Meetup Report Saturday 24th March

Enthusiastic messages are already flying in about the Bath Writers & Artists inaugural afternoon meetup in the Duncan Room. ( I have reported on the Morning Workshop on this separate linked Page. ) Our special guests, Chair of Bath and North East Somerset Council, Councillor Cherry  Beath, and Betty Suchar, Chair of Management of the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution arrived with admirable precision exactly on 2pm to the already packed Duncan Room and from that moment, we were non-stop energy and activity until 5.15pm. This photograph by Keynsham photographer Matt Prosser shows Chair of Bath and North East Somerset Council, Councillor Cherry Beath, with Taunton writer and director, Graeme Ryan who lead the group performance of Building the Kelston Barn.Chair Cherry Beath & Director Graeme Ryan


After the Book Table readings, which will be a regular feature of the meetups this year, Tessa Strickland, William Heath and Matt Prosser gave a compelling overview of the iconic local arts space Kelston Barn.  Matt’s presentation of his printed Passport-Tessa-Stricklandphotographs, individual slides and very atmospheric slideshow, as well as being so compelling in themselves,  really brought home to us the possibilities of being able to meet in a building which offers us these technical facilities.  Matt’s links are on this blog, and his Kelston photographs will be appearing in later posts once I have explored his Dropbox link.  It is a blessing for those of us who need occasional publicity photographs to have met and spent time with such a congenial and relaxed photographer.    Matt was also on hand to photograph the Chair of the Council for us, which will be warmly welcomed by Bath and North East Somerset Council who are already such kindly supporters of our new group.


Matt Prosser who took the March 24th photographs on this post

Having expanded our official title to include photography, we next saw it expand again, to embrace the vocal talents of Andrew Lawrence and Phil Shepherd, who had mastered Patrick Kavanagh’s Raglan Road at very short notice to bring melody into our afternoon. Time confined their performance to two verses, but I am hoping to persuade them to return on one of the afternoons when singer/songwriter  Miranda Pender is up from Sherborne, so that song can play a larger part in that particular afternoon.  Andrew Lawrence has been offering his many skills and talents to the World War One programmes for several years.  It was a great addition to our meetup that he was willing to share them so generously with our new group.

‘Building the Kelston Barn’, the collaborative poem which arose from last September’s Bathscape workshop, became, under Taunton poet Graeme Ryan’s confident direction, an extraordinary performance experience involving the whole room. I hope some of the people who shared this truly remarkable event will write something of their own in the comments box below this post.

These two photographs by Keynsham photographer Matt Prosser show the Bath Writers & Artists working with director Graeme Ryan on the first ever group performance of Building the Kelston Barn.


Building the Kelston Barn 1Building the Kelston Barn 2

 Sue, Chris and Dave Sims’ moving tribute to Dr Mark Sims closed our afternoon.  As with the Kelston Barn presentation

Scan copy it was wonderful to have the facilities to follow Mark’s story through photographs and film. His was an inspiring life and we were all deeply moved that the family shared so much of their journey and so many of their memories and were able to bring us so closely into their circle of love, and grief, and loss.



Chair Cherry Beath & Writer Rosie JacksonAs well as the morning workshop participants, and the people mentioned above, it was a great pleasure to share this afternoon with  Sara Butler, Claire Coleman, Beverley Ferguson, Brian Goodsell, Dawn Gorman, Margaret Heath, Caroline Heaton, Rosie Jackson, Michael Loveday, Ruth Marden, Phil Shepherd, Conor Whelan, Jude and Florrie Wisdom, and all the other friends of our new project who came to join us for this inaugural meeting in the Duncan Room.        This photograph by Keynsham photographer shows Councillor Cherry Beath with Frome writer Rosie Jackson who was one of the original contributors to Building the Kelston Barn.



Moving Into Spring

Although Saturday 25th February was actually the second meetup of the year, it had a special inaugural quality of its own…..

During January, the PROJECT 2017  blog had filled up with so much inspiring  and challenging material that for the first time we were able to structure the whole meetup day around the ongoing projects of the writers in the room. We are hoping to maintain this pattern for the remaining meetups of the year.

