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University to revive writing groups that spawned top talent

The evening writing classes that inspired a generation of Scottish poets are to be revived by one of the country's top universities.

The celebrated 'Groups' in Belfast and Glasgow in the 1960s and 1970s were led by the late teacher, poet and critic Philip Hobsbaum, who worked at Queen's University in Belfast and then the University of Glasgow.

Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley, Derek Mahon and Bernard MacLaverty met at the weekly discussion groups in Belfast, and in Glasgow the group included Liz Lochhead, Scotland's Makar, Alasdair Gray, Tom Leonard and James Kelman, among others.

Now the literary fellow at the University of Strathclyde, the American poet Christopher Agee, is to launch the Hobsbaum Memorial Workshop in honour of the famous Groups in the hope of finding and nurturing a new generation of poets and authors.

Agee, the author of three poetry books and editor of the literary journal Irish Pages, is based in Belfast and Glasgow and is to lead the group of 10 writers from any creative literary genre from April.

The group will gather in a "well appointed room" in Glasgow for evening meetings to discuss and refine their writing.

Mr Agee said: "The Group in Glasgow was a very interesting thing: Liz Lochhead, Kelman, Gray were all there, and this will be organised along the same lines.

"There is a huge thirst for this kind of thing among young or new writers. It is more than just a workshop, it will be a group of writers meeting to talk about their writing and other writer's work: I feel it is a really good idea and this time who knows who we might find."

Mr Agee, who has also launched a series of Literary Lunchtimes with readings and talks from figures such as Louise Welsh, Bernard MacLaverty and Alasdair Gray, said that he would be following Hobsbaum's rule of having no strong drink in the room.

"I think not mixing literary criticism with alcohol is a great rule," Mr Agee said.

"We are looking for writers with potential - and that is potential realised or unrealised. My sense is that Hobsbaum validated people as writers and I hope we can do that too."

The Hobsbaum Memorial Workshops will begin in April this year and meet weekly.

Those interested are asked to submit a sample of work and a "brief statement of aspiration" by email or post to Mr Agee at the School of Humanities at Strathclyde University by March 28.

Ms Lochhead, a playwright and poet, once said that without the evening classes she "would not be a writer"."We all spotted a lot more emerging talent," she said.

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