News Flash!

We are indebted to Tim Flanagan of the Stray Ferret for his write-up of our 950th meeting. You can read it by following this link:

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.







Too Good/Too Bad

 Ian invited everyone to think of a character from legend, literature or film that was a recognised example of goodness or badness, and then depict them with the opposite attributes in a first-person narrative consisting of emails, tweets, Facebook posts or letters etc. Other members would then try to guess who the person chosen was.

After considerable head scratching and twenty minutes of writing, members read out their pieces, most of which were guessed correctly by the others. Peter chose Lady Macbeth as his subject; Ella, Alice Walker; Pam, Isambard Kingdom Brunel; Joe, Vladimir Putin; Susan, King Arthur; Lindsay, Robin Hood; Charlotte and Sheila, Cinderella; Maggie, The Big Bad Wolf (from ‘The Three Little Pigs’) and Ian, Doctor Who. Members agreed it had been an interesting if challenging exercise.




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.

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.

New Challenges

We have creativity coming out of our ears this year with new challenges thought up by Ian Gouge, our Chair since the last AGM.
The flash fiction evening – writing inspired by the character profiles he got us to compile as a group – went very well, but even that may have been surpassed by this week’s task.
The thought of writing a new poem inspired by a well known one but in the style of a completely different poet caused a lot of head scratching, but most of us got there in the end.
Examples ranged from Humpty Dumpty rewritten in the style of John Betjeman to a Rabbie Burns version of William Wordsworth’s Daffodils. Much hilarity ensued and everyone agreed that it had been a worthwhile exercise.
Ian said that he got the idea from the popular Radio 4 programme I’m sorry I haven’t a clue. One of the tasks for its regular panel was to sing one song to the tune of another. Fortunately, Ian didn’t require that of us. Not yet, anyway.

RWG featured in the Stray Ferret

Great article today by Tim Flanagan, whose support is very much appreciated.

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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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