First up was the rich compendium of project writers’ thoughts about deciding which of their poems were most likely to achieve  competition success.  The list was compiled from group work in January and gave the February writers plenty of opportunity for discussion and food for thought.

We were able to apply these ideas to AMA BOLTON’S excellent poem, Fig, which had been highly commended last October in Torbay.  Groups considered Fig as a successful competition entry and took the role of judges explaining the reasons for their choice. One of Fig’s most striking qualities was the poet’s fierce and forensic attention to her word choices.  A piece of writing can only be as good as its weakest word is one of the main themes of this year’s meetups.  Fig, in the judge’s and February group’s opinion, simply had no weak words.

CLAIRE DYER’S project is exploring the ways that words carry meanings below their literal surfaces and the ways in which meanings can come up from the deeps of the mind and heart.  The conscious brain can sometimes be deaf to these subterranean messages so Claire introduced us to an anagram technique to free us from too much attention to the literal.  The music and patterning of her poem Owls was a very effective example of allowing the words to lead a poem’s ‘meaning’ rather than the intended ‘meaning’ putting a  straitjacket on a poem’s words.  Owls appears on Claire’s Page on this blog.

It is only a short step from the idea that words can give us doorways into deeper meanings to SARAH GREGORY’S exploration of the effect of bringing words and images together on one page, giving neither one priority.  Sarah brought seven specially made posters, each based on the same poem, but each combining the poem with a graphic image in a slightly different way.  Sarah has written about the usefulness of the ensuing discussion on her Page.

MICHAEL LOVEDAY had already raised questions about the problems of truth-telling in autobiography.  During the afternoon, we shared poems by several of the meetup writers for whom this was an issue and began to explore the boundaries between fact and fiction, straightforward personal narrative and revelation of the deeper self.

All the themes we explored in February  will play an important part in the April meetup, when LESLEY SAUNDERS will be bringing us into the magical space of her work as a translator and sharing with us some of the detailed decisions a translator has to make.  This close editing is crucial for every writer so we will all be both inspired and (probably) daunted by the experience of sharing Lesley’s work.  There is a recent entry about this on Lesley’s Page on the blog.

Other excellent recent blog contributions to explore….

  • new progress reports from Janet McClean, Marilyn Francis, Verona Bass, Ama Bolton and Ann Preston
  • the new Page from Sara-Jane Arbury outlining her project to create a collection around her neurological condition, with 2 fantastic poems by Norman Macaig
  • the new Page from singer/songwriter Miranda Pender
  • our first musical Page from Graeme Ryan
  • the new Page from writer/artist Paul Michael Browne who will be adding to our Words & Images exploration by introducing us to some of his work with film when we meet up in the BRLSI in June
  • a new Page on successful Pamphlet Submissions first published by the Poetry Business
  • 2 Max Ernst images to trigger experiments with Words & Images (on the Ekphrastic Page )

And, as RSThomas said, “That was only on one island”

We are still hoping to see personal Pages filling up with more project writers’ monthly Progress Reports, and more entries coming in for the Magazine Successes and Competition Placings, and for the upcoming Readings Page. 

It will also be very good to have more Almanac entries month on month, in the manner perhaps of the January contribution from North Devon poet MARK HAWORTH-BOOTH.  I have just added a new Page to the header list –ALMANAC  – to which you are all invited to contribute a brief but brilliant seasonal piece of writing every month.

The April meetup is under construction at the moment.  As well as Lesley Saunders’ translation project mentioned above, ROBIN THOMAS will be sharing his recent Eyewear pamphlet, A Fury of Yellow, which has already been reviewed by AMA BOLTON and SUE SIMS.   We will also ( hopefully) be sharing off piste outcomes from the February meetup with some new ‘anagram’ pieces, some explorations with Words & Images, and pieces inspired by the Böcklin painting, Isle of the Dead, which RUTH SHARMAN posted for us on our Ekphrastic Page.

Happy Writing, Everyone!