Pictures at an Exhibition: how works of art can inspire writers

I’m running a FREE summer workshop at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists on August 3 which aims to offer writers new inspiration for their fiction and poetry.

Held at the RBSA Portrait Prize Exhibition the class will explore how paintings can provide a starting point for new writing. The gallery’s commitment to offering free places means this workshop is available to all.

A third of writers responding to a recent Royal Society of Literature survey cited low-cost or free workshops as important to their development.

Dr Lisa Appignanesi, Chair of the Royal Society of Literature Council, said: ‘Literature is a space of vibrant ongoing conversations. These can counter loneliness, boost the fascination of the everyday, and make its sufferings more comprehensible.’

Engaging in workshops is just one way to boost your writing and meet fellow writers. The August class will give attendees the chance to create stories prompted by the portraits around them – writing takes place in the gallery.


Francesca Currie, ‘Lewis’


The ‘A Room of My Own’  survey found two thirds of writers value peer support and emotional support as much as having their own space and financial security.

And if you experience social exclusion or barriers to publication, writing can be even more of an uphill struggle.

‘…people with a disability or long-term health condition, people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, people from particular geographic regions of the UK, and people who self-identify as working class are disproportionately affected by the conditions of a writing life.’

–  Molly Rosenberg – Director, RSL
Read the full report


Creating more low-cost or free opportunities for writers to engage with each other, and with other art forms, perhaps goes some of the way to tackling exclusion and isolation.

So why not join us on August 3? Details of the class and how to get to the Gallery are below…

Portrait Prize Creative Writing Workshop
Saturday 3 August
2 – 5pm

Jane Gardiner, ‘Looking Forward’


This free and informal session is open to everyone and is designed to provide a few hours’ escape from the isolation or stresses of everyday life. There is no pressure to have a fully formed masterpiece by the end – it’s all about flexing your creative grey matter, meeting fellow art and literature lovers, and enjoying some productive creative mindfulness.


Places are free but need to be booked. Please call or e-mail the Gallery on 0121 236 4353,

Useful links:



This work is part of a ‘Combating Loneliness in Later Life’ project funded by the West Midlands Museum Development Fund, which is managed by Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust with funding from Arts Council England.



Banner image: David Gleeson, ‘Hanako’