Artistic Licence 2023

Bill Hilton began by saying how much he had enjoyed reading all the entries, (which had not always been his experience as an adjudicator) and was then invited to describe his personal connections with writing as a profession.  After studying for a degree in English and Music, he taught English for 6 years before starting his own business as a professional advertising copywriter for large firms. That led to branching out into training courses in writing for big businesses, so that they would be able to produce their own copy. After going back to university to do an M.A. in English, Bill turned his focus onto producing piano books and tutorials for YouTube.

When considering a piece of writing, Bill looks for the following:

1) Would he like to read more by this author?

2) Does the author display confidence in him//herself and the reader/audience?

3) Does the writing exhibit control of the structure of the piece, both overall and at sentence level?

4) An interesting subject and, particularly, an interesting title.

In random order, the entries for the competition were:

‘Family History’ by Joe Peters

‘Buried Treasure: Sutton Hoo’ by Charlotte Wilson

‘Oppenheimer: The film’ by Susan Perkins

‘In the British Museum’ by Solvig Choi

‘There is nothing like a Dame’ by Maggie Cobbett

‘Kynista’s victory at Olympia: the case of the missing statues’ by Carol Mayer

‘Deal and ideals in art’ by Sheila Whitfield

‘Next time in Venice’ by Chrissie Russell’

The photo above shows Bill Hilton presenting the cup to Solvig Choi, who had only just handed it back in after her win the last time this competition came around. Carol Mayer and Charlotte Wilson tied for second place.

Well done everyone who took part!



A long overdue presentation


Joe Peters took great pleasure in presenting the new ‘Writing for Children’ trophy to Ros Swaney.  The competition was inaugurated in honour of Joe’s late wife Daphne, the founder of Ripon Writers’ Group, and you can find an account of the adjudication by Claire Thompson by scrolling back to mid-July.

Competitions Secretary Susan Perkins reminded us that Claire had awarded ‘Dusty the Cupboard Monster’ first place as the story most likely in her experience to be chosen by children visiting the library. An accolade indeed!

A very special meeting – our 950th!

 Yesterday evening saw the Group, set up over 40 years ago by the late and still very much missed Daphne Peters, reach a new milestone.

Several members couldn’t make it to the meeting, but those of us who did enjoyed a celebration cake made by Messy Buns of Ripon, cut by Joe Peters and accompanied by glasses of fizz. Unfortunately this was also the evening we had to bid farewell to Ian Gouge, whose tenure as Chairman has been short but very successful. We’re all sorry that Ian and his family are leaving Ripon and will do our best to build on the innovations that Ian has brought to our programme over the last few months.

The evening also featured the results of our first ‘Writing for Children’ competition, inaugurated in memory of Daphne, well known and respected for her many published poems for children.  Our adjudicator was Claire Thompson, Outreach Librarian for Ripon and Pateley Bridge, who did a very thorough job. Claire, who has also recently taken on a part-time post at Hull Library as a Festival Producer and has a special interest in children’s literature and literacy, said that she had thoroughly enjoyed reading the entries. The pieces submitted had been so diverse that it had been difficult to compare them, but the criteria that she’d used had been as follows:

  • Was the target audience obvious from the piece?
  • Was there a clear concept behind the writing?
  • Was it original and entertaining?
  • Was the message behind the piece clear?


Claire commented on each entry in random order before announcing the results.

St. Wilfrid. This was a well-researched and presented piece of non-fiction writing, with a clear purpose. Claire felt this would be worth publishing, as the information was delivered so well.

The Extraordinary Adventures of an Ordinary Boy. Well-paced, with good use of descriptive language, a clear plot and characters with scope for development.

Man of the House. This piece had a good sense of place and a good story premise. There was a lot of conversation, which Claire felt was a good tool for revealing characters quickly within the allowed word count.

Dusty the Cupboard Monster. This employed excellent descriptive language as well as alliteration. The anticipation in the story built excitement, and the layout of the text was important to the story.

Baby Wombat. This was written for a grandchild, and was very enjoyable. It contained photographs as illustrations,  took a traditional format and provided a storyline with a happy ending.

