Workshops and residencies within the community
Since it began in 1976, the Windows Project has run
workshops aimed at promoting writing for all ages and abilities
within the community. The Project makes particular efforts to
provide for children, since these will be the writers of the
future, and for those with disabilities, whose abilities are
often inadequately supported.
The Project runs a considerable number of individual workshops
each year for specific user groups, including youth clubs, day care centres,
writers groups and those in care or custody, but its general
strategy has been to create, where possible, long-term regular
"residencies", where a writer - preferably based as locally as
possible - visits a group on a more or less weekly basis. This
enables the development of greater trust and awareness within the
group than could be fostered by occasional sessions by visiting
The nature and length of these workshops is arranged initially
with the centre concerned but usually then develops by discussion
with the actual users. They can range from the simple promotion
of writing, through game-based approaches to poetry, script and
story-writing or autobiography to criticism and advice for more
These workshops, variously funded by local authorities,
Windows' own fundraising and the centres themselves, demonstrate
the current range of the Project's work, encompassing playwriting and storytelling
with under-10s; Saturday clubs in libraries; an alternative to snooker for teenagers in youth clubs;
specialist advice sessions for the public and writers' groups, and year-round opportunities for both
young and adult writers with disabilities or learning difficulties to develop their potential.
The first workshops ever formally run by the Windows Project
were arranged for the Merseyside Play Action Council in the
summer of 1976, and playscheme workshops continue to play an
important role in providing opportunities for children to write
within a recreational environment.
The relaxed and flexible atmosphere of playschemes can provide
an excellent environment for writing while at the same time
building good working relationships with the children. In order
to achieve this against the background hustle and bustle the
Project usually arranges for the workshops to be run by two or
three poets, which provides both for the usual heavy demand and
also for ideal on-site training of writers; and for the workshop
to take place either seperate from the main play-area or in some
quieter controllable space to allow the children to work with the
minimum of disturbance.
Windows playscheme workshops begin with a game - a board game
or quiz, sometimes a small fairground-style sideshow - which,
while fun to play, gives the children a starting point for the
poem they'll go on to write with as much help as they need from
the poets, ideally on a one-to-one basis to address their
individual needs. Most of the games are designed to be played by
two to four players, and when these have finished their poems and
have moved on to "publishing" them as display work the next group
begin the game.
The number of children in the room obviously varies according
to the game and the speed at which each child works, but the
system provides an atmosphere in which children can both relax
and concentrate, knowing they have an adult's attention and
assistance, which means that they don't waste time or have their
time wasted, and so the numbers involved during a full day can
be the equivalent of a school class; however, on the playscheme,
each child has recieved far more individual attention than would
have been possible if the whole class had been in the room.
Although the greater part of the Project's work in play is with
children from 6 to 12 years old, it also runs sessions
specifically for young people.
The Project works with a wide range of organisations providing
facilities for children and adults - from adventure playgrounds
to Survivors poetry groups.
Workshops for adults
Although the game-based approach was designed for children,
adults enjoy playing as well!
So the Project uses games with
groups of adult writers whether in libraries, community or day-centres.
adults may have particular needs in getting advice on their work,
whether on the writing itself or on publishing, the Project runs
advice desks in libraries and sessions for writers' groups,
and also tries to answer any queries phoned, e-mailed or posted to it.