It is with very great sadness that I write about the death of long-standing City Voices stalwart Lily Meigh, who passed away on 12th December 2018, aged 84. On 8th December Lily and her daughter enjoyed the City Voices festive meal, so the shock of her demise for Lily’s family and close friends can hardly be imagined. Lily suffered from Parkinson’s disease and like everyone “senior” had some health problems, but this scarcely ever prevented Lily from attending City Voices meetings and events, and lots of other social activities with her great friend and fellow CV member Anita Oxford. It might sound like a cliché to describe someone as “a lovely lady” yet that is exactly how Lily was – lovely and a true lady (albeit with a wicked and rather naughty sense of fun!)
Lily was modest about her writing, but always read with great expression and often with humour. Her contribution to the CV anthology of short stories “Telling Tales” was a rather risqué tale of two old Stokie men discussing their past and present whilst being a bit the worse for wear. “Outside the Slug and Lettuce” made everyone laugh, as did her never-to-be-forgotten performance in “Under Milkwood” which we read at a meeting last year. For some of CV members, Lily will forever be Mrs. Cherry Owen.
In her own words, Lily says that as a child she I remembers her father reciting short nonsensical poems and stories which were made up as he went along. Lily was just 12 years old when her father passed away, and says that although she was never encouraged to talk about him she wrote down her thoughts and memories of the time spent together. This proved to be the start of Lily's interest in writing, and credits two English teachers for her love of the English language. ‘That Boy’ was the title of Lily's first attempt at story writing, at about the same time as a poem called ‘My Mother’.
After reading about City Voices in the local newspaper Lily went along to her first meeting, and says she was very nervous! Our founder Paul Williamson and other members "put me at ease and I was made to feel welcome. With guidance and encouragement from the group, I like to think my writing has improved, I know my confidence has!"
The thing that most people at CV have said about Lily was that she was the first to make them welcome when they, as new members, crossed the threshold into our (rather large) meeting room. Lily was universally popular, and I guess we were all a bit guilty of taking her presence for granted sometimes. However I have vivid memories of her enjoyment of meetings, of her always joining in, and in particular how much she relished meeting guest poets and writers. I think she was particularly charmed by a Welsh/Italian poet who shall remain nameless!
Lily always said she did not like to write “ad hoc” or on the spot; nevertheless she did. Eventually she was persuaded to put her writing together in a book entitled “Billy Big Feet”.
Below is an extract from Lily's story “Outside the Slug and Lettuce”
Five minutes later the pair were still standing in silence both of them unsure which way to go.
Suddenly Albert piped up “You know Harry, I’ve still got the hots for our Maud. Do you think she would say yes if I proposed to her?”
“You must be crackers if you think you can keep up with Maud, she‘s a fast mover” laughed his friend.
Albert glared at Harry and asked “Are you trying to tell me you’ve been dating her?
“Don’t be such a nunky head, I prefer a woman with a bit of style”
Lily will be missed by all at City Voices. She was a modest, fun, and truly beautiful person. She was a writer.
Rest in Peace, dear Lily.
Jason Nicholas Smith had a good day at the last City Voices meeting of 2018, on 24th November. His short story “Sankofa” won the group short story contest, with a cash prize of £50 and a certificate presented by our judge Jayne. After the meeting Jason dashed across to Shrewsbury Festival for the Poetry Slam, which he only went and won! Congratulations to Jason who has been called “the busiest man in poetry” - if he is not poeting, slamming or working, he can be found volunteering or giving inspirational talks to schools, prisons, church groups and even being a bit of a star in that London.
Now for the story, which Jason has kindly given me permission to post here. If you are wondering about the title, Sankofa is a word in the Twi language of Ghana that translates to "Go back and get it" and also refers to the Asante Adinkra symbol represented either with a stylized heart shape or by a bird with its head turned backwards while its feet face forward carrying a precious egg in its mouth.
My ancestors stand amid the smoking embers of what was once home with their eyes
seemingly to silently sing sad songs. My wife is there among them too, all dressed in white.
Their lips are moving, but I cannot hear. Then they shake their heads and point to the tall
palm tree I once climbed, just like the royal high priest did as a boy. They point to a rock
from which I made carvings, and then they point to a golden Sankofa bird that speaks to me
without sound telling me it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind.
The Sankofa bird moves to stand under a 'Kum' tree with its roots protruding into a tributary
of the River Nile. The Sankofa birds' feet are planted facing forward and when it turns its
head backwards to pluck an egg off its back, I begin to understand that along times passage
the knowledge of past must never be forgotten. We must reach back to gather the best of
what past teaches to go forward.
