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Swanwick 2014 – starting to flag a little but…

By the middle of each Swanwick week, the late nights and early mornings start to catch up with me and this year has been no exception. However, Tuesday is traditionally a more relaxing day. There used to be an organised outing, but in recent years we’ve tended to ‘do our own thing’ and take the opportunity to explore some of the nearby National Trust properties. However, a full day out wasn’t possible this year if I was to attend the Derbyshire Police Forensics Team’s presentation.

This, once some technical hitches were sorted out, was well worth the sacrifice. Yet to serve on a jury (except as an extra on Emmerdale), I was relieved to learn from Jim Smith, ACSI Manager Forensic Investigation Unit of the Derbyshire Constabulary, that the police now have at their disposal a software package designed to spare jurors from gruelling photographic images while still giving them all the necessary facts. What was shown was horrific enough, though, and I take my hat off to people who can calmly investigate murder scenes, especially the very gory ones and those where the body has been lying around for a long time.

Time being limited, we spent a couple of hours at Denby Pottery in the afternoon and I’d very much like to go again with a few more hours at my disposal. As well as shopping opportunities, there are craft room and factory tours on offer, a cosy restaurant and ‘Pottery Beach’, where children can play in the sand and enjoy music and other entertainment. (There are even deckchairs for their weary parents!) However, an invitation to Joy and Shirley’s party beckoned and very convivial it was too. We were unaware then of a disaster brewing in a Lakeside bedroom close by. Suffice it to say that trying to cram in too many guests for a private drinks party can lead to trouble. The gentleman in whose room the incident occurred was later to immortalise the event in song: The Man Who Broke The Bed In Swanwick Lakeside and hopes that it might add to his manly reputation!

Swanwick Simon

Our evening speaker, crime writer and TV reporter Simon Hall brought the house down with some of his anecdotes. I particularly enjoyed the one about an outside broadcast on road kill, where Simon found himself having to use the hand dryer of a Little Chef to defrost a frozen otter, much to the horror of the manager.

Buskers’ Night, once again organised by Mark Iveson, was a real showcase of Swanwick talent with both well seasoned and new performers giving it their all.  One of the latter group was fellow Ripon Writers’ Group member Cathy Grimmer, whose unaccompanied rendition of  ‘Somewhere that’s green’ from Little Shop of Horrors and her own parody ‘Glad to be Grey’ was very well received. I’m sure that the event could have gone on for at least another hour, had it not been for the need to consider people trying to sleep in the rooms above. Every conference has its owls and its larks, after all, although some Swanwickers do attempt to burn the candle at both ends, as witness their empty chairs or pallid faces at breakfast.

Swanwick prizewinners by Bruce

Wednesday saw the annual photo call; Swanwick competition prize winners lined up with representatives from Writers’ News. I was delighted to be included for my poem Commemorated In Stained Glass, (which can be read on this website).

Sometimes called upon to give talks about my writing or my television work, I thought that Michael O’Byrne and John Lamont’s two part course on public speaking would be ideal for me and so it was. Laced with self deprecating humour, as one would expect from those two, it was nevertheless packed with a great deal of solid information – the DONT’S being just as (or even more) useful than the DOS.

Guest speakers David and Hilary Crystal gave us new insights into places in Britain which have helped to shape the English language and then the dais was cleared for the eagerly anticipated Swanwick Page to Swanwick Stage performances.

Swanwick Simon guitar

Of the many striking images of the evening, I think that Simon Hall, stripped to the essentials for his role in Phil Collins’s play, will linger longest in the memory of most of the ladies present! Most of the plays, written in advance and workshopped during the week were humorous, but you could have heard a pin drop during Cathy Grimmer’s poignant Requiem. In between were some improvisations, including one performed by some young writers from the Top Write scheme, and all thoroughly deserved their applause.

It’s no wonder that I’m tired, because I couldn’t go to bed without joining in with the late night ceilidh. There weren’t many of us there, but what we lacked in numbers we certainly made up for in enthusiasm!

14 August, 2014 - There are 2 comments on this story

  1. That image of Simon Hall will live me for ever!

    Sally Jenkins -

  2. With me too, Sally. There’s even a story going round that he had a proposal of marriage afterwards, but no one’s admitting to making it!

    Maggie Cobbett -

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