We caught up with Gregory Leadbetter, Course Director for MA Creative Writing, to find out more about his work as a writer and academic and his top tips for students thinking about joining the course.
Tell us about your work as a writer and academic, and your role at Birmingham City University
I am a poet and critic. My poetry collections include The Fetch (Nine Arches Press, 2016) and the pamphlet The Body in the Well (HappenStance Press, 2007). My poems have appeared in The Poetry Review, Poetry London, The North, Magma, The Rialto, on BBC Radio 4, And Other Poems, and in CAST: The Poetry Business Book of New Contemporary Poets (Smith|Doorstop, 2014), as well as other journals and anthologies. I have written radio drama for the BBC, and was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship in 2013. In 2016 I was Poet in Residence at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage for Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival. My next poetry collection is due for publication with Nine Arches Press in Spring 2020.
My research focuses on British Romanticism and the traditions to which Romantic poetry and thought relates, and the history and practice of poetry. My book Coleridge and the Daemonic Imagination (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) won the University English Book Prize 2012. I have published widely on Coleridge, Wordsworth, Lamb, Keats and Ted Hughes, including recent chapters in the Oxford Handbook of William Wordsworth (2014), John Keats in Context (2017) and Ted Hughes in Context (2018). I am Director of the annual Coleridge Autumn Study Weekend. I am currently working on two monographs: a book on contemporary poetry and a further study of Coleridge.
I have taught at Birmingham City University since September 2010, where I am currently Reader in Literature and Creative Writing. I am the Course Director of the MA in Creative Writing and the Director of the Institute of Creative and Critical Writing.
What can prospective students look forward to when they join the MA in Creative Writing?
Students on our MA in Creative Writing are taught by distinguished practitioners in the literary forms they wish to study, and learn practical disciplines that strengthen their creative imagination, develop their literary knowledge, and cultivate their critical sensitivity.
The course connect students to contemporary literary culture, and teaches them how to continue learning and developing their practice as an independent writer after they have completed the course. The MA also has a proven track record in enabling our students to progress to doctoral research.
Students attend a rich programme of guest speakers, masterclasses and public events organised by the Institute of Creative and Critical Writing – a centre for the literary arts and the life of ideas based within the School of English. As well as receiving tuition through their chosen modules, our students have exclusive access to six masterclasses each year run by a Fellow of the Institute, a member of the MA team, or a guest author. These masterclasses involve an expert close reading of their work from which the whole group can learn.
Our students are part of a friendly, supportive and stimulating environment. The School of English belongs to the Faculty of Arts, Design and Media, which provides a wealth of opportunities for collaboration and interdisciplinary projects, both during and after their studies. The Faculty is the centre of an extraordinary range and concentration of creative activity, which helps to make studying at Birmingham City University an exciting and distinctive experience.
Our reputation for the outstanding quality of our teaching is now long established. In 2016, in his final report as External Examiner for the MA in Creative Writing at BCU, Dr James Hawes wrote that: ‘In my four years as External Examiner on this MA, I have frequently remarked on the high quality of learning and teaching that are in evidence. The quality of feedback to students, which is vital in this discipline, is always excellent. The quality and evident dedication of teaching staff is this MA’s greatest strength. BCU can be very proud of the team it has in place for this MA. Their clear and close knowledge of, and concern for, their students’ work, is exemplary’.
What are your tips for students thinking about joining the MA in Creative Writing?
Participate actively in contemporary literary culture. Get to know the riches of your literary inheritance, be that in English or other languages. Go to your local literature festival(s), as well as those with national and international reputations. Be prepared to learn, but also to Read widely and attentively and keep abreast of new publications by following the books sections of major newspapers, as well as literary journals like the Times Literary Supplement and the London Review of Books. Think about what you’d like to do, and why. Above all – write. And let yourself enjoy all of this: pleasure is too often undervalued!
Writers are perpetual students. The MA in Creative Writing is designed to help you learn how to learn, enabling you to continue a lifelong development as a writer. We provide a rich, stimulating and supportive environment for this to happen, but ultimately your progress depends upon your active approach to learning; your independent reading, thinking, and writing; your willingness to be adventurous and work beyond your own preconceptions or ‘comfort zones’; and your dedication to the craft.
Why study for an MA in Creative Writing?
Every student will have their own reasons, but besides the attractions outlined above – and the sheer freedom of learning and making – it gives you the dedicated time, space and expert support to take your writing seriously.
Why study in Birmingham?
Birmingham is an energetic, friendly and pluralist city. The city and the wider region has a thriving literary culture, and here at BCU we have close connections with Writing West Midlands, our local creative writing development agency, who programme a range of literary events throughout the year bringing writers from the rest of Europe and beyond to our region – including the annual Birmingham Literature Festival, and the National Writers’ Conference that takes place in Birmingham every year. Besides this – and the rich cultural life of its centre – Birmingham is an expansive city, with many flourishing localities with their own distinct character. It’s got an excellent and genuinely diverse food culture, and in recent years a new and independent spirit has emerged on its high streets. There are gems to be found everywhere.