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Norwich has been a literary city for 900 years: a place where every hidden garden, cathedral spire and crooked beam has a story behind it. Home to the oldest football chant in history, the first BAME English circus proprietor (inspiration for The Beatles’ song ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite!’), and the first woman to publish a book in the English language anywhere in the world, England’s first UNESCO City of Literature is the picture-perfect destination to explore the power and pleasure of words.
Every month, join the National Centre for Writing, based in Dragon Hall – one of Norwich’s 12 iconic buildings – in celebrating the individuals that were born or found their voice in Norwich, that continue to weave their stories and words through the fabric of the city today.
Kirstie Millar is a writer and editor based in Norwich. She is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing (Poetry) at UEA and is the recipient of the Ink Sweat and Tears scholarship. Kirstie is the editor and founder of Ache, a literature and art magazine founded in 2017 publishing work by women and non-binary people exploring illness, health, bodies and pain. Through Ache, she has led creative writing workshops on women’s health at The MayDay Rooms, The Second Shelf, Goldsmiths SU and Grrrl Zine Fair. In July 2019, she hosted a panel discussion, ‘The Myth of Endometriosis’ at Waterstones Gower Street with authors Karen Havelin and Eleanor Thom as part of the ‘Margaret Atwood Summer of Hope’ festival. In August 2019, Takeaway Press published Curses, Curses, a pamphlet of poetry about women, folklore, menstruation, illness and shame. In October 2019, with support from the UEA Enterprise Centre, Kirstie and her partner, designer and writer Theo Inglis, opened Nobody Norwich, a pop-up book and magazine shop dedicated to independently published art, design and literature publications which ran for two weeks in Norwich Market – Europe’s largest outdoor, covered market.
Were you born or drawn here? Definitely drawn here; by Norwich and by the MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, where I currently study. I was born in the United Arab Emirates but I grew up in Buffalo, New York. My family is from Lancashire and I moved back to England in 2010, so I’ve moved around a lot! My partner studied Graphic Design at the Norwich University of Arts and I’d often visit him in Norwich. I was struck by how peaceful it is and was envious that he got to live here. After living together in London for seven years we suddenly had a desire to come back to Norwich, so we did!
Favourite thing to do in the city? I love to walk around Norwich, it is my favourite thing to do here. Starting in Chapelfield Gardens, I walk down Bethel Street and pass St. Giles on the Hill Church, which is my favourite of the city’s many churches to look at, during the right season the wisteria is stunning. I often walk down Cow Hill and Pottergate, to admire the cobbles and the old buildings. I also love walking around the Cathedral, Elm Hill, Tombland and visiting St Julian’s Church. These are such special locations, they are so intriguing to me. Norwich is really like no other place I have lived.
Favourite place for a coffee/beverage/food? The Workshop on Earlham Road is wonderful, their menu is fantastic. When my husband was a student here he lived right around the corner, so we’d eat here often. After moving back to Norwich I was thrilled to discover it’s still excellent.
My Norwich: I moved to Norwich to study on the MA in Poetry at UEA. Since relocating to Norwich, I’ve appreciated the slightly slower pace of life, as well as the history and peculiarities of the city, which make it so endearing and unique. During my time working at the National Centre for Writing I was introduced to witch marks, scratches embedded into the walls as an ancient charm against evil spirits. That was when it really dawned on me what a weird place this city is. I feel like Norwich’s history, along with ancient, secret stories are really imbued into the buildings and the landscape of this place, which has encouraged my own writing. A visit to the ruins of St Mary’s Church in East Somerton, where it is said that the oak tree grew from the wooden leg of a witch who was buried alive there, was the inspiration for my first pamphlet Curses, Curses published by Takeaway Press in 2019. The poems in this pamphlet were written and inspired by my time living in Norwich, and that fantastic trip to visit the witch-tree in particular. I also find the landscape outside of Norwich to be stunning, the flatness and the blankness, while some might consider it bleak, is so illuminating to me. The coast at Stiffkey is one of my favourite places in the world, everything is bright, open and wild.
For more of Kirstie’s work see the following links:
Ache magazine: https://achemagazine.co.uk
Curses, Curses (published by Takeaway Press) https://takeawaypress.co.uk/publications
This monthly feature was curated by Roisin Batty from the National Writing Centre. For more works and information about the National Writing Centre click here.