City Lit launched the Malorie Blackman ‘Unheard Voices’ Scholarships in 2019. The programme provides three annual awards worth up to £1000 each to fund study within the City Lit Creative Writing department. The awards seek to support and encourage the creative and professional development of ‘unheard voices’, and can be used to fund courses within the City Lit Creative Writing department. Last week we announced the three winners of the scholarship programme and we’ll be following their writing adventures this year.
Celestine Fraser is one of the three recipients of the Malorie Blackman Scholarship for ‘Unheard Voices’. We recently caught up with Celestine to find out more about her City Lit experiences, winning the scholarship, and her future ambitions…
In a nutshell, can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?
I’m a filmmaker, writer and recent graduate of English with Film Studies at King’s College London. Last year I produced ill, actually, a BBC/ BFI short documentary about young people with disabilities and how they express their identities online. Recently I have set up Glowworm Films, a film production company passionate in the belief in that no one is invisible. I love sensitive, funny stories about misunderstood identities — and I have a special soft spot for disability.
What role does writing play in your life, and why is it important to you?
On the one hand I love writing for its escapism, as when I write I am free from the limitations of my body and I feel I can be anyone, do anything, say anything. On the other hand, I feel I need to write to help me process my emotions and make sense of the things that are happening to me. So it helps me to escape to somewhere imaginary, but also to feel more comfortable sitting in the present.
Who are your favourite writers and what stories have inspired you?
So many! I’d say Daphne du Maurier for her novels and short stories, Virginia Woolf for Mrs Dalloway and her essays, Frank O’ Hara’s poetry because it’s so playful and joyful. On the screen, I love Nora Ephron’s razor-sharp dialogue, Agnes Varda for her personal film-essays, Phoebe Waller-Bridge for saying the things we're scared to say, and most recently I’ve become obsessed with the French filmmaker/ screenwriter Celine Sciamma.
What made you decide to study at City Lit and what courses have you studied?
I’d had friends take courses at the City Lit so I always thought of it as this mystical place where you could study anything, but then last year I was struggling to get started with a short script, and as I felt I didn’t know the slightest thing about story structure, I signed up to City Lit’s Ways into Screenwriting course. I really enjoyed it and felt I learnt a lot, and it happened to be a really lovely group.
What made you decide to apply for the Malorie Blackman scholarship?
Malorie Blackman was one of my favourite writers growing up, I remember devouring Noughts & Crosses series over one summer and going back and forth to the library to keep getting the next instalment. It’s really stayed with me, and like all my favourite books it feels like Malorie Blackman’s will sit forever in a drawer somewhere at the back of my mind.
I guess the idea of “Unheard Voices” also spoke to me as I have spent much of my early adulthood dealing with chronic illness and disability, the past year of which I’ve spent bedbound or housebound, so I have often felt like though I have things to say, I can’t get my voice out into the world since my body is not always physically out and about in it. I’m often thinking about how to stay communicating with the world outside when my body is not actively moving around in it and I think storytelling is the best way to do this. I hope that in the future we see more characters with disabilities in our books and on our screens, because there are an awful lot of us who feel unrepresented by the media and its focus on able-bodied perspectives.
What do you hope to achieve through the scholarship scheme?
I feel extremely grateful to have this opportunity and I’m excited to explore different forms of creative writing during the year’s scholarship — in particular screenwriting and fiction — to find the ones I most enjoy. I find writing hard to do in isolation, so it will be amazing to have the support of tutors and other students to bounce ideas and get feedback from. I hope to follow through on some ideas I’ve had bouncing around and complete a couple of projects. Hopefully I’ll also be able to push myself out of my comfort zone; I’ve always found poetry a little terrifying so maybe that’s a sign I should give it a go.
Read here the Q&A with City Lit Scholarship recipient Beena Nadeem >