David McAndrew 1931-2019

As well as being a fine poet and devoted family man, David passed on his love of English literature to generations of students.

David will be very much missed by all of us at RWG but especially perhaps by the members of the poetry group. It was fitting, therefore, that a poem he inspired should be read out during his Requiem Mass at St Wilfrid’s RC Church.


You wrote of fragments,
‘a gesture from fragments’,
but as I remember you,
you came complete,

The entire of you would be
at my disposal
as you listened, reflected,
brought in your thought,
tempered and trained over time

and I would leave

‘Sense and memory’
(you wrote of your wife Anne)
‘is shaped remarkably
into an accidental permanence’.

Most meetings are accidental,
not many achieve permanence
but, in your smile,
the profile of a crescent moon

illuminating transcendence,
arrived at permanence
in the minds of those of us
who became your friends.

Elizabeth Gibb

A very appropriate home!

Copies of Maggie Cobbett’s ‘Workhouse Orphan’ are now on sale in the Ripon Workhouse Museum, where she did some of her research.

Described by one reviewer as ‘accessible to children but enjoyable for readers of any age’, it should fly off the shelves.

Well, Maggie hopes so, anyway. She’s looking forward to holding a signing session at the Museum later this year.

Poetry Adjudication with Carole Bromley

Sheila introduced Carole Bromley from York, adjudicator of the 2018 Poetry Competition. Carole is a published poet who has won several competitions and been placed in more. An English teacher by background she has also been a Creative Writing tutor at York University’s centre for Lifelong Learning.

Carole began her adjudication by confirming and updating the information that Sheila had given about her in introducing her. She said that she had begun writing poetry while taking students to the Arvon Centre at Lumb Bank. Turning to the adjudication itself she said that her judgement was inevitably subjective and influenced by her personal taste. Although all the entries were of a good standard she had recognised the winner on sight. Whilst being flexible rather than judging by a hard set of rules she was looking for:
• Confidence of tone
• Skilful handling of form
• An awareness of contemporary poetry
• Appropriate use of language and spoken rhythms
• Effective imagery
• Interesting subject matter
• A good title
• A cracking ending
• A clear message economically put
• An absence of clichés, archaisms and word order twisted to suit the rhyming scheme.
She pointed out that modern poets tended not to follow the old convention of beginning each line with a capital letter.

After the general introduction Carole gave her individual comments on each of the entries before announcing the results. These were:
• Commended – ‘Through an Upstairs Window’ by Lindsay Trenholme and ‘The Shift of Time’ by Kate Swann
• Joint third place – ‘Not a Hope’ by Maggie Cobbett and ‘La Manche’ by Daphne Peters
• Second place – ‘The view from the Mat’ by Janet Barclay
• First Place – ‘Safe Keeping’ by Sheila Whitfield

There was time before the refreshment break for all the above six poems to be read, Sheila reading ‘The Shift of Time’ in Kate’s absence. As with most of the readings during the evening the authors present spoke briefly about the inspiration behind their poem.

After the break Carole presented the Poetry Competition trophy to Sheila and The President’s Cup for 2018 to Janet who had been absent when the result of the latter competition had been announced at the Christmas Event.

2018 AGM

Present: Sheila Whitfield in the chair plus 15 other members

1. Apologies for absence: Elizabeth B, Elizabeth S, Claire, Malcolm, Cathy, Kathleen

2. Minutes of the 2017 AGM: agreed as a true record

3. Matters arising not dealt with elsewhere on the agenda: none

4. Treasurer’s report and subscriptions for 2018/9: Caroline presented her report, which was accepted, and recommended that the subscription for 2018/9 should be £25. This recommendation was proposed by Phil Cook, seconded by Peter Hicks and passed without dissent.

5. Chairman’s report: Sheila presented her report, thanking those who had made the past year a successful one for the Group. The report was accepted.

6. Election of Committee for 2018/9:
The following names had been put forward:
• President – Maggie Cobbett
• Chairman – Sheila Whitfield
• Vice Chairman – Janet Barclay
• Treasurer – Caroline Slator
• Secretary – Peter Page
• Members’ Member and Competitions Secretary – Susan Perkins
It was proposed by Joe Peters, seconded by Ella Benigno and accepted without dissent that the above should be elected en bloc.

