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Caithness News Bulletins July 2003

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A new awards scheme for writers in the Highlands and Islands was today (1 July 2003) in response to a study that reveals a lack of a support structure for the industry.

HI~Arts has pledged its assistance as a first step towards tackling the findings of a writing development study, which shows that the area's writers are suffering from fragmented support and advice and are frustrated by the lack of outlets for their work.

The study was commissioned by HI~Arts with funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Scottish Arts Council. The findings are based on the results of interviews, focus groups and questionnaires from over 140 writers across the region which were carried out jointly by Jenny Brown and Philippa Johnston from Edinburgh, and Dingwall-based author Moira Forsyth in conjunction with New Writing North in Newcastle.

The project's steering group is now tasked with canvassing opinion on whether one of the main proposals suggested by the report - the establishment of a writing development agency - would be the most effective long-term solution to help improve writers' successes. To this end the report is being made available on HI~Arts' website at www.hi-arts.co.uk , and comments can be submitted via an online form.

In the meantime, HI~Arts' Writers Awards scheme has been set-up as an immediate commitment to implementing the recommendations of the report.  Based on the successful Artists Awards scheme, it will have a budget of 6,000 for the first year and writers can apply for awards up to 500 to develop and support their work. This can include travel, short-term training courses, or participation in events for writers.

Robert Livingston, director of HI~Arts said: "For several years now HI~Arts' MIDAS programme has been helping musicians to develop more quickly and with less hassle. This study demonstrates that there's a wealth of writers in the Highlands and Islands who may benefit from similar help and advice. So we hope the new awards scheme is just a 'starter for ten'."

Guidelines and applications forms for the award scheme are available on the HI~Arts website on www.hi-arts.co.uk  or from Robert Livingston on 01463 717091.  The 14,000 writing development study received 10,000 joint award from Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Scottish Arts Council.

Copies of the final report from the writing development study are available from www.hi-arts.co.uk