What a catchy title!



If we don’t get takers for this event, it certainly won’t be for want of a good title. Sheila has excelled herself.

Ripon Poetry Festival

What a weekend we’ve had! Many of us attended the open mic event that we hosted jointly with the Write-On Ripon! group at the Claro Lounge  and/or, at the Ripon Arts Hub, the launch of this year’s anthology in which (in alphabetical order) Maggie Cobbett, Peter Page, Susan Perkins, Ros Swaney, Kate Swann, Sheila Whitfield and Charlotte Wilson had poems.

In addition, of course, individual members enjoyed other events throughout the weekend.

An evening with Julia Usman


Our guest speaker explained that she usually wrote poetry or articles, but during a six-year stay in Dubai she had started to work on what was to become her second book, ‘A Little Country’.  Its origin was a series of poems written about growing up in a small community in Swaledale in the 1960s and 70s, and its title was taken from a line in Marie Hartley’s book about the same place.

Living in Dubai had given Julia the chance to reflect on Arabic culture and some of the similarities it bore to her own. As a child she had lived in a tight-knit community with traditional values and customs, now very much changed alongside its agricultural practices. Despite this, Julia still felt a strong sense of identity, not only with her ancestors, those Anglo-Saxon and Viking invaders, but with the land itself, which she knew would outlive those who ever farmed it. She offered her book as a ‘patchwork of recollections and reflections’, some of which she read to the group.

Ian thanked Julia for coming to talk to us, and then members were invited to ask questions. A lively discussion ensued.

After a break for refreshments, Julia read some poems from her book, ‘She Who Sings Is Not Always Happy’. These were ‘Child of Montmartre’ and ‘Finding a Voice’.

As there was a little time left over, members were also invited to share some of their latest work. Charlotte read two poems, ‘Pond Life’ and ‘The River Bed’.  Sheila involved members in a short play called ‘All In A Day’s Work’ about a woman finding a gecko in the fridge and Maggie read ‘Never Not Prepared’, a revised version of a poem about a school motto.

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.

Pre-Christmas event 2022

Ian opened the last meeting of the year by handing out copies of the 2022-2023 programme, inviting questions about its new features and promising a review in the spring.

We were very pleased to welcome back Kathleen, part of the Group almost since the very beginning and now an honorary member. She’s fourth along on the right hand side in the photo above, which also gives an indication of the concentration required to do this year’s quiz. Based on book titles, it was won by Carol and Sheila with 36 correct answers out of a possible 48. Well done, ladies!

The President’s Cup was presented by Joe to Susan for amassing the most points in our competitions. Well done, Susan!

Joe was also pleased to cut the delicious celebration cake provided by Ros. Thank you, Ros!

As ever, there were more contributions to the buffet than we could possibly eat in one sitting.

Ros and Chrissie catered for those who preferred tea to wine – not that we couldn’t have both, of course.

Cheers, everyone! Is Maggie’s smile due to relief at having handed over the Chair to Ian? Could well be!

It can be lonely at the top, but the 2023 programme Ian has devised with considerable input from the Committee is a good blend of the innovative and the traditional.

An enticing array of Secret Santa gifts made a fitting end to what had been a very successful evening.

The 2023 programme will be published very soon, so please watch this space. In the meantime, Ripon Writers’ Group would like to offer to anyone clicking onto our website all the best for the festive season and a Very Happy New Year.

40th Anniversary Dinner

The anniversary celebrations began in the Royal Oak last night with a meal for members and guests, at which we raised a glass to our much loved and missed founder member Daphne Peters.

As we were seated at one long table, the only solution was to take a photo from each end.

It was unfortunate that not everyone was able to attend, but we hope to make up for that at the pre-Christmas event on 6th December, when anniversary celebrations will continue. This will be at the SWCC. Watch this space!

Poetry workshop with Alison Carr

We were delighted to welcome Alison Carr and our old friend Andy Croft from Smokestack Books to our annual Poetry Evening. Andy has previously worked with Alison, a playwright and poet from the North-East, and assisted her in publishing her first volume of poetry, ‘Corner Shop Cowgirl’. In it she combined to great effect the language of the industrial North-East with the vocabulary of cowboy stories. Andy is supporting Alison on an Arts Council funded project which includes another series of workshops.

Alison is now working on ‘Black Bullets in the Sweet Jar’. a collection harking back to her childhood but with regret and loss being more prominent than nostalgia. Alison was involved in a serious accident around the age of ten and expressing herself through writing has been a vital component of her recovery. She refers to the process as ‘getting herself through the black mists’. Throughout the evening, Alison read out material already collected for her new book. Touches of this darkness in her work are balanced out with happier elements of childhood.

The Group was invited to attempt two writing exercises. The first involved choosing a sense, and then suggesting its effects without actually naming it. The second had to be based on an object from the natural world, the task set being to bring out another possible meaning in three or four lines.

Plenty of time for discussion and useful help with our own work also contributed to making the evening a success. Thank you very much, Alison and Andy.

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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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