James Whitman, working hard at the Lit & Phil in Newcastle.
Writer | Writing tutor | Nerdy dad

About James Whitman

I’m a writer and creative writing tutor, based in Sunderland. I specialise in collaborating with artists and community groups, creating work that is both accessible and innovative. In addition to my writing and project work, I’ve run creative writing workshops throughout the north-east of England.

Previously, I worked in youth justice and children’s homes for over a decade. I have two sons who regularly beat me at board games, and I make wee zines and Twine games in my spare time.

Writing

I have written everything from modern retellings of classic fairy tales to interactive theatre tours to monologues inspired by interviews with domestic abuse survivors. Two of my plays have been filmed, which you can see below as examples of my work.

Strong for War, For Helping Tender

Sunderland Council commissioned Strong for War to commemorate the achievements of George Maling, Sunderland’s only recipient of the Victoria Cross. The play was performed as part of a programme of events commemorating the First World War.

Performed by Theatre Space NE | Filmed by Lonely Tower Film & Media.

I wrote the play using wartime letters provided by Maling’s grandson, who attended the play when it was performed in Mowbray Park.

The Butcher’s Tale

Gateshead Archive commissioned The Butcher’s Tale, which explores a tragic murder that took place at Windy Nook Co-op in 1907. Working alongside Corinne Kilvington, we used the full range of the Archive’s facilities to research the play, which you can watch below.

Performed by Theatre Space NE | Filmed by Second Draft.

Part of our brief was to include some form of interactivity in the play, so we created a ‘Choose Your Own Ending’ structure. Audience members voted on a series of choices throughout the play, so that a different version of the story was told each night.

Projects

I have worked on community / school based projects with a range of partner organisations, including The Cultural Spring, Sunderland Culture, New Writing North, South Shields Football Club, and The Customs House. The following are two of my larger-scale projects.

Grafters Gables

Grafters Gables is a unique combination of street art and storytelling. Local street artist, Frank Styles, painted a series of eight hand-sprayed murals on gable-ends throughout Hendon, Sunderland. Each mural was inspired by a character or event from the area’s past, and I shared these stories in a novella and a street play that was performed by Theatre Space NE before each of the murals.

(left to right) Rob Reed, Frank Styles, Corinne Kilvington, Jane Nesbitt, James Whitman, and George Cooperwaite, in front of ‘The Battle of Hendon’.

The project was a finalist in the Journal Culture Awards 2016 (Best Event – Sunderland) and Heroes of Hendon was long listed in that year’s Saboteur Awards (Best Novella).

Mackem Craic

Mackem Craic is an audio comedy drama, staged to sound like a local radio phone-in, but with a supernatural twist — the former host is trolling the show from beyond the grave.

I worked with Jay Sykes (producer) and Corinne Kilvington (director), along with 160 workshop participants from local schools and community groups. The show combined professional writing and voice talent with contributions from workshop participants (both on the page and in the studio).

Jay Sykes and me, collecting our Community Radio Award.
Jay Sykes and me, collecting our Community Radio Award.

The show won Community Development Project of the Year at the Community Radio Awards 2017. You can listen to the pilot episode on SoundCloud.

Workshops

I’ve run writing workshops in community venues across the north-east of England (including Sunderland Museum, The Word, The Laing Gallery, Gateshead Archive, and Arts Centre Washington). I’ve also worked in more schools than you can shake a rolled up exercise book at.

Incredibly serious writing workshop at Back on the Map.

I love designing new content for each group of participants. This means my workshops can be about anything from Nissan-inspired haiku to pan-dimensional library massacres to ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ games based on Kafka’s Metamorphosis (plus all the usual stuff, like character development, story structure, and the Oxford comma). I can also deliver Arts Award (up to Silver level), if that’s something you’re into.

Get in touch