A Place For Words: Tips and Suggestions for Urban Design and Regeneration Professionals

This page is intended to give a summary of tips and suggestions for urban design professionals who haven’t worked with writers or other artists before.

Getting a team together

As with any project, a good team is essential. If you haven't worked with writers or artists before you might want to consider teaming up with an arts organisation or consultant who can act as lead project managers/creative producers for the work. People already networked into the writing/arts world will be well placed to suggest possible candidates and get calls for proposals out to national networks. You will need to negotiate a contract with them, defining who is responsible for managing the writer/artist; setting up workshops and other activities, collating evaluation/publication materials, etc. You will also need to pay them! You might work with an organisation or individual to apply for additional funding for the work, but few will come with their own funding. Rates will vary, but currently sit in the region of £250-600 per day. There are various ways of finding appropriate organisations or individuals. The National Association of Literature Development is a national membership body for literature professionals and you can advertise opportunities at no cost on their website. LiteratureTraining.com is another site with a broad literature user base and a database of jobs and opportunities. See the links page for links to their sites and to other specific organisations and consultancies. You might also want to put out feelers through local authority arts departments, the Arts Council office in your region or other arts organisations local to the area you are working in.


Writing a brief

A good, clear brief is an essential start to any project. You need to be clear what it is you want this project to achieve and this writer to do. The project expectations need to be matched by appropriate project resources. There is nothing more disheartening (or more likely to put off good candidates) than a brief that sets a project up to fail with unrealistic and under-resourced expectations. The best kind of brief is one which is clear about the parameters of the work, the time scale and expectations, and an idea of an outcome, but gives the writer a degree of flexibility in how the project is realised. This allows for genuine and responsive work rather than a ‘paint-by-numbers’ project. Don't fixate on the idea of a permanent piece of work. Temporary work can be more powerful, sparking lasting connections and memories, and also allows more scope for creative play and experimentation.


Paying writers

A recent project, entitled PROJECT, managed by Public Art South West and evaluated by Commedia, explored the role artists can play on design teams. The evaluation strongly argues that artists should be paid on an equal basis to other professionals on the design team. Writer and artists are professionals with specific training and skills, and their pay should reflect this. Current levels of pay are approximately £200-350 per day, sometimes more.


Contracting a writer

Working with an arts partner will make sourcing and selecting appropriate writers for specific projects easier. It is important to draw up a contract to confirm the terms and conditions for the job. This will be closely linked with the project brief, and lay out payment schedules, appraisal systems, evaluation, etc.

Most writers have full CRB clearances, which are important if they are going to be working with children and/or vulnerable adults in the course of the project. You might want to make it a pre-requisite, or offer to fund a check for the appointed writer (they are inexpensive but the processing of applications can be slow).



As with any project, good communication from the very outset is absolutely essential. Remember, many writers and arts organisations may never have worked with Urban Design and Regeneration professionals, and whilst writers are good with language, the language of architects, planners and developers can be daunting and confusing! It is important that agendas and assumptions are explored at the very beginning, and throughout, a project, to ensure the work has the best chance for success.

It is also important to clarify the communication and decision making structures within a project. If the writer comes up against a problem, who should s/he talk to? Regular steering meetings can help ensure potential problems and opportunities are picked up on in good time to act on them.


Leaving room to experiment and fail

As has been highlighted already on this site, writers should not be employed as replacements for other professionals, or in an attempt to fulfil agendas and roles that should be delivered through other routes. Writers are, at the end of the day, artists, and without the scope to play and the permission to fail, they will not be able to work to their full capacity. We appreciate that this may seem flighty to people working in a world that holds people to strict account on budgets, timescales and delivery, but it is the bedrock of the arts. We say this, not to put you off, but to highlight that the essence – and the joy and excitement – of the arts is that it takes risks, pushes boundaries, tries new things and isn’t afraid to experiment. This can result in exciting, magical and extremely high quality work. But the flip side of taking risks is that they might not work out. Without the permission to fail, real risks will not be taken, and therefore real opportunities may well be missed.



If you are setting up a creative consultation project, only do so if you are prepared to listen to and respond to the results. This doesn't necessarily mean doing impractical things, but it does mean taking the process and those involved in it seriously.


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