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. After successfully acquiring funding, Peepal Tree Press are looking to commission 10 authors to write about each participating house (see below). 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. In a unique addition to the project, one hundred 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.


The participating country houses are:

1. Attingham Park, near Shrewsbury.
2. Basildon Park, near Reading.
3. Buckland Abbey, Devonshire. 
4. Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. 
5. Charlecote Park, Warwickshire.

(see one of our previous blog posts about the Charlecote story)
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.


During the application process, 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.

Interested in applying?

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.

Copyright National Trust images (2018)

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 and deadline

The commission will be judged by a team of acclaimed writers and historians, to be assembled by Peepal Tree Press.

Send your commission entry by email to Dr. Corinne Fowler csf11@le.ac.uk. Please attach:

  • A writer’s CV
    • This should be no longer than one page of A4, font size 12
  • A proposal

In no more than 700 words, explain why you wish to apply for the commission. For more information on what is expected from the proposal, please click here.

  •  A 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.

Eligibility: 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.

Deadline: Midnight on 30 April 2018.



Copyright National Trust images