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Room 204

2016-17 Cohort

Sara-Jane Arbury is a writer, performer and workshop facilitator. She has collaborated with organisations including Arts Council England, Oxford University Press, National Association of Writers in Education, Book Trust and Apples & Snakes.

She regularly works with schools and community groups and is an outreach poet for Ledbury Poetry Festival’s community programme. She was writer in residence for Herefordshire and has been poet in residence for projects in Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol City, Cheltenham Borough, South Gloucestershire and Wiltshire Councils. 

She was Voices Off Director at Cheltenham Literature Festival for eleven years and co-founded lively literature organisation Spiel Unlimited. She has performed her poetry on television and radio, and at festivals including Glastonbury, Hay-on-Wye, Port Eliot, Cheltenham and Edinburgh. She often writes and stages interactive murder mystery events and has co-written and produced touring spoken word theatre shows, most recently Flash and Count Me In. She has poems published in anthologies and is currently working on a collection.

Matt Black lives in Leamington Spa and writes poems for adults and children. He has worked for twenty years as a writer in schools and the community, offering projects ranging from serious and educational to playful and delightful. Since being Derbyshire Poet Laureate (2011-2013) his work concentrates more on commissions and his own writing.

His poems are published in magazines including StapleEnvoiThe RialtoThe North and Magma. He has read at festivals in this country (Edinburgh Fringe, Cheltenham, Ledbury etc.) and abroad, won awards, and has enjoyed collaborations with musicians, cartoonists, photographers, storytellers, dancers and sculptors.

His most recent collection for adults is Footsteps and Fuddles (Derbyshire County Council, 2013) and for children, The Owl and the Pussycat and the Turtles of Fun (Two Rivers Press, 2014). His next collection is Tales from The Leaking Boot (Iron Press, 2017).

Ratilal Chauhan, known as R. K., was born in Kenya, moved to England in the swinging 1960s during the Beatles era and started working in factories. Since then he has served five years in the Royal Air Force and he has over forty years’ experience of running various businesses with varying degree of success. He is now retired and is now pursuing his lifelong ambition of writing an historical novel.

His novel, which he likes to emphasise is not autobiographical, tells the story of the migration of Indians from India to East Africa during Queen Victoria’s reign and then on to England. The narrative encompasses three countries, cultures and generations. The novel’s characters are all affected by issues of politics, economics, religion, caste, gender and race.

Jane Commane

Jane Commane is a poet, editor and publisher at Nine Arches Press, and co-editor for Under the Radar magazine.

Born in Coventry and living in Warwickshire, Jane worked part-time for ten years in museums and archives, before moving to publishing and writing full time in 2015.

Her poems have featured in IotaThe Morning StarAnd Other Poems and Tears in the Fence and in anthologies including Best British Poetry 2011, Lung Jazz: Young British Poets for Oxfam and in The Iris of a Peeping Eye. Her poetry has been recorded and featured online as part of the University of Warwick’s 50th anniversary celebrations, and she has also been a writer in residence at the Brontë Parsonage in Howarth and commissioned to write poems for several projects.

Tim Franks is from Wolverhampton. Tim has been a teacher, a headteacher and a writer, but if writing was football, he’d have had the world’s longest, family and career induced, half-time interval. He began writing on a course that taught how to write text to specific reading ages. After being told his writing was good, he did some more. After contacting OUP, they asked him to write a Teachers’ Manual and workbooks for their reading scheme. Next, came a textbook on Ancient Greece, but his editor left and work stopped.

He had a short story on Radio 4 and has recently completed a crime thriller with a political edge. Tim is currently plotting a second thriller, but hopes to develop historical fiction in future.

Rob Ganley’s unconventional stories about outsiders have appeared in print, online and audio. They’ve been performed at Liars’ League London and New York, and published in London magazine Litro and website Dead Ink. Rob’s writing has also appeared in the Canadian anthology The Best of Every Day Fiction II, and he’s performed his work at the Society of Authors live storytelling event Stand up for Books.

His self-published novel The Hypnotist’s Wife reached the bestseller chart on the You Write On website, and he’s re-drafting his second novel. 
Twitter: @RobertGanley

Fran Hill is a writer and English teacher. She writes fiction – Being Miss is a novella-length comedy about one day in a hapless teacher’s life – and is working on her next book featuring the same character.

Also a comic poet, Fran writes bespoke poems, and sometimes performs on stage. Not all her poetry is comic; she was runner-up in a bid to become Warwick’s Poet Laureate with her more serious verse. Since 2002, she has written humorous features regularly for TES, the weekly educational newspaper.

She writes a blog post, mainly observational humour, once or twice a week. Her short stories have appeared in print, most recently in What Haunts the Heart, a Mantle Lane Press collection.

