Christmas Event 2021

Our celebration was somewhat muted by ongoing health concerns, but those of us who did manage to get together had a very pleasant evening. Seasonal literary contributions ranged from lighthearted to deeply reflective.

The most important order of business was the awarding of the President’s Cup, won this year by Peter. As Joe was unable to be with us, Maggie did the honours.

The Chairman’s Challenge exercised our little grey cells.

Denis and Sheila were the very worthy winners.

Everyone contributed to the buffet and the evening was rounded off by selections from the Secret Santa table.

Ripon Writers’ Group would like to wish all members past, present and prospective a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

A Free Competition to Win Books!

Kate Swann has asked me to let everyone know about this competition, which will be open from 22nd November to 6th December 2021. Kate is one of the authors with books on offer, as is former RWG member Marla Skidmore.

‘Remembrance Garden’ by Ella Benigno

Now that we’re entering the season of remembrance, this poem by Ella, one of the longest standing members of Ripon Writers’ Group, seems very timely. There are, of course, many more names that could be added to the list, gone ahead but not forgotten.

Ripon Poetry Festival

Ripon Writers’ Group was well represented in this year’s festival, attending many events and having poems included in the 2021 anthology. Unfortunately Peter Page was unavailable over the weekend, but Carol Mayer, Kate Swann, Lindsay Trenholme, Maggie Cobbett and Sheila Whitfield each took a turn at reading their entry from the pulpit of Allhallowgate Methodist Church on Friday evening. Fortunately, no one was afflicted by nerves or vertigo!

Sheila launched her first collection on Sunday afternoon at Thorpe Prebend House and even included audience participation in her session.

Chaired by Carol, our Ripon Writers’ Group event followed. Carol, Kate, Lindsay, Maggie and Sheila read some of their own poems and, not wanting Peter to miss out altogether, two of his were read out by Carol and Sheila.

Our singer-songwriter Christine Summers, accompanied by her husband Dylan, performed two of her own songs.

To end the afternoon with a flourish, Christine and Dylan also collaborated with other local folk singers, Simon Strickland and Dawn Bramley, in ‘Poetry and Music’, focusing mainly on the relationship between the two.

A Blast from the Past 2021

Ros Swaney receives the trophy from Linda Smith.

Maggie invited Linda Smith to present her adjudication of the 2021 Blast from the Past competition for a prose non-fiction piece on an historical subject. Linda began by saying that this was the first time she had been invited to do an adjudication like this. Speaking about her background in archaeology she said that she took part in her first dig in 1977, has a degree in Pre-History Archaeology from Sheffield and six years ago did a Master’s degree in Historical Archaeology at York. She has worked mainly in the north including the North York Moors National Park but has recently retired.

As well as writing as an academic, she uses journaling to help sort out ideas. During her working life, she developed a way of expressing in non-specialist terms what needs to happen and how it should be done so that an archaeological site is well managed both during excavation and afterwards. As an example she said that ecologists, farmers, architects are among those who need to understand the demands and constraints of an archaeological site.

Her criteria when adjudicating were:
• the reader should learn something from the piece
• it should hold a reader’s attention
• there should be evidence of relevant research
• there should be a strong sense of audience (who was it written for?)
• the structure should have a beginning, middle and end.

She went on to say that historical sources should be checked and referenced, that illustrations were helpful, and that personal pieces should bring out why they felt like history to the writer. A note of the word count and pagination were helpful to her as an adjudicator.

Before moving to comments on the individual entries, of which there were eight, Linda praised the very interesting spread of ideas.

Linda then announced the results as follows:
• Highly Commended – ‘From the ‘Lion King to Wimoweh’ and Beyond – The Story of a Song’ by Carol Mayer
• Third – ‘Talking the Blues’ by Sheila Whitfield
• Second – ‘The Railway Comes to Town’ by Peter Page
• First – ‘A Blast from the Past’ by Ros Swaney

Maggie invited Linda to present Ros with the trophy, after which a vote of thanks was proposed by Susan and endorsed by members in the usual way.

Memorial Service for Daphne Peters

It was a great sadness to us all when our good friend and founder member of Ripon Writers’ Group passed away on the 6th April 2020. (Scroll down for details and members’ tributes to Daphne.)

Our grief was added to by losing Daphne shortly after the first lockdown, which prevented all but a handful of mourners attending her funeral.

That being so, Joe Peters has arranged a memorial service for Daphne at one o’clock on the 27th September 2021 at Ripon Cathedral and invites everyone who knew his much beloved wife to attend.

