Young Writers’ Talent Fund: Dani Watson
I first came into contact with Isis Arts through New Writing North’s project ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’, which asked a group of young writers from the North East to produce creative responses in relation to upcoming EU Referendum and our relationship with Europe in general. I had submitted a couple of poems to the project, one of them being a satirical take on the racist undercurrents behind some of the narratives of the Leave Campaign.
The poem later caught the attention of ISIS Arts, who got in touch to ask if I would like to work as a sort of trainee writer in residence on one of their projects. This was a really exciting prospect for me. As someone who aspires to find a career in writing, it is extremely heartening to receive positive feedback and recognition for my work. They are a very exciting arts organisation and I feel really privileged to have had the opportunity to work with them. So as much as I have been disillusioned by the Referendum and its aftermath, I can say at least say that it has inadvertently led to me finding some creative work.
Since early October of last year, I became involved with Forage, a project created by Finnish artist Henna Asikainen. The project worked with local migrant and refugee communities and involved a series of ‘cultural foraging walks’ through National Trust sites in Seaton Deleval, Cherryburn and Gibside. The project explored notions of home and belonging and their relation to the local landscapes. It invited communities who may not already be familiar with the surrounding countryside to explore and gather foraged materials, which were later made into beautiful head garlands for an installation in Nunsmoor Park, as part of the Platforma Festival.
I had never visited any National Trust sites in the past, so this was also a new experience for me and I was really taken by surprise by some of the beautiful landscapes that exist right on my doorstep. During the walks, I had the opportunity to chat with the people involved about their lives and experiences. They were extremely open and friendly, and it was great to be able to collaborate with people of various different cultures and communities.
Some of the conversations we had about ideas home and migration, its benefits and challenges, later formed the basis of the poetry I went on to write. I also had the opportunity to meet other interesting artists and filmmakers whose work revolved around themes of migration and displacement.
What I really enjoyed about this project was the way it connected art and artists with local communities. I think art can often be quite inaccessible to the average person, so it was great to work on a project that approaches art in a way that is more inclusive and far-reaching. As a writer, my involvement encouraged me to explore a different style of writing from which I’m normally used to. Before I became involved with project, I wrote primarily prose. Transitioning to poetry and adapting my style of writing to fit the project was quite challenging but also helped me grow as a writer. I’ve learned a lot from the project and feel very lucky to have been involved.
Find out more about the Young Writers’ Talent Fund via our project page.