Liz Hyder trained in Drama at the University of Bristol and, later, with Spread the Word to run creative writing workshops. She has since run workshops everywhere from schools to mosques, libraries and hotels.

She also co-founded The Wordshoppers, which she runs with poet Jean Atkin. 

Liz has previously developed a comedy drama pilot with Channel 4 Scotland, script read for Film Four as an intern and written several plays for the E17 Shadow Puppet Theatre. She is currently developing several new theatre projects, and published Bearmouth (Pushkin Press, 2019) which won several awards including the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2020. 

Liz is an experienced copywriter and features writer and has won awards for her short films. As a freelance award-winning PR Consultant, she’s worked in theatre, broadcast and publishing.

Twitter: @LondonBessie

Helen Kara was born in Wolverhampton, moved away two years later, then after a 30-year absence returned to the Midlands in 1997 and has lived in Uttoxeter ever since.

She is an independent researcher, which involves writing a lot of reports that can be rather tedious, and an experienced writer of academic non-fiction, which she regards as a much more creative form.

She teaches writing to doctoral students and loves anything to do with the written or spoken word.
Twitter: @drhelenkara

Amarjit Kaur has a BA(Hons) in Creative & Professional Writing and Popular Music (First) from the University of Wolverhampton and is a qualified journalist. She has rehearsed performances of her plays at the Arena Theatre (Wolverhampton), Newhampton Arts Centre (Wolverhampton) and Brno University, Czech Republic.

She writes short stories and plays. She has been asked to write a play by Jane Ward (MBE) for Central Youth Theatre.

Jennifer McLean is originally from Yorkshire and has been living in Warwickshire for the last decade, having received a BA and, more recently, an MA in Writing from Warwick University. She writes in a range of forms and genres, but is currently focusing on finishing a poetry collection. Her work often concerns the way place interacts with people, and our relationships with our bodies; her short stories and longer fiction tend to be darkly humorous.

Aside from writing, Jennifer is a teacher and spent a number of years in secondary schools teaching English, promoting writing, and leading ambitious expeditions. Latterly, she works as a freelancer, and currently assists the Leamington Young Writers’ Group.


Richard O’Brien is the author of three poetry pamphlets — your own devices (tall-lighthouse, 2009), The Emmores (The Emma Press, 2014) and A Bloody Mess (Dead Ink/Valley Press, 2015). His poetry has appeared in magazines and anthologies including MagmaOxford Poetry and The Salt Book of Younger Poets. A Foyle Young Poet in 2006 and 2007, Richard was a winner of the inaugural London Book Fair Poetry Prize (Sonnet category). He has led workshops in schools and libraries with Pop Up Arts and the Emma Press ‘Myths and Monsters’ children’s poetry tour.

Richard continues to pursue writing for theatre and is working on his first novel.

Hayley Pepler writes for theatre, broadcast and film. Hayley is a graduate of the New York Film Academy Screenwriting program, a qualified journalist and holds a MA in television scriptwriting from Leicester De Montfort University. Hayley’s play In The Motherhood played at Birmingham REP theatre in November 2015, and a tour is planned for later this year. Her film script The Shadow of Ingestre Hall received a Best Drama nomination at the Royal Television Society (Midlands) Award in 2014.

Hayley writes short films, webseries, comedies, radio dramas, comedy sketches, musicals, and comedic songs. Her favourite subjects are women and children her work is characterised by a wry observational style. Hayley is also an experienced non-fiction writer, penning multiple presentation scripts for broadcast and is the co-author of Ten Years Younger: A Cosmetic Surgery Bible, the third book to accompany this Channel 4 series, published by Transworld. Hayley combines writing with work as a Director and Producer, most notably for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Live From Stratford Upon Avon project where she is a Director of short films for the company and one of a team of producers that bring the production on stage to cinemas across the world.


Louise Stokes grew up in Shropshire before graduating from Durham University with a Philosophy and Politics Joint Honours B.A. A former senior psychiatric nurse (RMN, Diploma Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing), Counsellor (Cert. Individual and Family Counselling),  M.A.Research in Sociological Health Care, she trained as a professional actor in 2000 (Birmingham Theatre School, HND Community Theatre and Performing Arts, Dudley College of Performing Arts).

Louise works as an Actor, Writer, Poet, Stand Up Comedian, Workshopper/Facilitator. She co -runs LouDeemY Productions, a theatre and multimedia company, with Nadeem Chughtai.

Publications include two novels (her first Arts Council funded), play collections, short stories, comedy scripts and poems. Louise delivers Writing, Theatre and Arts projects for children and young people, mental health service user, learning disability, offender/probationary, and women’s groups, the voluntary and professional sectors, and the general public/audiences.

Louise lives in Birmingham, is a trained Reiki Healer, and Advanced Level 3 in Performance Combat.