Image courtesy of Sentinel News and Media - Alan with local schoolchildren at Middleport Pottery
On behalf of City Voices I am very sad to announce the resignation from the group of our Chair, Alan Barnett. Alan has had health problems for some time now, as has his wife, but his devotion to the group and its achievements (not to mention some moral blackmail from me) kept him going. In the end of course, health and family matter more than anything. Alan formally announced his resignation at the AGM on 20th January. He is very sad to leave us and there will always be an Alan-shaped hole at the committee table. Alan was, as group founder Paul Williamson said, in truth a co-founder of City Voices, which emerged in 2007 from a drop-in group which started out life as Hanley Writers. Alan has worked tirelessly for City Voices, often assisted by his wife Maria. On paper, the office of Chair may look like a figurehead position, but it has been much, much more than that and Alan has always been the heart and soul of the group. Happily, Alan has accepted the offer of honorary membership of City Voices, which makes me feel like he will never be too far away. Also announced at the AGM was the resignation from the committee of Secretary Anita Oxford. I joined CV some time in 2012 and Anita shortly before me. In November of that year we both became part of the committee (if my memory is wrong please forgive me). Anita’s skills and knowledge of the group will be sorely missed by the committee but she told us she will be staying on as a (sic) rank and file member. So how is 2018 looking now? After the annual stepping down of the committee so that elections can take place, the office of Chair was filled by Debbi Voisey (formerly Vice Chair) and the Secretary’s role was taken up by new member Joanna Wright – or “Jo” as she prefers! Adam Boustead bravely put himself forward for Vice Chair and I was happy to stand again as Treasurer and Social Media Manager. After all the “new” committee had been voted in unanimously we took a deep breath and headed for the tea and biccies! Despite the sadness at Alan’s departure the meeting was very positive and some great ideas were mooted for this year – we were all really quite excited (including Alan, I might add…) and upbeat by the end.
It is without a doubt the end of an era. Alan was the bedrock of the group, a friend to everyone in the room, and I hope it is farewell but not goodbye. City Voices wish Alan all the best of luck in completing and publishing the book he has been working on for far too long, and we hope he will drop in sometime in the not too distant future. He will always be welcome.
Those City Voices members who DON’T know Mel Woodend, may find themselves experiencing brand new ways to create poetry, at this workshop. Those of us who do know her, will vouch for her kindness and love of nature, which shines through in her work. Mel is a published writer and poet, passionate environmentalist and excellent poetry “slammer”. Mel will be talking about artistic and poetic devices which attempt to express a linkage between the senses, and about the author Austin Kleon who by accident cured his writer's block AND created a whole new type of poetry when he decided to blackout words in a newspaper. There will be a chance to hear some of Mel’s poetry and create your own. As ever, City Voices Creative Writers Group welcome guests and visitors to join our workshops and get a flavour of the group.
Once again City Central Library, in conjunction with Poetry on Loan, has come up with a fantastic FREE morning of poetry for the public, followed by a workshop with one of the poets which will be exclusively for members of City Voices Creative Writers Group. You would be mad to miss it!
Beyond Words is a debut collection of poems by Jason N Smith from before, during and after time within the justice system. The book contains both spoken word and page poetry about life inside prison, life experiences and life overstandings. Amazon.co.uk
Click on the book for a link to Amazon Books
Wednesday 25th October saw the launch of City Voices fourth anthology “Telling Tales” It was a full house at Hanley Library to see our special guest Lisa Blower, local lass and (her words) “go-to writer for working class fiction”, although much of Lisa’s writing is based in gritty realism. We had six readers from City Voices (chosen at random, names out of a hat) to read their stories which were a fine mix of old-fashioned good deeds, pathos, crime, fantasy, humour and a very modern story of a holiday experience that went wrong! Lisa gave us a reading from one of her books and we finished the evening with an interview with Lisa – our own novelist Debbi Voisey standing in for Paxo! (Not true Debbi is much nicer) Lisa obliged the audience with a Q and A session which could have gone on much longer. Canapes were nibbled, wine drunk – and spilt but that’s another story – and book sales of our anthology were brisk. Many thanks yet again to the City Library, Hanley and Emma George - without their support none of this would have been possible.
