Artist Residency at Hawkwood: Anita Maccallum
"In an environment whose motto is future thinking, I cannot imagine a better place to be to support my journey as a writer.
Sunshine and bird-song have accompanied my week as writer in residence here at Hawkwood. It is so far away from my day-to-day life in Bristol it’s almost a dream. Usually I spend my week half working with young offenders for the youth justice service and half of my week is working with adults with learning disabilities with the Misfits Theatre Company. When I get home my role as single parent to teenagers is equally loud and demanding. Finding not only the time but also the space in my head to write on top of my life is challenging and also what I must do. I write in different forms poetry, plays both theatre and screen, short story, flash fiction, radio and currently a graphic novel funded by the Arts Council.
It’s vital to me to invest my time as a writer to create stories that subvert the mainstream cultural narrative. I come from a long line of silenced women, my female ancestors on my paternal side were excluded from the families they belonged to and put into mental institutions for becoming mothers. In my writing I am speaking for a long line of silenced women.
As a mother myself I believe it is the best gift I can give to the next generation, to create stories that reflect a more diverse future, a future for them to grow into. Stories that reflect and bare witness to the younger generations experiences, challenges, hopes and dreams.
Being on a writing residency supported by Bristol Old Vic here at Hawkwood has meant I could put down the weighty responsibilities I hold in my day to day life and be nourished. I have felt safe and respected, in a place where I have been able to inhabit the life of the story I am writing. Currently my focus has been on ‘The Land of the Pretty’, a story about the transition from primary to secondary school while navigating puberty, with the themes of body image, social media, friendships and control. I have spent some time thinking how to hold the subject of body image in a trans inclusionary way, to move away from the polarised conversations that happen often in the media and to hold a space with a light touch where there isn’t judgement or focus, but another identity in the world for our teenagers. Having difficult conversations with love is vital for the younger generation to have space to grow into. There is a liberal dose of humour throughout the story and having the week where I have been able to slow down and focus has been absolutely invaluable to me. I would be back here in a heart-beat if the opportunity arose.
I cannot finish talking about my stay here without mentioning the food, which is all fresh organic locally sourced and presented beautifully. Every single meal has been a treat, particularly as in my daily life I will skip lunch or grab something while going from meeting to meeting and am often too tired to cook properly in the evening. As a long covid sufferer it has been incredibly healing to be looked after so thoroughly. In an environment whose motto is future thinking, I cannot imagine a better place to be to support my journey as a writer.
Anita Maccallum runs writing workshops in the South-West, focusing on writing techniques, short story, poetry and playful approaches to writing. Anita has been published in many anthologies including Comma Press, highly commended Bath Flash Fiction, long listed for Bristol Short Prize. Currently Anita runs workshops for Misfits theatre company and is writing a play commissioned by Graeae Theatre.