by Tiggy Hayes
Fiona Samuels has returned to Swanwick Writing School to teach a course at the place she declares changed her life. Fiona was one of the pioneering Top Write students to be awarded a place at the prestigious school.
For a shy, quiet girl, that first week was daunting but by the end of the week she was joining in and singing along with new friends on the school lawn. On the strength of that week and the confidence she had gained, she returned home, enrolled back at university and finished a teaching degree before launching her career in secondary school teaching.
Top Write is an opportunity run by Swanwick Writing School for 18- 30 year olds currently studying writing. Heavily subsidised by the school the youngsters take part on a fully interactive and creative programme integrating with both published and pre-published writers alike. Many Top Write delegates become regular attenders to the school following their first visit.
Fiona has returned many times over the intervening years including spending time on the committee who run the school. 2016 saw her running a work shop “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” an informal look at grammar and punctuation. She began her session with “Swanwick changes lives – it changed mine”.
STAR FALLS AT SWANWICK
By Andy Cain
We often hear about stars falling from the sky but a particular one stands out this year. Star Fall is the first part of a trilogy entitled Start Stone. Written by Richard Hensley, it tells the story of Billy Carter, an 11 year old boy who discovers an arm band – which turns out to be an iron bracelet – on a Canterbury bombsite in 1942.
This bracelet itself is much sought after as it is extremely powerful; a force for good or ill. Billy encounters many journeys through time and space, ranging from an encounter with a novice druid in 595 who wears the bracelet himself, up to 1943 and an encounter with MI5. Control is taken away from Billy as he and his family are sent to a secure facility while MI5 try to discover the bracelet’s unique properties.
It seems many other people from different times have been drawn to Billy: such as Monsignor Patrick, a Dublin exorcist, who discovers another bracelet in the Vatican in 1938 as well as an encounter in 2795 with Gail, a 13 year old girl, who finds Billy’s bracelet in a derelict building and understands its power through her Synthetic Intelligence Machines.
GPS NOT CRIME FIGHTERS TRACK STOLEN BAG
By Tiggy Hayes
A conference full of crime writers, ex-policeman and forensic experts were oblivious when a handbag was stolen from the bar at Swanwick Conference Centre. Owner Maria Hennings-Hunt had to resort to her own methods and GPS to find the thief.
It was just after 1 in the morning when Maria returned to her chair in the bar to collect her things, only to discover her handbag had been taken. Her bag contained all the usual stuff such as her purse, her credit cards, her room key and more importantly all her poetry and writing she had brought to the conference. She later remembered it also had her phone in.
Friends and colleagues began a futile search and an urgent plea went out over facebook for the safe return of the bag.
Desperate for some clue, Maria turned to GPS to ‘find her phone’. She logged in on a friends device and was able to track her mobile which was still on site. It took her to the Lakeside block of rooms on the other side of the green. “It was incredible watching my phone move to a room on the screen” said a delighted Maria.
The following morning, fellow delegate and course tutor Steve Hartley found Maria and returned her missing bag intact. He explained how he had found it at a deserted table, in the then empty bar and took it for safe keeping.
NEAR FATAL ACCIDENT AT SWANWICK LAKE
by Linda Payne
It was lucky that Susie White and Joan Dowling were both enjoying their annual visit to the lake together when the near tragedy struck. They were sitting on a bench enjoying watching the damsel flies and dragonflies skim across the relatively still water.
Suddenly with no warning a fish leapt from the water and landed on a lily pad instead of plopping back into the water. Being the taller of the ladies Susie 18+ from Gloucestershire, a former poetry winner of the ‘Win your Way to Swanwick’ competition instantly attempted to save the fish by lying on the ground and reaching for the lily pad intending to flip the fish back. Unfortunately, it was just beyond her reach.
Recognising the predicament Joan 21+ from Cheshire and also a former poetry prize winner of the same competition, quickly looked about her and found a stick which Susie used to tap the lily pad until the fish bounced safely back into the water.
Eye witness, Gill Garret, ageless, who won 2nd prize in the competition this year, said “Because they were both quick thinking there was no need to call the emergency services.”
With no regard for their heroism Susie and Joan casually returned to the bar area for well-earned triple brandy. When questioned about it Susie shrugged “It was nothing, just a flash in the pan.” Joan commented “Which was better than a fish in the pan.”
The Swanwick Standard wants it known that no damage was caused to the lily pad during this drama.
FANCY DRESSER A CUT ABOVE THE REST
By Margaret Burton
Edward Scissorhands cut a dash, sliced through the opposition at the Fancy Dress Disco on Monday evening and scored himself the winning first place.
Gordon Robertson, from Falkirk, Scotland, the young blade behind the facade, was as shocked as his black wig, finding it hard to grasp the situation. The Information and Technology officer is currently employed in the Education and Training areas of his local council. He is engaged in the development of students of all ages.
Asked about his triumph the White Badger said, “I was delighted and surprised. There were so many great costumes.” He continued to declare his new-found love for Swanwick and enthused, “It is a great place to expose yourself. You have to hand it to them.” Snipping potential rumours in the bud, he later clarified, “In terms of writing and performing.”
Mr Robertson had been encouraged to attend this year by Katie White, one of the school’s own leading ladies and founder director of ‘Page To Stage’. He went on to express his desire and hope for next year. “I decided to return after only two days”, he said, emphasising the warm welcome he has received.
THE SEARCH FOR THE SLITHY TOVES
by Meg Jones
As the clock struck 10 on Saturday night a shock awaited White Badgers in MCH. The search for the slithy toves began, recognisable by their gyre and gimble.
