Summer 1966: When her father comes home with lipstick on his collar, ten-year-old Claire’s life is turned upside down. Her furious mother leaves the family and heads to London, and Claire and her brothers are packed off to Ireland, to their reclusive grandmother at her tiny cottage on the beautifully bleak coast of Connemara. A misfit among her new classmates, Claire finds it hard to make friends until she happens across a boy her own age from the school next door. He lives at the local orphanage, a notoriously harsh place. Amidst half-truths, lies and haunting family secrets, Claire forms a forbidden friendship with Emmet – a bond that will change both their lives forever.
Sara Gethin has a unique talent for being able to enter a child’s mind, to give their thoughts, speak their dialogue. I know this is commonplace in children’s stories but what I mean is that she has the ability to speak from a child’s perspective in an adult world. A world that is dysfunctional, that the child sees and comments on, but is swept along, helpless in the chaos those adults create.
Yet threaded throughout Emmet and Me is the wonderful developing friendship between the Welsh, displaced protagonist, Claire and the, equally displaced Irish boy, Emmet.
I also admired the short sections where Claire speaks as an adult looking back on her childhood and on that time in her life, which affected so much and says why she is now the woman she is.
I first came across this author when I read Not Thomas, also published by Honno, (my review here: https://bit.ly/3tUBjHw and greatly recommended.). Emmet and Me is as poignant, as heartrending as that book. And as with Not Thomas, I both cried and rejoiced with the characters at certain partsof the story.
This is a novel set in Ireland at a time when many children had absolutely no control over what happened to them. To say any more would be to add spoilers: suffice it to say it is obvious Sara Gethin has researched thoroughly and has brought that era to life within this book.
This is superb writing: the plot is enthralling (and, although I had an inkling which way the story was travelling, in no way did this spoil the read for me), all the characters are well rounded, grow as the story progresses and come to life on the page, and the settings have a real sense of place.
Emmet and Me is a novel I have absolutely no hesitation in recommendedto any reader.
About the author:
Sara Gethin grew up in Llanelli and worked as a primary school teacher. ‘Not Thomas’, her debut novel for adults, was shortlisted for The Guardian’s Not the Booker prize in 2017 and the Waverton Good Read Award in 2018. Her writing has been shortlisted for the Colm Toibin International Short Story Award and she was selected for the Hay Festival Writers at Work programme in 2018. She has written four children’s books under the name Wendy White, and the first of these won the Tir na-nOg Award in 2014. While west Wales remains her home, Sara is a frequent visitor to Ireland where she loves spending time browsing the many bookstores of Dublin. She is an avid reader and theatre-goer.
The First World War ended with the deaths of a generation of young men. But the devastation of the conflict didn’t end with that last blast of a howitzer. Thousands of soldiers went home still re-living their horrific experiences of the battlefields for many years. Their lives were damaged by shell shock, a condition many had suffered from during their military service. And, throughout Britain, doctors were baffled by this unknown illness. Soldiers were returning from the trenches paralysed, blind, deaf. Some were unable to speak. Many had bouts of dizziness, hysteria, anxiety, Families reported that their returned husbands, sons, brothers, were often unable to sleep. And, if they did, had horrendous nightmares that resulted in depression, refusal to eat, erratic behaviour. Many so-called lunatic asylums and private mental institutions were assigned as hospitals for mental diseases and war neurosis.
Many men felt shame; often they were unable to return to military duty and on their return home, they were viewed as being emotionally weak or cowards. Bewildered by the changes seen in shell shocked soldiers, people had little sympathy; there was little understanding for them. Even worse, many families felt only the disgrace and humiliation that one of their own had been charged with desertion and executed by a firing squad of their fellow soldiers. It would be many decades before they would be given posthumous pardons.
In the first years of the war, shell shock was assumed to be a physical injury to the nervous system, a result of soldiers facing heavy bombardment from exploding shells. Victims were at the mercy of the armed forces’ medical officers. Determined to ‘cure’ the soldier, the treatments given by them were cruel and humiliating: extreme physical instruction, shaming and severe discipline in front of their fellow soldiers, solitary confinement, electric shock treatment.
By the second year of the war almost half of the casualties in fighting regions were victims of the condition and military hospitals were unable to cope; the unexpected numbers of soldiers suffering from the condition meant that there was a drastic shortage of beds. And medical staff discovered that many men suffered the symptoms of shell shock without having even been in the front lines. More so, it was noticed that many officers, desperate to hide their emotions and to set an example for their men, became psychotic, suffering from some of the worst symptoms of shell shock..
But it wasn’t until 1917 that the condition of shell shock was identified by a Medical Officer called Charles Myers as combat stress, today also known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
So, the thousands of soldiers who went home still re-living their horrific experiences of the battlefields had a name for the condition they were living with. Many had lost their ability to walk or, speak. Some regressed to a baby-like state. It seemed there was no expectation of recovery.
