Our Partnership with Durham University

We work on an annual programme of activity with academics and students at Durham University as part of Durham Book Festival, which New Writing North produces for Durham County Council. Our collective mission is to widen the appreciation of books across the county and to bring new ideas to audiences in Durham.

With staff at Durham University we have worked on publications, civic engagement, research and events (in communities, prisons and schools) and each year we widen our working to involve new initiatives around the sharing of ideas, translation, mental health, international working and the building of relationships around themes and shared research interests. 

As part of Durham Book Festival leading academics help to programme and host book festival events and profile their research. In 2022 the festival worked with Dr Natalie Mears from the History department on a series of short films inspired by her New Great Britons project. Natalie wrote of her experience:  

“The opportunity to collaborate with NWN and Durham Book Festival has enabled me to showcase my research project at a preliminary stage to a more outward-facing, public audience; to gauge public interest; and to make important new contacts beyond both academia and Durham/the North-East. I would hope that, as the project develops, I can continue to work with NWN as it offers a lot of new and distinctive avenues along which I can take multiple dimensions of my research.” 

We are currently working with colleagues from the university to develop new programmes of work in the field of mental health and wellbeing. In 2022/3 we co-hosted a translator-in-residence and have previously collaborated on an international exchange programme with Jordan. 

Each year we work with the university to appoint a Festival Laureate to work between the university and the festival. This wonderful opportunity has brought leading poets such as Paul Muldoon, Simon Armitage, Lorna Goodison, Andrew McMillan, Don Paterson, Helen Mort, Jacob Polley and Hannah Lowe to Durham. The Laureates are commissioned to create new work for the festival and to deliver public events and a special event for Durham students. This has produced many excellent poems and innovative live literature and podcast productions such as Rich Seams. 

In 2018/19 we worked with the university to appoint a Creative Industry Fellowship with Dr Laura McKenzie. Laura’s work on this project produced a wealth of knowledge and has led to the creation of an on-going project, Writing Durham, that looks to explore the literary connections of Durham. It also inspired a guided walk and a piece about Durham-born writer Violet Hunt by Dr Naomi Booth , an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Durham.  

 In 2023 Benjamin Myers’ critically acclaimed novel Cuddy was published by Bloomsbury. Inspired by St Cuthbert and Durham Cathedral, Ben cited some of the initial inspiration for the book as coming from his Writing Durham podcast interview with Laura McKenzie and novelist Pat Barker.