The Write Stuff workshop is one of the first fruits of a new partnership between Usdaw and the Royal Literary Fund – and is being rolled at the Tesco store in Beverley, Yorkshire.
The Royal Literary Fund (RLF) is a benevolent fund for professional published authors and it runs a number of projects to help individuals and organisations improve the quality of their written work.
The workshop at the Tesco Beverly store was born out of a series of conversations between RLF and various Mobile Union Learning Reps (MULRs), Union Learning Reps (ULRs) and workplace managers where it became very apparent that staff lacked literary confidence and were low in morale following a wave of redundancies across the company.
MULR, Tracy White and store manager Gavin Haslam thought that a ‘writing for fun’ course would lift staff spirits and asked RLF to organise a two-hour taster workshop. Gavin supported the course by agreeing that that staff could attend in work time.
The aims of the workshop were to improve confidence and wellbeing with the hope that it would act as a gateway to further courses. A key objective was to introduce participants to the notion that writing and reading are pleasurable and to reassure them that they have the ability to read and write in a group. RLF wanted people to leave with a sense of achievement.
Like most Usdaw courses, participants were shop floor staff of varying ages and social confidence. They all lacked confidence with literacy but had signed up voluntarily to the course on the staff noticeboard.
The workshop involved writing poems by stealth, sharing their work and reading aloud and all wrote pieces and shared them with the group. The first exercise caused two participants to cry – this was because they had both chosen to write about subjects which moved them. Rather than this distracting others, it validated how powerful their writing was, and they were able to continue and participate fully. The least confident member of the group read out a full piece at the end of the group to her and everyone else’s pleasure.
The course was very successful and the feedback very positive. People felt the course had a relaxed atmosphere which made it easy to contribute, was thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening.
Learners preferred not to be identified but were very positive, with one person saying, "I got a lot of understanding about poetry and how words can mean sentences.”
People felt that they had built their confidence around writing and another learner commented that he now has "a can-do attitude.”
There are plans to build on this initial workshop, as Tracey explained:
Part of the RLF/USDAW project mission is to offer continued support and to maintain active links with sites.”
Both Gavin and I are both keen to build on the initial success of the first workshop and can see the immediate effect on staff. We have arranged a longer series of workshops for the autumn. There is real interest from the participants in terms of focussing on more specific skills such as email writing, writing reports and minute taking”.