A Place For Words: Practical tips and Suggestions

Every project will have its own unique opportunities and challenges. In every situation the personalities, politics, levels of resources etc. will be different. However there are certain key issues worth considering from the early planning stages of a project that will help set you up for success rather than failure. Below are tips and suggestions that sit across the different professions and agendas, then please follow the links for information specific to your area of work.


Good communication is the key to any successful project. Working in this field inevitably requires working with partners who have very different agendas and ways of communicating. Taking the time at the beginning of a project to fully explore those agendas and establish methods of good communication is essential. Don't assume that because you understand why you are doing something, everyone else will.



Be clear about your expectations for a project, but also realistic. Don't expect a writer to deliver unrealistic outcomes and don't promise things to communities that you can’t deliver. We hear a lot about consultation ‘fatigued’ communities who are fed up and disillusioned with the consultation process. Be realistic about what you can achieve and what difference it will make.

Write a well thought out brief for the writer. Ideally a brief will offer structure and guidance without being overly prescriptive. Consider leaving the project outcomes open rather than deciding the outcome from the beginning.



Take the time to build strong partnerships and explore the agendas and expectations of each partner. The most successful projects will be those that engage and connect with existing organisations and activity, so the lessons learnt and changes effected can be embedded and sustained within a community. Partners need to demonstrate real commitment to the project, and be prepared to listen, learn and make a difference.


Find The Right Writer

Finding the right writer to work in a specific place is important, and it's worth spending time making the right choice. You can send out a call on websites such as NALD, NAWE and Literaturetraining.com, or work with a literature development professional to source potential candidates. Spend some time thinking about the specific nature of and issues relating to the site you're working with, and look for writers whose own work reflects and engages with those themes.


Roles and responsibilities

Define clear roles and responsibilities for all the partners involved, and nominate a project lead. A good leader/manager/producer is an important role, which drives the project creatively, but also manages the practicalities, supports the artists, and negotiates the agendas and partners involved.


Timing and timescales

Think about when is the best time to deliver a project to ensure maximum participation and impact. Also remember that this kind of work takes time, a lot of it. Building meaningful and sustainable relationships with people in a place undergoing change is a difficult and time-consuming business and to do it properly, projects need to be adequately resourced.



It is important to recognise that a writer is an artist, an individual with a talent for expressing ideas in words, and a unique way of looking at the world. And as an artist, if they are to work effectively, they need to have the space and freedom to play, to experiment, and crucially to fail. Have the confidence to leave room for play, experimentation and specific and unique responses to place. Be open to recognising and celebrating unexpected outcomes.


Take the time to document and disseminate good practice

Cynically, it's good PR and means you will be in a better position to attract more funds and work in the future. Less cynically, the process of examining and evaluating success and failure facilitates learning and will make future projects more successful.