Opportunity: Seaton Delaval Hall Writer-in-Residence

Posted by

The National Trust in partnership with New Writing North and Northumbria University is seeking a Writer-in-Residence at Seaton Delaval Hall, which is located near Seaton Sluice in Northumberland.

The writer will research and develop original work inspired by both the site and the Delaval family history; create and run a course for aspiring or emerging writers at the hall; and develop writing workshops for the local community based on the same material. The residency will take place over eight months from March 2020 – November 2020, and will culminate in a public event to share the work created through the programme.


Seaton Delaval Hall

Seaton Delaval Hall is a National Trust property designed by Restoration playwright and architect Sir John Vanbrugh. For a hundred years, the hall was home to the influential and often wildly notorious Delaval family. Key characters include Francis Blake, John and Susanna Hussey, and their daughter,  Sarah Hussey.

Entertainment made Seaton Delaval famous: there were fetes and masquerades, rope dancers and dancing bears, sack races and puppet shows. Inside, the family put on theatrical productions that earned rave reviews. Meanwhile, house guests were victim to elaborate practical jokes: drunken guests would awake to find their rooms had been turned upside down; a mechanical bed would give way to drop the unwary occupant into a bath of freezing water; and walls were said to disappear just as guests were undressing.

The Delavals loved a performance – a date with them was the hottest ticket in town. This is Seaton Delaval Hall’s ‘spirit of place’: colourful, fun and flamboyant.

The family archive, part housed at the hall and at Northumberland Archives, provides a rare insight into literary culture in the North. The many surviving paintings, drawings, inventories and letters, and some surviving playscripts, reveal that the Delaval family were enthusiastic supporters and participants in the theatre, that they commissioned political writings from risqué novelist John Cleland, author of Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (Fanny Hill), extended charity to their ‘favourite poet’, Christopher Smart, and circulated with the eccentric Laurence Sterne, parson-author of Tristram Shandy.


Context of the residency

The Curtain Rises is a £7.8 million project, for which a £3.7 million grant has been awarded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The project is conserving the hall and the surrounding buildings that are at greatest risk and restoring elements of the designed landscape; enhancing the welcome for visitors by investing in much-needed facilities (including a café, new landscape features and woodland play) and bringing to life the hall’s rich and varied story by creating new interpretation that focuses on the architecture of Sir John Vanbrugh’s last great commission and the lively history of the Delaval family.

At the heart of the project is an engagement programme, which builds on Seaton Delaval Hall’s theatrical and creative heritage to develop partnerships and community and volunteer programmes, and offers a range of placement opportunities for local students to enable skills development and experience of working across a range of areas in the heritage sector.

The writer’s residency is a major opportunity for reconsidering the provision for telling the stories of the Delaval family and their literary contexts.


Objectives of the residency

The objectives of the writer’s residency will be as follows:

  • Generate high quality original creative writing in response to the site and its archives
  • Draw out and promote contemporary resonances from the archive at Woodhorn Museum
  • Provide visitors and local communities with an opportunity to engage more deeply with the Delaval family and Seaton Delaval Hall through interpretative materials, writing workshops and any other events the programme generates
  • Locate the history of the site in the narrative of the North East
  • Begin a relationship with New Writing North to identify ways in which writers can continue to help animate the site
  • Support aspiring and emerging writers to see the site as inspiration for their writing
  • Create a legacy through volunteer run creative writing groups which may continue to meet at the site post-project.



A writer in residence at the hall will undertake the following activities:

Writing and Research

Spend time researching the archives and reading existing research. Embed themselves in the site, getting to know our knowledgeable and passionate staff and volunteer teams, and engaging with our visitors. Write original creative material in response to these resources. The new writing will be used in interpretative materials for future visitors to the site.

Creative Writing Course

The writer will design and deliver a creative writing course over approximately 8 sessions at the hall. The course will be designed in collaboration with experts in the history of the site and will consist of workshops which may use the archive, the site, and the Delaval family as its starting point and inspiration. The course will be free, but there will be an application process managed by New Writing North. Places will be offered to those applicants whose writing shows most promise.

Writing Workshops for Community Groups

The writer will lead approximately four writing workshops based on the same material for local community groups and / or visitors who sign up for them. The nature of these workshops and the participants in them will be agreed as the residency progresses.

Disseminating the work

The work the writer generates will be made available so that visitors to the hall can access and engage with it. The form(s) this work takes will be decided as the residency progresses.

In November 2020 there will be an event at the hall to celebrate the work that has been created through the programme.


The Fee

The residency will take place from March 2020 – November 2020 and the fee will be £6,000 or 40 days at £150 per day. There is also a budget of £3250 to cover dissemination, event costs, the course and workshops.


Further information

We welcome applications from writers working in prose, poetry, creative non-fiction and script. Writers should be based in North East England.

Please note: Although space can be made available in Seaton Delaval Hall while the writer is visiting, there is limited provision for a permanent base for them during the residency .

This residency is part of Rising Stars; a partnership between Northumbria University and the National Trust at Seaton Delaval Hall and forms part of The Curtain Rises project.

If you have any queries about this opportunity please contact [email protected]


How to Apply

Please apply via this link, with a covering letter (of no more than two pages) explaining why you would like to undertake the residency, and also outlining your experience of running writing courses and workshops. Please also include your writing CV with the names of two professional referees, and a sample of your writing (up to 5 poems, or 10 pages of prose or 20 pages of script).

Please submit your application by Monday 20 January. We will invite shortlisted candidates for interview at the end of January 2020 in a panel made up of representatives from New Writing North and The National Trust.


Indicative timeline

End of February 2020: Residency begins

March–April 2020: Research and Writing

May – July 2020: Course runs

September – November 2020: Community-based workshops

November 2020: Event to celebrate the programme