The University of East Anglia is set to mark the 50th anniversary of its creative writing MA with a comprehensive series of initiatives and events.
When it launched in 1970 – co-founded by two future knights of literature, Malcolm Bradbury and Angus Wilson – the course was the first of its kind in the UK.
Ian McEwan was the programme’s first – and, for a while, only – student, and has since been followed by the celebrated likes of Anne Enright, Ayòbámi Adébáyò, Naomi Alderman, Tracy Chevalier, John Boyne, and the Nobel Prize in literature winner, Sir Kazuo Ishiguro.
“I was able to create and experiment like never before,” said Adébáyọ̀, recalling her time on the course. “I cannot overestimate how pivotal that year was for me.”
The Nigerian novelist will feature in CW50 when it launches virtually on October 1, running throughout the academic year.
She, along with five other writers, has been commissioned to work alongside local schools and young people as they interrogate the connection between contemporary literature and creative technology.
CW50 will also see the establishing of an international chair, with a succession of high profile writers – one each from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australasia and the Middle East –given a year to mentor and promote nascent talent from their region.
I was able to create and experiment like never before – novelist, Ayòbámi Adébáyọ̀
Each will hope to echo the influence of the course’s co-founder. When Bradbury died in 2000, his solitary student told the Guardian how that very first seminar had been.
“Within minutes, it seemed, he had communicated a sense of adventure,” said McEwan.
“The vitality of the novel as a form, its deep seriousness, its variety, the pleasures as well as the instruction in life it conveyed, its rich past and unguessable future.”
The Malcolm Bradbury Trust will be among the supporters of another initiative launching during CW50, the Global Voices scholarship.
Alumni, tutors and visiting professors will also be tasked with looking at future trends, and exploring how today’s world – with its polarised politics, climate change and inequality – will shape tomorrow’s literature.