Inner Room is a project that creates space for people to be creative. It is rooted in the Christian faith, welcoming people of all faiths and none. Run by a poet, its focus at the moment is on creative writing. Inner Room believes that:
- Everyone is creative (including you)
- Everyone can approach universal truths through the particular details of their lives
- Everyone is invited to be creative by a creative God
If this resonates with you, please read on.
What does Inner Room do?
Inner Room offers a space for the creative reading and the creative writing of poetry.
Our two most recent events were fully booked very soon after being announced – Poetry at the Priory was a half-day in November 2023 exploring a wonderful ancient Exeter building, St Nicholas’ Priory, and Room by the River was a one-day Advent poetry retreat in December at a beautiful riverside location in Devon.
If you keep missing out on Inner Room events that you’d be interested in attending, please do consider signing up for our mailing list. Events often fill up within 24 hours and people on the mailing list always get to hear about them before they are advertised more widely. Just email us if you’d like to sign up for occasional emails – you can unsubscribe at any time. The next Inner Room schedule will be announced in Spring 2024.
Our fifth celebration of National Poetry Day, at St Stephen’s Church, High Street, in the centre of Exeter in Devon, on Thursday 5th October 2023, welcomed Professor Ralph Pite of the University of Bristol for two 45-minute talks (plus Q&A) on the theme of how poetry can help us to respond to the climate emergency. There was also a lunchtime poetry reading. Many thanks to Professor Pite for an enjoyable and stimulating day, and to everyone who attended, read at lunchtime and took part in the discussions. Also in October we were delighted to return to Diocese of Exeter’s Spiritual Direction Network for a study day attended by people from Devon and neighbouring counties, looking at poetry inspired by Scripture – we wrote some poems of our own, too!
We’ve recently held three writing workshops, called Room at the Well, in person in Exeter. These are inspired by the gospel story of the woman at the well and draw upon the wells of creativity in our own lives. We still have a waiting list for the next one. Room2Write continues on Zoom. We’re now busy planning a possible new Room2Write group and a group where Inner Room members can offer feedback on each other’s work.
News about what else we have done in our first three years, including our anthology, The Watchful Heart, can be found further down the page. The photo above shows one of the contributors holding a copy of the anthology at its launch in October 2021.
There is no charge for taking part in Inner Room but we do invite donations. If you’d like to contribute towards this work, please do so here
If you’d like to be added to our mailing list, want to attend the next Room at the Well, or if you have any other questions, please do get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org
Why the name?
Two reasons. It suggests that feeling of inner spaciousness – what psychologists call ‘flow’ – which is such a helpful way of being when you’re creating something. And you may also recognise the reference to the bible verse Matthew 6:6 – which in some translations says: when you pray, enter your inner room and close the door. So we hope Inner Room is a place where you can relax and give your creative self some private space, aware (if you’re a Christian) that you’re in the presence of a loving, supportive, creative God.
The Inner Room prayer
whose Son spoke in story and in metaphor
and whose Spirit guards and guides us,
help us to know in our hearts
that you have created us in your image
to be creative.
May we become like little children:
playful as we learn,
open to the wonder of creation
and trusting in your love.
And may your creativity flow through us
to enable us and those whose lives we touch
to grow in faith, hope and love.
In church jargon, Inner Room is a ‘pioneer lay ministry’ from the Parish of Central Exeter, facilitated by the poet Helen Evans with the support of a team drawn from the parish and beyond, which includes the Rector, Sheila Swarbrick, and the Exeter-based poet and novelist, Richard Skinner. It ran initially until Spring 2021, when it was evaluated and the decision taken to continue into 2022. Following a survey of participants, the team at the evaluation in April 2022 decided to continue for another year. Inner Room was inspired in part by two courses: Exploring Christian Spirituality, run by the Diocese of Exeter, and Foundations in Christian Ministry, run by the South West Ministry Training College. Inner Room is one way the parish offers the breathing space that’s part of its mission, within its overall ministry of love and reconciliation, and in line with its commitment to being an inclusive church where all are welcomed. Read on to learn how we began and what we’ve done in our first two years.
