Monday, 23 July 2018

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Sunflower Story

A gentleman in our village recently died. He was very well liked and there was a large memorial service for him. He was also a poet, and one of his poems was on display on top of the font. I hope - wherever he is now - he won't mind me sharing.


    Sunflowers, like people, stand up and
    look over fences,
    drop their faces against the wind,
    drive artists insane.

    Big yellow suns,
    the compact core shimmering,
    the fire-tongued petals.
    No surprise if sunflowers walked,
    a natural movement for their fluid stems,
    the gesturing leaves.

    But these bodies of fire
    burn themselves out,
    like a spent man bent and withered,
    pathetic victims of their own fierce glory,
    the ages of man,
    the sunflower story.

    - Nigel Townsend

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Hollowell Steam Rally 2018

So much fun at Hollowell Steam Rally last weekend. Currently in the UK doing all things British, from cream teas to real ale and pork scratchings. Wonderful summer weather, too. Bit of a write-up here.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

ImagineWe Interview

Lovely interview with my friend Nicky from ImagineWe. A fantastic publishing house based in Kigali, Rwanda. I did a bit of editing with them on This is Life so it's great to hear it's done so well. Video from this article: This young author is out to change Rwanda’s reading, writing culture. You can find ImagineWe on their website, on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, 29 June 2018


Just when I thought the list was over, this fell through the door today.

So happy to announce that I received my copy of Banstands by Paul Rabbitts yesterday. This is another book I helped to back - name on the honours page. I stumbled across the project back in November whilst doing some research for a novel I was writing.

This book was a collaboration between crowdfunding and Historic England. It is sumptuously put together in full colour with examples of bandstands from across the British Isles and further afield. A strangely compelling subject. There's even a painstakingly compiled list of known bandstands, and bandstands known to have disappeared.

In 1833, the Select Committee for Public Walks was introduced so that `the provision of parks would lead to a better use of Sundays and the replacement of the debasing pleasures.' Music was seen as an important moral influence and `musical cultivation ... the safest and surest method of popular culture', and it was the eventual introduction of the bandstand which became a significant aspect of the reforming potential of public parks. However, the move from the bull baiting of `Merrie England' to the ordered recreation provided by bandstands has never been fully comprehended. Likewise, the extent of changes in leisure and public entertainment and the impact of music at seaside resorts often revolved around the use of seaside bandstands, with the subsequent growth of coastal resorts. Music in public spaces, and the history and heritage of the bandstand has largely been ignored. Yet in their heyday, there were over 1,500 bandstands in the country, in public parks, on piers and seaside promenades attracting the likes of crowds of over 10,000 in the Arboretum in Lincoln, to regular weekday and weekend concerts in most of London's parks up until the beginning of the Second World War. Little is really known about them, from their evolution as `orchestras' in the early Pleasure Gardens, the music played within them, to their intricate and ornate ironwork or art deco designs and the impact of the great foundries, their worldwide influence, to the great decline post Second World War and subsequent revival in the late 1990s. This book tells the story of these pavilions made for music, and their history, decline and revival.

It also came with a lovely collection of postcards.

One of those projects you're happy to have helped bring into existence. 

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Deeds Not Words

Continuing the list of books which arrived in my absence, here's Deeds Not Words.

This is a book that I backed through Kickstarter, so I received a signed copy with my name included in a list on the back cover, along with everyone else who donated.

King Edward is on the throne of a British Empire collapsing under its own weight, and those who hold power are determined it will not be shared.

It is a dangerous time for a cooper's daughter and her mother to be displaying a queer strength beyond the usual limitations of mankind.

Emily Downings is young, Deaf and angry, with questions that need answers. To get them, she must deal with those who would deny her choices and chances.

Hearing people.

I originally donated because I liked the idea of a Deaf superhero graphic novel, and I must admit, it's nicely drawn and suitably Victorian in style. It centres on a Deaf girl, Emily, with super-human strength, who enlists an organisation of people with different abilities to help figure out who attacked her mother and set fire to their shop.

It's apparently part one of two, though I have difficulty imagining how they're going to wrap up the story in a single volume. It feels very much like the story is just getting started. 

The only thing that puts me off a bit is the premise 'Emily is Deaf and angry - and it's all hearing people's fault.' The book was also funded by the Arts Council England, and I just wonder whether they'd have been so eager had it read: "Emily is female and angry - to get answers she must deal with those who would deny her choices and chances. Men," or "black and angry - white people." 

I mean, yeah, I get it - but it's not exactly an inclusive message that would entice hearing people to read further, which I assume you'd want them to do in order to change their minds about stuff?

There can sometimes be an overpowering sense of anger towards hearing people in the west, that doesn't always exist in Deaf communities in other countries and cultures. The idea that hearing people deliberately set out to deny Deaf people choices and chances is one way to look at it. The other is that, on the whole, nowadays, people usually mean well and try to improve the world around them with the limited resources available from cash-strapped local authorities.

Things aren't perfect and more can always be done, but it's often ignorance rather than a deliberate attempt to sabotage one group of people. Of course, the blurb could just be telling you that's the premise for this particular story - a world in which hearing people are deliberately out to trample the rights of Deaf people, but it's a statement that could use a little more context.

Meh, anyway. It's a nicely-drawn short read with potential. Feels more like the start of a longer series than the first part of a two-parter, but if they need to Kickstart each volume, it may be unlikely to expand.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Faces of Africa

The final book that was waiting for me on my return was Faces of Africa

I first saw this on a table in a hotel called BirdNest on a weekend away to Lake Bunyonyi in Uganda. It was just sitting on the table, so I picked it up and had a leaf through. I was so taken by the portraits that I ordered a copy as soon as I got back to Kigali. A really beautiful and historical documentation of culture across the African continent. Images taken over thirty years by photographers Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher.