2012 proved another bumper year for Huntly Writers. It has become almost a cliché, but every year seems to bring a plethora of successful events, performances and workshops, while an increasing number of members have celebrated the launch of books and collections or had work printed in a variety of publications. We continued to meet in the cosy confines of James Cullen Court, Huntly, and have a strong and loyal membership, who attend as regularly as they can and join enthusiastically in all our ventures. This year we were happy to welcome one new member in June, Fiona MacLennan, but were sad to lose Terry, who moved away from the area.
In January came our first visitor of the year: Mihret Kibede is a young artist and poet from Ethiopia, who was working with Deveron Arts on a walking project, involving walkers here and in Ethiopia. She challenged the group not only to join the Slow Marathon project, but also to write poems of 26 words, which we were invited to read at the Gordon Arms after the Marathon. Huntly Writers were quick to respond. We were also delighted to welcome Brian Nisbet, who had completed his Diploma in Creative Writing and brought good news of his forthcoming marriage to musician Emily.
11 February saw the launch of The Moon and I, the long-awaited third novel in Annie Lamb’s Marchbank crime series. In the pleasant surroundings of Huntly’s Brander Library, Annie read excerpts from her thriller to an appreciative and attentive audience. March was a busy month, as Huntly Writers hosted two popular events: much-admired Gaelic and English poet Meg Bateman read from her work on Sunday 18 March at the Stewart’s Hall; and, again at the Stewart’s Hall in Huntly, on Wednesday 21 March, outstanding North-East poet Ian Crockatt gave readings from his latest book, acclaimed translations from Rilke entitled Pure Contradiction. Guest Jim Lees read his translations of Jakob van Hoddis, a German-Jewish poet who sadly died in Sobibor concentration camp in 1942.
For the first time Huntly Writers had been invited, through the efforts of Anne Rogers, to appear in the annual Coast Festival and, on Saturday 26 May, in Banff Castle, we presented Weaving Words, an eclectic programme of poetry, prose and song. Fraser Wilson and Simon McPhun kindly agreed to join Haworth Hodgkinson in providing the music and a substantial audience showed its appreciation for the show – and the home-bakes!
Despite depressing weather, our stall at the July Farmers’ Market, was again a success, thanks to the efficiency of the organisers, Carol and Cara, and the enthusiasm of the volunteers. Also in July Alan McPherson, another writer and researcher working with Deveron Arts on the Path Pieces project, attended a meeting to invite Huntly Writers to take part in exploring the relationship between walking and art. Later that month we found ourselves rambling along little-known paths around Huntly and then trying to capture, in poetry or prose, the essence of that experience. Work sent to Alan was displayed online.
On Sunday 5 August we assembled at Huntly Castle for the atmospheric launch of Huntly Writer Anne L. Forbes’ aptly titled book Trials and Triumphs – the perfect setting for her riveting history of the Gordon clan in the sixteenth century. We sipped her home-made elderflower fizz, while local experts honoured her endeavours and Anne gave us tantalising snippets from her history. Refreshments, provided by Huntly Writers, were afterwards served at the Pavilion, with the help of members of the Youth Club and money raised was donated to Youth Club funds.
September brought the Huntly Hairst and, thanks to Fiona Wilson, another first for Huntly Writers, with Phyllis and Margaret hosting Doric Fly Cup and Haworth and Maureen reading from There’s a Poem in my Soup at the Bunkhouse on Saturday 1 September. On Sunday 2 September a book fair was held at the Cattle Pen – the Writers Pen! – where Huntly Writers and others could offer their work for sale. Huntly Writers’ stall at this event was voted best stall and won £30. Stuart Campbell’s idea to read poetry over the tannoy was also voted a winner! On 19 September at the Tin Hut, Gartly, we repeated our successful programme Weaving Words for the New Words Festival. Huntly Writers folk also appeared in New Words shows Three’s Company and Three Women of Words. while Haworth Hodgkinson’s exciting new collection, roguishly entitled Tractor Bastard, was launched on 15 September.
As always on 5 October, Huntly Writers celebrated National Poetry Day in style, setting out at dead of night to post poetic ‘stars’ round the town! In the Brander Library, Haworth, supported by John Mackie, read from his new collection Tractor Bastard again for National Poetry Day. Cara represented us at a new crime-writing festival, Unsolved, at Haddo on Sunday 21 October, while others attended an entertaining Renga workshop in Huntly, run by Renga Master Colin Will. On Saturday 27 October, as part of the Huntly Halloween Festival, Phyllis and Linda, ably assisted by Maureen, dressed up and read spooky stories in the Brander Library.
To cap a glorious year for Huntly Writers, Cara – or should I say Haseley Hinton – launched, in association with Book Week Scotland, her new book Song of the Seacrow, a sequel to Shadow of the Seacrow, in the Stewart’s Hall, Huntly on 2 December. She hosted a delightful programme, which, in addition to readings from Song of the Seacrow featured local poet Catriona Yule, musician and poet Haworth Hodgkinson and several talented young musicians and singers, followed by a post-launch party, with home-bakes again donated by members of Huntly Writers.
Congratulations to all our successful Huntly Writers of 2012, from those aforementioned, who had the joyful experience of launching a new book, to those who have had work published in magazines, newspapers or online, like new member, Fiona MacLennan; Anne Rogers, Maureen, Haworth and Linda who had pieces accepted by Pushing Out the Boat; Linda and Phyllis who appeared in Leopard; Anne Forbes, who had an article in the Knock News; Lucy, who had excerpts of her thoughtful piece on Care in the Community published in the Press and Journal; Maureen who had a poem in the Amnesty book Poetic Justice commemorating 50 years of Amnesty; Janice, who had a sonnet that came second in a national competition run by Writers Magazine and another poem that was shortlisted in the prestigious Plough Prize International Poetry Competition; Anne Rogers, whose short story came second in a competition run by Writers Magazine; and Margaret who continues to entertain at concerts and events around the North-East!
Finally, in October, we invited local editor and publishing advisor Duncan Lockerbie to attend a meeting and discuss ideas for a new anthology of our work we were considering. We were delighted when Duncan agreed to take on the task of advising, editing and publishing and proceedings are already well underway.
We look forward to 2013, which promises to be yet another challenging and fulfilling year for Huntly Writers!