There is ample parking (pay & display) behind Sainsbury’s and a very short walk from there to the Cathedral.

Catering arrangements are still being finalised and it would be very helpful to Joe if anyone planning to attend would let him know, either personally or through this website.


The service was well attended, with past and present members of Ripon Writers’ Group and Harrogate Writers’ Circle among those who came to share their memories of Daphne.

Swanwick Writers’ Summer School 2021

Several RWG members have attended ‘Swanwick’ over the years, some of us on free places won in the various competitions. (Always worth a shot!)

Our former Treasurer, Cathy Grimmer, (in the centre of the photo above) first attended in 2008, joined the Swanwick Committee and continues to serve as Chairman.

After the disappointing cancellation of the 2020 School due to Covid19, Lindsay and Maggie attended this year and their personal accounts are below.

Swanwick Writers’ Summer School 7 – 13 August 2021 Lindsay Trenholme

After 18 months of lockdown and isolation, it was a joy to be at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School amongst real people and the stimulation of an endless variety of writing genres in a packed programme – and all in the peaceful surroundings of the Hayes Conference Centre.

It was hard to choose which of the many workshops to attend, but for my 4-part specialist course I opted for“Eliciting the Past, Present and Future Through Poetry” with former Birmingham Poet Laureate, Roy McFarlane. He explained that his inspiration for the theme had come about through his love of Dr Who! His passion for poetry shone through each workshop and inspired all of us, as did his original approach, his encouragement (“everyone’s a poet”) and infectious sense of fun.

There were also different 2-part courses every day and among these I chose:
“Show Stopping Story Telling” by author Bettina von Cosselwith lots of useful tips about how to bring a story to life through showing characters’ behaviours and emotions (I noticed Maggie was on that course too).
“Poetry, Landscapes and Environment” by published poet and climber, Helen Mort – with some beautiful poems illustrating the theme and a thoughtful discussion about reflecting climate change in poetry.
“Honing Your HistFic” by Jennifer Wilson – another workshop with useful tips about how and where to find and check the facts when writing historical fiction.
and “Life-Changing Memoir – A Guide to Getting Started” by Samantha Houghton whose experience and knowledge of her subject was invaluable for any would-be memoir writer.

I also attended 4 fascinating evening talks by guest speakers. Toby Faber on the publishing company Faber and Faber founded by his grandfather, screenwriter Julian Unthank on his career in the capricious world of television, poet Helen Mort,and prolific crime/supernatural novelist Sarah Ward.

It wasn’t of course all work and no play! During free time we could take advantage of the well-stocked bar and either participate in or watch the many evening entertainments on offer.

Chairman and former RWG member, Cathy Grimmer, deserves a huge pat on the back for organising such a successful week, as does our own Maggie Cobbett for being a dedicated Swanwick mentor, guideand adviser forany delegate old or new who needed it.

Maggie Cobbett

‘Swanwick’ was a little muted this year due to the various restrictions imposed by the virus, but they didn’t spoil my enjoyment. One plus was always being able to find a seat in the bar, which is where many of the most interesting discussions take place. Where else would you find a huddle of respectable ladies discussing foolproof ways of committing murder – on paper, of course – and getting away with it? As an ‘old hand’, having attended regularly since 2006, I once again had the honour of helping new Swanwickers to find their feet. Seeing my wares on display in the Book Room is something to which I also always look forward and I’m pleased to report that sales were brisk.

Each year I try to ring the changes with the courses I choose and this time around I went to ‘The Complete Article Writer’ with Simon Whaley and ‘LGBTQ+ Characters’ with Spencer Meakin. At the Prose Open Mic I was handed the job of sanitising the microphone between readers. The Poetry Open Mic, however, saw me reading out a newly written pantoum (inspired by the one included by Philip Barclay in his tribute to his mother Janet.)

Buskers’ Night is always a joy, although I neither sing nor play. Instead, each year the organiser has me seated close to the front with his camera. (Fortunately other keen photographers are on hand to make up for any shortfall in my shots of the proceedings!)

The fancy dress theme for 2021 was The Roaring Twenties and there was even a free Charleston lesson on offer during the disco held at the end of the evening.

In conclusion, ‘Swanwick’ is a great place to meet up with old friends and make new ones. I can’t recommend it highly enough and am counting down the weeks to 13th August 2022 when, all being well, I shall be there again.

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Our friendly group meets once a fortnight in St Wilfrid’s Community Centre and is always open to new members from the Ripon area and beyond. Whether your interest is in poetry or prose, novels, short stories, plays, wacky humour, a more analytical style of writing, or just listening for the time being, you're very welcome.

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