Young Writers

Creative & Active Lives Programme | Youth Programme

Creative and Active Lives Programme

Our Creative and Active Lives programme began in 2018 specifically to offer a range of opportunities to young people who are care experienced. It is fully funded until 2021 by the generous support of the Life Changes Trust

NEWSFLASH DECEMBER 2020 – In October, we welcomed our first group of young people back to Moniack Mhor. Here is a short video about our work with the young people, funded by The Life Changes Trust.

2020 has been a particularly challenging year for young people and we were delighted that we were recently able to bring small groups together within the youthwork guidance framework to rebuild social connections within a dynamic and creative environment.

If Streets Could Talk – In October a small group worked with writer Alan Bissett to articulate what it was like to be a care experienced young Scot in 2020. They then developed their thoughts and ideas into images and spent two days, in the driving rain and wind, with street artist Marc Delaye of Freshpaint to create a striking 10 metre mural.

The following week we offered an opportunity to explore Performance Poetry, Rap and Hip-hop. A group of young people worked with Jenny Lindsay, Ross (Butterscotch) Carbarns and Steve Bull to explore techniques or develop existing work in writing and performing.

The two events were captured by Paul Campbell who has given staff and young people an opportunity to describe the programme and showcase their work.

Our thanks go to Alan Bissett, Marc Delaye, Jenny Lindsay, Ross (Butterscotch) Carbarns and Steve Bull. We would also like to thank all the young people for their incredible input and endless energy that they put into these projects.


The Creative and Active Lives programme at Moniack Mhor has been running since April 2018 with the generous support of The Life Changes Trust. The programme offers opportunities to young people from across Scotland who are care experienced to engage with creative opportunities, either at Moniack Mhor or in their own communities. Young people aged between 14 and 26 can work with amazing tutors to try something new, build on existing skills or receive in-depth support and mentoring to develop their talents.

Young people can contact us directly, or can be referred by social workers, teachers or any other support agencies. So if you (or someone you know) are care experienced and have an interest in creative activities, or just fancy trying something new and fun, please contact Andy Nixseaman, Project Coordinator, on andy@moniackmhor.org.uk.

Here’s an overview of some of our programme highlights to date:

Run in collaboration with Who Cares? Scotland, Journeys in the North was a recurring part of our programme during the first two years. It started in June 2018 with a workshop at Moniack Mhor. Young people came together to explore their identities in poetry, music and multi-media installation, tutored by poet Jen Hadfield, singer songwriter Boo Hewerdine and visual artist Graeme Roger, with support from sound engineer Steve Bell on production. 

“I am genuine. I am awesome. I have courage.” ‘Going Wild Care Collective’, Journeys in the North CD

In October the group returned to transform their writing and music into a CD. They worked with Steve Bull to remix their spoken words, lyrics and music, and with photographer and graphic designer Fraser MacDonald to produce a CD cover and packaging. The end result was a professional CD that showcases their work. You can listen to it online HERE

 “I feel through the soles of my feet the paths other creatures have taken.” ‘Going Wild Care Collective’, Journeys in the North CD

The theme of Identity was explored further in 2018 in a residential workshop led by writers Kevin MacNeil and Emma Beeby (the first female to write comic strip Judge Dredd for AD2000!). Several young people visited Moniack Mhor for the first time, joining others who’d taken part in the Journeys project. As well as exploring their creative writing skills, they made new friendships and enjoyed the Moniack Mhor experience.

In December 2018, we enjoyed a Christmas dinner and planning day with young people at Moniack Mhor. We listened to some great ideas for activities in the coming year, which resulted in us revisiting the theme of photography in April 2019. Two days were spent on our Photography and Animation workshop learning from Graeme Roger and animator Rhys Campbell how to take better shots or animations on either digital cameras or smart phones.

Jen Hadfield also revisited us early in 2019 to run a two-day workshop Ways with Words – helping young women to build on their creative writing skills, either in poetry or prose.

Also by request, in April 2019 we went to see songwriting tutor Boo Hewerdine perform with Eddi Reader at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh. This was a first-time concert experience for some, with the added bonus of meeting up with Boo afterwards. 

Boo returned to join us all at Moniack Mhor in August with poet and comedian Kate Fox for a three-day residential poetry and songwriting workshop, Words and Music.

“I was proud when I wrote a song and a poem inspired by the workshops.” 

Another partnership with Who Cares? Scotland brought playwright and performer Chris Thorpe to Moniack Mhor for a two-day residential. Chris worked with a group of young people from the Inverness area to develop a piece of participation theatre which has since been used to give a powerful message to social work teams about some of the challenges of being in care.

In October 2019, our three-day residential Making your Words Work was led by Kevin MacNeil and poet Roseanne Watt. It focused on developing creative writing skills in a range of genres, particularly poetry and fiction. We were very pleased that a group of three came from Orkney and that several ‘new faces’ engaged with our project.

“I love it here.”

Other activity we have run as part of our Creative and Active Lives programme includes working in local secondary schools to offer sessions in poetry, creative writing, street art and animation. Dingwall Academy kindly let students use an interior wall in the school to produce a stunning mural!

We have also been able to offer 1 to 1 mentoring and support (including online during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020). Skills that young people have been developing techniques in  through mentoring include fiction, songwriting, hip-hop poetry and graphic design. We hope that this support will allow them to keep gaining confidence to take their creative interests further.

In March 2020 we were due to hold a fully-booked rap, hip-hop and spoken word three-day residential at Moniack Mhor. Unfortunately this had to be cancelled due to COVID-19. We hope to be able to offer this again in the future.

Remember, if you feel inspired to take part or just want to find out more about our Creative and Active Lives programme, please contact Andy Nixseaman, Project Coordinator, on andy@moniackmhor.org.uk.

“I have gained the power to support other young people.” ‘Going Wild Care Collective’, Journeys in the North CD


Youth Programme 

Moniack Mhor runs a programme of creative writing activity for young people living  in the Highlands and beyond] .  At the centre, we offer residential courses for young writers, with established tutors providing inspirational workshops and one-to-one tutorials to fire  young peoples’ imaginations and hone their literary tools. As well as benefiting from the creative  writing aspects of the course, young people make new friends, work together, cook together and get a taste of independent living, gaining great writing skills for self-expression and much more. 

Our outreach work takes us into schools, libraries and community  centres, supporting the delivery of high-quality workshops and one-to-one mentoring on young people’s doorsteps. We also target our efforts, making sure we reach those who often don’t have easy access to the artform. 

Much of our delivery is in  partnership, working with other creative learning bodies to provide rich, multi-art form, collaborative experiences. 

WORDS is our writing café for young people. The tutor leads the group through writing exercises and group discussion to help build young people’s confidence and help them find their creative voice. Come along if you are aged 14-26 and like to write, watch movies or read! Sessions are currently hosted on Zoom, where together with a writer, we work on stories, film scripts, poems, song lyrics, journals . . . You don’t need to have a work in progress, and you don’t need to have done anything like this before. Just bring a pen and some paper (and a hot drink and a cake if you fancy!), and whoever is running the session will keep you right about what you’re writing, and help you to work on inspiration, character creation, plot, language, and much more besides.

We have two forthcoming online writing café workshops. On Thursday 24th June and Thursday 1st July, novelist and short story writer Daniel Shand will help you to look at how to keep characterisation at the heart of your writing practice. Book the first of the sessions here, and the second here.

If you are a young writer, a teacher interested in a school visit, a support worker, parent or have any other interest in activity for young people please contact Andy Nixseaman, on  andy@moniackmhor.org.uk

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