Why join Cuckoo?

The Cuckoo Young Writers programme has been running since 2012: what started with one young writers group in Newcastle has since grown to encompass groups all over the North East, as well as numerous projects and publications. In that time we have worked with hundreds of young writers in schools and communities, through our publications and via partnerships with other organisations. Because we aim to respond to the needs of the young people we work with, we can form relationships that last from anything for a couple of months to many years.

Participating in Cuckoo Young Writers programme has helped young people achieve many things: to get into university, build their CVs and writing portfolios, develop their writing skills and get jobs. But there is more to it than just writing. Cuckoo has enabled young people to find their voices, express their identities, build friendships and grow their confidence.

Here are a few stories from our Cuckoo Alumni which show you what Cuckoo can do!

Hannah’s story: from young writer to group leader

“When I turned up at a Cuckoo Young Writers group in Newcastle I didn’t really see myself as a writer or intend to be a one when I grew up, I just quite liked the idea of writing as a hobby. Either way, I continued to go along to the Newcastle group every other week for a few years: I still didn’t know what kind of writer I was but I definitely knew that I loved having space to write, get feedback and meet other young writers. I started to perform my work, submitted to Cuckoo Quarterly, went to masterclasses and wrote for Cuckoo Review too, when that got started.

With the encouragement of New Writing North I applied to be a member of The Writing Squad, never in a million years expecting to get anywhere with her application. By what felt like a stroke of luck at the time, they took me on but I was still unsure about what on earth I was doing writing. I had my heart set on a career that was miles away from creative writing (mental health nursing) and I always felt like the odd one out at writing events. (I later discovered I kept writing because I loved it and because I’d been a scriptwriter all along- I just hadn’t realised it!)

Because my experiences of Cuckoo had been so positive, when the opportunity came up to be an arts assistant on a New Writing North project at Cramlington Voluntary Youth Project I applied. The project was rewarding and enjoyable and brought a wealth of transferrable skills that I can use in my day job.

More recently I have taken up the position of Group Leader at the Cramlington Cuckoo Young Writers Group, a position which brings my Cuckoo journey full circle. When teenage me walked into that young writers group for the first time I didn’t even know I wanted to be a writer, but thanks to the support and guidance of New Writing North I’m now doing a job I love. I also know there is no one route when it comes to creative writing and something I once thought was  “just a hobby” has the potential to grow and develop into an exciting adventure.”

Hannah is 21 and is now a fully qualified Mental Health nurse.

Fionn’s story: writing and identity

Fionn is 20, works at Seven Stories: National Centre for Childrens Books and is studying English Literature and Creative Writing at Newcastle University

Jacob’s story: from Newcastle library to the dreaming spires

“It’s difficult to accurately portray in a short paragraph how great it has been to be part of Cuckoo, especially now I’ve flown the nest and migrated South for uni. I started Cuckoo when I was fifteen and have had the chance to work with some of the finest writers working in the North East – Carina Rodney, Stevie Ronnie, John Challis, Degna Stone, Amy Mackelden, to name but a very small few. I used my experience as part of the group and all the experiences it gave me, working on projects in arts journalism, literary festival fringes, interviewing, film etc., as a springboard towards university. Having already read one of the poems I was given at interview – in this case ‘Snow’ by Louis MacNeice (great poem) – through a Cuckoo poetry session made me seem exponentially more literary and intellectual, and is testament to the exposure Cuckoo gives you to a vast catalogue of works, styles and literary voices.

My Cuckoo journey has gifted me with a far wider appreciation for literature; a more mature and advanced literary voice; and some great friends who combine degrees, writing, activism, and an incessantly pointing baby with enviable ease.

A year in, I started collecting the places my work was published and various pieces of detritus from the events I got involved in – now, years later, my humble plastic wallet is bursting at the seams with event tickets, postcards , mysterious scrolls full of writing ideas and Trashed Organ party poppers. If that’s not testament to Cuckoo’s fabulousness, I don’t know what is (aside from my short paragraph which turned into three).”

Jacob is 19 and is studying English and German at Wadham College, Oxford