Year Two: Phases 5 and 6
Over the winter of 2021/22, Inner Room took a bit of a breather after producing and launching its anthology, The Watchful Heart (a few copies are still available at £5 each plus P&P – email if you’d like one). We celebrated at the Christmas Reading Room, a Zoom bring-a-poem event, and marked Burns Night with Room to Listen – another enjoyable bring-a-poem. And the regular fortnightly Room2Write sessions continued – the participants are now creating their own prompts for the group. Good for them!
Year Two: The Watchful Heart and the rest of Phase 4
Above are pictured 15 of the 20 writers who contributed to The Watchful Heart, the anthology of poetry and prose that came from the first year of Inner Room, along with its editors, Richard Skinner and Helen Evans. More than 40 people came to St Stephen’s Church on National Poetry Day to celebrate its publication. You can read about the launch here. If you’d like to order a copy of the anthology (£5 plus p&p), please email us.
Also in Phase 4, the Monday morning Room2Write sessions continued, with emailed writing prompts in May and June followed by fortnightly Zoom sessions during July, August and September. A poetry resource list was on offer to support readers in their own explorations. Finally, two Connecting with Poems groups, where five writers bring their own work for peer feedback, continued to meet on Zoom.
Inner Room: the first year
The first year of Inner Room ran from March 2020 to April 2021. Over that year, our creative readers and creative writers have enjoyed:
- 111 sessions
- offering 234 spaces
- in 21 different groups
- involving 142 contact hours
- and including 40 one-to-one writing tutorials.
In our end-of-year survey of 33 participants, 92 per cent rated Inner Room as excellent and 8 per cent as good (response rate: 25 people/75 per cent). We received more than ten A4 pages of detailed replies about the experience. We can’t possibly do those comments justice here, but it’s clear that Inner Room opening up when so much closed down meant a huge amount to our readers and writers. If you’re one of them, thank you so much for your helpful, heartening responses. Your commitment and enthusiasm informed the team’s decision to continue running Inner Room. Here is the story so far:
Phase 3 of Inner Room ran from February to April 2021. Four groups of writers, from beginners to experienced, took part in one of two workshop series: The Craft of Poetry or Connecting with Poems. Our writing sessions, Room2Write, continued by popular demand. Kudos to all of you who turned up regularly for the 7.30am slot on Monday mornings – aka pyjama poetry. The Parish Reading Room also continued. Its sessions in February and March drew upon Lent poetry books, including Janet Morley’s anthology, The Heart’s Time. And in Easter week we held three bring-a-poem events, on the theme of ‘Joy’.
Phase 2 of Inner Room ran from November 2020 to January 2021. We held two series of poetry writing workshops – The Craft of Poetry and The Creative Process – as well as a larger poetry appreciation session – The Parish Reading Room. Writing workshop participants also took part in Room2Write, an experiment to help those of us who sometimes struggle to create a regular writing routine. Our popular bring-a-poem events included the Christmas Reading Room and Room Over The Border, to mark Burns Night.
Phase 1 ran until October 2020, on Zoom, with a larger poetry reading group and three smaller writing groups, all meeting monthly. Events included: What is Poetry?; What does Poetry do?; Poetry and Prayer; Faith, Doubt and Poetry; English Poetry – an overview; God, Love and Poetry; The Creative Process – a series of four creative writing workshops; and Inner Room on Zoom – an online poetry reading on National Poetry Day, October 1st, 2020.
Inner Room launched in March 2020 with a one-day poetry workshop at The Old Deanery, in Exeter, for members of Devon’s spiritual direction network. Patch a few words together – a title taken from the Mary Oliver poem, Praying – looked at how to use poems in spiritual accompaniment and offered the opportunity to explore the creative process through writing. Prior to that, Inner Room ran a pilot workshop on Poetry and prayer in St Stephen’s Church on National Poetry Day 2019.
If you’d like to join the mailing list or if you have any questions, please feel free to contact Inner Room by email at InnerRoom@parishofcentralexeter.co.uk