French Creative Writing Workshops (Funded Project Report, 2020-21)

Creative Writing Workshops

Report by Dr Dominique Carlini-Versini, Dr Géraldine Crahay, Cynthia Tavars and Anna Johnston (Durham University: School of Modern Languages and Cultures and Centre for Foreign Language Study)

As part of our research project on the teaching and promotion of creative writing in French language learning, we had secured £800 from UCML to support the delivery of two workshops led by writers from the wider French-speaking world. The rationale for this was to include a variety of voices from the French-speaking world, and more importantly, voices not traditionally recognised in what remain very Euro-centric curricula. With this in mind, we identified two writers, Saïd Mouhamed Ba and Guy Régis, to run two creative writing workshops (See appendices below for posters).

Saïd Mouhamed Ba who hails from Senegal is the author of several plays (L’Autre Président d’Afrique, Paris, Capitale de la Haine, Le Gâteau d’anniversaire (Collection 10/10)). He was the winner of Récréatrales in 2020 with the play A L’école du bonheur, L’Univers des Mots 2020 with the play Devoir de refuser and selected for the 2020 Rfi prize with the play Ainsi va la vie. He has also published a collection of poems, Vers pour la vie, and a novel, La Révolte du sexe. Currently Saïd lives in Saint-Louis, Senegal, where he works as a French teacher, a writing workshop facilitator and helps supervise the city’s actors and playwrights. He is also the communications officer for the Cercle des Ecrivains et Poètes de Saint-Louis.

Guy Régis Jr. is a Haitian playwright, novelist, director, poet, actor, translator in Creole. He is the co-founder of the Nous Théâtre collective and also produces experimental short films. Guy Régis Jr. has been leading the Quatre Chemins festival in Haiti since 2014. He recently published Les Cinq Fois où j’ai vu mon père (2020) (Gallimard) et la pièce Goebbels, juif et footballeur (2020) (Les Solitaires Intempestifs). Guy Régis Jr was named Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in 2017. He is the Artistic Director of the 4 Chemins Association which manages the performing arts festival of the same name. Guy Régis Jr is a 2021-2022 resident at the Villa Médicis, Académie de France in Rome.

The workshops were respectively aimed at A2 and B1 specialist and non-specialist learners of French across UK and Irish Universities. To maximise impact, workshops were held online and were free of charge.

The workshops were held on October 20th and November 24th 2021. In both cases, both Saïd Ba and Guy Régis kindly agreed to provide a follow-up session with the participants.

Saïd Mouhamed Ba’s workshop focused on theatre and introduced participants to drama theory, as well as providing them with personalised feedback on their texts.

Through a series of exercises, Guy Régis encouraged participants to write the way they breathe: simply, naturally and without pressure. All texts produced received feedback from the author.

The workshops were great opportunities for learners to approach learning French through the lens of creative writing, and attracted interest from across the British Isles.

These workshops represent a crucial step in the delivery of the project. Short term they support the running a creative writing contest in the 2021-2022 academic year. They also support longer-term research in the field of creative writing and language acquisition as well as longer terms goals of diversifying our teaching practices by foregrounding a greater variety of francophone voices in the classroom.

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