Writing on the other side of the world

Dark Angels, the residential writing course for business, has spread its wings to New Zealand. Co-founder and 26er John Simmons shares what happened on this exciting new adventure to the other side of the world.

It’s now 15 years that Stuart Delves, Jamie Jauncey and I have been running Dark Angels courses (“Creative writing for business”). Dark Angels has taken us to some exotic places around the UK and Europe, and last autumn to the east coast of the USA. Even so the invitation to run Dark Angels courses in New Zealand was something special.

It came about because 26 member Jane Berney (creative director at Auckland University of Technology) attended our course in Spain as part of a sabbatical. She loved the course and, once back in New Zealand, persuaded her university to invite us to ‘the land of the long white cloud’. So it was that Jamie and I flew off to Auckland last month to run the courses. Along the way we also met up with kiwi 26 members such as Paul White and Jayne Workman.

We were curious to see if Dark Angels would work on the opposite side of the world. If we had any apprehensions they were soon dispersed by the welcome and the quality of the writers who attended our courses. We ran a 3-day residential and two 1-day courses for people from New Zealand’s business community and creative sector.

This is part of AUT’s description after the courses:

‘The opportunity to have writers and educators of the calibre of the Dark Angels was one not to be missed,” explained Desna Jury, AUT Dean. “Their extraordinary vision for what communication can be and their enthusiasm for empowering writers is a great fit with our values as a university.”

Participants came from the communication, advertising and university sectors. Feedback from the master classes has been evangelical, “Our Dark Angel tutors, with the greatest of care, led us to discover and push the limits of our ability to use words and to release what was always inside us. By the end we had all spun gold,” says a writer on the 3-day course.

The location for the residential course was extraordinary, in a small seaside village called Kare Kare on the west coast of north island. We were based in the beautiful house of Sir Bob Harvey, renowned in New Zealand for his political, film and surfing life. His house looked down onto the wide expanses of the beach that had featured in Jane Campion’s award-winning film The Piano. It was an inspiring place to be – not just for us but for the participants in the course. New exercises sprang naturally out of the location, following the Dark Angels philosophy ‘constraints can liberate your creativity’.

One of the participants wrote this in the AUT newsletter afterwards:

Without realising you were doing it, you have been carving out a deep trench with your pen, and now that you’re deep down in that trench, you meet other diggers, and the meeting is profound. It’s a down-deep connection to each other, but more importantly, it’s to yourself, and the self you are now able to bring to the page.

It was a joy to visit New Zealand for the first time and experience this spectacular country. Not least of the joys was meeting writers who are also members of 26, making a connection with them and bringing each other up to date on 26 projects (such as Armistice) that we are all involved in. Even if there are thousands of miles between us we are all part of the same family of writers. Only connect. Click here to find out more about Dark Angels.

John Simmons


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