7. Programme suggestions for the coming year:
(a) Sheila made available a form on which members could record their reaction to the events of the past year and propose themes for the coming one.
(b) Susan suggested that a visit to Littlethorpe Pottery on the third Saturday in July would be a suitable subject for the 2019 outing, although it would get away from the ‘literary’ theme. The cost would be £150 for a group of 15, covering a clay pit visit and a pottery demonstration. Maggie suggested that it might be possible to use the visit as a theme for a subsequent meeting and that a booklet of pieces inspired by the visit might be made. These proposals were discussed and accepted.

8. Any other competent business: None

(Note – copies of the Treasurer’s report and the Chairman’s report will be filed with the minutes of the AGM.)

The second Ripon Poetry Festival

Ripon Writers’ Group was well represented over the weekend.

David McAndrew and Elizabeth Spearman were among the judges for the Festival Competition and two members, Carol Mayer and Maggie Cobbett, were present at the launch to read poems of theirs that had been chosen for this year’s Anthology, ‘The Wheel Turns’. (Copies are available from The Ripon Bookshop on Westgate.)

(Apologies for the poor quality of this photo. A better one of Carol will follow.)

On Sunday afternoon, we had our own session at Thorpe Prebend House, chaired by Sheila Whitfield and Kate Swann. Several members read their own work and, in several cases, poems submitted by those unable to be present. Please click on the images below to see the participants. All were well received by a small but appreciative audience.

RWG at the second Ripon Poetry Festival

Please join us at Thorpe Prebend House, High St Agnesgate at 3.30 p.m. on Sunday 14th October.

No booking required for this FREE event and everyone is welcome! We shall be showcasing the work of some of Ripon’s best poets.

Some of our members are also featured in the Festival Competition Anthology Launch, which will take place the previous evening from 7.30 p.m. in the Undercroft of Holy Trinity Church. £5/£3 entry.

Adjudication of the 2018 Short Story competition

At Sheila’s invitation, Susan introduced Delphine Ruston, a former English teaching colleague of hers. Delphine’s background includes an interest in photography, a therapeutic counselling qualification and the experience of taking groups to the Arvon Centre at Lumb Bank. Susan felt she was suitable for the adjudicator role because she is interested in words, people and ‘how things seem’.

Delphine began her adjudication by saying that the invitation had come within a few days of her recent retirement. It had proved to be an enjoyable task. Her own writing is focused at present on writing a memoir of her grandmother which she wants to publish as a handmade book. (This has now aroused her interest in bookbinding.) After that she wants to write creatively. In the course of her comments she referred to and read from Philip Pullman’s book ‘Daemon Voices’.

Turning to the competition entries Delphine said that they were very different but all enjoyable. She said that in judging them she had been looking for
• The quality of the idea – was it imaginative? Did it pique interest?
• A short story that lingered – did it have a poetic quality?
• Coherence and craft skills such as leanness and economy in the use of words?
• A voice that was credible and sustained
• A first sentence that plunged straight in the action
• The impact of the ending – was it perhaps satisfying or unnerving?

She went on to suggest some challenges in short story writing, including the following points
• Don’t make the meaning explicit – the story should relate events not interpret them
• ‘Less is more’
• In choosing the subject matter, don’t be frightened of the inconsequential. The subject matter does not have to be weighty.

Delphine then turned to her comments on the individual stories and her reaction to them. Having completed those comments she was invited to announce the result as follows:
• Second – Maggie with ‘Daddy Haircare’
• Joint First – Peter P with ‘“Venus Must Have Heard My Plea”’ and Sheila with ‘Beginnings and Endings’

Peter and Sheila shared the trophy.

After the break the three winning stories were read.

‘“Venus Must Have Heard My Plea”’ is a tale of the semi-retired Roman Gods and Goddesses taking over the Big House in a twenty-first century Yorkshire village as a retirement home and getting involved in the lives of the locals. The title is a quotation from a Sandy Shaw hit song.

‘Beginnings and Endings’ is the story of a woman out walking her dog who discovers a corpse on a railway cutting side. It is written in an experimental format with four segments which can be read in any order.

‘Daddy Haircare’ is a daughter’s tale of bonding with her widower father as he deals with her hair.

When these three stories had been read Sheila and Susan thanked Delphine for her adjudication and presented her with the usual token of the Group’s appreciation.

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Our friendly group meets once a fortnight in the Old Deanery on Minstergate, opposite Ripon Cathedral 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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