Playground Rhymes. This felt like a traditional rhyme but had modern content, seeming to be a combination of a list poem and a skipping rhyme, and gave Claire plenty to think about.

Pip’s Story. This had a very strong voice coming through it, could have been a short story or a picture book and was suitable for quite a wide age range.

In third place was ‘St Wilfrid’ by Peter Page; in second place ‘Pip’s Story’ by Ella Benigno; in first place ‘Dusty the Cupboard Monster’ by Ros Swaney. Because Ros was not able to attend, it was agreed that she would be presented with the trophy, provided by Joe, at a later date. In the photo above, Joe is flanked by Ella and Claire.

Ian invited the members to join him in thanking Claire for her adjudication, especially as she had been presented with such a diverse range of material for consideration. Maggie took the opportunity to thank Ian for everything he had done for the Group and to wish him all the best for the future.

NB Until the Annual General Meeting in November, the Committee will be working as a team to carry out what remains of the current programme.







Adjudication of the Mini-Saga competition

The ten entries this year were as follows:

Adding It Up by Sheila Whitfield;

Alma Road by Ian Gouge;

Feathers by Carol Mayer;

Hunter or Prey by Charlotte Wilson

Jubilate by Maggie Cobbett

One Does Have One’s Trials by Joe Peters;

Seventy Years On by Susan Perkins;

Shared With Me by Lindsay Trenholme;

The Front Door by Kate Swann

Young Girl Caught Up in a Serious Earthquake by Ella Benigno.

Anne Powell began by reminding us that the Mini-Saga competition had been launched in 1995 but, although the cup awarded for it bears the name of her late mother, Twinks Perugini Kenyon, it was based on an idea from Harry Whitton, a former member of RWG.

Anne said that she had found adjudicating ten very different mini-sagas difficult and she commended all the contributors for the high standard of work presented to her. Combining a universal theme with the ability to tell a complete story in only fifty words called for very skilfully crafted writing. Anne was  fascinated to discover how she could sense something of each writer’s personality coming through their pieces and had found them all interesting or entertaining.

Because of her difficulty in being able to choose an outright winner, she awarded Joint First Place to Sheila Whitfield for ‘Adding it Up’ and Susan Perkins for ‘Seventy Years On’. Third Place went to Maggie Cobbett for ‘Jubilate’. The cup being temporarily unavailable, for which Maggie apologized, the winners received a warm handshake from Anne and she was thanked for all her hard work.

All contributing members then read their own pieces, and the mini-sagas written by those not present were read out by volunteers.

After a break for refreshments, Anne was invited to read the ‘The Lengthened Shadow of a Man is History’, the short story that won her the first prize of £1,000 in the national King Lear competition of 2020. Anne prefaced her reading by explaining that her fascination with prehistoric bog burials such as the Tollund Man had led to the story’s creation. It begins with a ‘pre-history’ which explains some of this background and leads into ‘Marjorie’s Story’. The latter narrates how a woman creating a garden in fen country digs up a prehistoric statuette, which begins to change size according to how it is kept, and how Marjorie’s subsequent demise echoes that of one of the bog people. Members commended Anne for a story that was both thought-provoking as well as atmospheric.

Poetry Competition Adjudication

Sylvie Bräunig began by thanking us for choosing her to judge our poems. She had felt some initial trepidation in accepting the task but did so as she felt that it was important to extend one’s comfort zone.

She explained that her interest in poetry had begun in her youth but she had not written any at that time. She then taught in primary schools and began to develop a strong interest in words and language. This led to a post with responsibility for language and reading development. She also became involved in several poetry ventures with an educational aspect that included well-regarded poets such as Vernon Scannell.

When her marriage broke up, poetry became a personal medium for self-expression. In attempting to learn more about the craft she eventually met Andy Croft and attended his writing courses. Along with members of her family, he encouraged her to share her work with a wider audience. This resulted in the publication of two volumes of poetry, any profits from which are donated to local libraries.

Sylvie had been impressed with the wide range of work submitted to her and remarked on the differences in subject, style and scope. She commented on each poem in detail, focusing on what she felt had commended it to her. She also gave us her personal reactions to each poem as well as the questions it had provoked in her.
She had enjoyed the research that had arisen from some of the pieces, which had made the experience even more rewarding for her.