But then one man, an army major and general physician, Arthur Hurst, despite much cynicism and opposition established a hospital at Seale Hayne, Newton Abbott, Devon. (now part of Plymouth University). The men who arrived there, ostensibly destroyed by their horrendous experiences of war were given hope.
Hurst’s innovative method had never been witnessed before. Psychiatrists who, after the disorder was identified towards the end of the war, were adamant that a process of mental rehabilitation was needed; that the shell-shocked soldier was trying to cope with harrowing experiences by repressing any memories. They thought that the symptoms revealed involuntary detachment from events lived through and the man could only be cured by the traditional method of reviving memories, a process that could require a number of psychiatric therapy sessions.
As a general physician, Arthur Hurst believed that there was a simpler treatment; that humane understanding and sympathetic persuasion was the way to into the ex-soldiers’ awareness of the new life now around them. He thought that during a terrifying bombardment, a soldier might experience tremor, be unable to move or speak. So, sometimes, the power of suggestion could cause the symptoms to survive once that intense reaction had passed. The cure, as far as he was concerned was the re-education of the mind and his methods were what was needed to resolve the lingering symptoms of the trauma endured.
He used hypnosis and patience, giving them work to do on the land around Seale Hayne; a revolutionary occupational therapy. The tranquillity of the Devon countryside, the encouragement given to the men was thought to be a place where the men could get over their hysteria. They were urged to use inventive and resourceful ways to work.
Then, In a ground-breaking move, he ordered the reconstruction of the battlefields of Flanders on Dartmoor even encouraged his patients to shoot. to help the men relive and come to terms with their experiences.
Hurst also believed it important for the men to express themselves creatively and persuaded some to write and publish a magazine with a gossip column called Ward Whispers.
He made the only film in existence about how shell shock victims were treated in Britain. This gives an insight into his treatments. Though upsetting initially to watch, they also reveal the dramatic recovery Arthur Hurst’s methods produced. It was indeed pioneering and gives a mark of respect to the men who survived the terrors of the First World War. Arthur Hurst proved his methods were truly effective but I have been unable to find any studies of what happened to any of the men who had therapy at Seale Hayne.However I did find thisfascinating programme on Radio Four’s Homefront: https://bbc.in/36SmD1J.
Crime Cymru is a diverse collective of Welsh crime writers, spanning crime fiction and non-fiction.
Crime Cymru has three main aims. – To support crime writers with a real and present relationship with Wales – To help in the development of new writing talent – To promote Wales, Welsh culture and Welsh crime writing in particular, to the wider world.
2020, a year that brought us Covid 19, months during which many brilliant books have been produced but have struggled to be found by readers. Here is the list of books by our authors that have arrived this year or are in the pipeline: https://bit.ly/2Q2rqpA. I have read quite a few of them but have been remiss in writing reviews, so have set myself the task of catching up over the next few weeks
I will start the series by my review of The Covenant, byThorne Moore, a prequel to A Time For Silence, and published by Honno only yesterday, the 20th August 2020.
Leah is tied to home and hearth by debts of love and duty – duty to her father, turned religious zealot after the tragic death of his eldest son, Tom; love for her wastrel younger brother Frank’s two motherless children. One of them will escape, the other will be doomed to follow in their grandfather’s footsteps. At the close of the 19th century, Cwmderwen’s twenty-four acres, one rood and eight perches are hard won, and barely enough to keep body and soul together. But they are all the Owens have and their rent is always paid on time. With Tom’s death a crack is opened up and into this chink in the fabric of the family step Jacob John and his wayward son Eli, always on the lookout for an opportunity. Saving her family, good and bad, saving Cwmderwen, will change Leah forever and steal her dreams, perhaps even her life
The first thing I became aware of when reading The Covenant was of being drawn so quickly into the world of Cwmderwen. The immediacy of a sense of place is something I’ve been conscious of before in the work of this author. Thorne Moore has a talent for description: of the changes in nature throughout the seasons, the unpredictability of the weather and in her absolute ability to bring the countryside of Pembrokeshire in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century alive, both in The Time for Silence (her first novel set around Cwmderwen), and in The Covenant.
Told in the first person point of view of the protagonist, Leah Owen, a woman driven by duty, loyalty and love for her family (who always expect too much of her), the story follows her life through the decades. And, though the core of this thoroughly rounded character remains the same, the outward changes in her, wrought by life’s disappointments and regrets are inevitable as the years’ progress. I found myself wanting her to rebel, to question the road she’s forced to follow, not only through the whims and vagaries of the farm’s land; “twenty-four acres, one rood and eight perches” , but by the wishes of Thomas Owen, her father, Tadu, who rules the family through his inflexible translation of the Bible.
This is a man whois unbending: in his control over his wife ( a control that leads to disaster), in his dismissal of his two eldest daughters, in his view of Leah’s younger brother, Frank – the “prodigal” son; a son who goes his own way, despite his father’s violent punishments, and whose story inevitably shapes Leah’s life, In contrast Thomas is unchanging in his love for Leah – but there is a proviso; it is only on his terms. She will be the dutiful daughter, forced to follow his rules. This is a wonderfully portrayed character underlying the basis of the actions of the family. Though Leah is the protagonist and it is her story we follow, it is Tadu who is at the patriarchal hub of the wheel and, like spokes on that wheel, are spread a whole cast of supporting characters.
Even the cottage of Cwmderwen itself becomes a character with its “…solid stones and heavy timber (that) seem to sink themselves into the black earth…” yet there is that crack in the wall of the parlour, the “Death” room, that Leah’s demented sister traces with her finger, peers through – and Leah wonders if Mary can see “all thosewho have passed through, those Leah could not see…”. The crack used as a metaphor for the fundamental weaknesses of each character within the family and the flaws in the determination to hold on to the the “twenty-four acres, one rood and eight perches”
As I previously mentioned, the author has a talent for bringing a Welsh ambience of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century alive,both in The Time for Silence and in The Covenant.This is awareness is equally obvious in the dialogue, where the Welsh language intermingles with English. And there is never any doubt as to which character is speaking.
Subtly threaded throughout the story are themes of duty, love – familial and romantic, pride,despair, loneliness, death and guilt – what more can one ask of a story set around families
As a reader, my favourite style of story is character led rather than plot. In The Covenant, I found the best of both worlds; a gripping story line with really believable characters. I cannot recommend The Covenant highly enough.
Although The Covenant is the prequel of A Time For Silence, both books are also stand aloneand can be read as completely separate novels.
About the author:
Thorne Mooregrew up in Luton, where her father was a Labour councillor and her mother once got the sack for calling her boss a male chauvenist pig, so she developed strong views about the way the world works. Her headmaster advised her to study law, but that implied a career in law, and the only career she wanted was as a writer, so she studied history instead, at Aberystwyth, and nine years later, after a spell working in a library, she returned to Wales, to beautiful and inspiring Pembrokeshire, to run a restaurant with her sister, Liz.
She did finally get her law degree, through the Open University, but these days, she writes, as she had always intended, and when she’s not writing,she makes miniature furniture, through her craft business, Pear Tree Miniatures, and occasionally she teaches family history.
History, personal and social, rather than political treaties and battles, remain a major interest, spurred along by her present home, a Victorian farmhouse that stands on the site of a Mediaeval manor. When she write about crime, as a traumatic turn of events that shakes people’s lives, she is primarily concerned with its causes and far-reaching consequences of actions, even through generations, rather than the thrill of the actions themselves, or the intricacies of forensic detection.
The title, A Hundred Tiny Threads, is taken from a quote by Simone Signoret (the French actress of cinema and a writer in her later years. She died of cancer in 1985 at the age of 60. The full quote is, “Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years. “
A Hundred Tiny Threads is the story of the parents of protagonist in the Howarth trilogy, Mary Howarth. I thought I’d finished with the characters when the last book ended. But something niggled away at me until I realised that until their story was told; their lives explained, the narration was incomplete. The story takes place during a time of social and political upheaval, between the years 1911 and 1922. It’s set in Yorkshire, Lancashire and Ireland at the time of the Suffragettes, the first World War and the Uprising in Ireland.
I knew the years I wanted to cover so one of the obvious difficulties was the timeline. I needed to make sure that those characters, already existing in the trilogy, fitted correctly into those decades. And the two main characters, Winifred Duffy and Bill Howarth, are already fully formed, rounded characters in the previous books so I wanted to show how the era they had grown up in; the environment, the events, the conditions, had shaped them, moulded them into the characters they’d become.
I actually wasn’t going to write a trilogy. The first of the three books is called Pattern of Shadows
I’ve often told the story about how I discovered that the first German POW camp in the UK was a disused cotton mill in Lancashire. And how, because of my memories; of the noise, the colours of the cloth, the smell of grease and cotton when my mother worked as a winder in such a mill, I wondered what it would be like for those prisoners. I imagined their misery, loneliness and anger. And I wanted to write a story about that. But research in a local history library; finding sources of personal accounts of those times, from ex-prisoners, the locals and the guards of the camp, proved that it wasn’t quite as bad as I had imagined. There were times of hope, of love even. So then I knew I needed to write the novel around a family who lived in the town where the camp was situated. Who were involved in some way with the prisoners.
The trouble was that once the story was told there were threads that needed picking up for the sequel, Changing Patterns
And after that book was completed I realised that there would be repercussions from the actions of the characters in the first two stories that would affect the next generations. And so I wrote Living in the Shadows
It’s been hard to let go of some of the characters, especially the protagonist, Mary. But in a way I’m still staying in their world. When I’d sent A Hundred Tiny Threads to Honno , my publishers, for the final time, I wrote and Indie published an anthology of eight short stories called Secrets.
