Keeping Six's writing workshop for aspiring writers in Hamilton
The organization's workshop provides space for those experiencing houselessness and substance use to explore their passion for writing.
Established in 2018, Keeping Six is a community service providing opportunities for those experiencing houselessness and substance use. The organization aims to defend the rights of those who use drugs while giving them space to make their voices heard.
Created due to the opioid crisis in Hamilton, Keeping Six hopes to use its initiative to recruit members with lived experiences of being on the streets and using substances to overcome the city's drug crisis.
One of the ways in which Keeping Six creates opportunities is through the Keeping Six Arts Collective. The collective hosts events and various workshops for artists on the streets and drug use experience to explore their passions and improve their work.
Every Wednesday, the Arts Collective hosts a writing workshop at the Music Hall, located downtown on Main Street. The workshop is free for everyone to drop by and offers complementary snacks and supplies.
Maggie Ward, the current leader of the group moved from Fredericton, New Brunswick to Hamilton to finish her Ph.D. in English at McMaster University. Although Ward did not finish her Ph.D., she now works as a bookseller and freelance proofreader. She joined Keeping Six as a grad student and has been working with them since.
In an email statement to The Silhouette, Ward described how the workshop began as a way for the organization to create space for anyone to drop in and work on their free writing or prompts. The workshop started in 2021 at Gore Park before moving to the AIDS Network, the Hamilton Central library, the New Vision United Church and now, the Music Hall.
Ward became the pseudo-leader of the group when the peer leader and co-founder of Keeping Six was no longer able to attend the workshops. She provides writing support through prompts and feedback, helping writers flesh out and improve any creative ideas they might have. The group has free rein to work on what they would like, but a majority of the work being done goes towards the content for Keeping Six’s quarterly zine.
Ward explained Keeping Six’s purpose and the organization itself is different from anything else in Hamilton.
“We're focused on harm reduction, with a firm belief that art is harm reduction . . . The writing group and the zine are opportunities for folks to share their stories, which are rarely heard,” Ward stated.
Additionally, the group has received a consistent number of participants over the last few weeks, but not as many as when it first started. Ward hopes that the Music Hall as a new venue will encourage more people to attend since it is in the same location as the weekly art workshop Keeping Six also hosts.
Ward wants everyone who visits the workshop to leave having had a positive experience and feeling reinvigorated about their writing.
“I hope that folks who come to the group leave feeling like their stories are worth telling; that they're genuinely important. I also want them to feel less intimidated by writing. We encourage all forms of expression,” she explained.
The workshop is also open to students if they wish to attend, as a good way to work on and receive feedback about their writing or just get to know more about the community and Keeping Six. Ward encourages anyone passionate about writing to drop by the workshop and to check out the zine to see what the Keeping Six community has to say.