Colonial Countryside Project

Colonial Countryside

Based at the University of Leicester’s Centre for New Writing, Colonial Countryside is a national writing and history project in partnership with Peepal Tree Press and the National Trust.

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Charlecote Park
Charlecote Park - A National Trust house set in landscaped deer park in Warwick.


This project assembles authors, writers, historians and primary pupils to explore country houses’ Caribbean and East India Company connections. It commissions, resources and publishes new writing.

  • Over 100 primary children will visit 10 National Trust houses.
  • Each child is crafting short personal essays and fiction, presenting it to live, print and digital audiences.
  • Peepal Tree is commissioning 10 authors and 10 historians to write stories and historical commentaries about each participating house for an illustrated book about the topic.


Keep Friday 16 November 2018 free for our first Colonial Countryside children's conference at St. James the Greater Church in Leicester, UK. The children's conference is part of the free Literary Leicester festival.

Resources for writers

This website will shortly be populated with resources for writers who wish to research and write about country houses’ Caribbean and East India Company connections.

Web links


Dr Corinne Fowler (

A word from our future writers

Twitter feed

Ten New Creative Commissions

Introducing 10 new creative writing commissions at £1,200 each for ‘Colonial Countryside: English Country Houses Reinterpreted.’

About the project

Colonial Countryside is a child-led writing and history project about National Trust houses’ Caribbean and East India Company connections. Steered by a child advisory board, this five year project assembles authors, historians and primary pupils to commission, resource and publish new writing. 100 primary children will visit 10 National Trust properties and craft new writing, presenting it to live, print and digital audiences. They will present their work at a conference during the Literary Leicester festival in November 2018. The majority of children are of Caribbean or South Asian heritage and this project will encourage them to think of themselves as public figures who will reshape the national narrative and make this history widely known.

Peepal Tree will commission 10 authors to write about each participating house. The commissioned work will be published in an illustrated “coffee table” style book containing the ten creative commissions accompanied by accessible historical commentaries written by experts in the field. Commissioned writers will give inaugural readings and appear at literary festivals and black history events nationwide.

The National Trust has over 5 million members and the commissioned writing will have a large readership. These 10 high-profile commissions are also designed to stimulate a new wave of writing about this topic. In order to resource this, the Colonial Countryside project will create a writers’ resource website, delivered by the historical team, and a massive online open course (MOOC), co-produced by children and historians.


Participating country houses

  1. Attingham Park, near Shrewsbury
  2. Basildon Park, near Reading
  3. Buckland Abbey, Devonshire
  4. Calke Abbey, Derbyshire
  5. Charlecote Park, Warwickshire
  6. Osterley Park, West London
  7. Sudbury Hall, Ashbourne, Derbyshire
  8. Wightwick Manor near Wolverhampton
  9. Penrhyn Castle, Gynedd, Wales
  10. Dyrham Park, near Bristol

These houses reveal the following historical themes

  • Exotic fruits grown in orangeries (Attingham Park; Calke Abbey)
  • Imperial domestic interiors (Basildon Park; Osterley Park; Attingham Park; Calke Abbey; Dunham Massey)
  • Artefacts from British colonies, such as slave-produced mahogany and Chinese wallpaper (Attingham Park; Basildon Park; Calke Abbey; Dunham Massey; Osterley Park; Penrhyn Castle)
  • Illegitimate children from the empire (Dunham Massey)
  • Slave-produced sugar wealth (Charlecote Park; Dyrham Park; Speke Hall; Penrhyn Castle)
  • Resident Indian princesses (Wightwick Manor)


  • Black servants and slaves (Charlecote Park; Sudbury Hall)East India Company links (Basildon Park; Osterley Park)
  • Francis Drake’s participation in slave trading and black Tudors (Buckland Abbey)
  • Owners who held colonial office (Dyrham Park)
  • Commemorations of naval victories in the Caribbean (Hanbury Hall; Sudbury Hall)
  • Paintings of black servants (Charlecote Park; Sudbury Hall)
  • Victorian plant hunters (Penrhyn Castle)

About the commissions

Commissioned writers will be advised by historians who are experts in the field. The participating National Trust properties provide a varied picture of stately homes’ colonial links, telling a range of stories about slave-produced wealth, East India Company connections, colonial administrators, black servants, slave-trading voyages, colonial business interests, Chinese wallpaper, Victorian plant hunters and imperial interior design.

Commissioned writers will receive a fee of £1,200 and an allowance of up to £400 to cover research, travel and accommodation. They will attend a work-in-progress day at the University of Leicester. Public engagement is central to this project. Social media training is available if required (writers will post social media content on the project’s behalf or the project manager will post approved content on their behalf). In year three of the project, writers may be asked to give an inaugural reading at the country house featured in their commissioned pieces. Commissioned writers will also be invited to attend literature festivals and black history month events, with expenses paid.

The commissioned work will be published in an illustrated book published by Peepal Tree Press. It is also likely to feature in exhibitions in numerous houses throughout the National Trust’s Challenging Histories year in 2022.


How to apply

The commission will be judged by a team of acclaimed writers and historians, to be assembled by Peepal Tree Press. Please send your commission entry by email to Dr. Corinne Fowler attaching the following:

1. Writer’s CV

This should be no longer than one page of A4, font size 12

2. Proposal

In no more than 700 words, explain why you wish to apply for the commission. You should cover:

  • your interest in the topic
  • your experience
  • your approach to the commission (including your chosen literary form) • how you will guarantee quality
  • your experience of social media (please note: this is not a deal breaker but it is helpful to know if you have an author webpage and a social media presence)
  • confirm your willingness to post project information on social media channels and/or your author website (or have it posted there on your behalf)
  • your geographical location
  • your intended audience

There is no obligation to identify a particular National Trust property from the list above, though winning entrants will be matched with one house, even if the commissioned writer wishes to explore connections between participating properties.

3. Writing sample

This should be no more than 2 pages of A4, font size 12 or (in the case of poetry) no more than three poems.



Non-UK writers may apply, though there is no budget for plane travel to England. The Arts Council expects that the majority of writers should be based in England. As a condition of the commission fee, you must commit to participating in public events during 2020.


The deadline for applications is Midnight on 30 April 2018.


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Contact the Centre

The Centre for New Writing
School of English
University of Leicester
Leicester, LE1 7RH

Dr Corinne Fowler

Deputy Directors:
Dr Harry Whitehead
Mr Nick Everett

Project Manager:
(Colonial Countryside)
Kevin Ncube

Useful Links:
Creative Writing at Leicester