These are the stories of some of the minor characters in the trilogy. At least three of these are crying out for their life stories to be told. I’ve already started on two of the characters: Hannah Booth, the sour mother- in- law of Mary’s sister, Ellen, who appears in Pattern of Shadows, and on Edith Jagger’s tale; the woman who becomes the gossipy and sharp-tongued next-door neighbour of the protagonist, Winifred, in the prequel and previously in the trilogy.
As is often the case, how we finish up in life is shaped by our past. And both women have a dark secret.
Perhaps, all along, I knew I was not going to walk away from these characters. Perhaps they knew they wouldn’t let me.
I gave The House With Old Furniture a well deserved 5*out of 5*
The ghosts of a century’s worth of secrets and betrayals are coming home to Pengarrow…
Evie has lost her eldest son, Jesse, to gang violence. Leaving the house he grew up in is pulling apart the few strings left holding her heart together. Only the desire to be there for her younger boy, Finn, impels Evie to West Wales and the ancient house her husband is sure will heal their wounds.
Days later, Andrew is gone – rushing back to his ‘important’ job in government, abandoning his grieving wife and son. Finn finds solace in the horse his father buys by way of apology. As does his evasive and fearful new friend, Nye, the one who reminds him and Evie of Jesse… Evie loses herself in a dusty 19th century journal and glasses of home-made wine left by the mysterious housekeeper.
As Evie’s grasp on reality slides, Andrew’s parents ride to the rescue. It is clear that this is a house they know. They seem to think they own it, and begin making changes nobody wants, least of all Alys and her son, Nye, the terrified youth who looks so like Jesse.
This book hooked me from the start: ” I don’t want to leave. I’m being ripped from the rock I cling to…” Right away i was in the protagonist’s heart and mind. The story of Evie Wolfe, her grief, her bewilderment, her sense of loss is threaded through the whole of The House With Old Furniture. Helen Lewis has a talent for writing phrases that evoke instant images, moods and sensations.This is rich,flowing prose.
Told alternately from the points of view of Evie and her young son, Finn, the contrast in tone is stark, yet the empathy, between the two is palpable. The author relates many of the same scenes throughout the novel from their different perspectives, with their different voices, allowing each scene to come alive and enabling the reader to ‘see’ the confusion in each character’s mind. Yet also to begin to see the machinations of the other characters surrounding them.
All the characters are multi-layered and convincing in the roles they play, whether they live in the ‘real’ world or are more ephemeral. As a reader I found myself alternately empathetic, saddened, perturbed, intrigued, angry. The House With Old Furniture is not a book that lets the reader go so easily; I discovered it is quite easy to dust, to make a meal one -handed, to iron, with only occasional glances to see what I was doing. And to read.
The spoken dialogue defines each character to their part in the plot, yet it is so subtly written that it is easy, initially, to miss the manipulations that are woven throughout. Only through the internal dialogue of Finn and the gradual slipping of reality with Evie did the unease grow in me.
My review wouldn’t be complete without a word or two about the setting of the novel. The descriptive narrative brings alive the surrounding countryside of Wales; the isolation, the beauty, sometimes the danger, to give a great sense of place. I also love the title; The House With Old Furniture encompasses the descriptions of both Pengarrow and the cottage where Evie finds Nye and Alys. Ah, Alys, an elusive character that I will leave other readers to discover for themselves, just as Evie ‘discovers’ her.
This is a story where a sense of disbelief has to be, and is, easily suspended. And it’s expertly brought about by Helen Lewis’ writing.
Love the cover by the way…and the wonderful inscriptions and patterns on the pages that divide the chapters.
As you can probably guess,I wholeheartedly recommend.The House With Old Furniture.
There are forty authors, so, obviously, there are many genres for both adults and children. There will be talks an writing and books, creative writing workshops for adults workshops & talks and fun workshops for children, activities for the children Children’s Page and a fun book trail through Narberth, the gorgeous little market town in Pembrokeshire. Location.
And, of course, there will be the chance to chat with all the authors and to pick their brains on all aspects of writing. Even to buy their books and have them personally signed.
And, as usual, there will also be the writing competition: this year is a poetry competition: competition . Submit a poem, in any form, of 20 lines or less, on the subject of : –
BOOKS AND READING.
Having outgrown our previous venue we have been lucky to hire the Queens Hall: https://www.thequeenshall.org.uk/ who have been very generous in their support of the event.
Although, five years ago, I started organising the book fairs on my own I was soon joined by Alex Martin: http://amzn.to/2hZCgt2 and Thorne Moore: http://bit.ly/2rc5qyA. Unfortunately Alex has moved on to pastures new (although is still a great supporter), so Thorne and I have been joined by Elizabeth Sleight. Elizabeth is involved in the charity we are supporting through our raffle; The Harriet Davis Seaside Holiday Trust For Disabled Children: http://bit.ly/2sNyeKQ .
