Dr Karen Tobias-Green

In October 2018, as part of the programme of events at long running Ilkley Literature Festival, Karen Tobias-Green was invited to deliver her Tactile Writing Workshop to members of the writing public.

The workshop – which was oversubscribed – took place in the Clarke Foley Community Centre in Ilkley for seventeen writers ranging in age from 12 years to 74.

The workshop aims to break down the barriers between image and text and to explore the tactile and aesthetic qualities of writing. Many of us inhabit, or strive for, a writing life. We want to explore the power and potential of creative writing. The workshop makes writing an engaging, productive and challenging activity using language, materials and text. Participants from the local community and beyond are enabled to discover ways of thinking about, doing, making and constructing possible links between words, materials and the realisation of their writing life. The workshops provide a purposeful, non-threatening environment to explore sensory and physical stimuli and an internal creative practice. They have previously been run for professional colleagues and for writers with dyslexia.

Karen guided new writers through a tactile and sensory experience of engagement with objects, scents, sounds, textures and images. Interaction produced language and conversation which became written words which were then honed, shaped and crafted into various pieces of poetry, prose and first person narrative. In the course of two and a half hours each participant engaged with their senses, spoke of their experiences and produced a piece of creative writing. Participants were invited to work in pairs, groups and alone at various times in the workshop and every one of them chose to share their writing at the end of the session.

The work that has gone into Karen’s research into this area is evidenced in her doctoral studies, the siting of her work in community settings and, from 2019, the design and delivery of a BA (Hons) in Creative Writing at Leeds Arts University, allowing her to pursue her theory, practice and methodology in a very real and exciting tundra.
Karen asks - can a workshop serve the function of extending writing’s domain in order to allow in messiness, play, objects, materials, sensory factors, humour, questioning, interdisciplinarity? Can we steal the garments of writing and resituate ‘that thing elsewhere’?