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History and background of West Berkshire Writers
West Berkshire Writers writing group was established following the closure of Newbury Arts Workshop. As the Creative Writing class had been a fundamental part of the Workshop, it was decided that this group, many of whom have won literary prizes, taken part in literary festivals, exhibited, broadcast and been published locally and nationally, should not be allowed to disband. This page provides a brief summary of the history and background of the writing group since then.
In its present form the group has grown by means of advertising in libraries in Newbury and throughout West Berkshire, in local newspapers and on the websites of Southern Arts, NDAA NewburyArts and West Berkshire Council.
The weekly writing group meetings in Newbury take various forms: activities include discussions, workshops, readings, criticism of members’ work, collaborations with other local groups and visits from guest speakers. Writers under discussion have ranged from Hardy, Heaney and Hughes to Thomas Wyatt, Franz Kafka and Lorenz Hart.
To date the group has benefited from tutorials by the poet Duncan Forbes,visits from Booker Prize short-listed novelist, Anne Schlee, London-based novelist, the late Grace Ingoldby, popular novelists Mavis Cheek, Tania Crosse and Judith Cranswick, novelist and playwright Val Maskell, writer and broadcaster, the late and much-missed Nick Channer, award-winning poet Susan Utting, Wordsworth Trust poet in residence Helen Farish and Oxford poets Olivia Byard, and Fiona Sampson. The last mentioned poet was instrumental in introducing the Macedonian short story writer Aleksandar Prokopiev on his first reading tour of Britain.
In November 2000 a reading was organised at the Kennet & Avon Canal Stone Building in Newbury to celebrate the 70th birthday of John Fairfax, poet and co-founder of the Arvon Foundation. In October 2003 poetry and prose was provided for ‘Silk Cabaret’ by Paul Hyland and Helen Porter, at Wordfest, the literature festival of Basingstoke and Deane, and Desmoulin Art Gallery in Newbury has been the venue for readings by Helen Farish, Duncan Forbes and the late Grace Ingoldby.
West Berkshire Writers remains the only local writers’ group continuing the Arts Workshop tradition of hosting regular guest speakers. Financial assistance has come from Millennium Awards for All by way of the Arts Council of England, the Working Arts Trust (Newbury), Newbury Town Council and Greenham Common Arts enabling the group to continue a varied programme of events.
Meetings take place in the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust Stone Building, The Wharf, Newbury, at 10.30 a.m. most Fridays, they are open to all, irrespective of experience and age, and new members are welcome.