About Bill

Bill Greenwell was born in 1952, in Sunderland. After three years at Oxford in the early 1970s, he moved to Exeter to gain his teaching qualification, and wound up teaching at the local college - Exeter College - for the next twenty-eight years. He was still 21 when first employed there. During the first half of his stint in further education, he teamed up with Graham Rich, an Art teacher. Together they ran an Art/English course on which all the students studied both Art A level and English A level in the same group. The course ran yearly from 1973 until 2004 (by which time Graham and Bill had left the college. Graham left in 1995, and is now a successful artist. Bill left in 2002).

In 1986, Bill became Head of English at the college. Subsequently, he also became head of (in this order) Performing Arts, Languages and Computing. Sensing that, after twenty-eight years - what Ronnie Biggs got, after all - he might be becoming institutionalised, he went freelance as a writer and teacher. He has two children, Tom and Rose.

Bill has always worked as a freelance writer, contributing to a variety of magazines and newspapers, including New Statesman, where he was the weekly house poet in succession to Roger Woddis, from 1993 to 2002. The section of this web site called “The Weekly Poem”, which is supported by New Statesman, aims to keep up this tradition of weekly satirical and topical poems. A collection of early New Statesman poems, entitled Tony Blair Reminds Me Of A Budgie (now sold out) appeared in 1997. The whole of this book is available on this web-site, together with eight other selections of poetry, some of it satirical, some of it not, some rhymed and some unrhymed. A selection of parodies, Spoof, appeared in 2006, and is available through the web-site (contact Bill direct).

Bill wrote a column for the Exeter Flying Post for thirty years, was the film critic for DevonAir radio for ten years, and also wrote a column in Exeter’s Express And Echo for two years. He has also written articles and spoofs for The Literary Review, The Times Educational Supplement, Punch, Radio 4, New Statesman and The Independent. His poems have appeared in a variety of small press magazines. In 2004, he won the Mail on Sunday’s £5,000 poetry prize. In 2006, his first full collection of poetry, Impossible Objects, was published by Cinnamon, and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. His second collection, Ringers, also published by Cinnamon, came out in 2011.

From 2002, Bill worked for the Department of Lifelong Learning at the University of Exeter, teaching creative writing and literature, and he continues to run Poetry Clinic through the University of Exeter. In 2005-6 and 2006-7, he worked at University College, Falmouth on their MA Professional Writing course, and taught on the Open University's online A215 Creative Writing course. As of February 2007, and until December 2009, he was a full-time Lecturer in Creative Writing at the Open University, having helped develop a Level 3 course, and helping to develop an an MA course in Creative Writing., and was course team chair of A215, the OU's level 2 Creative Writing course. He then became the Open University's Arts Staff Tutor for The Open University in the North, a post he held until retirement in January 2015. 

He has also run writing and teaching workshops for more than thirty authorities over his teaching career, and has also led workshops at twelve NATE conferences, at a NAWE conference, and at the inaugural conference of the British Shakespeare Association. In 2004, in collaboration with David Wright, he edited The Road To EX4, a series of accounts of how fifty people came to live in Exeter. He also worked as a copywriter.

In March 1978, whilst trapped in Exeter by a sudden snowfall, he found himself in a room with a typewriter and a copy of New Statesman, and entered its weekend competition. This has turned into a serious weekly addiction, and under his own name, and a variety of aliases, he has won over a thousand competitions in New Statesman, The Spectator, the TES, Punch, The Oldie and The Literary Review. His parodies and light verse appear in over forty anthologies.

After writing, Bill’s major obsessions are the equally addictive family history; and music. In 1993, he began researching the descendants - not the ancestors - of a couple married in Sunderland in 1811, Mary Wilson and George Greenwell. This has led him to make friends with a huge cast of cousins across the world, most of whom probably now live in fear of the phone ringing or a knock upon the door. His account of the search for those descendants, A Fish In A Tree, is on this site, together with a large collection of family photographs assembled from many different sources. In the meantime, especially since the internet boom, members of several other families from which Bill is descended have started to contact him. Luckily, he enjoys being contacted as much as contacting others. There is a downloadable gedcom file on that part of the site if you have a family tree program.

Six of Bill’s eight great-grandparents were born in Sunderland, and the other two lived there for most of their lives. So he is also addicted to the North-East, and - it goes with the territory - to following the fortunes (or misfortunes) of Sunderland AFC. He moved back to the North-East in 2009.
For the past decade, Bill has been working on a project called Lost Lives. This started with an idle interest in the history of census-taking, and has grown into a biographical project. It is a work in progress, and on the site, you will find some of the research into a series of figures to be found in the 1881 census, all of them well-known in their day, but about whom the facts are murky, the biographies sometimes inadequate, and who are slipping from the public consciousness. The aim is to provide a portrait of each figure on the census day, and a brief summary of their lives.

If you would like to contact Bill about creative writing and literature courses, about his poetry and other writing, about family history or the Lost Lives project, about the Art/English course, or because you would like to commission some writing, please contact him at billgreenwell62@outlook.com. If you spot any errors on the site, please get in touch. If you would like to look at photos etc and link up, he is on Facebook.

The material on this site is the copyright of Bill Greenwell, unless otherwise stated. If you wish to reproduce any part of it, please ask permission, and ensure that an acknowledgement is made. Bill asserts his right under Section 77 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988 to be identified as the author of the material.

* Every effort has been made to find the copyright holders of the articles and photographs on this site. Please contact Bill for any further information.

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