Short story competition launched to celebrate life around North-East river

A CREATIVE-WRITING project is launched today as part an ambitious programme celebrating life around a North-East river.
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A CREATIVE-WRITING project is launched today as part an ambitious programme celebrating life around a North-East river.

The Discover Brightwater Creative-Writing Project comprises a series of creative-writing workshops, a short story competition with a £1,000 first prize, and the publication of an anthology.

The project is being led by Groundwork North East and Cumbria on behalf of the Discover Brightwater Landscape Partnership and supported by The Northern Echo.

Discover Brightwater is a £3.3m landscape partnership based around the River Skerne, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and made possible by people who play the National Lottery.

The creative-writing project is being run by publishing company Paper + Ink, founded five years ago by Mitchell Albert and Tim Moore, who have extensive experience in commissioning, editing, producing and marketing short fiction books, as well as managing literary programmes and creative writing workshops.

Tim said: “We are thrilled to be working with Discover Brightwater, which has launched such an exciting project for North-East England. Publishing, for us, has always been about making a difference, and this series of events, nurturing local creativity through short courses, a competition and an anthology will do just that.”

Mitchell added: “Discover Brightwater’s far-ranging initiative to restore, preserve and advance the natural and cultural life of the North-East, centred on the River Skerne, is singular, and we are delighted to be involved in helping to bring voices from this region to the fore.”

Award-winning poet, Harry Man, who lives on Teesside, has been commissioned to run the workshops at three different venues: Freemasons’ Hall, in Darlington; Ceddesfield Hall, Sedgefield; and Aycliffe Village Hall, Newton Aycliffe.

Harry’s achievements include winning the Stephen Spender Prize and a Northern Writers Award in 2021. He has written four books and his work was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry in 2016, as well as featuring on BBC Radio 4. He teaches creative writing at the University of Oxford, has been an artist in residence at the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, and frequently leads workshops.

He said: “I’m so excited to be involved in such a creative initiative and it will be fascinating to see the the body of work that emerges from it. There is no barrier to entry, it’s open to everyone, so my message is to come and have a go and see where it leads.”

Laura Waugh, Community Project Manager for Groundwork North East and Cumbria, said: “By giving people the skills to write short stories, promoting the competition and finally publishing the Anthology book we hope to connect local people and visitors to our landscape, our heritage and our communities.”

The short story competition will open on March 1 and close on May 31. Entries must be a maximum of 5,000 words and feature a reference to the Skerne and the landscape around it. The shortlist will be revealed in September, with the winner announced in October. As well as the £1,000 first prize, four runners-up will each receive £100.

The anthology, featuring the winning story plus four runners-up, will published by the end of the year.

Three creative writing courses along the River Skerne will be held, comprising four workshops each.

The first course will be held at Aycliffe Village Hall on March 5, March 19, March 26 and April 2, all starting at 3pm.

The second course will be based at Freemasons’ Hall, Darlington, on March 6, March 20, March 27, and April 3, all starting at 12pm.

The third course will be held at Ceddesfeld Hall, Sedgefield, on March 6, March 20, March 27 and April 3, all starting at 3pm.

To find out how to enter the competition and register for the courses, go to

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