple of months each year for Dragon Hall Retreats. These are open to creative writers and literary translators at any stage of their career, offering the chance to focus on work in progress, carry out research in the region, or maybe come as a pair to collaborate on a project.
We have set aside time for four 12-day retreats in February and March 2024. You can apply via our website, with a deadline of Monday 4th December 2023.
For those writers and translators who can’t travel to Norwich for whatever reason, we offer virtual residencies ranging from a month to six months at a time. We initiated these during lockdown, hosting five of our sister UNESCO cities of literature in 2021. Since then, we’ve developed and run virtual residencies each year for UK-based Black, Asian and Ethnically Diverse literary translators through our Visible Communities programme, and for writers and translators from Singapore with the support of the National Arts Council of Singapore.
The virtual residencies offer time to work on a writing or translation project from the comfort of your own home, often with the support of a UK-based mentor. Our virtual residents make a wonderful contribution to the Writing Hub, whether it’s their writing and translation tips, Walking Norwich (from a distance), or long-form pieces about their residency projects for Imagining the City. They also take part in Meet the World online events with other writers and translators.
Exchanges and opportunities
We have set up and run residency exchanges between Norwich and fellow UNESCO cities of literature including virtual exchanges with Québec and Jakarta, and in-person exchanges with Tartu and Vilnius. The residency exchanges allow writers, translators and illustrators in each city to collaborate with each other, share ideas and inspiration, and learn more about the literary history and eco-system of each city.
Over the coming years, we plan to expand our residency exchanges, both in-person and virtual, with other UNESCO cities of literature. We promote residency opportunities in other UNESCO cities of literature. If you haven’t already, sign up for our newsletter to find out about the latest opportunities!
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