My Students Are My Neighbours Too

Rotherhithe-based creative writing specialist Alison Clayburn tells us how her links to the local community has helped foster a hotbed of the arts.


It is nearly 30 years since I moved to Rotherhithe from not so far away Peckham. But I was involved in the neighbourhood for at least 5 years before this, helping to set up Brandrams Housing Co-operative. Next year we celebrate our 30th anniversary and we are very proud of our co-op, though managing it ourselves is a lot of hard work. 

During my time here I changed careers from community work to adult education. Complementary careers, but I found myself very involved with assessment – both for The Open University and Birkbeck College. So when I retired from contract teaching six years ago I was keen to focus on local self employed tutoring – using my MA in creative writing. I wanted to be more involved in Rotherhithe life and offer local writers a programme of non assessed courses and workshops in my specialist areas of Writing for Self Discovery, poetry and short fiction.

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I have used various local venues, mainly Canada Water library, The Brunel Museum, and Time and Talents. I also offer one to one support – both in Use of English and Creative Writing. Courses and workshops have changed and evolved with some participants doing a little, some a lot; moving between types of course.

My current ‘offer’ is regular 6 week runs of Writing for Pleasure at Time and Talents on Monday evenings and monthly Saturday afternoon workshops in Writing for Self Discovery and poetry at Canada Water library. An ongoing writers’ group for those with projects in progress is well established and special one off evenings (for example on Flash Fiction) take place at the Brunel Museum.

Plus...there are open reading and performance evenings every few months at Deli Felice in Albion Street, under the banner Rotherhithe Voices, and a booklet of local writing about Southwark Park, commissioned by Friends of Southwark Park, is coming out in September.

I am really pleased that my community development and tutor/facilitator sides feel integrated here.

Rotherhithe is a great community, with well established and ever developing networks. We may come together over issues like preserving green space or regeneration but our sense of belonging to our neighbourhood and being a community is wider than this. We are of course a hotbed of all the arts too. And I can only guess at all the conversations in all the pubs every day!

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I really enjoy all the cross fertilisation of ideas and seeing people I know, in the co-op and neighbourhood, every day. It is great to be offering a locally based specialist service, so my students are my neighbours too.

Six years on from starting CreativeWritingInRotherhithe I have developed a network of regular writers, while keeping doors open for new participants. It is crucial to me and my values that beginner writers are encouraged, that all forms of creative writing are available for all to enjoy. It is great to have a local identity – in this vibrant area. Some writers come from further afield, but have – of course - become Rotherhithe lovers. My biggest pleasure, after seeing how well writers develop in small, supportive groups, is seeing how they all become mates!

If you would like to get in contact with Alison, or to find out more about her work, click here.

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