If you build it, they will come. So goes the famous misquoted line from the 1989 Kevin Costner movie. But if, like me, you’ve grown up taking your life philosophy from middling eighties films, it’s hard not to hear that voiceover in your head whenever you try to create something.

Nine years ago this week, I founded the Salisbury Writing Circle which, as the name suggests, is a writing group set here in Salisbury. It wasn’t the first such group the city had had – a previous iteration had run decades before, with William Golding as its honorary president. But it felt like an idea whose moment had come again.

Part of my day job is to teach creative writing and having run courses at Salisbury Arts Centre and Wiltshire College, I knew there was pool of people in the area writing but didn’t want to do another course. My idea, therefore, was to create a writing community in the city – a monthly gathering where anyone interested in writing could come along and meet other writers. I know from experience that writing can be quite an isolating process, so bringing authors together felt a good thing to do.

Back in May 2015, I think we had about twenty or so people turn up to that first session. Since then, the Writing Circle has grown to become the largest writing group in the area: there’s currently about 400 people on the Facebook group and mailing list, with writers not just from Salisbury, but from Wiltshire, Hampshire and Dorset coming to the sessions. When lockdown happened, we continued the group online, picking up additional members from around the world.

A staple of the sessions has been the special guests we’ve invited along to speak: by my reckoning, we’ve had around seventy or so novelists. These have ranged from supportive local writers such as Barney Norris and Claire Fuller to international authors such as Awais Khan and Femi Kayode. On other occasions, such as this week’s anniversary session, we celebrate the talents of our own writers, with sixteen local authors reading their work.

One of the reasons the community sustains is Salisbury’s size. A smaller town would not have enough churn to keep going: a larger city would see such groups splinter into suburbs. Salisbury is in the Goldilocks zone for such groups: not too large, or too small, but just right.

The Salisbury literary scene is a different place to a decade ago: alongside the Writing Circle, groups like Poetika and Wylye Valley Writers have also grown and prospered, while Jayne Woodhouse and Louise Voss run excellent courses. With its literary heritage and writing community, Salisbury’s field of literary dreams continues to flourish.