Recently, on BBC Radio 4’s flagship news programme, The Today Programme, Henry Sutton talked about the 50th anniversary of the University of East Anglia (UEA)’s renowned Creative Writing course, and its enduring legacy, which has long been championed as one of a kind.
UEA pioneered the teaching of Creative Writing in the UK, establishing the first MA in Creative Writing in 1970 and the first PhD in Creative and Critical Writing in 1987. The course was founded by Sir Malcolm Bradbury and Sir Angus Wilson in 1970, both of whom were incredibly distinguished writers. Bradbury published no fewer than 40 books of non-fiction and criticism, the most famous being The History Man (1975), whilst Hemlock, one of England’s first openly gay authors, received a knighthood for his services to literature.
Awarded a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in recognition of continuing excellence and innovation, the UEA’s MA has been billed as the most prestigious Creative Writing programme in the UK ever since its creation. It is split into four strands: Prose, Creative Non-Fiction, Poetry and Scriptwriting, and there are numerous scholarships available to prospective students.
An unrivalled number of alumni across all strands have achieved literary success since graduating. Indeed, from Kazuo Ishiguro, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2017, to Ian McEwan, Booker Prize–winning author, the prose strand are particularly good at making headlines, often catering towards the largest readership.
Most recently, Elizabeth Macneal won a six-figure advance for The Doll Factory, gaining deals in 29 countries. The television rights also sparked a fight among production companies. This kind of advanced success is something that rarely happens to poets, although they often do very well too once they are published.
Of course, budding writers don’t need to complete an MA in Creative Writing to publish a hit novel or winning pamphlet. From the Bridport Prize to BBC Writers Room, there are plenty of competitions out there, all judged anonymously, that place first-time writers along giants of the scene.
What the MA best provides is regular close discussion of student’s work and critical feedback, accompanied by a one-to-one tutorial. It’s an intensive year, but one that really focusses on honing technique and craft. The programme is also valuable for simply providing the motivation to dedicate one’s time to creative endeavours.
Situated in Norwich, England’ s first UNESCO City of Literature, the location itself is rich in literary inspiration. The year-round programme of literary events includes the hugely popular UEA Live, the Noirwich Crime Writing Festival, the International Literary Festival and endless spoken word nights and open-mic events.
Jade Cuttle: https://www.jadecuttle.com/
Jade Cuttle graduated from the University of Cambridge with First-Class Honours in Literature, going on to undertake an MA in Poetry at the University of East Anglia. Selected by Ledbury Poetry Festival as an Emerging Critic and winning Best Reviewer (Editor's Choice) in the 2018 Saboteur Awards, Jade has written for the Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement, The Spectator, The Times & The Sunday Times, the Observer, BBC Radio 3, BBC Proms, The Poetry Review and elsewhere. She is Deputy Poetry Editor at Ambit and judging the Costa Book Awards 2019.