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The Walter Swan Trust

The Walter Swan Trust has been established to promote creative writing and to provide opportunities to young and new writers. The charity's first major activity was The Walter Swan Playwriting Award 2015, in association with the Ilkley Playhouse and the Ilkley Literature Festival, and with the support of the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Performances of the winning plays took place in December 2015 at both the West Yorkshire and Ilkley Playhouses. We are planning to repeat the competition; please see the separate page dedicated to the playwriting awards.


In October 2015, the first memorial Walter Swan Trust lecture was given by Nick Ahad, writer, journalist and broadcaster at the Ilkley Literature Festival. The title of Nick's lecture was: ‘Gentrification, Storming the Castle and Accidentally Lecturing a Classroom Full of Police Officers’ and it provoked a good discussion about access to theatre and whether it has become a middle class pastime. The text of the lecture is available here.


The second annual lecture was given in October 2016 by James Brining, Artistic Director at West Yorkshire Playhouse. He spoke enthrallingly about WYP's considerable work in opening up all aspects of the theatre to all sections of the community. There was particular interest in his descriptions of the relaxed performances and the dementia-friendly work being undertaken, - and these are now being put into practice at Ilkley Playhouse. It was inspirational on how everyone can be involved in theatre.


The third annual lecture was given by the actor George Costigan who, as well as talking about his extensive acting career, also spoke with host Yvette Huddleston about his new novel The Single Soldier which was launched in Spring 2017. He talked most interestingly about working with Andrea Dunbar on many of her scripts, including of course 'Rita, Sue and Bob too'.


The fourth annual lecture was given in October 2018 by Lisa Holdsworth, TV writer and advocate for writers' rights.  Her topic was on whether writers are born or made, and she spoke very entertainingly about her own career, and drew some interesting parallels with Andrea Dunbar. Some quotes included: 'you can't measure creativity in percentages' and 'when writing your first draft, never go back to the beginning. Just continue from where you left off and just finish. Edit later.' 


Author Michael Stewart gave the fifth lecture in 2019. He is the Head of Creative Writing at the University of Huddersfield and is particularly well known for his third novel, Ill Will, which explores what happened when Heathcliffe left Wuthering Heights. This is the book Walter always wanted to write! His lecture explored the Bronte landscape and its history.


We are extremely grateful to all these speakers for giving up their time and to the Ilkley Literature Festival for hosting.


Please see the Poetry Prize page for details of the Walter Swan Poetry Prize launched in 2016 and run each year since with the Ilkley Literature Festival. 


A short story competition sponsored by the Trust reached its culmination in May 2018 with the publication of a collection of the top 20 stories. This was lead by Leeds Big Bookend and Northern Short Story and judged by Angela Read and Anna Chilvers.Three further events have been sponsored by the Walter Swan Trust since. Please see the Short Story Award page for details.


Initial funding for the charity came from donations given at Walter's funeral on 2 May 2014 and subsequently we have continued to receive many generous donations and do our own fundraising. Gift Aid status has been secured. If you would like to donate, please send a cheque to the address below or contact us and we can give you the bank details. 

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