Until 1970, no University in the UK offered students the chance to take an MA in Creative Writing. This all changed when Sir Malcolm Bradbury and Sir Angus Wilson founded a Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia, the very first of its kind in the UK. If you head down to floor 02, right in the depths of UEA’s library, you will find the British Archive for Contemporary Writing, home to an extensive collection on the history of the Creative Writing MA and the life of its founder, Sir Malcolm Bradbury.
One of the many hidden gems within the archive is an image of some of the first students on the Creative Writing MA course, under the supervision of Sir Malcolm Bradbury. The enthusiasm and essence of UEA as a hub for literature and creative writing is further captured in an image from The Guardian’s picture archive. The students in the picture are smiling to one another as they take part in what appears to have been some form of seminar or discussion about their writing. They are under the watchful eye of Sir Malcolm Bradbury, who was then both the course director and a lecturer. These students were amongst the earliest to be offered the opportunity to complete an MA in creative writing, which at the time concentrated primarily on prose.
Since the picture was taken, the MA has branched out to include courses in poetry, scriptwriting, life writing and crime fiction. However, its world-renowned reputation remains unchanged, with notable graduates including Booker Prize winners Kazuo Ishiguro, Ian McEwan and Anne Enright.
The founder of the programme, Sir Malcolm Bradbury, led a prolific writing career in his own right. He wrote numerous short stories, television plays and series, literary criticism and novels, many of which were inspired by his experiences of academia, including ‘The History Man’, which was published in 1975.
Within the archive at UEA are scripts, newspapers, magazine cuttings and other revealing materials, documenting the lifetime of Sir Malcolm Bradbury in terms of both his writing career and his involvement in the creative writing MA at UEA.
Throughout his lifetime, Bradbury was known to have encouraged young, aspiring authors, especially during his time as a lecturer, reader and professor at UEA and he has left behind a lasting legacy for UEA’s creative writing students. He was recognised for his efforts by being made a CBE in 1991 and knighted in 2000 for his outstanding contribution to Literature.
For further information about Sir Malcolm Bradbury or the history of the creative writing MA at UEA the following links may be of use: