Tag: Writing

The Future’s Write: Amateur authors invited to write the next chapter of Beeston

If you’re reading this, you *probably* live in Beeston (although if you read the rest of this issue, you’ll find that’s not always the case). But, for those of you who live the majority of your life in this town, you’ll no doubt have thoughts and opinions of what you’d like the future of Beeston to hold. After all, this is the place we call home, it’s pretty important.

So if you’re a budding blogger, willing writer and far-sighted futurist as well as a proud Beestonian, you could see your name in print as part of a competition to write the next chapter in the rich history of Beeston.

To celebrate their 120th anniversary, the family owned, family run business CP Walker & Son commissioned local historian and writer David Hallam to help them to tell and celebrate the story of Beeston over the period 1896-2016. The book is organised with chapters covering each decade from the 1890s to the 2010s. Now, having chartered the history of Beeston, Rex and Dan Walker have created this competition to look at how the town might develop in the 2020s.

As Rex explains, “We are keen supporters of community projects and initiatives that benefit the local population. Our book charts the ups and indeed the downs that Beeston has faced during its history. However, we then thought, what happens next? We were chatting about the future of the town with the various developments going on and realised there’s a whole new chapter to write, perhaps even a couple. Who better to write them than local people like us who love their town? That’s where the competition idea came from.”

He continues: “Lots of people make New Year Resolutions to start writing or to rekindle their hobby, but getting published is too often out of reach. This a chance for people to share their ideas and their love for Beeston and to start a debate that will play a part in forming the next chapter of our town’s tale, perhaps even the next century.”

If reading this has got your brain stirring with thoughts of what the future could hold or how you could implement your brilliant vision on the town, and you’re just itching to get writing, then here’s what you need to know before you put pen to paper:

  • The competition is open to anyone with three age categories: Primary School, Secondary school and 16 plus.
  • There’s no word limit per se, but you’re advised to try and stick to around 1000 words maximum if possible.
  • Try and look to the future with a positive outlook, write something to stir the imagination and get people thinking about what comes next and how it can happen (We’re not talking pipe dreams here!)
  • Entries will be judged by an independent panel of local people, chaired by Rex Walker and featuring Editor in Chief of The Beestonian Matt Turpin, Phillipa Dytham-Double from Double Image Photography and David Hallam, author of ‘The Story of Beeston’.
  • The deadline is April 23rd and entries are preferred via email to nextchapter@cpwalker.co.uk
  • If providing a hard copy entry, please post them to CP Walker & Son or drop it in to their office.
  • Entrants must consent to having their work published and to taking part in any publicity around the competition should they win.
  • For more information, visit https://www.cpwalker.co.uk/pages/nextchapter or the dedicated Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/beestonthenextchapter.

This is a fantastic opportunity, so once you’ve extracted all the inspiration possible from reading the rest of this issue, get your future-thinking in gear, because you never know what it might lead to. Good luck, Beestonians!

JM

Women, War and Writing

A catch up with local author Clare Harvey…

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I met local author Clare Harvey and her black Alsatian-cross Jake in Froth, which is part of the aptly named Creative Corner in Chilwell. I’d met Clare quite by chance at the re-opening of Beeston’s library in September. Clare has written three novels so far: The Gunner Girl, The English Agent and The Night Raid, with a fourth currently being penned. Her stories have all featured independent, strong women in a World War II setting.

I firstly asked Clare about her beginnings and how she got into writing. “I was born in Barnstaple, North Devon, but spent time growing up in Mauritius, as my dad worked at a teacher training college there. After some more moving around, I took a Foundation Course Diploma in art at Plymouth University, before reading law at the University of Leicester. After graduating, I took some temping jobs in London and then spent a year doing voluntary work and travelling in sub-Saharan Africa. On my return, I moved to the Peak District to work for an overseas development charity, and later returned to London to take a postgraduate course in journalism at the London College of Communication.”

She proposed to her soldier boyfriend Chris in 1996 in Split, Croatia during a 72-hour leave pass from his operational tour in Bosnia. The couple married in early 1998. They moved to Beeston, as Chris was posted to Chetwynd Barracks with the Royal Engineers, and Clare divided her time between an administrative job at Boots’ Head Office and freelance journalism. The couple were then posted to Northern Ireland for two years, where Clare worked as a freelance journalist. It was there that Clare began writing short stories, but she didn’t start work on her first novel until 1998 when they were posted to Germany and pregnant with their first child. “Being an army wife can be a lonely existence, and my writing became a kind of companion in the years when I was the trailing spouse to my husband’s military career.”

“…the revelation that my husband’s mum had been a teenage soldier in the Second World War was an inspiration.”

By 2011 Clare had three children, moved house seven times and written three unpublished novels. Finding herself back in Chilwell, with a husband about to go on a six-month tour in Afghanistan, Clare enrolled on a creative writing MA at the University of Nottingham. That’s when the idea for her debut novel came about. Her husband was polishing his medals ready for the Remembrance Sunday parade, when she remarked that he had more gongs than his dad. Clare’s husband was a third generation career soldier. He replied that his dad didn’t have that many medals, and that the joke in the family was that Mum had seen more enemy action. “How had I not known that my mother-in-law saw active wartime service? I was intrigued. Although she was sadly no longer alive, the revelation that my husband’s mum had been a teenage soldier in the Second World War was an inspiration.”

Whilst her husband was away on active duty, Clare used her MA as an opportunity to write the beginnings of what would become The Gunner Girl. Clare graduated in 2012, just after Chris returned from Afghanistan, and carried on working on the novel, alongside teaching English learners with Voluntary Action Broxtowe, and running art-inspired literacy workshops for primary pupils at Nottingham Lakeside Arts.

Clare finally finished her novel in early 2014, and sent it to the Romantic Novelists Association for feedback. They suggested a few tweaks. By October she had signed with an agent. Then in November she got her first two-book deal with Simon & Schuster. The Gunner Girl was published on the 8th of October 2015, with the paperback coming out three months later. She then had the hard job of writing book number two.

Clare had come across the story of Vera Atkins, who worked for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) during the Second World War, and had the idea that one of the characters from The Gunner Girl (Edie) gets the opportunity of becoming an SOE agent in France. “Setting the book there meant that I had to go to Paris for research purposes. This just happened to be around Valentine’s Day!” The English Agent was published last year.

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Clare’s third novel, The Night Raid, features lots of Nottingham locations including Bromley House Library and artist Dame Laura Knight as one of the main characters. It was published in July. There is going to be a very special launch for the paperback edition on December 14th. Clare will be officially launching the book at 11am with a ceremony on the ‘Dame Laura Knight’ tram at the NETtram depot, with help from pupils from George Spencer Academy. At 2pm she’ll be at Nottingham Lakeside Arts to talk about how Dame Laura helped inspire the novel and signing copies of her books (booking essential, via Lakeside Arts: 0115 846 7777). Then at 4pm, she will be more signings at Lady Jayne’s Vintage Tearoom, next to Toton Lane tram stop, where there will also be mulled wine and homemade mince pies on offer.

It’s always interesting to read about what routines authors have for getting their words down, so of course I had to ask Clare what hers were. “I manage to do about 45 minutes in the morning, before everyone else is up and then take the kids to school.  I’ll then usually work through, until its time to do the school run. I storyboard everything, like a film director does, and I always write in longhand, before typing it up on the laptop. I prefer to write in silence, but am happy to listen to music when I’m at the editing stage.”

Finally, I asked Clare about book number four. “It’s a two-timeline story. One takes place in Germany 1945 as the Red Army move in, and the Iron Curtain falls. While the other is set in 1989 in the UK and Berlin, as the Berlin Wall falls and the Iron Curtain rises.”  The Escape should be published in hardback next August.

You can find out more about Clare on her publisher’s author page: http://www.simonandschuster.co.uk/authors/Clare-Harvey/576635850

Her website: http://clareharvey.net

Or catch up with her on social media:

Twitter: @ClareHarveyauth
Facebook: ClareHarvey13

CDF

Poetry For The Mind

(First published on Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature , republished with kind permission

Middle Street Resource Centre is an inconspicuous building. Long a feature of Beeston, its unassuming structure belies the vibrant creative activity within. The charity, Mindset, runs from here, lending support to those with mental health issues, and the socially excluded. It has been an invaluable asset for Beeston and surrounding areas, signposting and providing activities for those looking for them. The filmmaker Shane Meadows has run exclusive fundraisers at the centre, and it has gained plaudits from all quarters of the East Midlands, as well as from further afield.

There are a multitude of courses here for people to participate in, from music appreciation to carpentry. A beautiful, meticulously-tended vegetable garden is a testament to the work done by the volunteers who have made it their own. We at Nottingham City of Literature are here for a less green-fingered reason, though: to meet an inspiring poetry group that has just put out their first anthology.

The Middle Street Poetry Group was co-founded in 2014 by Steve Plowright, a local poet, songwriter, and craftsman who has been dealing with acute mental health issues for decades. Around the time of the millennium, he set his poetry down in a self-published anthology, Bi-Polar Rhythms: a raw, often terrifying look into his own chaotic head. The book is a visceral read, and it would be easy to assume that the writing process behind it must have been painful. Yet Steve also found that it had a remarkably therapeutic effect. As one of the group participants later comments [of writing poetry], “It gets my thoughts out of my head, and onto paper.”

However, the purpose of the group is not merely to provide catharsis. “It’s good fun,” Steve explains, as he sets up for the session. “People have to enjoy it.”

The group-members gather, some clutching their own poetry, some with other’s work. They form a circle, and with no real prompt, start to share poetry. Tom has brought along four poems, each one exquisitely crafted tales of his life – of alcohol and breakdown. The group listen intently. They discuss the poems afterwards, opening up to each other and exploring the meaning behind the lines. It would be too simplistic to label this ‘talking therapy’; it is a spontaneous discussion, with any therapeutic aspect merely a helpful by-product.

A cheerful older gentleman named Dennis tells me that he has only just started reading and writing poetry, at age 74. “I’ve always liked reading, just never poetry.” Has the group converted him? “Oh, yes. It’s my hobby now.”

Ray, a young man with his poetry in pixel form, ready to be read off his tablet, tells me how the sessions have boosted his social confidence; first encouraging him to read aloud to the group, and then to the general public.

It’s also an educational experience. In the previous week’s session, the chosen topic was the First World War. While the usual Sassoon and Wilfred Owen poetry was read, so too was that of the often-overlooked Irish war poets. Notable among these was Francis Ledwidge.

“I’ll go home and google poets and poems we talk about,” one member told me, “and then find something else, then something else. It’s constant learning in a subject I never thought I’d be interested in.”

Another member, Yasmin, found the session on war challenging but ultimately effective: “I like nice things,” she explains. “War, and talking about war – it’s horrible, horrible. But when I went home and my mind had thought through what we’d talked about, I felt a wave of emotion and empathy, which I’d have never been able to face before this. It had a huge impact on me.”

Nick brings in lyrics that he judges are more poetry, with a particular love of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. “So much can be poetry,” he tells the group.

Earlier this year, Steve realised they’d produced enough good poetry to justify putting together a collection, and thus Journeys Through the Mind came to be. A diverse and fascinating volume, beautifully illustrated, they’ve sold most of their initial run of 100 copies and are considering printing more. For most of the contributors, it’s their first time in print.

Poetry has proven to be a force for good with the group. They relish playing off each other, developing each other’s work, interacting and inspiring. Their weekly Monday meetings are looked forward to; they lend a crucial structure to the group and provide motivation for the participants.

“I get excited on a Sunday and re-read my poetry,” one of them explains. “I want it to be just right.”

The group are now hoping to take their book on tour and perform in public places. If you know of a good venue, or a similar group to collaborate with, please get in touch with us via the Contact Us page.

