From Lord Mayor to MA Creative Writing student

Monday, 13 June 2016

Jim Campbell

Before enrolling as a part-time student on the MA in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes, Jim Campbell enjoyed a varied career; teaching English and History to high-school students in many countries, finally at the European School just outside Culham.

He then chaired the leadership & public policy programmes at the University of Oxford, working predominantly with international students. However, you may recognise Jim due to his 20 years as a local councillor and a year as Lord Mayor of Oxford.

Jim’s previous writing experience stemmed from his time writing poetry as a student at Oxford University, culminating with his book ‘First Time Lightly’ being published by London’s Fortune Press. After a gap of many years Jim decided that he’d like to get published again, having spent most of his time writing reports for schools and the city council. The idea to come back to studying came from the decision to do something with his new-found spare time after stepping down from his roles as programme chair and in education mediation, and the Oxford Brookes’ MA in Creative Writing was recommended to him by a good friend.

‘I wanted to see if I could still write creatively. I didn’t particularly know if I wanted to carry on with poetry or to try other forms of writing - academic or not. I’d once tried a novel many years ago and I got nowhere. So I thought I might do other styles of writing, and luckily the first semester was quite open. The last few months I’ve been focussed on poetry again, and I’ve had two tutors who are very good published poets: Hannah Lowe and Emma Jones. That was hugely important for me, knowing that I was working with really good poets - and they got me writing. I think I’ve learnt a lot from them, and of course from my fellow students. There’s a group of us who meet maybe every 6 weeks and have some cake, coffee, and submit work beforehand and comment on it. The result is that yes, I would like to be published - and that’s what I have been working towards. In the last couple of months of my course I have had poems published in the Oxford Magazine and The Spectator. I also had a poem "highly commended" by the Poetry Book Society and included in their 2015 student anthology.

The input of the visiting fellows, all of them published writers, is hugely valuable. We had to read their books and they gave us assignments to do in class.I had to write suddenly in class for 15 minutes and then read it out - I wasn’t sure how I’d cope with that, and I actually liked it and I miss it when semesters are over! That was very useful for me, to get me thinking sideways and up and downwards and inside-outwards. For our major project we have to choose two of the visiting fellows to work with, and I’ve chosen two poets: Kate Clanchy and Patience Agbabi. We also hear from publishers and agents and other published writers, who give us information and advice about getting published.

The enthusiasm of the course lead, James Hawes, is great - and whatever Morag Joss, associate lecturer, says, is always worth listening to. Overall I’m very pleased with the programme. The sessions are two and a half hours where you’re never sure what’s going to happen, and you nearly always learn something new. I would absolutely recommend this programme. I’ve kept a group of friends and fellow writers for these last two years, which is a very valuable part of the course.’  

Read Jim Campbell’s student profile in full to find out more about his experience as a postgraduate student at Oxford Brookes University.

  Find out more about alumni publication successes, the creative writing fellows, and the MA Creative Writing course here.