Our author today is the ever ebullient and friendly fellow Honno author, Carol Lovekin.
Let’s start by you telling us why you write, please, Carol.
Because I can’t play the piano is the glib answer. The truth is simpler: I love it. I’m me when I write. The person it took me years to become. And reading books made me want to write them. I can’t say I have huge ambitions (other than winning the Bailey’s Women’s Prize, obvs.) I write because it makes me happy.
What do you love most about the writing process? The unfolding of the story. How it emerges as a spark, a ‘What if?’ moment and unfolds into an outline and a plot. I love the way characters make themselves known to me. It’s like meeting new friends, people I had no idea existed. And I’m addicted to editing.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? I’m a lark and awake with the birds. I often handwrite in bed over a cup of tea. Random ideas, scenes and vignettes for my current story, for the next one and quite often the one I’m planning down the line. Each story has its own notebook. My aim is to be at my desk, working on my current story no later than ten o’clock. If I’m feeling particularly creative – down and deep with my story – it’s often a lot earlier. Word count is of no concern to me – showing up is what matters.
What do you think makes a good story? Characters who endear themselves to me on the first page; perhaps shock me. So long as they make me want to find out more. A quality writing style that draws me in. I don’t mind simple stories – a sense of place is as important to me as a convoluted plot. That said, I’m a sucker for a twist that takes my breath away.
How many books have you written? Which is your favourite? Two. (The ones in the metaphorical dusty drawer don’t count.) Asking me to pick a favourite is a borderline Sophie’s Choice scenario, Judith! Ghostbird because it was the book that validated me as a writer. Snow Sisters because it proves I’m not a one-trick pony!
I love this cover
What genre do you consider your books? Have you considered writing in another genre? I call them ghost stories laced with magic; contemporary fiction with a trace of mystery. My mentor, the lovely Janet Thomas, says they are family stories (with magic.) Which I guess is as good a description as any since, magical edges notwithstanding, they are firmly rooted in family relationships. I feel as if I’ve found my niche as a writer and have no plans to write in any other genre.
Could you tell us a bit about your most recent book and why it is a must-read? Snow Sisters explores what can happen when an act of kindness, enacted by a child, offers the hope of redemption to a tragic ghost with a horrific secret. It’s also a story of love, exploring the ties that bind sisters. And the tragic ones that can destroy mothers and daughters.
In three words, can you describe your latest book? Ghostly. Quirky. Welsh.
Does your book have a lesson? Moral? I don’t trust morality! Perhaps: Listen to your grandmother for she is wiser than Yoda?
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reins of the story? Regularly. I’ve come to the conclusion it’s some kind of Literary Law. At some point characters are required to run off into the wild wordy wood and we have no choice but to follow, more often than not without our breadcrumbs.
Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents? I’m a trained ballet dancer.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk? Although I begin at the beginning, within less time than it takes for me to say, ‘Oh look, shiny!’ I’m off to the middle (anywhere, frankly) and I can be gone some time. I write entire scenes in isolation slotting them into the narrative as I go.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? I read, swim and walk. After writing and reading, swimming is the best thing ever. Each week I discuss writing with my talented friend and co-conspirator, Janey. We are the sole members of the smallest writing group in Wales.
What is the most amusing thing that has ever happened to you? Not particularly to do with your writing. Meeting Margaret Atwood in the eighties made me smile for a week.
Give us a random fact about yourself. I don’t like even numbers.
So many things have happened over the last year (and some are still ongoing) that have stopped me from writing. So now I’m giving myself a break and I’m going a wandering. I need to finish/tidy-up/sort out the prequel to my trilogy
Its working title is Foreshadowing.
And it’s been languishing on the PC for far too long.
I’ll be popping back every now and then to post one of the eight reviews of books that have toppled off my TBR pile- and that, I am ashamed to say, have been neglected.
I’d like to say thank you to everyone who has been such a support over the last few months – friends both in the ‘real’ world and friends who I might never meet but who I appreciate.So, before I get too maudlin… cheerio for now.
Presentations for the Tenby Book Fair Writing Competitions will take place at 12.30 on Saturday, 24th September 2016
Results of the writing Competitions
FOR ENTRANTS AGED 7 – 12, AN ESSAY (ONE PAGE) ENTITLED: MY FAVOURITE CHARACTER.
COLLECTIONS OF BOOKS ARE VERY GENEROUSLY BEING DONATED AS PRIZES BY FIREFLY PRESS.
1st Prize: Leo Robertson
2nd Prize: Olivia Robertson
3rd Prize: Libby James
1st Prize William Russell
2nd Prize Darcy Conbeer
3rd prize Zihan Lin
Congratulations to all the winners. And thank you to everyone who entered the competition. There were a many entries and the standard was excellent. The judges had great difficulty coming to their decisions.
