300 young writers visit Newnham for the Young Writers Festival

Newnham welcomed almost 300 diverse young writers for the Young Writers Festival this spring: an incredible day of workshops, talks, performances and more. The Festival was organised by First Story, whose chief executive is Antonia Byatt, daughter of writer and Newnham alumna A S Byatt, and by Newnham Fellow Bonnie Lander Johnson.

The Young Writers Festival is dedicated to inspiring young people into creative writing. Headlined by celebrated author Patrice Lawrence MBE, the day included writing workshops, led by talented authors, poets and playwrights, plus a tour of the University and College, and culminating with a young writers showcase.

And the students certainly came away inspired: “This event has not only exposed me to others who are just as passionate about writing as I am, but has also allowed me to understand university life and how it works. I have always wanted to go to Cambridge to study, but this visit has made it seem more real.”

Poet and First Story Writer-in-Residence Khadijah Ibrahiim kicked off the day, followed by
First Story alumna, Habiba Desai, giving an inspiring talk on the Lady Mitchell Hall stage. Habiba shared her story with festival participants, from taking part in the Young Writers Programme at her school in Bradford, to founding her own independent publishing company.

Guided by current undergraduates, First Story toured Newnham, learning more about the many authors who have studied here. It was an opportunity to explore higher education possibilities, find out more about undergraduate life from volunteers, and think about one day studying at Cambridge. In the words of one of the participants, “the Cambridge students giving us the tour were really friendly and kind and answered a lot of questions + the workshops were a great opportunity to look at how different writers express themselves + their feelings through the power of writing.”

The writers found it equally rewarding, with one commenting, ‘I think it’s about connecting – we do a lot of the work in our own spaces/schools and so to listen and learn and just hang with other writers was a dream.”

Who knows whether the new generation of novelists, poets and dramatists graduating from Newnham will have begun their journey with First Story?