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Happy Zoom Birthday, Holmeside Writers

This week in #CreativeCitySunderland, we wish a happy seventh birthday to Holmeside Writers, the creative writing group which found a home in the Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens cafe, Holmeside Coffee. We hear from Iain Rowan, founder of Holmeside Writers, about how the group has been getting on in lockdown.

Holmeside Writers had just passed its sixth birthday when – along with everybody else – we had to transform ourselves. There was no way we were going to stop meeting and lose our community, so we flipped to Zoom and have continued meeting twice a month, just like we always have. 

Group of people gathered sitting around a table, writing and talking, in a glass walled cafe space
Meeting of the Holmeside Writers in January 2020 PL (pre-lockdown!)

Lessons were learned. Just because we happily meet for three hours face to face doesn’t mean anyone can take that on Zoom without getting the thousand yard Zoomface stare, so we dropped the time. It doesn’t matter if you’ve spent most of your life on Teams or Zoom for work in the last year, you will STILL forget that you’re on mute. It’s always better when someone’s dog or cat puts in a guest appearance. You do learn as a group to get better at the two people speak at once—then no one speaks at all as they’re waiting for the other thing. Yes, it definitely is wine or gin in some of those mugs, you’re fooling no one. 

But most of all, we learned we could keep going, and keep our little writing community alive, welcome some new members and some guests, and though we look forward to meeting in person someday soon, for now, at least we’re still on here.

Montage of actors performing in various museum and gallery spaces
Moments from Museum Pieces, five short plays inspired by and performed in Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens in November 2019, including works by Holmeside Writers, Ray Hopkins, Rachel McAleese and Iain Rowan

Sadly, during our time in virtual mode we learned that our hosts who gave us our name and who so kindly gave us space through two different buildings, Holmeside Coffee, were to close. We’ll find a new venue when we go back to face to face meetings, and were touched by some of the unprompted and generous offers we had when the news came out, but we owe such a debt of thanks to Joe and the HC crew, for their generosity and patience.

So, as we reach our seventh birthday in February, we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into – well, first and third Weds of the month, 6-8 and 6-7. Drop [email protected] a line.


Find out more about Holmeside Writers:

web: https://www.iainrowan.com/holmeside-writers

Twitter: https://twitter.com/holmesidewriter


We would like to join Iain in wishing a fond farewell to all the Holmeside Coffee crew. You have been such a part of the Museum’s recent success: from the welcome you have provided to visitors, to your support for large events, and not forgetting your legendary coffee and brownies, which have fuelled many a staff meeting and creative idea! We will miss you and wish you well with new adventures in the future.