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Accordingly, a pilot distance learning scheme, Crossing Borders, was developed in 2001, linking Ugandan writers to a multi-cultural group of mentors in the UK, all of whom were professional writers and experienced writing workshop leaders. A framework for e-mail exchange was devised and guidelines written to enable the submission of work to mentors and facilitate their response. A series of live workshops was held at the end of the distance learning scheme, culminating in a public performance of new writing before an invited audience of Ugandan writers.
Feedback from mentors and participants showed that the pilot scheme had worked well and it was consolidated and expanded to include 18 participants in 2002. Results from this expanded pilot scheme were also overwhelmingly positive.
Consultation and writer's visits began to show that similar restrictive conditions prevail in a number of other English-speaking African countries in which the British Council is active. The project was therefore significantly extended based on the successful pilot scheme in Uganda. In 2003/2004 the expanded scheme was re-launched in Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The project had a UK base at Lancaster University under the leadership of Graham Mort. As well as existing as a dynamic action-research project, Crossing Borders became the subject of academic research at Lancaster, where the project archive resides.
We expanded our team of mentors to include around 25 writers, a project manager, Tara Duce, and a mentor co-ordinator, Sara Maitland, to provide a secure and efficient administrative framework.
The British Council UK increased their core funding and assigned Hannah Henderson, from the Literature Department, as their UK Project Leader.
In April 2004, a new development was launched in Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon, with South Africa joining the scheme in June. East and Central Africa were also offered the scheme again in June 2004. Discussions and consultation about the long-term strategy of the scheme are now taking place between the management team and our partners in Africa.
Regrettably the Crossing Borders mentoring scheme has now come to a close and we are no longer accepting participants. Information from the Crossing Borders website and the magazine are retained on the Radiophonics website.
Participants in the project were drawn from Botswana, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Our mentors represented a wide range of cultural backgrounds and writing practice, creating a project that was rich in cultural exchange as well as practical strategies for writing development. Crossing Borders created a new, international community of writers who communicated through the development of new writing to share their knowledge and experience.
This website provides information about the background to the project and features profiles of some mentors and participants. It develops new educational resources as writers discuss writing practice and technique. It features the work of participants who have taken part in the programme. Links and chat facilities (now closed) enabled writers to share the unique problems and opportunities of writing in English, creating a cultural crossroads on the internet.
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