Now the first Ripon Poetry Festival is coming to a close, it’s time to reflect on how well it went for Ripon Writers’ Group.
First, a big thank you to everyone who contributed to our ‘showcase’ event this afternoon, especially to those members who were free to come and read out all our pieces. The wide range and differing styles of our poetic efforts seemed to go down well with the audience, as there really was something for everyone to enjoy – and they appeared to do so.
Last night some of us saw Elizabeth Spearman and David McAndrew in their guise of judges in the festival poetry competition. What an amazing range of work for us to listen to. The evening was full of happy, smiling faces, so well done with your choices, Elizabeth and David!
Today we saw David again alongside Ian Gouge, who along with Andy Croft were reading from their latest publications. It felt to me that the audience were responsive to the depths and nuances in David’s and Ian’s work, and hopefully would purchase some in order to study and reflect on it later, as it deserved.
Last but definitely not least, Anna’s talk about how she had compiled her ‘Rural Voices’ stories from Nidderdale was a delightful hour of dialects, old photographs and Dales characters reminiscing. Anna quoted something to us during her talk- ‘stories connect us, they build bridges’. With her oral history compilation, she has undoubtedly provided us with a bridge that will take us back in time, so that ‘times past’ will not be ‘times forgotten’.
Thank you all for your efforts over this weekend. I feel very proud to be your Chair!
Jill Freeman began by explaining that she was there because the Competition trophy had been donated by her mother. Unlike many in her family she was not a writer herself but more of a story teller in the oral tradition. She went on to detail what she was looking for in her adjudication, concluding by summarising her thoughts in a mini saga of her own.
After the introduction Jill gave her individual comments on the nine competition entries and announced the results as follows:
• Joint Second – Phil Cook with ‘Maybe or Maybe not’ and Carol Mayer with ‘Early Electric? Save Your Breath’
• Winner – Maggie Cobbett with ‘Couple Separated by Heartless Social Workers after Sixty Years Together’
In Maggie’s absence Jill was unable to present the trophy but a suitable picture of her with the runners up was taken for the website.
The nine entries were then read as follows:
• Carol – ‘Early Electric? Save Your Breath’ – a reflection on the fact that successful electric traction predates diesel
• Phil – ‘Maybe or Maybe not’ – a punning reflection on the current uncertainties in the UK political scene
• Maggie (read by Sheila in Maggie’s absence) – ‘Couple Separated By Heartless Social Workers after Sixty Years Together’ – a civic dignitary responding to the newspaper headline of the title gets the opposite response to that expected when he arranges for the couple to be reunited
• Claire – ‘Metamorphose’ – a reflection on the life cycle of an insect
• Caroline – ‘Heart’s Desire’ – the breakfast-time reflections of an unhappy king
• Julie – ‘The Morning After the Night Before’ – a woman who has seduced one of her staff reminds him sexily that he mustn’t be late for work
• Janet – ‘The Reluctant Muse or Love’s Labours Lost’ – a dialogue in which a woman refuses The Bard’s advances
• Sheila – ‘Going Bye’ – a golfer misses his wife’s funeral to play in a key competition match
• Peter H – ‘Worldchange’ – the impact of a caveman accidentally discovering fire
Jill then rounded off her adjudication by telling the story of a short story competition she tried to enter but was thwarted by not putting enough postage on the envelope.
Sheila expressed the Group’s thanks to Jill for her adjudication.
Five writers, five voices and five stories!
Amongst those taking part in this evening’s launch at the Ripon Spa Hotel were our very own Anna Greenwood and David McAndrew. Anna’s Engrained is a series of tales from different centuries, the common link being an ancient oak. David’s Men at Work was inspired by his recollections of a small engineering firm in 1950s Tyneside.
The five stories, described by Gill Edwards of the Little Ripon Bookshop as ‘A lively collection of fascinating characters and locations’, sprang from a creative writing class run by Andy Croft. All proceeds will go to the Ripon City of Sanctuary Group.
RWG can be proud of the fact that our very own Cathy Grimmer chaired the Swanwick committee this year and did a superlative job.
Maggie Cobbett went along too and helped new Swanwickers to find their feet. Almost a third of the delegates this year were first timers.
Next year sees the 70th anniversary of the Writers’ Summer School and demand for places is likely to be higher than ever. Cathy and Maggie would love to see more RWG members there. Please speak to either of them if you’d like more information and/or take a look at Maggie’s website.
Sheila introduced adjudicator Janet Gleeson, explaining that Janet had had a career in journalism, working mainly as a news journalist in the North East and Yorkshire.
Janet began by saying that, having read the entries, she was pleased to have accepted the invitation to adjudicate this competition. She then confirmed some details of her adult life as a news journalist. Turning to the competition entries she said that she had been looking for something that was an interesting read, that kept the interest going throughout and which held her attention from start to finish. She said that she liked to find passion in the writing. In her own writing she liked to include quotations and suggested that this was something that all writers should consider.
Following her general introduction Janet gave her comments on each of the individual entries.
Summing up she said that, in addition to the use of quotations, the following points were likely to help in making a good article:
• Using personal experiences
• Using research
• Getting all the material down quickly before thinking about polishing it.
Sheila then invited Janet to announce her choice of winners. These were:
• 3rd place – Phil Cook with ‘Lucerne’s Lonely Lion’, a piece about the statue of a lion in Lucerne which commemorates the involvement (with heavy loss of life) of a Swiss contingent in the fighting that accompanied the French Revolution
• 2nd place – Caroline Slator with ‘The Vanity of Small Differences’, a piece about Grayson Perry and his work
• 1st place – Maggie Cobbett with ‘In Praise of Notebooks’ – a piece about her personal passion for notebooks, now and in her schooldays. This came with a side order of reflection on how the attitude of coffee shop management towards writers who commandeer their tables has changed since her youth
There was time before the break for Janet to talk about the way the newspaper industry had changed during her lifetime. She compared her own good fortune – being offered four jobs on completion of her journalism course at Darlington College – with the pressures that face newcomers today.
We invited Steve Toase to lead our workshop this year, which took place at the newly refurbished St Wilfrid’s Community Centre. The morning was given over to flash fiction, one of Steve’s specialities, and he gave us plenty of inspiration for a series of writing exercises.
After a buffet lunch, Steve turned to the dark side and we enjoyed responding to different stimuli in order to produce edgier work. Steve was at pains to stress that dark tales don’t have to be set in conventionally sinister surroundings. A sunny pastoral scene can hold quite as much horror. Heads buzzing with ideas, we all felt that it had been a very worthwhile day.
Better late than never! Lindsay received her trophy (see below) from Sheila.
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