The Manchester Writing School Presents: Ben Masters and Nicholas Royle

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The International Anthony Burgess Foundation adopted a much more festive feel as it played host to the Manchester Writing School’s Ben Masters and Nicholas Royle. Among the mince pies and mulled wine, the night’s main speaker Ben Masters took to the stage to deliver an extract from his debut novel Noughties.

First published in 2012 with Noughties, Ben has since been listed as one of Vogue’s ‘sixteen faces of the future’, has a PhD in post-war fiction under his belt, and has since joined the MMU Writing School as a senior Creative Writing lecturer.

Ben was joined by Nicholas Royle, fellow senior Creative Writing lecturer, who is author of seven novels (including his most recent First Novel), a whole host of short stories, and has edited 16 anthologies including The Best British Short Stories. He also runs Nightjar Press, a company that publishes limited-edition short stories in chapbook format.

Ben kick started the event with a reading from the opening chapter of Noughties. Aptly set around Oxford University, the novel tells the story of five University students on the last day of their degree, and focuses on the idea of coming of age after completing a degree. Narrated through the eyes of its main protagonist, Eliot Lamb, it is a comic look at a generation growing up in the new millennium.

Afterwards, Ben was interviewed by Nicholas Royle. Ben expanded on the creation of the narrator, and how he developed a specific ‘voice’ for the character. Ben claimed he “didn’t want to do a less-than-zero kind of style,” He further explained that “Eliot Lamb is hypocritical – he describes other people’s negative traits, which also exist in himself.” During the interview, the subject of an author’s first novel being autobiographical came up. Ben claimed that he’d been to all of the places which are described in the novel, and done all of the generic ‘student’ things, and that the novel didn’t necessarily include parts of his life, but was very similar to the overall Oxford student experience. However, the novelist claimed he wanted the novel to relate to every student in the UK, regardless of city or University.

The event was incredibly successful, with a great turnout and a fantastic atmosphere. It highlighted the Manchester Writing School’s fantastic staff, as well as the approach to their teaching programme, linking authors who are currently publishing directly to the students studying on their programmes. It is something that their students seem to really value.

Nicholas and Ben were joined by two of MMU’s MA Creative Writing students David Llewelyn and Naomi Hamill reading from their own works, including David’s darkly comic story of a professional chef-turned-murderer named Coriander.

After the event, I managed to catch up with MMU MA Creative Writing student Steven, who expanded on the experience of being taught by an actual novelist, and said that Nicholas Royle is “an insightful and understanding teacher, who interprets the novels they study in a lot depth.”

In addition to Thursday Night’s event, the Anthony Burgess Centre will be the venue for a range of events organised by MMU’s Manchester Writing School in the future, including the introduction of Catherine Fox’s upcoming novel Wolf Tide on the 12th December.

Full details can be found through the Manchester Writing School or Anthony Burgess Foundation’s websites at: and

Frazer MacDonald is an aspiring screenwriter/actor, and has recently developed an interest in Journalism. He is studying English and Creative Writing at MMU, and is an avid film fan.

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aAh! Magazine is Manchester Metropolitan University's arts and culture magazine.

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