We are delighted to welcome Dr Jen McDerra as the new Creative Director of The Writers’ Block.
Our KEAP Director of 22 years, Amanda Harris, will retire on 30 November, and Artistic Director Anna Maria Murphy will take a step back in 2024. Now we would like to introduce the team that will build on the incredible successes of our programmes and achieve our vision for the next 10 years.
We first met Jen in 2015, when she led the Charles Causley Trust in Launceston. More recently at the launch of the new Writers’ Block in January 2023, Jen delivered a seminar with some of our Cornish partners seeking to understand how to make cultural spaces welcoming for more people.
Jen has just completed a PhD with a thesis on Reuniting 20th century women in books and broadcast with their many achievements. Jen is also a Clore Fellow. The guiding principle for her work is the drive to acknowledge and support contributions to society by people whose voices and wishes have been neglected.
Jen is immensely excited to be joining The Writers’ Block team. ‘It is a real privilege to continue the glorious work of Amanda and Anna who have been two of the most important guiding lights in my own career and creative journey. The moment I set foot in The Writers’ Block I felt such a sense of right fit amongst the people and tiny objects and secret wardrobes. There is so much wonderful work happening already in Cornwall; I can’t wait to get started with the new team.’
Previously Jen has held roles within the literature sector, including Culture Programme Officer for Commonwealth Writers, Development Manager for The Reader, and Community Relations Officer at Barefoot Books. Jen begins her transition work with us in November 2023, and will take up her post permanently from March 2024.
Amanda Harris said, ‘I am hugely proud of what we have achieved with The Writers’ Block and The Story Republic and the place we have carved in the cultural landscape of Cornwall. With the arrival of Jen and the new team structure, I am certain the organisation will go from strength to strength.’
Jen will join Helen Reynolds in her enhanced role as Development Director. Helen has worked for KEAP for 20 years, and will take on the strategic, financial and operational overview of the
organisation, working in a co-leadership model with Jen, who will be responsible for the creative direction and content. Both Helen and Jen are really looking forward to working together to ensure the financial, artistic and strategic development and sustainability of the organisation.
We would also like to spotlight the Artistic Director of The Story Republic, Connie Crosby. Connie is a Cornish actor, director, and the Co-Artistic Director of Coppice Theatre. She has been with The Story Republic since it began in 2013. She has travelled all over Cornwall with the group (and even over the Tamar to London!), performing songs, poems and stories with a Cornish twist. The Story Republic has been intrinsic in helping Connie to grow as a performer and a singer, as well as a director. Working alongside Anna Murphy has been a source of joy for the last decade and she takes great pride in stepping up as the new Artistic Director. She cannot wait to see what the future holds for The Story Republic!
And finally, if you have visited us at The Writers’ Block in Redruth, you will almost certainly have been welcomed by our Venue & Marketing Co-ordinator, Grace Davies. Grace joined us in June 2022 whilst we were still between buildings, and is a key part of our success as a venue. Grace programmes the space, listens and responds to our participants and teams, throws herself at anything that needs doing, and is the friendly face everyone meets at the door. Her role requires incredible organisational skills and flexibility, and The Writers’ Block could not function without her.