Author wins a key role

An Hartlepool author has been appointed Writer in Residence at South Tyneside's newest cultural venue.

The Word, Market Place South Shields
The Word, Market Place South Shields

Niel Bushnell has been named Writer in Residence at The Word, the National Centre for the Written Word in South Shields, and will produce a short story in time for a planned writing festival in June.

Niel, a published writer, animator and illustrator, is the author of children’s fantasy novels Sorrowline and Timesmith and is currently working on the last in the trilogy.

Niel Bushnell with Coun Iain Malcolm, Leader of South Tyneside Council

He will work at The Word over a seven-day period in preparation for the short story.

“My writing will be inspired by the fantastic building and by speaking to the many people who use it – I’m particularly interested in what those people were doing before The Word was built, and what it is they do in the building now it’s here,” Niel said. “I’ll be talking to people about their lives – I want to hear their stories. I’ll also be producing a video about the creative process I’ll be going through and also about what goes on in The Word.”

Niel, an academic tutor at the University of Sunderland, was chosen from almost 60 local, regional, national and international applicants. He is due to start work on the project next week.

“I’ve never done anything like this before and I’m really keen to get started,” Niel said.

Niel Bushnell with Coun Iain Malcolm, Leader of South Tyneside Council

After attending Manor Comprehensive School and then Hartlepool Sixth Form College, Niel found work at an animation studio in London.

He returned to his Teesside roots to work at a studio in Stockton before joining award-winning Dene Films in Newcastle.

“I worked as an animator on several feature films including Space Jam and Lost in Space, computer games like Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Driver, and television shows such as Tracy Beaker Returns and Hyperdrive. And I recently co-produced two episodes of the lost Doctor Who adventure The Ice Warriors for DVD release,” said Niel.

Despite its critical successes, Dene Films folded in 2013, but Niel had already completed his first novel so took the opportunity to become a full-time writer.

The book won a Northern Promise award at the Northern Writers Awards in 2011 and was published in 2013. His second novel, Timesmith, followed the year after.