About Write Here: Sanctuary

Write Here: Sanctuary is a writing residency project created by Writing East Midlands in partnership with City of Sanctuary, which offers a safe place for recently arrived groups from Eastern Europe, South Asia, the Middle East and North and sub Saharan Africa to express themselves through writing.

Participants take part in bespoke writer-led programmes and work with professional and aspiring writers from local communities to share in spoken word, story­ telling and creative writing activities with a view to increasing confidence and to create a sense of wellbeing and inclusion for the participants – fostering a safe space for creative expression and exploration.  Participants also draw on their lives, experiences, changing environments and literary cultures to build their confidence in using English.



Images from our Sanctuary work, 2018.

Since 2016 Writing East Midlands has been working with over 260 individual refugees, asylum seekers and new arrivals in Leicester, Nottingham and Derby.  We have run over 142 creative sessions with 889 creative engagements, and 1778 hours of creative activity for Refugees and Asylum Seekers.  As part of this inspiring project, we’ve held showcases as part of Literary Festivals in Nottingham, Derby and Leicester and published an anthology of the group’s creative work called ‘Riding on Solomon’s Carpet’, along with a Creative Toolkit which has been distributed to participants and stakeholders, strengthening the group’s networks and inter-connectedness as well as making new links to mainstream and settled local people.

Independent evaluation by the University of Nottingham noted that 87% of participants found the Sanctuary activity sessions ‘very enjoyable’, 88% felt a strong sense of belonging to the group and ‘less lonely’, 82% reported that their ‘confidence’ in dealing with the world had grown, and 80% felt their communication ability had improved.

The Sanctuary approach has been developed within the Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s ‘Explore and Test’ programme. It has attracted total funding of £73,000 from Hamlyn, Santander Bank, Henry Smith Charity, Rayne Foundation, and Awards for All, and media interest in Leicester, Derby and Nottingham.

Write Here: Sanctuary is an ongoing LitLab project that aims to explore and articulate what difference creative writing can make to the social inclusion of refugees in the UK, particularly with reference to the impact on the health and well being of vulnerable groups.  We hope to better understand the best approach to adopt in working with transient groups, with particular reference to the difficulties such groups face in accessing the arts, and in working with people of mixed countries of origin and cultures. Such findings will be collated into a best practice toolkit which will then be used as an advocacy document and disseminated to other organisations interesting in building work in this area.


The Toolkit was written by Rich Goodson and has been developed with writers and participants of the Write Here: Sanctuary project. You can download a copy of the Toolkit <HERE> or if you’d like a booklet version please drop Aimee an email on aimee@writingeastmidlands.co.uk.

Write Here: Sanctuary is delivered by Writing East Midlands in partnership with City of Sanctuary and Nottingham Women’s Cultural Exchange. It is funded by Arts Council England, Santander Bank, Henry Smith Charity, Awards for All and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the Rayne Foundation.

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