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Institute of Continuing Education (ICE)


Award-winning author Sara Collins to fund new creative writing bursary for aspiring Black British Caribbean writers


The University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education is thrilled to announce this Black History Month that one of its most famous alumnae – award-winning author Sara Collins – is funding a creative writing bursary to encourage aspiring Black British Caribbean writers to pursue their passion.

Sara completed her Master of Studies in Creative Writing at the Institute of Continuing Education (ICE) in 2016, graduating with distinction. Within three years, her stunning debut novel The Confessions of Frannie Langton had won the 2019 Costa First Novel Award. The gothic story of a young Jamaican enslaved woman who is taken to 1800s London, the novel was subsequently adapted into a glittering, star-studded ITV series.

On the heels of her success, Sara – who was born in Jamaica and grew up in the Cayman Islands – wants to offer aspiring writers from a Black British Caribbean background the opportunity to pursue their literary passions too.

“The MSt in Creative Writing at ICE was the first door I opened towards becoming a novelist,” she said. “Since I graduated, I’ve been thinking about doing what I can to give back.”

Starting in 2024, the new Joy Brandon Bursary will offer substantial financial assistance to one deserving Black British Caribbean student embarking on a part-time, two-year Master of Studies programme in either Creative Writing or Writing for Performance at ICE.

ICE will match Sara’s generous donation, drawing from the James Stuart Endowment Fund – named after the pioneer who founded ICE 150 years ago to help widen access to education for adult learners. This will mean that two students stand to receive substantial support towards pursuing their creative writing passions.

The bursary will cover over 80% of the total course fees, and the successful applicants will contribute £3,200 per year to enrol on one of two world-class University of Cambridge courses in autumn 2024; these inspirational programmes are both taught in short intensive blocks so they are accessible to learners in full- or part-time employment.

“The degree can help to provide a framework for getting the writing done,” explained Sara, who worked as a lawyer for 17 years before enrolling at ICE. “It is a good way of carving out time and space that you can protect from the other demands on your time.”

“What’s exciting to me is that, for people who’ve had to suppress their dreams of writing to focus on work or family or other responsibilities, this bursary will give them room to write,” she said.

Celebrating Caribbean creativity

While Sara’s generosity is set to inspire a new generation of writers, she has named the bursary after one of the women who inspired her own writing: her aunt Joy Brandon, who was a talented poet, a popular broadcaster and an award-winning playwright in the Cayman Islands.

“She was my dad’s sister,” recalled Sara. “She was my first example of someone doing creative work. Even though she was a journalist and a radio news broadcaster, she was also an amateur poet and a playwright on the side, which she pursued enthusiastically and passionately. Within the limited scope of the opportunities that were available to her, she did very well.”

Brandon’s play Lavinia Lee and her Sisters won the first ever National Playwriting Competition in the Cayman Islands in 1991 and went on to have a successful run at the island’s national Harquail theatre. She also had some of her poetry published in a pamphlet, inspiring Sara’s first literary collaboration.

“As a little girl, I used to recite some of her poetry at local competitions – so in that sense, we collaborated,” said Sara. “I was a little bookworm, but I don’t think that I would have done the equation that reading could turn into writing unless I had had examples of people like me doing just that.”

Sadly, Brandon died of leukaemia when Sara was 19 and didn’t get to see her niece’s success for herself. But her example – along with other role models like Toni Morrison – helped to keep Sara’s passion for writing alive until she had the chance to hone her craft while studying at ICE. Reflecting back on Brandon’s life, Sara is certain that her aunt would approve of the plans.

“I think she’d have got a kick out of having this bursary dedicated to her,” said Sara, who hopes that the support will help aspiring writers from a Black Caribbean British background to pursue their dreams – as she has done.

“This is my background, and I’m convinced it is full of writers who have a lot to say but might even now be prevented by the obstacles from pursuing their own writing,” she explained. “The Caribbean is full of amazing stories and talented people.”

As Black History Month focuses on honouring the achievements of Black women in shaping history and inspiring change, Sara hopes that the Joy Brandon Bursary will help to honour her aunt’s legacy by widening access to learning and opening up new opportunities for a new generation of aspiring Black British writers.

To find out more about the Joy Brandon Bursary, visit


*Photo credit: Rebecca Davidson 

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