Greetings from The Postcard Poet

A Beeston writer discovers what home really means

Recently, I’ve got back into writing letters. I got myself a pen pal via the social media platform Instagram, and started writing. Then, I noticed that my pen pal was also writing to someone called ‘thepostcardpoet’, and being a collector of postcards and a poet, I checked out her Instagram account. Here, I was faced with a colourful array of photos of various postcards. I clicked on one and saw the address the postcard had been sent to. Beeston. I thought, ‘Wow! That’s where I live!’ and I left her a comment telling her this.

So, why was a girl from Beeston receiving postcards from all over the world? I decided to meet her and find out. We met for coffee in The Bean…

Emily Richards is currently doing an MA in Writing at Warwick University, but has moved to Beeston with her boyfriend Pete to go on to do a PHD in Creative Writing at the Uni of Nottingham. On asking her where she had received postcards from so far, I was told a multitude of countries and towns that are best illustrated by the map of the world that Emily keeps on her bedroom wall and updates with every postcard she receives. But, for your interest, here are some of the brilliant places they have arrived from: Montreal, Canada; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Cape Town, South Africa; Brisbane and Warriewood, Australia. And in the UK: Brighton, Birmingham, London, Newtown, Coventry, Dublin, Durham, Devon, Sheffield, Preston…and of course, Beeston (I sent her one!)

‘The project started,’ she tells me, ‘because my poetry teacher, Jonathan Skinner, showed us all the small press poetry books he’d made and received in his life. Lots of them were poetry zines shared by post, and one was a collection of postcards from poets in Boston.’ The idea of using the postal service to share poetry appealed to her, and she goes on to tell me that she’d been listening to a poet ‘talking about how William Wordsworth used Dorothy Wordsworth’s diary to create his poetry.’ The combination of sharing poetry via the post, using other people’s words, and being inspired by your home ‘all fed into the idea,’ she says.

The project took me all the way to the other side of the world then back to Beeston.

The project’s aim is to ‘collate worldwide perspectives on home’ and I asked her if the project had turned out the way she thought it would when she first began it. Originally, she wanted to create a collection of poetry by taking lines from the postcards, but once postcards started arriving, she discovered something different. Rather than reading poetic lines, she was reading about people. Regarding the theme of ‘home’, she discovered that ‘everyone has the same opinion of what home is, no matter where they live or how old they are. Home is a state of mind, a place where they feel comfortable.’ As a response to this, rather than asking people to write about what home means to them, she asks that they write about themselves and where they live. ‘This gets more personal answers,’ she says. It means that rather than finding poetic inspiration, she has found the voices of other people. After I had initially contacted her, telling her I was from Beeston, she said: “It’s amazing the project took me all the way to the other side of the world then back to Beeston.”

During our meeting, amid discussions of home and what home means, I asked her what Beeston as a home means to her since she moved here. As someone who has lived here my whole life, I was curious to know what Beeston is like through the eyes of an outsider. Since one of her hobbies is walking, she’s found that wherever she is ‘walking around makes me feel at home’, but Beeston (and the surrounding area) specifically? She enjoys ‘walking and running around Highfields’ and she and Pete did a café crawl on which they discovered Greenhood Coffee House. Emily also tells me how much she enjoys the pub quiz at the Crown.

Towards the end of our meeting, we had an unexpected visitor…her boyfriend Pete turned up, so we both wasted no time asking him what he thinks of Beeston as his new home. He said that what makes him feel at home is ‘having regular places to go, shop and eat. Getting a familiar routine associated with a place.’ This routine can be as simple as ‘shopping at supermarkets and figuring out the bus routes’.

Emily is keen to get more people from Beeston to send her postcards, in the hope of finding that people might have different perspectives on the same place. If you want to find out more, then visit Emily’s blog at: poetryinpink.com or follow her Instagram account dedicated to the project where you will find a link to a blog post containing all the info you’ll need: @thepostcardpoet

Jade Moore

Letters to the Mind Project

A Beeston project aiming to raise mental heath awareness

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In November I began a project that was inspired by a poem I had written which addressed my mental health directly. I wrote to my anxiety: this helped me to view it differently and I realised that writing poetry is my main technique and coping method when it comes to dealing with my anxiety.

