Chris Barkley appointed as new Writer in Residence

Our partnership with The Alternative School at Spartans began in 2020 and was initially part of Citizen, our flagship Communities project. With Chris Barkley, our new Writer In Residence now appointed for the entire academic year of 2022-23, we are taking our collaboration to a new level.

Headshot of Chris Barkley

The Book Festival began working with The Alternative School at Spartans in 2020, when as part of our Citizen project, Leyla Josephine worked one-to-one with pupils to explore different routes to creativity. The partnership aimed to encourage the young people to express themselves creatively in new ways, and resulted in a special zine that combined rap, games, illustration and photography which you can explore here. This August, facilitated by a generous donation from a Book Festival supporter, we were pleased to expand and extend our partnership with Spartans.

The young people who attend The Alternative School might be at risk of exclusion from mainstream education, or might find the intensity of school a challenge. The school therefore provides a nurturing environment for 14-16 year olds to learn, grow and develop. Establishing a long-term relationship that is rooted in trust and common ground with the young people was pivotal for this next stage, and we are delighted to announce Chris Barkley as the new Writer in Residence at The Alternative School at Spartans Academy for entirety of the 2022-23 academic year.

Chris Barkley is an award-winning fiction writer, whose work is concerned with belonging, place, myth, and reality. He has worked for various social enterprises, using creative writing as a tool to build confidence and creativity. His creative practice is dedicated to nurturing imagination, helping young people who face barriers and have experienced trauma in their lives, to access the arts.

A teenage boy wearing a black hoodie and black gloves is throwing a football into the air

Speaking about his new position, he said: “I’m thrilled to be working with the Edinburgh Book Festival and Spartans Alternative School, hearing what the young people have to say. Collaborating with other creatives, I aim to draw out the songs and the stories while forging relationships with the people and the places. I’m already learning so much as we work towards presenting these stories to the public. I can’t wait to see how this project grows as it sprouts branches of character and pockets of lore.”

According to Emma Easton, School Manager at Spartans, Chris has bonded really well with the young people, and is “already coming up with ever increasingly fun and creative ways to build rapport with our guys and get them talking, writing and creating.”

Chris has big plans to bring in other creative collaborators too, including Glasgow-based rapper BEMZ and the coaches at his jiu-jitsu gym in Edinburgh. You can hear more from him in the video below.

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