High Street Tales: a project with Historic England

Wednesbury Market Place (c) GS Crutchley

We’re looking for a socially engaged writer, experienced at working with local communities and arts and culture organisations, to write a short story as part of a nationwide project to celebrate the future of the local high street.

The successful writer will also be involved in a podcast about the project, and will run two online story sessions to help create their commissioned short story.



High Street Tales is part of the cultural programme of the High Street Heritage Action Zones (HAZ) project run by Historic England. Its aim is to create a set of stories to be broadcast and distributed online that celebrate the local high street, the people and communities who depend on them.



Writing West Midlands is one of seven literature development agencies working across England with a shared commitment to supporting the artistic and professional development of writers and promoting a greater diversity of voices in the many worlds of writing and reading.

We are working together as part of the HAZ project to create stories from seven towns across England exploring the communities who live there and the role that their high street plays for them. Each of us is commissioning one writer to create a story from one town.

Writing West Midlands is looking to recruit a writer to create a story about Wednesbury (specifically, the area around the Market Place and clock tower) and we’re looking for a writer who either lives there, is from there or who has a connection to the town that would inform and make richer this commission.



England’s high streets have a long history and have always been at the heart of our communities. They are our landmarks and points of reference; our meeting places and marketplaces. Across the centuries people have gathered together on high streets, from market days to turning on the Christmas lights; coffee dates to national jubilees. In a recent survey, 45% of respondents indicated that their primary high street use was non-retail related.

Every high street in England, whether it is in a medieval market town or a post-war city centre, has a unique and distinctive history that creates identity and a sense of place. Despite this, high streets are struggling, and need to adapt to survive. Your commissioned story would be a way to help people reconnect with their high streets, helping them see it as a place that can thrive and be of relevance to them and their lives.

The full set of High Street Tales will capture the everyday magic that plays out on high streets across England. We are looking to work with a writer committed to co-creation and uncovering untold stories, who will create an inspiring, thought provoking and entertaining story from their research, consultation and documentation.



(1) Your short story will be 3,000 words or the equivalent of 15 minutes’ listening time. It will be aimed at confident, engaged readers who are keen to dig beneath the surface of places, learn more about history and heritage and expand their understanding of places, communities, cultures and contexts. We can share more information about the audience with the successful applicant. To help create your story, we’d like to you to run two workshops or meetings with communities in Wednesbury – more details on this below.

(2) As well as the story itself, we would like you to work with us to provide six high quality images relating to the story and its genesis (pictures of locations, people, experiences, contemporary or historical documents) that will form part of the story’s context when it’s published and shared. We will provide access to a photographer to help with this if needed.

(3) The creation of each of the stories will feature as the central element of a podcast, so we’d like you to take part in that recording too. A 45 minute radio programme will be made about the collective endeavour too.

(4) Finally, each story will be featured in an eBook (not for sale) to be feature on the website of English Heritage and the partners of this project.


As part of your application, we’d like to hear about how you would go about creating your story and there’s more information about that below.

The current COVID-19 pandemic is making community engagement and face-to-face working complex. However, we’d like to hear about the ways you feel you could safely engage the community/communities of Wednesbury in your approach to writing the story. This might include setting up virtual meetings with community groups that Writing West Midlands can help you access. It might include (COVID-19 secure) research visits to Wednesbury and the places or communities you are planning to write about. It will include two (virtual) creative writing workshops that Writing West Midlands can help you set up and manage during the early part of the commission period.

We’d love you to be as creative as possible about the creation and development of the story and we will work with you to develop a risk assessment of any work undertaken and to create a plan to ensure your safety and the safety of any community members you work with.



The fee for the development of the story – to include delivery of two workshops, research, documentation – is £3,000

Writing West Midlands will pay for the hosting of the workshops and their management, any photography needed, the creation of the podcast and the production of the eBook text.

There are additional funds available to support access needs. There will be space to tell us about these in the application form.



The deadline for applications is Thursday 5 November 2020 at 12noon.

A first draft of the story must be ready for sharing with Writing West Midlands on 14th December 2020.

A final version of the story must be agreed by 21st December 2020.