In the Spotlight introduces you to someone new who’s involved in Shake the Dust. Catherine Rogers is Education and Programme Manager at Writing East Midlands, one of our Consulting Slam Producer in the East Midlands.

Tell us about how your organisation works with artists
Writing East Midlands values openness, equal access to the means of creativity, freedom of expression and the removal of barriers to creative thought and writing. These values underpin the agency’s development work with writers, literature events, projects, and relationships with partners. As the writer development agency for the East Midlands we work to create opportunities for writers and discover new writers of quality and promise. We facilitate new commissions, residencies, publications and projects in order to create an environment in which writers and writing can flourish. Working with partners such as literature development officers, local authorities, regional development agencies, universities, schools, arts venues, museums, libraries, and producers we connect writers to audiences and communities, support the creative and professional development of writers, and provide vital networking opportunities. We manage a broad range of creative projects providing opportunities for writers to work creatively with young people in and outside of formal education. These vary from site specific residencies for writers such as the Write Here programme to larger literary festivals and events such as The Lyric Lounge Festival.

Why are you excited about Shake the Dust?
Apples and Snakes are the leading national spoken word organisation and it is brilliant to be able to work with them on a project like this where our young regional writers get to work with established artists such as Jacob Sam-La Rose. We manage a project called The Lyric Lounge that works with young artists inspiring them to write and perform their work, so Shake the Dust fits perfectly with the work we have been doing and takes it a step further to give one team the opportunity to showcase their work on a national stage in London. Opportunities like this can transform people’s lives – it is so exciting to be a part of that!

What inspired you to work in the arts?
I grew up in a very arty community in West Wales, my mother is a photographer and my dad is a visual artist so I guess it was always a strong possibility I might end up working in the arts. But what really inspired me was when I moved to Derbyshire and started doing a bit of storytelling at various community events. I saw how much joy there was in people’s faces, young and old, when they were told a story or took part in an arts activity that told a bit of their own story . That was wonderful – nothing has ever inspired me so much.  I met lots of like-minded people too who really believed that the arts are a powerful tool to help make people’s lives better. These included a bunch of brilliant writers from Derby called Hello Hubmarine who came together when I worked as a Literature Development Officer. Together we put on live events in Derby that celebrated writing in every shape and form and gave people a warm (sometimes too warm as it was such a well attended night) and welcoming  atmosphere to try out their new writing whether it be short stories, poetry or even film . We put on some challenging artists and events too but the best thing about working with this group was that amazing thing of all working towards a common goal – for us this was to celebrate writing and to inspire others. This goal continues to inspire me to keep working in the arts – and to continue to help make people’s lives better through working in the arts, wherever my path takes me.

Visit Writing East Midlands for more information.