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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, the National Centre for Writing, based in Dragon Hall – one of Norwich’s 12 iconic buildings – celebrates 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. This month discover the local haunts of a Norwich individual who transforms literature to create immersive experiences in community spaces.
Sam Ruddock is a Literature Producer, publisher, and coach. He is Director of Story Machine Productions, which works with artists to create live experiences that bring books alive; from producing an electrifying reimagining of Preti Taneja’s Desmond Elliott Award-winning debut novel, Kum Kum Malhotra at the open air Whiffler Theatre based in the grounds of Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery to bringing Kerry Hudson’s autobiographical book Lowborn to life in chip shops across the country – including Norwich favourites Grosvenor Fish Bar and The Plaice for Taste.
Sam is also a Director and Editor with Gatehouse Press. He has been Programme Manager at National Centre for Writing, a bookseller, and is a Clore Leadership Fellow. He values the arts as a means of conversation and connection and can usually be found trying to type while a dog sprawls across his lap.
Were you born or drawn here? I was born and grew up in London but couldn’t wait to leave. I came to Norwich for university and never left because it is the perfect city for me – creative, connected, friendly, and with easy access to the countryside and sea.
Favourite thing to do in the city? Luka (my dog) and I walk on Mousehold Heath almost every day and I am still amazed that we have such a wild and changeable landscape on our doorstep. At some times of year it can look like savanna, at other times old English forest. It’s a wonderful natural space, and walking around it I imagine being part of Kett’s rebel camp, full of optimism and belief in a better society for all.
Favourite place for a coffee or beverage? I love KindaKafe on Castle Meadow and The Mitre on Earlham Road. Not only are they dog friendly, vegan friendly, and comfortable, but they also practice social generosity with pay it forward promotions.
Favourite spot to read or write? I love to read in the bath, or in the middle of the countryside, or anywhere else that I can turn my phone off and sink deeply into a book.
Writing requires a change of environment for me. I need to be in a place where I can think fresh thoughts and see the world differently. I have written in almost all the coffee shops in Norwich at one time or another.
My Norwich: Norwich has unfolded itself to me over the last 20 years and it continues to do so. I came here as a young man and have been blessed to have built a life I love here. I’ve been given opportunities I couldn’t have expected, and am regularly amazed at how much I still don’t know about this city. Central to everything for me is the people. I am part of support groups where people amaze me with their wisdom and openness, their willingness to grow alongside me, to try and to keep trying no matter the setback.
I love that Norwich is an outward looking, creative, and vibrant city. No-one just passes through Norwich – you have to come here for a reason – and that creates a special atmosphere and sense of purpose. I meet people every day who are trying to make a difference in the world, to the arts, to create fun and influential experiences. That’s what I’ve tried to do with Story Machine Productions – create moments where people can come together and share a feeling and an experience.
For links to more of Sam’s work go to: