Press Release: New West Dean College Literary Salon Series 2017

West Dean College's Creative Writing department has announced a new series of Literary Salons for 2017, featuring talks and interviews, readings and Q&A with an exciting line-up of authors. The evening events will be held in the richly atmospheric Oak Hall at West Dean House, home to the internationally renowned college. West Dean has a strong tradition of writing dating back to the 1930s when founder, Edward James, poet and supporter of the surrealists, published fellow Oxford student, John Betjamin's, first collection of poems, Mount Zion. The college offers a range of weekend writing courses, in addition to its Masters Degree programme in Creative Writing and Publishing.

Programme 2016 (Tuesdays)

10 January

Simon Brett, OBE, FRSL is the writer responsible for the Charles Paris, Mrs Pargeter, Fethering and Blotto & Twinks series. His stand-alone A Shock to the System was made into a feature film starring Michael Caine. Brett's writing for radio and television includes No Commitments and After Henry. He was awarded an OBE for services to literature in the New Year's Honours 2016.

14 February

Melissa Benn novelist, journalist and campaigner is a regular contributor to The Guardian and New Statesman. Her second novel, One of Us, was shortlisted for a British Book Award. Her several non-fiction works include School Wars, The Battle for Britain's Education and the much-discussed What Should We Tell Our Daughters? She is currently working on her third novel.

21 March

Stephen May, Costa-prize shortlisted author of Life! Death! Prizes! and Martine McDonagh, critically acclaimed author of I Have Waited, and You Have Come, celebrate the publication in March 2017 of their new novels, Stronger Than Skin (May) and Narcissism for Beginners (McDonagh), and discuss their approach to writing about family relationships.

18 April

Joanna Moorhead writes for The Guardian and many other publications. In 2006, she travelled to Mexico on a whim in search of her father's cousin, Leonora Carrington, the black sheep of the family, expecting to meet her once and write one article. Instead, she ended up visiting her ten times up until Leonora's death in 2011, and now she has woven Leonora's story and their friendship into a book: The Surreal Life of Leonora Carrington (Virago, April 2017) to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Leonora's birth.

Tickets for the Literary Salons are £5 per salon or £15 for all four booked in advance. Book online at The college bar will be open and there is free parking.

Creative Writing and Publishing, Master of Arts

The two-year part time MA is designed for committed writers looking to complete the first draft of a novel and develop the skills required to be an author in a modern publishing environment. MA students attend twelve intensive three-day blocks of workshops, lectures and tutorials over two years. Sessions cover all aspects of writing and publishing from writing the first draft, revision to second draft and beyond towards publication. Tutors are published authors with extensive creative writing experience, supported by visiting industry professionals and guest lecturers.

The academic team includes: Martine McDonagh, MA, Programme Leader; Mick Jackson, MA, award-winning novelist and screenwriter whose first novel The Underground Man was shortlisted for the Booker Prize; Lesley Thomson, whose latest novels The Detective's Secret (2015) and The House with No Rooms (2016) were both nominated Sainsbury's Book of the Week; and Domenica de Rosa, the author of fourteen published novels who also writes the highly successful Ruth Galloway and Stephens & Mephisto crime novels under the name Elly Griffiths.

Short Courses (winter and spring 2016/17)

Freelance writing with journalist and writer, Joanna Moorhead ((3 - 5 March, weekend, £225, beginners). Self-publishing - finding your way with novelist and publisher, Jill Marshall (31 March - 2 April, weekend, £225, suitable for all). Writing skills - revised, review, redraft with Martine McDonagh (7 - 9 April, weekend, £225, advanced).

For full details on the MA, Creative Writing and Publishing programme structures and units of study and to browse the short course digital brochure visit


Notes to editors

  • The West Dean College Creative Writing and Publishing, Master of Arts is validated by the University of Sussex.
  • West Dean College is part of The Edward James Foundation also comprising West Dean Gardens, West Dean Estate and West Dean Tapestry Studio. Charity No. 1126084.
  • All photography is free to use for editorial purposes.

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Simon Brett, OBE, FRSL (cr Nigel Cull)
Simon Brett, OBE, FRSL (cr Nigel Cull)
Melissa Benn, writer and campaigner
Melissa Benn, writer and campaigner
Martine McDonagh, writer and Programme Leader, MA Creative Writing & Publishing
Martine McDonagh, writer and Programme Leader, MA Creative Writing & Publishing

Media Contact Information

For further information, high-resolution digital images of filming opportunities contact

Irene Caswell, Senior Media Officer, +44 (0)1243 811301


West Dean College, Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 OQZ