On Thursday 12th April 2018, representatives of Harpenden Writers presented their work to an audience of Harpenden’s University of the Third Age in The Trust Hall, Southdown. The Chairman of the local U3A branch, Doug Nevell, had come up with the idea because of the current interest in creative writing being expressed amongst their membership. The hope is that they will set up their own writing group to add to the existing list of activities that this thriving organisation offers its members. Doug is also a new member of Harpenden Writers and clearly feels that we are a good model and that the U3A may be able to pick up some tips of how to organise a writing group and how to sustain it.
Reading aloud from our recent 20th anniversary anthology, The Words, the Harpenden Writers were warmly welcomed by a full hall of U3A members. Stephen Lloyd, our Chairman, opened the presentation with some words about the writing group and handed over to member Marilyn Chelache who introduced each reader one by one.
Joyce Bunting went first with a charming autobiographical poem entitled Dad’s Walking Stick, which clearly resonated with the audience comprising of mainly retired folk. This was followed by a most amusing poem with the lyrical quality of a country and western song by Viv McManus, Harpenden Country Music. There was a lot of chuckling in the audience as Viv’s sardonic humour sank in. Next was Margaret Gregory with a moving poem about a woman who has dedicated her life to cleaning her church, The Weekly Service. The emotive imagery continued with the next work by Derek Smith, a densely described poem about a shoot, called The Pheasant’s Lament. Although the audience had been asked to wait until the end of the whole presentation of readings, many were finding it hard not to applaud after each piece was read out aloud by its author.
The writers ploughed on with their reading, each being introduced by Marilyn using their biographies from the anthology. Another moving autobiographical memoire was shared by Hild Browning, September 3rd 1939. In this, she tells of the time that she and her family heard that war had been declared, during a birthday meal for her mother. Sylvia Steer followed this with a wry take on modern romance. Her poem, Disenchantment, certainly tickled many in the U3A audience. Returning to a more sombre theme, Peter Risley’s prose, War Memorial, captured the attention of one and all, with an account of the annual laying of the wreath in Wheathampstead attended by an ageing war veteran. Then to lighten the mood again, we had Barry de Foyle’s poem, The Trumpetbird, taking a satirical look at the behaviour of a certain world leader. And the finale was a hilarious letter, Dear Mrs Travis, written and read by Frances Kirkland, in which the hapless Grecia Loins (Mrs) recalls an utterly disastrous stay in a guesthouse. By this stage the audience could not help themselves. The applause was instinctive and rapidly gained momentum, and the writers were bowled over by the audience’s reaction.
After Stephen Lloyd wrapped up the presentation and announced that copies of The Words were available to purchase after the meeting, the floor was opened up to questions. U3A members wanted to know how we do our writing; do we workshop everything or write privately at home? How do we find our inspiration? Is there always a set theme for every readaround or may we write and share what comes to us? Do any of us write short stories? What do we use, paper and pen or pencil or computers? Do any of our members get published?
The panel of Harpenden Writers ably answered all those inquiries, displaying their dedication to writing and the fulfilment as well as enjoyment they experience through pursuing this hobby amongst friends. As Stephen explained, we may be amateurs, but not in the sense that we do not take our writing seriously or are not striving to do it to the best of our ability, we are amateurs because we love doing it.
To find out more or to purchase a copy of The Words, visit our website.