Dartington Writing Residency

Monday 28th January 2018

So I arrive at Dartington with fragments of writing. Moments rather than scenes if you like.

In each one I know there is something to discover even if it isn’t dialogue I will eventually use. I know it is dialogue I will not eventually use.

But in there I know there are some finds.

I have my characters. I know their names. From these moments I start to learn more about them.

Why are they all here at the same time?


Four new characters to guide me. Help me see new things. A new world. I don’t think I found them, I think they found me.

And as the light fades outside on my first night here and I can only see the fading day through the branches of the trees I start to tune in and so much unknowing fades into a desire to know.

These shifting points in writing are stark. Revelatory when they happen.


Language from somewhere else. Characters from somewhere else.

Tuesday 29th January 2019

I move between spaces and start in Studio 5. I spread out, but I do not know where to go. This is a morning of wrestling and wrangling with how to start how to start can I start how to start. How. To. Start.

I read Jo Clifford and Chris Goode’s collaborative beautiful piece Eveand listen to Jo talk about her work online. She talks about odd moments of a life and I can feel in the work how some moments define us, redefine us, suggest we can be someone else. It is moving. I am trying to understanding more about the queer work being made, produced.

I make a list of what I know from reading those early moments of dialogue. Things that draw me in like one characters writing on the pavement a message to another. In there loves begins I think. Or the glow of it.

Chalk on pavement. I wonder what colour chalk they might use, but I don’t have to decide that yet, if at all.

After lunch I am in the Summer House at Dartington. I always imaged one day writing in here and here I am.

I put the laptop away and I get out the pencil, pencil sharpener and paper. And so it begins.

A little thatched space with a small kitchen and two toilets and a view of the estate. I wonder about all the other writers and artists that have sat here working through an idea as rain drips of everything, but as the day dies down a sunset pushes through the trees. It burns as I have just started to burn across the page.

As something breaks in the stalemate day I have been having, trying to locate a word, a voice, my voice, whose voice, just any voice at this point will do, something I understand, can connect to and help you to understand, as something breaks so does the sky.

Darkness forming. Outside. Secrets inside.

I sit in my thermals knowing something has moved and I come back willingly to the next scene.

I am building from the unknown deep from the inside of something not yet created or formed or found.

The air here heals. I swear it does. I don’t care it is cold and that soon I will be enveloped by darkness. The air will carry me and the lure of the fire soon beating within me.

From ice to fire and back again and around and around this merry go round of faith and a sheer lack of confidence.

Everything is about the pencil and the sharper it is the better. Nothing will get locked into the laptop today. It needs to grow. I need to expand the writing.

I walked away today in the dark with three new scenes. Beginnings rumblings machinations of a new play.


Wednesday 30th January 2019

Now I am ready to go and understanding a wee bit more each day about what I think could be written in this week and getting some sort of shape of a play.

Two new scenes this morning and new things heard and found.

A walk in the Deer Park. Air shaking out the knots. Bringing new thoughts. I talk to no one apart from myself.

I remember the effect of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016. I felt wounded by it even though I live in the safety of being thousands of miles away. There’s an anxiousness that something like this could happen anywhere. Is this partly what the play is about? 

There is something about what is happening globally for LGBTQ+ individuals and communities, thinking about Brazil and Chechnya and who is taking care of these people. The world is a frightening place at the moment in so many ways.

How do young people deal with this?


Thursday 31st January 2019

So the weather is closing in around the Dartington Estate and the main road in has been closed due to ice. It is icy and the rain is beating down trying to turn into sleet. I have holed up in my room in the East Wing where is is warm and a kettle is within arms reach.

It is still beautiful here. Even in the foul weather. I could put my waterproof trousers on and walk but the sleety rain drives home and I decide to focus on the writing instead.

The weather forecast threatens snow so Gillian and I decide to cancel her coming up to do a FB Live. We reschedule for next week.

I wanted to revisit the Deer Park, but can’t as the weather is too wild.

Maybe it will slow down later when I need to regroup.

So I hunker down and I sharpen my pencil and get to work.

Postcards out along the window ledge – is it a ledge – I just don’t know – but there are seven sketches written in pencil, maybe sketches is undermining:  lets call them scenes.

I begin to paint the characters. Watercolours at the moment. Nothing too bold.

Understand who they are in relationship to one another and yesterday most importantly I found the plays beat inside a piece of music. A heavy punk base beat, like a throbbing pulse, like movement, like young people tearing through a city leaving things in their wake.

This evokes something about the world and invites me in.

These moments are small but significant.

I have heard the plays pulse.

This matters a lot to me.

And so now it can begin.


Friday 1st February

I sit by the fire and plot my next steps in the project and with the writing. I want it to settle, but I make sure I reflect, give it time to sink in.

Let it sink in seep in to my bones.

I leave with 12 scenes scribbled out of necessity into a large notebook.


Thanks to the Dartington Live team – Nadia, Becca and Amy and to Arts Council England South West for enabling this to happen.



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