Julia Pattison, drama teacher and Swanwick regular from Yorkshire, is renowned for her physical theatre take on Fairy Tales. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll she persuaded a group of normally sensible adults into clawing Jabberwocks, jumping Jubjub Birds, and the notorious Bandersnatch.
The innocent looking Julia, dressed in white with flowers in her hair, began burbling and wiffling through the Tumtum trees in tulgey wood. Snicker-snacking on her way. ‘I love nonsense language and the way it flows, it’s having fun with words.’
If you haven’t been to Swanwick before and feel you might be the odd one out – this is the place to be. ‘We call it an Ice Breaker because it’s daunting to arrive and not know anyone, but next day you meet someone and recognise them as their character.’ says Julia ‘A stranger on Saturday is a friend on Sunday’.
Julia declared it brillig, while a trifle mimsy, and the search is still on for the slithy toves.
HALL OF FAME
by Louise Cahill
'I'm not going on the stage sober', says Simon Hall, adding, 'I'll be revealing one item of unconventional clothing, halfway through my performance in 'The Battle of The Writers' Block' at Swanwick Writers' Summer School on Thursday evening. Simon, who's co-written the pantomime with Phil Collins (not the singer) emphasises, 'If it's a triumph, I shall take all the credit. If it's a disaster, I'll blame Phil Collins (not the singer).' Our panto performer will debut as a Swanwick singer (not Phil Collins), in an adaptation of 'The Boxer' by Paul Simon. Is that a coincidence for our Simon? Our Simon adds poignantly, 'It's a solitary existence being a writer.' However, here at Swanwick, we writers get a fantastic opportunity to be among hundreds - a crowd of writers which encourages and will empathise with our battles. We look forward to seeing Simon 'coming to the heart of our big battles - a battle with ourselves'. And with eight months of work and eighteen revisions for the panto, we're sure we'll enjoy a Swanwick success.
Oh yes we will. La la la....
UNDER ARMED CAUTION
by Tiggy Hayes
Retired Police Chief Constable Michael O’Byrne was questioned at length following a frenzy of holding his audience captivated. During a break in workshops at Swanwick Writers School the audience, who were expecting to learn about finger printing don’ts, was threatened with a rifle and a Webley revolver.
Mr O’Byrne told the room he had been an armed officer in the Hong Kong Police and was used to handling revolvers. Michael said “cops don’t always obey the law” as he waved the revolver over onlookers. He showed how a light touch could easily cause the gun to fire and the audience breathed a collective sigh when he put the offending weapon in his pocket. He explained how revolvers do not eject cartridges so there would be no point looking for them as evidence.
Mr O’Byrne was joined later by Ian Martin Ex CID, Forensic Expert and Simon Hall Crime Correspondent for the BBC to answer questions from the floor. The panel were asked about police procedures, handling informers, witnesses and dead body etiquette and hierarchy.
Mr O’Byrne later assured delegates that both weapons were just replicas and that anyone wanting to use a gun in their stories should “try before you write”.
The questioning was finally brought to a close by the imminent serving of Salmon followed by Key Lime and Banoffi Pie.
HAYES MONSTER SEEN IN LAKE
by Terry Baldock
“I saw a big Splash” says writer
Fears, that the legendary Hayes monster, allegedly last seen in 1911 just after the lake was constructed, has been seen again, were awakened this week
A member of the Swanwick Writers School explained
“The sun was just setting, the wind whistling through the trees; baby moorhens and their mother startled by my approach ran into the calm water broken only by fish rising to pluck hovering insects. And that’s when I saw it.”
The well-known Author was shaken out of his skin by what he described as a long necked reptilian shape drifting across the lake.
“It turned and looked at me,” he said. “And I could tell from its eyes that it had been in the lake for a long time. It seemed to look into my soul,” continued the author. “I was just walking around the lake after having a few drinks in the bar and there it was. It dived suddenly making a large splash and was gone into the murky depths.”
A spokesperson said that the monster had always been considered a figment of an active imagination but that there was no cause for alarm.
THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT
by Kim Byles
After reporting a series of unexpected late night banging, of drawers opening and closing in unoccupied rooms, and lost socks, Swanwick reporter Kay Bee went to investigate.
David Hitch, from Cornwall has witnessed these bangs that have been occurring since he arrived.
Asked how it had affected him he replied
“It make’s my ****** blood boil. People above me walking around all night, opening and shutting drawers, banging doors. How is a creative person like me supposed to think with all that racket going on.
People below me making a noise – and I’m on the ground floor so what do you make of that then eh?”
When asked what he thought the cause of the strange bumps in the night might be he answered, “Poltergeist. What else could explain it.”
Mr Hitch is at Swanwick Summer School studying character psychology and has since discovered he is in fact verging on being psychopathic. But in a friendly way, he assures us.
THE SWANWICK STANDARD SAYS…
by the Editor
One phrase I overheard this week sums up Swanwick. A white badger, looking around the bar at the tables surrounded by smiling, beckoning faces, asked, “Are you told to always be happy here?”
The answer is no. Not officially, anyway.
There’s nothing in writing. Not in the constitution of the school, the precedents of so many years, or the welcome packs.
Instead, it’s in the spirit of Swanwick.
It’s in the air, the water and the people.
It’s in the trees that silently guard The Hayes. It’s in the gentle lake, which draws so many to sit, and walk, and think.
It’s in the bricks of the buildings themselves.
And it’s in the creativity, the ideas, the thousands of them that come to life in this special place.
In the humble opinion of this newly founded newspaper, Swanwick is writing with a heart, a soul, and a smiling face.
There are other writing schools. But there is only one Swanwick.
There are other times of year. But there is only one week in August.
There are other writers. And there are Swanwickers.