New Voices Wagon Project – Remarkable Experience!

IMG_1960   By Eshara Wijetunge

During my final year as an undergraduate studying History of Art and English, I was involved in the New Voices Wagon Project (NVWP), a Leicester-based project that aims to promote reading and writing amongst migrant communities – especially refugees. This fantastic work experience was offered through our School of English in collaboration with the Centre for New Writing. As I wished to pursue a career in publishing and was keen to broaden my experience and knowledge of the field, I naturally jumped at the opportunity and applied for it. From the 25th January to the 24th May 2014, I volunteered as a Volunteer Co-ordinator, Editor and Ambassador for the project along with six other students from the School of English. In total, our small but effective team comprised of five final year undergraduates and one second year undergraduate.


At the beginning of the project, six workshops were held on campus every Saturday from 2-4pm which welcomed participants/writers and volunteers from all walks of life. Although these workshops were primarily aimed at the writers to hone their writing skills, as a Volunteer Editor, it was a learning experience for me too. Through this project, participants discovered writing as a powerful therapeutic tool, they discovered their voice, and for some, they shared their stories so as to inspire others. As a team we worked towards the project’s launch of its pilot publication – New Voices: Empowering and breaking barriers through stories– which was a collection of prose and poetry written by participants of the project. We carried out a successful launch on the 24th May 2014.


IMG_1952My duties in the project were varied but each task was equally important to ensure the smooth running of the programme. I, along with my team, set up workshops for the participants- including technical support, ushering and provision of beverages. Moreover, I gave a group presentation with my fellow editors on the process and guidelines of editing to the writers. I proofread and edited submitted prose and poetry for the publication. I was interviewed by BBC Radio Leicester and BBC TV East Midlands to promote the project and its objectives. I believe that these experiences equipped me with excellent employability skills which I’ve ensured are prominently displayed on my CV. In fact, when interviewed by prospective employers, they told me that this experience stands out as a positive part of my development both personally and professionally.


IMG_1957Of course, it is important to note that this opportunity does require a genuine commitment to the project since it does require one’s ability to balance academic coursework, extra-curricular activities and responsibilities of the project. However, I strongly believe that it is a fantastic opportunity that I, personally, will never regret being a part of. The people I met and worked with, the new voices I read in the stories are treasured experiences that have broadened my understanding, not only of publishing, but of different cultures as well. The Project Co-ordinator, Mrs. Agrena Mushonga, and Senior Lecturer, Dr. Corinne Fowler, have provided me with invaluable insight into publishing that I believe is second to none.




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Julie Coleman

About Julie Coleman

Head of the School of English and Professor of English Language.

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