A Festival for Poetry – and So Much More

photo of Shirley Wright speaking at the opening ceremony with Debbie Young

Shirley Wright praises the village school’s Poetry Anthology at the opening ceremony (Photo by Angela Fitch)

Award-winning Shirley Wright, who has been part of every HULF to date, added another win to her name when she made a welcome return this year. Inspired by her enthusiasm and support, and her skill for making poetry accessible to everyone, we have expanded the poetry element since the Festival’s inception, and this will continue next year. Now read on to share her experience of HULF 2019, including our first ever Poetry Slam.


April 2019 saw me heading back to Hawkesbury Upton to take part in my fifth HULF. I’ve been so privileged to be involved since the very beginning, watching as it’s grown and flourished under the indefatigable leadership of Debbie Young.

Launch of School Poetry Anthology

One of this year’s innovations was the village school’s Poetry Anthology, containing a poem from every single child at the school. I was lucky enough to be asked by Debbie to write a Foreword to the book and to say a few words at the launch, first thing on Saturday morning. So … note to self, don’t be late. So … I arrive ridiculously early! But this gave me the chance for a proper annual catch up with people I only see at HULF, to down a coffee or two, sort out what to do with my own books, get a programme for the day and get my head sorted before the proceedings began!

photo of small boy proudly reading his poem

A young pupil at Hawkesbury Primary School proudly reads his poem to the Festival crowd (photo by Angela Fitch)

After a quick few words from me on why I was deeply impressed with the poetry collection, it was lovely to hear some of the children read their poems out loud to the gathered crowd. You could spot the mums and dads from the width of the grins on their faces! What an inspirational, inclusive project, proving that everyone can write poetry and that it’s an uplifting thing.

Then to the events of the day. Inspired by the above, I started by going to the children’s writing session and listening to authors talk about and read extracts from their fiction for children. Then more coffee and cake. There’s always plenty of good food and home cooking at HULF – something not to be taken lightly!

Poetry Workshop

My poetry workshop later in the morning was full of eager writers. We started by chatting  about climate change and how this urgent topic could best be conveyed through poetry. Then everyone settled down to writing acrostics on the theme. As always, some fabulous poems emerged from the session and everyone had something to take away with them to think about or to work on at home.

Poetry Slam

After lunch (good soup!) I took part in another HULF innovation for 2019 – the first ever Poetry Slam. We had a good, appreciative audience, and lots of participants. As Slams ought to be, it was fun, competitive and well organised. (Read judge Barry Faulkner’s entertaining take on the Poetry Slam in his post here – an experience that has now got him hooked on reading poetry!)

Beyond Poetry

But HULF is about more than poetry. There’s all the things I haven’t mentioned – art exhibitions, talks, readings and discussion groups in venues all around the village on topics such as non-fiction, historical fiction, favourite authors …

And the focus every time is on the festival-goers rather than the invited guests, about inclusiveness and genuine interest from everybody.

Can’t wait for next year!


Shirley Wright’s Books

cover of Sticks and Stones by Shirley Wright

Shirley Wright’s latest poetry collection

Shirley Wright has published two poetry collections and a novel:

  • The Last Green Field and Sticks and Stones – poetry collections published by Indigo Dreams
  • Time Out of Mind – a ghost story published by Thornberry

You can buy them all from Amazon here.

 

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Barry Faulkner’s Entertaining Take on HULF 2019

Crimewriter B L (Barry) Faulkner is a staunch HULF supporter, always happy to turn his hand to any task here, whether or not related to his successful series of police procedural novels, and can be depended upon to add his own brand of wry humour to any event. We’re delighted to share his memories of this year’s Festival below.

photo of Crimefest panel

Crimewriter Barry Faulkner, pictured second from left, was in the spotlight at CrimeFest a couple of weeks later

The alarm woke me at 7am. Quick outing with the dogs in the Forest and back for a shower and check on my to take with me, HULF list. All present and correct and in the bag so off we go. A leisurely drive through the Forest of Dean (where I live) and down the A48 to Chepstow and the  Seven Bridge. PANIC!!! Bridge closed due to high winds!  So foot down to Cardiff and pick up the M4. Arrive at Hawkesbury as the opening ceremony (?) is finishing. Can’t find my name tag on the book tables to stack my books. Yes I can, another author was sitting on it.

I’m chairman for the Best of British panel which is first off in the Methodist Chapel so quickly put a bunch of pamphlets I did on the computer promoting it on the table inside the main door and more spread around the cafe tables. Bit worried as we are at the other end of the High Street in the Methodist Chapel. Will people make the effort?

Walk down to the Chapel. Door locked. Go round the back and find an art display being arranged in the back hall.

‘Can I get through to the Chapel from here?’ I ask.

‘Yes, there is a door behind the refreshment counter.’

It’s locked.  A helpful lady says she will phone the caretaker for a key. No signal on her phone so she leaves me and goes outside to try. I don’t think that will make any difference, if there’s no signal inside there won’t be one outside either. I take a close look at the lock whilst she’s gone and when she comes back I have the door open. (Don’t ask).

What a smashing intimate venue.It’s a House of God so look up and ask his permission to re-arrange the pews.  I didn’t get a jolt of lightning cast down on me so I pulled them about a bit, put some pamphlets out and by now my panelists are arriving and so are some punters. Soon the place is buzzing and time to start.