From the twelve entries, Sylvie awarded Sheila Whitfield first place with Kate Swann and Solvig Choi joint second.

Sylvie, invited to read some of her own poems, chose ‘Slipstream’, ‘Memory Bites’ and ‘Breaking out’.

To conclude the evening, Ian thanked Sylvie once again for her adjudication, into which she had very obviously put a great deal of thought.

Adjudication of the Article Competition

Tim Flanagan of the Stray Ferret, seen above presenting the Jack Moss rose bowl to Susan Perkins, did a very thorough job for us this year. Maggie Cobbett was in second place and Solvig Choi in third.

The theme of writing was widely interpreted by the different entrants with Tim’s comments précised as follows:

If It’s Not Written Down, It Never Happened: A well-constructed entry exploring the use of writing from both a professional and personal perspective. It draws on the writer’s experience of the perils attached to professional recordings when working in Children’s Social Services. It also gives their reflections on the recording of mundane events in family life and their belief that writing can be a powerful tool.

Some Writers and a Reader: This piece addresses why books get written and the way the reader reacts to them. A wide range of literature is considered in this well-researched and structured piece. Some of the books mentioned were read as a result of reviews in The Times or The Sunday Times, and Tim felt this writer would make a good book reviewer themselves.

Writing: What’s It For?: A beautifully-written piece supported by examples ranging from a Biblical text to a recipe for a Christmas pudding, all giving a different perspective on the purpose of writing. Tim decided that the skilful use of the supporting materials along with the blending in of personal anecdotes made this the winning entry.

Ideas Are Where You Find Them: Tim enjoyed this piece from a writer who admitted to being an unashamed eavesdropper, as from a journalist’s perspective a story often develops from something overheard. He enjoyed the concise and entertaining way in which the author described how they found and used their sources of inspiration.
He awarded it second place in the competition.

A Sprinkling of Latin: This piece explored the premise that the root of evil is greed, and takes the reader on an international journey that looks at bribery, freedom of the press and journalistic practices. It contains a mixture of references from the jailing of journalists to the tales of Chaucer and is well-constructed and thought-provoking. He awarded it third place in the competition.

Blood on the Typewriter: the reference to the typewriter took Tim back to his early days in journalism, and relates to an Ernest Hemingway quote about writing being easy. You just sit down at the typewriter and bleed. The piece is based on the author’s selection of eight books to take to a desert island and the function of writing in each of this broad-based collection.

Don’t Write Yourself Off!: a well-researched, informative and thought-provoking piece about writing being a living, breathing thing that is constantly expanding. It considers word selection and how a writer can retain the interest of their reader. Tim felt it was important to consider exactly who their reader was and agreed with the author how important it was that we all learnt from the writing of others.

Entries not read out during the evening will be given precedence at the meeting on 11th October, which will be for members’ manuscripts and a book sale.

Janet Barclay Memorial Competition for Humorous Writing

The inaugural competition in honour of former member Janet Barclay was adjudicated by her son Philip and won by Solvig. In the photograph above, our competitions secretary Susan is presenting the magnificent trophy donated by the Barclay family in loving memory of their mother.

Philip, who is currently working in Azerbaijan, emailed his remarks to us. He mentioned that it has been just over a year since his mother died and how much she had enjoyed being part of the group. She also really enjoyed comic writing herself, hence the genre chosen in her memory. Turning to the entries he wrote,
‘There were seven entries: 3 short stories – one of them quite like a play; two dramatic scenes, maybe veering towards screenplays for a comedy sketch, an essay and a poem. Most of the pieces had a timeless feel.’ After a brief reference to some recurring themes, he then went on to say, ‘The one thing they all had in common was that I read them all with pleasure’.

Maggie concluded her reading of the adjudication text by sharing Philip’s notes on each individual entry and announcing the results, which were as follows:
Joint 3rd ‘The Lemon Squeeze’ by Louise Joyce and ‘Welcome to my World’ by Susan Perkins.
2nd ‘Why? A Question of Power Tools’ by Carol Mayer.
1st ‘Fairness and Justice’ by Solvig Choi.

We are very grateful to Philip and look forward to maintaining contact with the Barclay family.

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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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