Young Adult Flash Fiction Competition
FOR ENTRANTS AGED 12 – 18, A 100 WORD CREEPY TALE.
First Prize £15 book token. 2 runners-up: £5 book token.
As usual our Book Fair is part of the Tenby Arts Festival . We’re at Church House on the first day, Saturday 24th September, between 11am – 3pm and it’s free to come in and chat with all the authors and publishers.
A talk about the famous American-Parisian jazz singer of the twenties and thirties who was notorious for having danced in a skirt made of bananas.
Sounds great fun but she had a serious side too. Find out about her courage working for the Resistance during World War II and her fight against racism.
3pm (followed by tea)
The Shakespeare Ladies Club
written and performed by Alison Neil directed by David Collison Alison Neil returns with another of her brilliant one-woman plays.
Coffee shops and tooth worm, smuggling and mouseskin eyebrows…amid the fascinating trivia of mid-eighteenth century life, Mary Cowper De Grey recounts the true story of a group of Ladies of Quality, who determined to make Shakespeare fashionable. The success of the Shakespeare Ladies Club echoes down the centuries. Mary also has a very personal tale to recount – her involvement with a young and ambitious would-be actor named… David Garrick.
Mrs Cowper De Grey then introduces her surprise guest – and the Lords, Gentlemen and Ladies of the Audience are told a very different tale – of a London unseen by People of Quality.
London in the mid-1700’s : vivacity and prosperity, marvels and great achievements in art and science. When the first steps were taken to quell the squalor and brutality of life for the poor. And women were not staying at home, or keeping quiet…
The Georgian era revealed – as Mrs Cowper De Grey (and guest) entertain!
“Eighteenth century London comes alive in the skilled hands of Alison Neil…unmissable entertainment” DORSET ECHO
“… jammed full of historical fact…told with humour, sympathy and attention to detail… both informative and entertaining, performed with energy and conviction.” BORDON POST
“…Alison commanded great stage presence…she revealed what life was like at that time…an eye-opening look at Georgian London from both sides of society.” NEWARK ADVERTISER
ALISON NEIL’s other plays, “BELLA – THE STORY OF MRS BEETON”, “THE SIXTH WIFE” (about Katherine Parr), “TRULY YOURS, C.B.” (about Charlotte Brontë), “LIVING IN THE LIGHT” (about Hildegard of Bingen) “THE JUST-WILLIAM LADY” (about Richmal Crompton) and “THE FOSSIL LADY OF LYME” (about Mary Anning) and “MRS BEETON, MY SISTER” have been performed up and down the country in hundreds of venues since 1989. As well as theatres, arts centres, village halls, colleges and festivals, the plays have been performed in hotels, art galleries, museums, castles, stately homes – and even a race course!
“BELLA – THE STORY OF MRS BEETON” and “THE JUST-WILLIAM LADY” have been adapted as BBC Radio 4 Afternoon Plays.
ALISON NEIL has been a professional actress for 30 years. She has appeared in the West End in “LITTLE LIES” (starring Sir John Mills) and “ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD”, together with numerous appearances in theatres up and down the country and abroad, and on TV and radio. Following the success of “BELLA – THE STORY OF MRS BEETON”, her second career as a writer/researcher began – for events such as VE Day in Hyde Park, the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in London, many Royal Tournaments, and permanent exhibitions such as The Smugglers Adventure (Hastings), Newhaven Fort, Shrewsbury Abbey, Tonbridge Castle and countless others. She has also been a member of Past Pleasures, interpreting history for special events and at the Tower of London.
Her one-act play “WHERE THERE’S A WILL” won the Drama Association of Wales BEST PLAY BY A WELSH-BASED WRITER 2008.
PINT-SIZED PLAYS ARE BACK AGAIN FOR ANOTHER ROUND!
Short (5-10 minutes) snappy plays that are performed free of charge in pubs around Tenby. They are winners of an international playwriting competition that attracts hundreds of entries every year. Some will make you think, some will make you chuckle, many are just downright hilarious. This extremely popular entertainment is now a regular part of the Festival and always surprises the audiences who appreciate the quirky subjects and amusing performances whilst having a convivial drink. Come early, get them in, sit back and enjoy!
7.30pm 5 Arches, St George Street 8.30pm The Cove, High Street 9.30pm The Buccaneer, St Julian Street
As usual our Book Fair is part of the Tenby Arts Festival . We’re at Church House on the first day, Saturday 24th September, between 11am – 3pm and it’s free to come in and chat with all the authors and publishers.
And here are the events of the second day: Sunday 25th
Tenby at Dawn
A guided tour of how to take better pictures in Tenby harbour. This free photography workshop is aimed at beginner level, although everyone is welcome. Early start to catch the dawn light 06:30am – 08:30am Meeting point: The Croft, opposite the Cliffe-Norton hotel Finish point: Castle Hill.
