08 Apr 2021 / Chief Executive
Arvon’s ‘4th House’ reaches record-breaking number of adults and young people during the pandemic, expanding Arvon’s reach by 500%, and is declared ‘permanently open’. Arvon also announces a major redevelopment project for its Yorkshire house, Lumb Bank.
Following last spring’s lockdown, and the enforced closure of its three historic writing houses, Arvon, the creative writing charity that has run residential writing courses across England for over 50 years, built a fourth, ‘virtual house ’in just three weeks. Launched on 8 April 2020, with a live guest reading by Cathy Rentzenbrink, Arvon at Home has offered a weekly programme of Guest Readings, Masterclasses, Craft of Writing Sessions and Online Writing Weeks – all live and all taught by established professional writers–ever since. Over the last 12 months, Arvon has taken over 13,000 bookings and reached over 5,600 individuals, generating more than £175,000 in freelance income for writers during the pandemic. Now, on the occasion of its first birthday, the 4th House has been declared ‘permanently open’. Alongside Arvon’s three physical houses, in Yorkshire, Shropshire and Devon, the 4th House will continue to offer writers a rich variety of options–at different price points and with generous concessions–for every stage of their creative journeys, ensuring Arvon remains open to all, regardless of personal circumstance or geographical location.
At the same time, Arvon’s celebrated Learning programme has been restructured, with a new Learning and Partnerships team in place, comprising staff from all four houses and overseen by Arvon’s Artistic Director, Mary Morris, and Arvon’s Learning and Partnerships Coordinator, Sophie Lloyd-Catchpole. The team recently launched its first-ever Arvon online workshops for schools and young people, with over 1,000 students booked for the first three events. These workshops will now take place monthly. Combined with additional schools and partnership online activity, a new programme of local community engagement and Arvon’s core residentials, the aim is to increase the total number of young people and disadvantaged adults with which Arvon engages each year by 500%, matching the expansion of our open programme over the course of the pandemic.
Finally, at Arvon’s Yorkshire writing house, Lumb Bank, an exciting redevelopment project is underway. The house, which once belonged to Ted Hughes, was described by novelist Louise Doughty as ‘the most inspiring place imaginable for writers’. Gagarin, an award-winning architectural practice based in Halifax, has been appointed, and the redevelopment is being spearheaded by Lumb Bank Co-directors Rosie Scott and Helen Meller, as Arvon implements its plans to make Lumb Bank a cultural hub for the North of England and to spread the Arvon magic across the Calder Valley.
In reflection of this expanded ambition, Arvon has made a number of key staff changes. Natasha Carlish, Director of Arvon’s house in Shropshire, The Hurst, now adds to her role the position of Arvon Deputy Chief Executive. Mary Morris, Director of Arvon’s Devon writing house, Totleigh Barton, has become Arvon’s new Artistic Director. Eliza Squire, former Deputy Director of Totleigh Barton, and Helen Meller, former Director of Hebden Bridge Arts Festival and also Co-director of Lumb Bank, have become Co-directors of the 4th House. George Palmer, who oversaw the 4th House’s creation, has been promoted to Director of Digital and Communications, and Dan Pavitt has become Arvon’s first Digital Operations Coordinator.
Andrew Kidd, Arvon CEO, says: ‘Along with virtually every other arts charity, Arvon has faced extraordinary challenges since the start of the pandemic, and the furlough scheme, the Culture Recovery Fund, Arts Council England and our incredibly generous and loyal supporters have made a crucial difference to where we find ourselves twelve months on. So too has the ingenuity and determination of Arvon’s staff, who have turned the most difficult of circumstances into an opportunity: to help sustain thousands through lockdown by engaging them with the transformative power of creative expression, to provide essential income for professional writers, and to reach more people than Arvon ever has before.’
Writers who have taken part in Arvon at Home include Monica Ali, Raymond Antrobus, Simon Armitage, Alice Birch, Caroline Bird, Malika Booker, William Boyd, Adam Buxton, Vahni Calpildeo, Kate Clanchy, Horatio Clare, Kit de Waal, Louise Doughty, Bernardine Evaristo, Sebastian Faulks, John-Paul Flintoff, Neil Gaiman, Colin Grant, AL Kennedy, Rachel Long, Hisham Matar, Hollie McNish, David Mitchell, Michael Morpurgo, Maggie O’Farrell, Max Porter, Lucy Prebble, Cathy Rentzenbrink, Roger Robinson, Kamila Shamsie, Lemn Sissay, Colm Tóibín, Elise Valmorbida, Sarah Waters and Raynor Winn.
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