Harpenden Writers is a local club that began around 20 years ago following the closure of a WEA creative writing class. We began by meeting in members’ homes but fairly soon, we had the wherewithal to book and pay for a suitable meeting place for our monthly gatherings. We became a regular fixture at the United Reformed Church meeting rooms. We were upstairs and there was a mums and toddlers group that gathered downstairs. The exuberant and noisy nature of the well-attended toddler group only became a problem for us when, several years on, we needed to change rooms and moved downstairs, to enable a couple of our more infirm members to attend the meetings. We tried putting polite signs up on our door, which did not really help. We had some young mums in the group, aunts, uncle and grandparents, as well as recently-retired teachers at the time, so we all knew only too well, how hard it is to ‘sssssh’ excited little ones.
We coped with sharing this venue to an extent but for a group that spends a lot of time listening carefully to each other reading aloud and discussing our work in the round, it wasn’t really an environment conducive to concentrating. It had been a very pleasant, centrally located venue but we looked around for somewhere else.
Advised against relocating to the Harpenden Trust Centre in Southdown, which would have meant battling against the sound of amplified music, dozens of adult tapping feet and much chatter and laughter, we discovered the meeting rooms at the Friends Meeting House. The Quakers Centre on Southdown Road in Harpenden perfectly suited our requirements for ensuring accessibility for our members, guests and speakers. Centrally located near the railway station, this venue has its own small car-park, is near some handy 2-hour on-street parking and within easy access of a couple of public car-parks.
The acoustics aren’t brilliant in there, due to the vaulted ceiling. We suppose that one of the practices of Quakers is to sit quietly in each other’s company and to contemplate the world and life and so forth, but of course, we tend to do that out loud. And another children’s group has started meeting in the room on the other side of the building, but there is a library between us and we are only occasionally disturbed by chatter or excitement in the entrance hall. Some of our current writers group members are hard of hearing, and do struggle more than the rest of us to keep tuned in, but it is excellent practice for us to speak up and to enunciate properly.
This, we have found is an important element of being a writer; to be confident in presenting one’s work in public. Sharing our work with each other, as well as beyond our group, has provided us with some really useful learning experiences and many joyful memories. With our second ‘proper’ publication soon to be launched, we are putting our work – and ourselves – out there. Quite a nerve-wracking exercise! In the run up to this significant occasion, we will remember on this blog, how we have printed and presented past collections of our work. We invite you to join us on our writer’s journey.