Lancaster University

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African writing scheme wins prize

06/11/2004 14:43:20

A pioneering project bringing fresh African writing to new audiences has earned a Lancaster University academic a Staff Prize.

Distance-learning specialist Dr Graham Mort was one of two staff selected to receive the University Staff Prize for Community, 2004.

Dr Mort originally devised the pilot distance-learning project in Kampala, Uganda, in 2001 after he became aware of the need for young African writers to develop their writing skills. He has since travelled extensively to promote the project.

The scheme – known as Crossing Borders - has subsequently been developed and expended by the British Council, Lancaster University and a range of partners in Africa, including Kenya, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon joined the scheme in April this year, followed by South Africa this month, making it a truly pan-African initiative.

Dr Mort, who is also director of post graduate studies in the Department of English Literature and Creative Writing, said: “Through our mentoring system, young African writers working in the fields of poetry, prose fiction and children’s writing are given access to IT skills, library usage, cultural exchange and a greater knowledge of contemporary literature in English. In return the mentors have benefited from enriched literary and cultural experiences, so the exchange flows in both directions.”

It is hoped that in the long-term Crossing Borders will enable a new generation of African writers to access a wider audience.

Crossing Borders is also helping to develop new international links for the Department of English & Creative Writing. In October, Canadian writer Aislinn Hunter will come to Lancaster as writer-in-residence for the Michaelmas term. A further bid to bring a Ugandan writer to the University in partnership with Litfest and the British Council is currently being considered by the Arts Council.