Published: 07/05/2024

The writings on the 'Well!

Acclaimed author Damien Barr visited New College Lanarkshire’s Motherwell Campus this week as part of his collaboration with our Film and TV students. Student Megan McQueen was there to capture the moment.

Damian Barr was at NCL because our students are making a documentary about the theatrical version of his Memoir Maggie and Me, which premières this month and explores his childhood growing up in Eighties Lanarkshire.

He was given a warm greeting by students and staff at The Hub and was taken on a tour of the college, seeing everything from live music to the Smart Hub’s robots. Bursting with curiosity about the college, and with a casual and friendly demeanour, before being interviewed by our students for the documentary.

 At lunch in the MLOne Restaurant, I found him to be an insightful and charming person, who had genuine care for the place he grew up in. His remarks about the changes North Lanarkshire has made in recent years, especially the site of Ravenscraig Steel Works (which features in his book and upcoming play) resonated with everyone around the table. His belief that a successful career shouldn’t be off limits to people who aren’t from an affluent background was clear and his promotion and love of written language beamed from him.

What also emerged from the visit was an absolute sense of finding your voice. In his interview with HND students, he made note of how important it was to give himself permission to write, even when it was difficult. It can be hard for people to believe it's possible to achieve something without seeing someone do it first, he states, ‘it seemed to me that anyone who was a writer was either dead or in London.’

While Barr’s career, first as a journalist, and then as an author and broadcaster, has taken him all over the world, he has never forgotten his home and what it has given to him.

His book ‘Maggie & Me’ is set here in North Lanarkshire and references many local places that inspired him. His tour of the local area also took him to Brannock High School. HND Photography students filmed the event that saw Mr Barr give insightful and inspiring answers to questions about his life, work and writing in general. What emerged from the day is that further and higher education can be a stepping stone to success, but more than that, a sense of community and cooperation is key; values that NCL also promotes.

Their work to date can be found on the National Theatre of Scotland website here.