A CREATIVE writing course is being held at Undercliffe Cemetery, taking inspiration from stories behind the historic graves.

The six-week series of workshops, taking place on Mondays from February to March, will be led by local author, playwright and storyteller Irene Lofthouse. It follows a course Irene held at the Grade II listed cemetery in 2018, which led to a book of short stories and poetry.

“We will be polishing stories, structure and dialogue, creating a synopsis for submission and exploring opportunities,” said Irene, who grew up near Undercliffe Cemetery. “I’ll be on hand to act as a sounding board, give feedback and signpost opportunities for writing.

“I went to Undercliffe Middle School next door to the cemetery and often wandered through it. I was fascinated by the names, work titles, inscriptions, symbols and words on the graves. I used to wonder who the people were and what their lives were like, and if any of the statues came alive at night. The graves conjured faces, lives and places that spanned the world. I’ve always wanted to spend time creating tales about such an intriguing space.”

In 2018 Irene contacted the Undercliffe Cemetery Charity about a writing project and the committee agreed to open the Lodge for eight creative writing workshops. The course led to the publication of Stories from Stone, inspired by the landscape, graves, inscriptions, history, flora and wildlife of the cemetery.

“There was a mixture of new and experienced writers at the workshops, and a lot of critical support when sharing pieces,” said Irene. “I think it’s true to say that all the writers were surprised at the creativity they achieved, especially as some were out of their comfort zone. There was comedy and tragedy, darkness and light in their pieces.”

Last year the writers presented their poetry and prose at the cemetery, in places around the site that prompted their work. Their book, which raised funds for Undercliffe Cemetery from sales, even attracted interest from America

Many prominent Bradfordians are buried in the cemetery and there are war graves, some bearing the names of Bradford Pals. Last year the Friends of Undercliffe Cemetery launched a fundraising appeal to clear the overgrown grave of Nancy de Garr, former nanny to the Brontes.

The cemetery has appeared in films and TV dramas over the years, including Billy Liar and Peaky Blinders.

The aim of the writing course is to use the environs to “explore, experiment, stimulate and shape stories hidden in the stone, sculptures and statutory, as well as the flora and fauna”.

“It’s a fascinating location, atmospheric and full of surprises,” said Irene. “ There’s a story in every footstep you take - writers will have lots of ideas to choose from.”

* The six weekly workshops, at Undercliffe Cemetery Lodge from 10am-12noon, start on Monday, February 3.

For more information email irenelofthousewriter@gmail.com