A Look Back at the Kingston Writing School Athens Summer School

For four weeks this summer, writers from around the world gathered in Athens, Greece for intensive creative writing workshops led by Kingston Writing School writers in connection with the British Council.

Athens school logoThis very lucky editor was among the students there for the first week of the session and can attest to just how brilliant it was. Waking up in the ancient city of Athens, spending the day wandering through centuries-old ruins and the evening discussing writing with motivated writers was incredible. Inspiration lay around every corner.

Weekdays from 6-9pm we would gather at the British Council offices in Kolonaki Square, revel in the glorious air conditioning and workshop an incredible array of writing. There were several courses to choose from:

1. 2 week Intensive Prose Writing with novelists Adam Baron and Rachel Cusk

2. 2 week Intensive Poetry Writing with Jane Yeh and Paul Perry

3. 4 week Mixed Genre Writing with James Miller, Siobhan Campbell, Norma Clarke and Jonathan Barnes

4. 2 week Fiction and Poetry Writing with Jonathan Barnes and Alison Gibb

Teaching these classes were: novelists Adam Baron, Rachel Cusk, James Miller and Jonathan Barnes, poets Siobhan Campbell, Jane Yeh and Alison Gibb, and poet and novelist Paul Perry.  Students also benefited from visits from notable Greek writers.

One of the best experiences of the week was not only the amazing teaching, but also the opportunity to connect with other, international writers. The 33 registered students were in classes of between four and eleven writers and were able to socialise and discuss writing with the other classes through organised events. The power of literature in the face of the current economic crisis was evident in the classroom. It was fascinating to hear from Greek writers about the economic and social turmoil, and to see how it was represented in their writing. Students hailed from several countries including Greece, the UK, the USA and Mexico, ranged in age from teenagers to retirees and had professions from novelist to diplomat. The wealth of world and life experience added to the rich discussions of writing and literature.

Many students found that the intensive nature of the course encouraged them to produce more than they normally would have. For those students who struggled to start, the teachers gave writing exercises to kick start creativity. The summer school ended with an impressive and moving evening of readings by participants that highlighted the success of the program.

Huge thanks are due to all of the staff of the British Council and the director, Tony Buckby. Special thanks to Irini Vouzelakou and Maria Papaioannou who did an enormous amount of work to organise everything behind the scenes to make sure the summer school ran so well and to make it all possible. Their hard work and positivity put everyone at ease and made both students and staff feel welcome in Athens and at the British Council. At Kingston University, many thanks to the staff who taught and to David Rogers for his leadership of Kingston Writing School in forging this new bond.

The consensus from the teachers, students, Kingston Writing School and the British Council is that the first year of the Athens International Creative Writing Summer School was a huge success. Director of the Kingston Writing School, David Rogers says, “We have definitely established a special link among Kingston Writing School, the Athens British Council, and our new community of Greek and international writers.”

Kingston Writing School and the British Council look forward to further developing and expanding that community next year when the Athens International Creative Writing Summer School will return as an annual event. So if you missed out this year, not to worry! It is expected that similar creative writing courses will be offered and organisers are looking into possibly offering courses in literature or nonfiction/journalism.For more information, keep your eye on the Kingston Writing School and British Council Athens websites.

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