Claire grew up in York in a working-class household and was the first person in her family to go to university. She studied Fine Art at Northumbria University and later gained an MA in Cultural Leadership from City University. A keen reader all her life, she gravitated into work in festivals and galleries before finding her vocation working with writers and developing new work at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds.
Claire returned to Newcastle in 1996 to set up New Writing North and has grown the organisation and its work since that point. The organisation is now an Arts Council England NPO turning over £1m a year and employs 14 staff alongside many freelancers.
At New Writing North she leads a highly-skilled team that delivers a wide-ranging programme of talent development, reading and engagement projects such as the Gordon Burn Prize, the Northern Writers’ Awards, Durham Book Festival, the David Cohen Prize for Literature and the organisation’s award-winning work with young people. Recent projects that Claire has originated at New Writing North include the industry inclusivity interventions, A Writing Chance, Common People and Sky Writes, all of which support working-class and underrepresented writers to enter the industry and New Narratives for the North East, a commissioning project to think about the future of the region.
Claire leads the company’s external partnerships with higher education and with industry partners such as Faber and Faber, Hachette, Sky Studios and Channel 4. She is editorial director of NWN’s occasional publishing programmes and leads on the commissioning of original podcasts at New Writing North.
She writes regularly for the industry press and often speaks at cultural conferences and events. She has presented proposals to Parliamentary Evidence Gathering sessions on inclusivity in the creative industries and on regional culture. She is a regular literary event host and event chair and has interviewed a diverse range of writers and celebrities for festivals events and podcasts.
Claire is an experienced non-exec and charity trustee and currently serves as a trustee of the reading charity, BookTrust and the Community Foundation for Tyne and Wear. She is also a board member of the North East Culture Partnership, where she leads on its work around culture and the climate crisis. She is a member of the North East England Climate Coalition, connecting the cultural sector to this important regional climate initiative. In 2019 she was shortlisted by the Institute of Directors as a Director of the Year for her work in the charity sector.
New Writing North won Creative Business of the Year at the North East Business Awards 2019 and was shortlisted for The Charity Awards 2021 for its work with young people.
In 2021 Claire was awarded an MBE for services to Literature and Young People in the North East of England, recognising her 25 years of work with New Writing North.