Advice and tuition from a professional photographer on How To Take Better Pictures.
The Croft, opposite the Cliffe-Norton hotel 6.30am
Free ( Voluntary Donations to the RNLI)
Festival Church Service
A Special Service of Sung Eucharist to launch the Festival
All are welcome.
St Mary’s Church
A perennial favourite of the festival and a great way for parents and children to take part together. Your entry does not even have to be a castle. So get your creative juices working and come and have fun with bucket and spade. Who knows, you might even win a cash prize.
Judges will be the Mayor of Tenby and Mr Henry Gardiner.
Castle Beach 11am – 2pm
It’s Where We Go
is a site-specific performance which explores the British seaside and the phenomenon of nostalgia, through live performance and audio. The audience are invited into a collective and personal journey, as they are given a pair of headphones and an audio device, which invites them into a curated collection of memories gathered from across the country, related to the seaside.
Incorporating both local themes and universal, the performance questions the notion of ‘The British Seaside’ as a recognisable neutral space as well as including specific stories from beaches all over the UK.
It’s Where We Go, celebrates personal, local and national identity and community, and the audience are invited to share their own memories on a postcard at the end of the performance, which leaves traces of their identity upon the place and within the collected archive of the performance.
The legacy that this creates will be available as an online public platform for further contribution, discovery and exploration.
Madi Stimpson Trio
Madi and his trio take you on a wide-genre-engaging journey via Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins and Les Paul to some of Madi’s contemporaries, including Van Morrison, Moving Hearts and even a bit of Frank Zappa. Jazz, Roots & Boots, perhaps, but always engaging with awe inspiring musicianship.
All this and a delicious meal with views across the picturesque Tenby Harbour.
To announce the opening of the festival with a swing, a brass ensemble will perform a medley of popular musical numbers.
Outside St Mary’s Church
For the fifth year running the Book Fair is the popular opening event in Church House for the Tenby Arts Festival. We will have twenty-eight authors and two publishers for all to chat with, who are either Welsh based or have set their books in Wales. There will be three competitions this time: an adults short story competition, one for teenagers and one for children. Details to be announced separately in May through the media.
Talks, books, relaxing music, refreshments; a morning of friendly chatter and discussion – a great morning for all.
Here is what a visitor said of last year’s fair (see picture):
“This weekend I’ve attended the Book Fair at the Tenby Arts Festival. Having seen the busy London Book Fair last year and on the other end of the spectrum some deserted halls with only two tables and four attendees elsewhere, I was pleasantly surprised to find a good vibe and a great buzz in a busy hall with lots of mingling and literary delights.”
11am – 3pm
The essence of all you see, only exists because of a very profound order of certain repeating mathematical formulas that create the foundation of all matter, from atoms to galaxies. Sacred Geometry is the ancient science that explores and explains the energy patterns that create and unify all things, and reveals the precise way that the energy of Creation organises itself. On every scale, every natural pattern of growth or movement conforms inevitably to one or more of these geometric shapes. The strands of our DNA, the cornea of our eye, snow flakes, pine cones, flower petals, diamond crystals, the branching of trees, the path of lightning, a nautilus shell, the star we spin around, the galaxy we spiral within, and all life forms as we know them emerge out of timeless geometric codes. Sacred Geometry may very well provide the answers that you have been looking for. (http://www.maya48.com/)
The patterns Marc creates on the beaches are all inspired by sacred geometry. The idea of ‘sacredness’ transpires from the realisation that these patterns appear everywhere from the very small, the quantum field or the microcosm, to the very large, the cosmic realms or the macrocosm.
Jack Harris writes and performs literate, compassionate songs, about subjects as disparate as Caribbean drinking festivals, the colour of a potato flower and the lives of great poets like Sylvia Plath and Elizabeth Bishop.
These have won him considerable acclaim. The Telegraph voted his album ‘The Flame and the Pelican’ #5 in their top 10 Roots/Folk albums of 2012. Q magazine praised his ‘unique lyrical mind’, and Maverick UK awarded the record its full 10/10 rating.
Jack is happiest when playing live. He has brought his music to a loyal, ever-growing audience, at festivals, venues and skating rinks across the world. On occasion he has opened for some of Folk’s biggest names, including Anais Mitchell, Cara Dillon and Dick Gaughan. His live show is a riveting mix of song craft and theatrical story-telling, delivered with warm voice, dry humour and nimble, string-picking fingers. Come on out and see.
Under the baton of Welsh National Opera chorus master, Alexander Martin, singers from all over Pembrokeshire and beyond, choir members or not will rehearse and perform Handel’s Messiah in the beautiful surroundings of St Mary’s Church.