The Sentinel Newspaper has decreed that City Voices Creative Writers are one of the reasons why Stoke-on-Trent should be awarded the title of UK City of Culture 2021. The reasons they have given reflect our own philosophy of a community creative writing group accessible to everyone. The link to the article (City Voices are at No. 90) is
We are proudly hosting our first ever official book launch, in conjunction with the City Central Library, Hanley. All details for booking a place at the launch are on the poster, so we hope that many people will come along to enjoy an evening of story-telling, and support the local library. On the night there will be several readings from our new anthology, but “Telling Tales” contains a huge variety of work from seventeen different authors and over 20 stories to savour – so you really need to buy the book! Just £5 per copy.
Author Lisa Blower will be opening the event with a short reading. Her debut novel “Sitting Ducks” is out now, and has been longlisted for The Guardian “Not the Booker” award 2016, The Rubery Award 2016 and The People’s Book Prize 2016. Lisa has also just completed her first short story collection ‘It’s Gone Dark over Bill’s Mother’s’ which draws heavily upon her early childhood in Stoke on Trent.
Practicalities – There are toilets on the same floor as the launch party. There will be no interval, but tea, coffee, soft drinks and wine will be available at the start plus some canapés and nibbles. The evening will finish with a short “interview” with Lisa, after which there will be time for chat and of course an opportunity to purchase “Telling Tales” and other anthologies by the eclectic writers of City Voices Creative Writers Group.
‘Telling Tales’ will be the fourth anthology penned and produced by the members of the City Voices Creative Writers Group Stoke on Trent. This time around members were asked to submit short stories with a maximum of eleven hundred words and each contribution shows the diversity of styles within the group. More than twenty stories to savour - there is no theme running through them - each member has used his/her creativity for every story and the fictional tales are as diverse as you might imagine. We hope you enjoy reading this collection which will be launched in October in conjunction with Hanley Library. There will be a very special guest there too – sorry, no spoilers! More information about the launch will be coming soon.
On 8th July City Voices celebrated 150 years of Arnold Bennett with Dr. Leslie Powner, Honorary Research Fellow at Keele University. Leslie provided an introduction to Bennett's life, work and popular reputation, including readings from two of his short stories "The Heroism of Thomas Chadwick" and "Death, Fire, and Life" which focus mainly on Bennett’s depiction of Potteries characters and places. To “old skool” Potters it may seem inconceivable that there might be anyone interested in literature (or born in the Potteries) who are not familiar with Bennett’s work. We must remember however that Arnold Bennett was born in 1867, and died in 1931 which is before most of City Voices members were born. There was a TV series of his “Clayhanger” trilogy, but even that was back in the 1970’s. So Leslie was aware that there were some people who never heard of Bennett, let alone read his work.
Bennett's output was prodigious but by his own admission, was about maximising his income. As Bennett put it: “Am I to sit still and see other fellows pocketing two guineas apiece for stories which I can do better myself? Not me. If anyone imagines my sole aim is art for art’s sake, they are cruelly deceived”
Bennett’s contemporaries, notably Virginia Wolf, criticised his work. To her and other Bloomsbury authors Bennett represented the "old guard". His style was traditional, which made him an obvious target for those who liked to present themselves as challenging literary conventions. Bennett regarded the Bloomsburys as decadents, whose ideas and life-style were as far removed from “ordinary” people as Kim Kardashian and Kanye West might seem to us! (Unlike today, not many people sought to emulate celebraties)
It was not until the 1990s that a more positive view of his work was generaly accepted.
I think that Leslie won over anyone who was unaware of Bennett with his excellent reading skills, and in fact we had been given a taster of Bennett in a reading a couple of weeks before. His characters are quite brilliant – funny, pathetic, overbearing, ambitious, desperate and all too human. The descriptions of a Potteries which is still within living memory, yet long-gone, make the books very real. The challenge for City Voices Members now is to write a short story in the style of the great man himself. Leslie will be returning to CV on 28th October for a workshop and maybe a read-around of our stories. A real challenge this one!
Looking at this photograph you might think that Nicky was a passionate gardner (no knobbly "Ester Ranzen" carrots there) rather than a writer, but in fact he is a man of many talents. Nicky was born in Hanley Stoke-on-Trent, and has lived all his life in the Potteries, although his parents and grandparents hail from Scotland, Ireland, and South Africa, from whence Nicky believes his creativity stems, and his parent's encouraged him to follow his heart. Nicky loves painting, classical music, and gardening. Oh - and writing! Nicky is presently working on his memoirs as one of nine children growing up around Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire in the 1950's and 60's. City Voices welcome Nicky to the group.