Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Uppermill and Shadows

Writers' groups up and down the country provide their members with valuable and much-needed support and encouragement, but they often do a good deal more than that. I was reminded of this recently when I was invited to talk to a group of writers based in Oldham in the delightful setting of the Saddleworth Museum at Uppermill, a charming place on the edge of the Moors which boasts not one but two second-hand bookshops.

I enjoyed the event a good deal, and the allotted two hours simply sped by. There were plenty of questions, and it is always gratifying to see the enthusiasm of members of groups like this. Before I had my first novel published, I was for quite a few years a member of a writers' group in the Wirral, and I found the regular meetings a source of genuine encouragement. The only reason I left the group was because I left the area.

I was pleased to be given a copy of Shadows, a book which the group put together recently under the name of 'Oldham Writing Cafe', and which is quite a bargain at the price of £4.50. It contains a number of pieces written in various styles by various hands, often drawing on memories of local people about their community. Certainly, it is well worth a read.

The publication of the book was funded by a grant from the local authority – money well spent, in my opinion. Inevitably, there is bound to be concern that similar projects in the future will be denied funding because of cutbacks in public expenditure. One can only hope that decision-makers will recognise that, despite the need for savings, local communities do need to be supported and cohesive and that worthwhile projects of this kind deserve to be backed.

Tomorrow - a guest blog post from Ann Cleeves about another most worthwhile institution.


Anonymous said...

Martin - Thanks for this. No doubt in my mind about the value of writers' groups. They can be the source, as you say, of much support, encouragement, help and good ideas.

Paul Beech said...

Great post, Martin. I’ve started attending BLAZE poetry events at the Red Lion, Hartford, run by our wonderful Northwich poet Angela Topping – do you know her? I’m into contemporary poetry as well as crime writing and get a lot out of the events. The atmosphere is friendly, the guest poets stimulating (some wacky, others charismatic or deep), and I’ve been amazed at the wealth of local talent producing everything from pastoral to parody. I’ve even read my own stuff and found it well received. Needed a half of lager first, mind you!

I’m reading Peter Lovesey’s ‘The Circle’ at the moment, a terrific mystery about a writers’ group. But I’m glad our BLAZE members are rather less homicidally inclined - glad the Uppermill lot are too, as Peter’s first victim in the story is a guest speaker!

Well done to the Oldham Writing CafĂ© for bringing out their anthology ‘Shadows’. I’m with you in hoping that, despite the new austerity, other groups are helped to get similar projects off the ground. With council job cuts much in the news, this might seem unlikely, but we can keep our fingers crossed anyway.

Regards, Paul

aguja said...

Writers' Groups can be such a valuable source of encouragement. I found that to be true as I live abroad. The group I belonged to disbanded, eventually, but I met a good friend there and we still meet each week to review and edit one another's work ... plus give the necessary encouragement at times as writing can be a lonely business.

I am glad that you posted this, Martin. Thank you.

Martin Edwards said...

Margot, Aguja, thanks, I'm glad you have similar views.

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Paul. I don' know Angela but have a distant memory of the Red Lion!
The Circle is great fun, and by a great writer.