I’ve done my homework on the panelists and suffice to say I’m batting above my league! I explain to the audience, now standing room only, that each one of the panelists will do a short reading and then at the end they will take questions.

I kick off with a short read from one of my DCS Palmer books and quickly move onto Nicola Horton. I know Nicola will get us off to a good start as I have suffered extremely late nights lying in bed with the wall lights on as my wife chuckles and laughs her way through one of Nicola’s Diary of a Stressed-Out Mother books. True to form, the audience chuckle too.

Next up is Ali Bacon with that lovely Scottish accent and that great novel  A Kettle of Fish, a coming-of-age novel. Ali has numerous awards and is also a judge at this year’s Stroud Short Stories competition. (I made the long list, perhaps I should have had a quiet word with her about the next one?)

Lucienne Boyce is a historic novelist of repute, a radio presenter and has an MA in Eng Lit with distinction. (I was a milk monitor once.) She regularly gives talks on Women’s Suffrage and has a book of essays on the subject. She is currently working on the third novel in her Dan Foster Mysteries series and a biography of suffragette Millicent Browne. Wow!!

J J Franklin is an ex nursing professional who has written for the BBC and is writer of the psychological thriller novel Urge to Kill,  featuring DI Matt Turrell of the Warwickshire Police which she is developing into a series with the second book A Kind of Justice out now. She also runs a crime-writers’ group in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Melanie Golding’s debut novel Little Darlings is out soon and destined for the top of the best sellers list with a film option already taken.  She has also won many short story awards and is currently working on a second novel.

Alice Jolly, novelist and playwright has a host of awards for her work, having been produced at the Everyman Theatre Cheltenham and published novels through Simon and Schuster, plus a memoir with the arresting title Dead Babies and Seaside Towns. Alice teaches creative writing at Oxford University.

And last but not least to read was Jo Ullah who pulled me up for the wrong pronunciation of ‘dyslexic’.  (I told you I was batting above my league.) Jo told us she was brought up on a diet of horror and the supernatural by her mother’s inventive mind! ( My mother’s inventive mind only stretched to porridge for breakfast and chips on Sunday.) Jo’s debut novel The Locksmith was a Kindle Scout Winner. She is half way through a second book and studying for an English Literature and Language Degree in a cluttered house with four kids in Bristol.

Those were our 7 Best of British authors. What a gold medal lot, eh? They took questions and made the whole experience a really enjoyable one judging from the feedback I had from members of the audience afterwards.

I noticed John Holland in the audience as we were finishing and as his Stroud Short Stories event was coming up soon. I called on him to give it a promo (even though I only got to the long list John. I don’t hold grudges, anyway I know where you live.) and then thanked everybody and made my way back to the main hall for a coffee and sandwich before… the Poetry Slam competition!

I had been drafted into being a judge in the Poetry Slam as one of the real judges had had to pull out at the last moment.

So, what do I know about poetry? Well, 40 years ago I did a two-hour train journey London to Manchester with John Cooper Clark. As I recall we played cards and slept most of the time. So you can see my poetic knowledge is somewhat miniscule.

Lucky for me I had Peter Lay as the other judge.

‘How do you judge a poem, Peter?’

‘See how much you like it.’

I liked them all. Had to give marks out of 25.

The first poet gave forth.

Peter looked at me.

‘Twenty five,’ I said

‘And what if you like the next poem more?’ he said.

‘Twenty six,’ I said.

He gave me a sad look and shook his head.

I would have given them all 25,  but Peter’s advice was, ‘If you give them all 25 they all go through to the 2nd round and all then through to the final and we will be here all night trying to find a winner.’

Point taken.  I am pleased to say most of my marks were within one or two points of Peter’s.  There were some great poems.  The subjects were amazing,  Love, Spiritual, Environment, Hot Air Ballons and even one about  Washing Machines.  And it all closed with Josephine Lay’s poem about banging her head, twice. Josephine, like me, had stepped in to compere the slam when  Dan Holloway had to unfortunately pull  out at the last minute.

So, thanks to the poets,  Linda Alvis, Chris Burleigh, Jason Conway, Bobbie Coelho, William Fairney, Mari Howard, Gef Lucena, David Willams, Shirley Wright and of course Peter and Josephine Lay, I now view poetry and poets in a different light. I even bought two books of poems from the charity shop last week that are on my TBR pile.

Talking with Peter after the slam one of the poets approached me, one that didn’t win.

‘So what parameters do you use to judge a poem with?’ he asked.

I looked at my watch. ‘I have to get across to another panel,’ I lied. ‘Peter will explain’ And I scarpered.

I do lots of talks and get to attend as many Lit Fests as will have me, but guess which one I’m already looking forward to the most for next year?

pile of Barry's books in bookshop

Barry’s books – eight in the series so far – on display at the HULF bookstore. (Photo: Angela Fitch Photography)

Barry Faulkner’s entertaining series of police procedural stories set in London is available in paperback and ebook via Amazon and at the many events he speaks at throughout the region – he is in great demand as a public speaker. He also writes a fascinating blog about real-life crime here: www.geezers2016.wordpress.com