Through the use of short fiction, a group of students from Edge Hill University showcased how influential West Lancashire women have helped shape the lives of women today.
Tales From Her Past: Short Story Launch, an event held at Chapel Gallery in Ormskirk, allowed six Creative Writing students to launch their short works of fiction inspired by Women from West Lancashire who took an active role during the First World War.
Using an archive of research and historical materials from Ormskirk Heritage, students reinterpreted the lives of these extraordinary women who lived in or around Ormskirk 100 years ago and looked at the impact their lives have on the way we live today.
Dr Rodge Glass, Reader in Creative Writing, edited Tales From Her Past which features all six short stories.
“This has been a hugely enjoyable project,” said Rodge. “It was really inspiring to work with student writers as they wrestled with how to bring the lives of West Lancashire women to life on the page, and a real privilege to see what they delivered, both in the book and on the night. For some of these writers, this was their first publication – for others, it was their first time responding to research in this way. They’ve all done us proud, and we hope this will be an important step for them on their way to professional writing lives in the future.”
Third year Creative Writing and English Literature student Georgia Jepson focused on Ellen Preece, a munitions worker who was killed in an accident at the factory she worked at in Aintree at only 23, and turned her story into contemporary fiction.
“This event provided me a lot of new opportunities as a writer,” said Georgia. “It was the first time I had written professionally, working alongside an editor and to a specific brief. This was a very new thing for me but taught me a lot about my own writing process and the process of having work published. I also felt that Tales From Her Past was an important and rewarding thing to be part of. Writing about genuine people and historical events was something I had never done before, but to write about women who history has mostly forgotten, to give them a voice through my writing, was something I felt was really worthwhile.”
Kaden James, a third year Creative Writing student, also found the experience invaluable. The inspiration for his story was Muriel Gladys Hutton, a woman from Ormskirk who served as a nurse during the First World War who helped the wounded throughout many campaigns across the globe. Her efforts were recognised when she was one of two people awarded the British Red Cross First Class in 1918.
“When approaching my story, I was sensitive to the memory of Muriel Hutton,” said Kaden. “I didn’t want to write a historical piece full of inconsistencies, despite having creative liberty, because I did not feel I had enough information to do such a piece justice. I decided to put a contemporary spin on the story to answer the question about how these women have impacted our lives today.
“Rodge approached me about getting involved with the project and I was excited to be considered as I saw it as an amazing opportunity to work with an editor to create a piece of published work – my first published short story.
“I was also inspired by the research topic and chance to explore the life of one of six amazing women who helped shape the lives of women today. I did not want to miss the chance to write alongside Chapel Gallery, and as soon as Rodge sent us the information regarding each woman’s historical background, I was struck by all of the amazing work Muriel Gladys Hutton undertook and couldn’t wait to write about her – bringing her story to a modern audience, through the body of Macey.”
The other students involved in the project are third year Creative Writing student Paul Shacksmyth, MA Creative Writing students Jennifer Murphy, Julia Clayton and Harry Draper.
Chapel Gallery is hosting exhibition about the lives of these women and others which runs through January and is then going on tour.
Find out more about studying Creative Writing here.