A Place For Words: Introduction for Arts Professionals

There is already a strong tradition of, and a sophisticated debate around, art and the public realm. Much time, energy and debate has gone into the role of the arts in the process of regeneration, from artists working on design teams, to the place of creative industries and creative skills in the regeneration of place and community. A Place For Words aims to sit within that debate, rather than trying to replace or replicate it. The driver for this research and thinking was an observation that whilst a spattering of public realm and regeneration projects across the UK have involved writers, the sector is dominated by the visual arts, and literature and creative writing seem peripheral to, if not absent from, the debate.

The aim of A Place For Words is to begin to put creative writing on the map; to examine the specific and unique skills creative writers can bring to the table. This resource is the outcome of two years of research and thinking (funded by Arts Council England and the National Association of Literature Development). A Place For Words is intended as a beginning rather than an end – the opening of a conversation. We are not interested in raising writers up above other art forms, nor do we see it as an either/or choice, but are instead very interested in productive and well managed collaborations between writers and other artists.

We are passionate about the potential for exciting and innovative work, in which writers can work with communities, places, and those driving the change and improvement of places, to facilitate real communication, discover connections and ultimately contribute to making those places more attractive and desirable places to live, breathe, work and play in.

The scope of UrbanWords' work and this piece of research and thinking is not broad enough to address all the issues of cultural regeneration and the role the creative industries play in the regeneration of places and communities. Our focus is specifically on writers engaging with particular places and with the people who live and work there. It is not just about writers slotting into the role of public artist to place well chosen words in well chosen places, it is about the writer taking on a social role: to question, to listen, to converse and to articulate. Most of all we are interested in well-planned interventions that happen at a time of change. Regeneration is about change and transformation, and so is writing, with its bedrock of metaphor, narrative, and language that makes us look afresh at our world.

We hope you enjoy exploring the A Place For Words web resource, that it offers food for thought and perhaps inspires you to consider working with writers in the future. Please feel free to get in touch via the blog or email if you have any thoughts or comments, or would like to discuss something in more detail.