Writing Teachers Newcastle – towards a community of practice

Newcastle Art Gallery

The inaugural meeting of the Writing Teachers Newcastle group was held at the Newcastle Art Gallery on Friday, January 20. Eight teachers were introduced to John Olsen: the city’s sun exhibition, and made use of the Conference Room as a writing space – the first time this room has been used for creative writing.

In organising venues for Writing Teacher meetings, I drew on my experiences with Just Imaginethose of the National Writing Project (NWP UK) and my love of art. The gallery seemed an obvious central meeting point, and I was delighted to learn of the Olsen exhibition and his connection to the city: John was born in Newcastle in 1928.

After a brief introduction to the gallery and exhibition, we took time to choose an artwork – one that resonated or ‘spoke’ to each of us. We were able to take time and engage with the artwork: standing back, looking closely at details, stepping in to read accompanying title and notes.

The commissioned work for the gallery,

King sun & the Hunter, John Olsen 2016, acrylic on canvashad a large panel of explanatory notes. Most had simple details about the materials, date and title. This individual engagement, without prior knowledge, frees up our emotional and intellectual response.

I was drawn to the glorious colours and shapes of

img_0276Sydney Harbour the Tide comes in, 2013

Beautifully mounted on a golden wall, I stared at the central sun then noticed a thin horizon line and stepped in to confirm the tiny white shape that recalled the Sydney Opera House.


All this time, I was scribbling words, phrases, and questions into my notebook. There were harpoons and fishing lines, barbed wire and fencing, seaweed swirling and dipping lines.


Highways and concourses, life blood ebbing and pulsing, tentacles and jelly fish.

We returned to our writing space and shared words before free writing from the stem

I remember …

We then read our writing – moments of childhood re-created with imagery and sensual details – thanking and praising each achievement. Next, we shared a phrase from our writing to the person on our left. We then used this gift in a new piece, either continuing our earlier memory or starting afresh. There was discussion, too, on how these activities easily translate into the classroom.

We agreed that our next meeting, in early March, will utilise a local library space.

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