I wanted to share this with others and give people the chance to use writing as a coping technique. As soon as I voiced my idea I received positive feedback. I set up a blog and since its inception the project has received 19 contributions which range from poems to bipolar and eating disorders, to letters to anxiety, a drawing, and more personal accounts of experiences with mental health issues.

Jenny Marie, who contributed her letter Dear Anxiety said: “When I began, I didn’t quite know what to say. But the words kept coming, and it felt like I was pounding them out on the keyboard. It was therapeutic for me to write this. It’s healing for those with mental illness and helpful for their loved ones to read.”

A huge part of this project is not only to help people but also to try and combat the stigma surrounding mental health. Writing to the illness immediately distances it from us, and allows us to look at it in a way that can help people realise that they are not their illness.

We have to stop hiding and bring the taboo into light and teach the people around us that within our hearts we are all the same.

Mental health problems can drive people apart, whether they are family or friends. This can make the illness worse as the one suffering believes they are at fault, when really there just needs to be a bit more understanding. I hope that this project can reach people who need that understanding, and want a fresh way of trying to come to terms with their mental health. This is why the project encourages friends and family members who are impacted by mental health to participate too.

My editor on the blog, B. L. Memee, said: “It is my belief that every person’s story and experience matters and that in sharing our stories at Letters to the Mind we will educate the uninformed and with education comes understanding and with understanding stigma begins to fall ill and eventually dies. I want to see that happen in my lifetime, but to do that we have to stop hiding and bring the taboo into light and teach the people around us that within our hearts we are all the same. With Jade seeking out contributors and media in the UK and I doing the same in the US we are making a fine start of it. But we cannot do it alone. We need those diagnosed with a mental illness to be courageous and join us in our efforts. We need family members to share their stories as well because as a support person, the impact on you can be just as intense and people need to understand about your struggles and hardships as well. As human beings we are meant to accept, support and care for one another. So please take the first step and share this story with your friends and families that you think might be interested.”

Issue 41 of The Beestonian contained an article about Steve Plowright and his poetry writing. I attended a Time to Change event at Middle Street Day Centre and told Steve about the project. He kindly agreed to be a part of it, and shared his poem Cruel Jailers with me, which he is happy to submit to the project, as the poem is written directly to his depression and anxiety.

In celebration of National Time to Talk Day on Feb 4, Time to Change hosted a free event called ‘Time to Change Village 2016’, which ran during the day at Trinity Square, Nottingham. It gave the public the opportunity to speak to volunteers and organisations about mental health. There was live music, children’s entertainment and a health and beauty pampering zone.

If you or someone you know suffers from a mental health problem then spread the word to them about the Letters to the Mind project. Contributions can take various forms: a letter, a poem, a short essay/blog post, or artwork. You can visit the blog at: letterstothemindblog.wordpress.com where you will find more information about the project, and details about how to contribute. Or you can send a submission straight to: letterstothemind@outlook.com

An Open Letter

To Anxiety,
Shall we begin with where you began?
No, first I’d like to ask you about
your master plan:

Did you hope that I would fall?
before I opened my eyes to it all?

Did you want to make me scream?
enough to make me miss out on my dream?

Did you intend for me to cry?
long into the night while
life passed me by?

Or did you in fact, want me to react
so that I might find hope
along with ways to cope?

You helped me to climb
and make the most of my time.

You helped me to realise
the importance of advice.

You taught me that tears are fine,
although born of sadness, they are mine.

You allowed me to think with a clearer mind
and discover the happiness you never
thought I’d find.

In the beginning all I felt for you was hate,
but gradually I became patient and able to wait
for that moment when the bad becomes good…

…the moment at which hate becomes love.

Jade Moore

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