Two creative writing learners from the South Wales Valleys are set to learn from some of the UK’s best creative industry professionals, including award-winning novelists, journalists and broadcasters, after securing a place on an exclusive writing course at this year’s internationally renowned Hay-on-Wye Literature Festival.
Lilianna Williams, 17, and Josie Lee, 17, who both study at Coleg y Cymoedd, have beaten off stiff competition from across the country to bag themselves a place on this year’s Hay Festival Beacons Project – a prestigious, workshop residency held during Hay Festival Wales for 16-18-year-olds interested in writing.
Aimed at encouraging creativity among young people in Wales, the Hay Festival Beacons scheme offers a unique opportunity for twenty Welsh students to work with exceptional writers and journalists in a highly creative and stimulating environment during Hay Festival to develop their writing skills.
They will spend four days and three nights attending events, participating in workshops, writing blogs and reviews, taking part in debates and immersing themselves in everything that Hay Festival has to offer. Each of the learners will be supported by a mentor throughout their stay.
Pontypridd learner, Josie, who is currently studying AS levels in English, Psychology, Sociology and Drama at Coleg y Cymoedd’s Nantgarw campus, is one of the Welsh learners to have been selected for the project. The budding writer from Rhydyfelin was chosen to take part in the scheme after impressing judges with a sample of her own creative writing.
She said: “To apply for the project, I submitted a piece of my poetry but I didn’t think I’d actually get a place as the project seemed very exclusive, with only 20 young people from Wales being chosen, and given the fact that, as an English student, I was competing in a highly competitive field for a place.
“When I found out that I had been selected I was very excited as I love writing. The experience will give me the chance to explore all elements of English and develop my interest in language. It will be amazing to meet inspiring authors and to be surrounded by other aspiring writers during the Festival. I can’t wait! Plus, as I’m hoping to study English at university, it will also be great to add into my UCAS application to show my keen interest in the subject.”
Competing against hundreds of applications from all over Wales, the lucky learners secured their places on the project after impressing submitting their own creative writing work and answering questions on their reading and writing interests.
Former participants of the Hay Festival Beacons Project have gone on to careers in creative writing, publishing and the media, including the award-winning poet and playwright, Owen Sheers.
Rhondda learner, Lilianna, who is considering a career in journalism or editing, is also looking forward to the course. Lilianna, who is currently studying English, Geography and Criminology at AS, is hoping the scheme will develop and improve her writing skills.
Lillianna said: “My tutor at college encouraged me to apply for the project and I couldn’t believe it when I was told I’d got the place as hundreds of people applied. I’m passionate about English and know that I definitely want a career related to the subject, so I’m really looking forward to seeing how this experience could help my career.
“It will be really useful to gain knowledge, insights and tips from top professional authors. I’m hoping the workshops will help me to be more confident in my writing, as well as improve my skills and teach me how to adapt my work to different genres.
“The success of Owen Sheers, who previously attended the workshops, just goes to show the opportunities that the Beacons Project can open up – I can’t wait!”