Born in London, Alexander Martin studied Music at St John’s College, Cambridge, and the piano at the Royal College of Music in London. In 1992 he was appointed répétiteur at the Opéra National de Lyon in France under Kent Nagano. From 1995 to 1998 Alexander spent four seasons in Germany as répétiteur at the Opera, and répétiteur and conductor at the Hesse State Opera in Wiesbaden, before returning to live in France to pursue a freelance career. He has worked as guest conductor, assistant and coach for Lyon, Marseille, Avignon, le Capitole Toulouse, l’Opéra National du Rhin (Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia), La Monnaie, le Grand Théâtre Geneva, as well as for Aix-en-Provence, Glyndebourne, and Montepulciano Festivals. Alexander also worked closely with Philippe Jordan Britten’s Peter Grimes and The Turn of the Screw (Graz), and collaborated with René Jacobs in Rome for Tancredi. Following three seasons as Chorus Master in Bern (where he also conducted Cendrillon and Dave Maric’s Ghosts), Alexander worked as Chorus Master at the Opéra National de Bordeaux from 2010-2014. During this time he also worked in Bayreuth with Philippe Jordan on Parsifal (2012). He became Chorus Master at WNO at the start of this season.
The choir will be accompanied by Jeff Howard, organist.
Jeffrey Howard was born in Cardiff and studied at the University of Wales College, Cardiff, and the Royal Academy of Music, specializing in organ performance and church music. Since graduating, he has pursued a freelance career as organist, pianist, singer, coach and conductor. He has accompanied leading international singers including Bryn Terfel, Sir Willard White, and, Rebecca Evans.
Jeff has performed throughout the United Kingdom and Europe including the Wigmore Hall, The Goethe Institute, Brussels, and St. Paul’s Cathedral, and has worked with orchestras such as The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and the Royal Philharmonic. He made his Royal Albert Hall debut in 2002 as soloist in Shostakovitch’s second piano concerto. Recent performance include performed Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto and Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto at St. David’s Hall, Cardiff with the Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra and a recital with Bryn Terfel at Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool.
Jeff frequently provides arrangements for the BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales, S4C and various solo artists. He is accompanist, singer and arranger for Only Men Aloud!, winners of the BBC competition ‘Last Choir Standing’ who recently won a Classical Brit Award for their second album on the Universal label. Jeff is also involved in cabaret and music theatre having worked with names such as Michael Ball, David Owen Jones, Peter Karrie, and more informally, Dame Shirley Bassey!
For the past 18 years, Jeffrey has held a post as vocal coach at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and at Welsh National Opera and Welsh National Youth Opera.
For those wishing to join the choir there will be rehearsal before the performance during the day. There will be a charge of £10 for those taking part and in addition a refundable deposit for copies of the music/text.
St. Mary’s Church
Rehearsals will be at 3pm – 5.30pm Performance 6.30pm – 8pm
This is a post copied and posted from Thorne Moores’s website.
Fair Play – why book fairs?
I’ll be taking part in a small flurry of book fairs soon: The Rhondda, on September 3rd, Tenby (which I am helping to organise) on September 24th, and Carmarthen on October 1st.
Tenby Book Fair 2015
To stand at a stall, offering my wares, might seem a very Mediaeval way of going about things in the days of internet ordering and e-books. Besides, what are bookshops for, if not to provide any book that anyone is looking for? Literary festivals like Hay, with big names addressing crowds of fans are all very well, but why bother with book fairs?
The reason is that for most of us authors, such events are the only occasions when we get to meet our readers in the flesh, to discuss our work and hear their opinion. We write for ourselves, mostly, and perhaps to please a publisher or agent, but ultimately, since we choose to be published, rather than storing our work in notebooks under our bed, we write for “the reader” out there, who will devour our polished words. It becomes a somewhat surreal situation if our readers never materialise in the flesh. We need the contact to keep it real.
A fair also allows us to meet our fellow authors, in an atmosphere where everything is all about books, and sometimes it’s very healthy to escape the private isolation of writing and remind ourselves that we are not alone. There are other people as obsessed with writing as us.
For indie authors, who self-publish, and who want to rely on more than Kindle sales on Amazon, fairs can be almost the only way to put their printed books out there, for people to see. Many bookshops simply don’t stock independent authors. An ISBN number is not enough to get you on the “List.” And for us conventionally published authors, there is no guarantee that bookshops, even their local bookshops, will pay them any attention whatsoever. If you are lucky, you might find a copy of your book, buried in a dark corner, out of sequence, while the front displays concentrate on the highly promoted big names. If you are in the hands of one of the mega-publishing houses, which sees you as a potential block-buster in WH Smiths or on airport concourses, then they might send you off on tour round the country or the world, to meet your readers. They might flaunt your book cover on billboards for you. 99% of authors don’t get that treatment, so we have to put ourselves out there.
And that’s what book fairs are for. So do come. We’re a rare breed and well worth gawping at.