My wife reaches out then and with her touch, words spoken by my ancestors wash over me
like an eternity of waves. The weight of their stories causes me to fall to my knees, but I
continue falling downwards until the chains enslaving my consciousness release me to rise
up from sleep and back among my people in captivity on the slave trader ship.
Chains disengaging hatches drags loud cries from the mouths of those amid delirium of
disease and trauma. Slavers descend with clanging bells like farmers calling cattle to feed,
and those refusing to eat are force-fed, while the dead are unceremoniously thrown
overboard to meet with the Goddess of rivers and Justice.
Under heat's oppressive hand I begin to chant and give thanks that my wife has visited the
sacred lake in our land of Ashanti and sang goodbye to its God, before ascending up over
the hill and beyond.
A scurrying sound whispers over wood and I feel a sharp bite, but it cannot compare to
watching my son bludgeoned, my wife being led away with her screams echoing along the
deep gash in my psych, and the foreknowledge of the pain yet to come.
I am thrown about as giant waves toss the ship. My peoples screams almost causes me to
let loose tightly reigned rage, but I grip my tongue with my teeth, gain control, and begin to
sing ancestral songs about a strange land.
©Jason Nicholas Smith
City Voices member Steve Osbourne has recently re-launched his children’s book “Harry the Penguin’s First Flight”. It is available on Amazon. If you buy the paperback you’ll get the eBook for free. It’s aimed at 2-6 year olds. Steve was inspired to write this book, by a little six-year old called Harry, who came to live with his family. He is now eleven years old and is thriving. Steve’s family planned to go on holiday to Italy. Harry had never been on an aeroplane before and had lots of questions about it.
The book is about an orphan penguin who dreams of flying like the other birds. If you buy a copy could you please write an Amazon review - it really helps lesser-known authors.
I think the cover is adorable – Ed.
Forget Bonfire Night – come along to City Voices last meeting of 2018! No explosions, no fireworks, just great poetry in the warm atmosphere of our group – described by one of our guest poets as like being in “the comfort of old friends” and by one of our members as “sitting around the warmth of a campfire telling stories” Not that we never have explosive performances! In addition to our guest poet, the multi-lingual David Subacchi, we will also be (hopefully) hearing the winner of the City Voices short story competition read his, her or their entry. The winner will be announced at the start of the meeting 11.40am, and will receive a cash prize of £50 plus a laminated certificate. So if any person wants to know whether they are the winner, plus enjoy some poetry and a workshop, then schlep up ‘Anley duck, and get to the library on 24th November.* New members always welcome.
*City Central Library Hanley, in room 1 (J R R Tolkien suite)
Photos taken at the Leopard Inn in Burslem six years ago today - City Voices did not have a web-site then nor a FB page! It was a brilliant night and wish I'd taken more photographs. The very scary Peter Salt features here (still a member!) but there were terrific performances from Paul Williamson and Liz Mills as I recall, but everyone made their contribution to a great night at a genuinely haunted pub!
This event will replace our usual meeting, and will be in the same room at the library. This is a LIBRARY run event for the general public, but CV members will have a Q and A session with the poets afterwards. All poets and writers it will brilliant and you will also be supporting our library, so please come along.
Absolute grovelling apologies from me, City Voices Social Media Manager, to anyone who has emailed the group via the website and not had a reply. I have just discovered that since around the beginning of August, emails for City Voices Contact forms have been going into my spam folder!! This should have been spotted earlier – all I can say is Mea Culpa. August has been has very busy month but that’s no excuse. We are all busy these days. I believe I have now replied to everyone either by email or via the Facebook page, but if you are genuine please try again as I believe some emails were “bounced back”. There have been some “spammers” but I can spot them.
We were all looking forward to Neil Holland’s workshop on 4th August, and it exceeded all expectations. “Working a murder scene Part II - Murder Scenes and other crimes. First-hand information and tips on writing for authentic stories. Pitfalls to avoid.” was much more than just a “talk” – it was an inter-active crime scene re-enactment, props supplied by Neil. My photographs were not very good as the cast would keep moving around! The exception was Heath, who was “dead”! We had loads of laughs, and at the same time found this way of doing things very informative. The group also enjoyed being split into teams to identify and match finger-prints. Not as easy as you might think but actually we all did very well. It made everything around writing about UK crime much clearer – lots of writers, me included, are probably too influenced by American crime series on TV. It is a whole different procedure. There is also a short story competition for City Voices members to enter, based around a crime scene, details of which are in the newsletter. Thank you Neil for so much hard work, and sharing your own experiences at crime scenes which were only too real.