Anne Rouse / Federation of Worker Writers -
Milestones Project 2000

Anne Rouse is author of two books of poetry published by Bloodaxe, Sunset Grill (1993) and Timing (1997). She has performed her poetry at Arvon Foundation, the South Bank, Aldeburgh Poetry Festival and Almeida Theatre.


The Federation of Worker Writers's aim is to further working class writing and community publishing, and has a membership of independently organised writers' workshops and community publishing in Britain and abroad. The aim of this project was to enable member groups to work with an established poet, to provide opportunities for groups to produce poetry events, and to encourage creative contacts with others in their local communities.

Report on the Milestones Project 2000

Travel around Britain working with writing groups? Sounds good. Just how good, I hadn't imagined. When the Federation of Worker Writers in conjunction with the Poetry Society asked me to fill a Poetry Place, I was at first delighted, then a little apprehensive. My brief was to facilitate writing workshops in Grimsby, Hastings, Prescot and Sheffield, with the aim of producing four performance pieces for the Fedfest 2000, the Federation's annual conference in Leicester. Our theme was "Milestones".

So far, so straightforward. However, unlike other Poetry Place-holders I'd be working with writing groups. So a London-based Yankee expatriate is meant to venture beyond Watford to disperse her gems of wisdom to people who have already written (lots) and already, in many cases, been published? That'll go over like a cold souffle, I thought.

Nevertheless, armed with a notebook and what I hoped was a disarming smile, I ventured into foreign (to me) territories. The natives were not unfriendly. In fact they were some of the nicest, most interesting people I've ever met. And hospitable. I had lunch in Grimsby, coffee in Hastings, cider in Sheffield and a knock-out buffet in Prescot (thank you, June and Linda). And as an extra bonus, tours of Cleethorpes, Prescot Clock Museum and Liverpool. (Thank you Maria, Pat, John S and John K).

What about the workshop process? Well, we did a combination of writing and acting exercises. Looking at the exotic things can you do with a rolled-up newspaper, for example. The aim was not only to get people thinking, but to get them physically working together. I feel that if you somehow physicalise the process of creation, centre it in the body, the work becomes truer and more vivid.

That's the theory. The results were a delight. The date of the FedFest rolled round and the groups were more than ready. Grimsby Writers performed an original fantasia on the theme of liberation, "Freedom Is"; Prescot Writers combined lyricism and farce in a lunar-inspired piece of madness called "Humped, Dumped, and Bin-bagged"; Heeley Writers performed their poems and songs in the guise of wayfarers on a real and metaphorical highway; and Hastings brought us the last News at Ten broadcast in the Universe: "Carry on, Apocalypse."

Personally, I've come away from the project feeling I have four homes-away-from-London. I learned a lot more about the pacing and the varied approaches required in workshops and I've gained a great affection and respect for the Federation and the people in it. Thank you all.

- Anne Rouse 10/4/00

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