2 November 2021

Made Together: Writing the future

Désirée Reynolds, Writer/Curator, explains how her work and the support of the University of Sheffield’s Made Together programme is championing the local cultural sector.

Désirée Reynolds
Désirée Reynolds, a Sheffield writer who is championing the work of the city's marginalised communities

 Originally published in Sheffied Star, 29.11.2021

I came to Sheffield as a student and never left. It has been the place I found my adult self and my creative practice. 

Being a writer is a solitary thing, which I enjoy, but it isn’t always a solitary job. There are many groups in Sheffield that support writing in this region, from readers groups to writers meetups, for young and old, from naturalists and climbers to sci fi. But these groups can often feel excluded if you’re a person of colour. I noted that. When I started, I didn’t see myself or my interests reflected in these groups. So I kept going, being solitary and then met a brilliant publisher and editor and my first book got published. As this happened, I realised that a thriving writing community, not only benefits the writer but also the city of Sheffield. The city itself now has some independent publishers and independent publishing was and has always been at the heart of a more inclusive literary industry

I’ve been lucky to receive funding from the University of Sheffield’s Off the Shelf festival for the last couple of years to guest curate the Black Women Write Now strand, recognising that we were in a moment of time where Sheffield could be part of the larger revolution of Black women’s writing. I wanted us to be a part of that new and brilliant conversation.

As marginalised, racialised communities we have to write ourselves into that future and legacy building is how we do it. Made together is an ideal opportunity for us to help write that future.  

Désirée Reynolds

Writer/Curator

But always, I’m concerned with who’s not in the room, who are initiatives not reaching, how can we create legacy and justice built into a creative practice. We do brilliant bits of work, whose impact quickly fades. How can we develop work and schemes that aren’t one-offs or soon forgotten and unsustainable? So, I try to, as much as possible, to support our local talents here. If I’m offered work, I try to think about how we can build in opportunities for those that may not get them. We have so many poets, singers, musicians, film makers, producers, dancers, sculptors, animators, painters here in the region, silently getting on with their practice without support or acknowledgement. We have everyone we would ever need to produce that play, or musical, or exhibition, show, festival, installation, drama, sculpture, novels, performance, tv, podcasts, right here. Made Together and the support from the University of Sheffield provides that chance to celebrate the creatives we have here and to connect them with the opportunities they need.   

Désirée Reynolds with Akeem Balogun
Désirée Reynolds with Akeem Balogun, who Désirée edited for the anthology Writing as Resistance

I have been working with younger people recently; commissioning some poets to respond to Jean Binta Breeze for Off the Shelf on the Black Women Write Now strand, 30th October, Millennium Gallery, poets and singers for Word, Sound, Power, a celebration of spoken word and local Black music on the 31st October in Tudor Square and Dig Where You Stand, an initiative with Sheffield Archives, funded by the University of Sheffield to uncover the hidden stories of Black lives in our city.  I do this because I know the help I wanted when I started out and I know that my practice isn’t just about my voice. How do we create a legacy if we don’t make active decisions to think about a future? As marginalised, racialised communities we have to write ourselves into that future and legacy building is how we do it. Made together is an ideal opportunity for us to help write that future.