Monday, 31 March 2014

A shy, frightened teenager at High Royds

The Dark Threads - Jean Davison
Oxfam Bookshop 25 March - partnership event with Leeds Combined Arts


Barbara Kirk writes:
I started reading the book at a time when Channel 4 were showing the series My Mad Fat Diary, based on Rae Earl’s book, and though Rae’s remembrances happened a couple of decades after Jean’s, I felt that nothing much changes.

High Royds Hospital, Menston
There was quite a large turnout at the Oxfam Bookshop.  Someone had asked Jean beforehand if the book was about the textile industry – Jean did grow up in Bradford when the mills were in operation, but this was not about that.  She said that during her time at High Royds Hospital (pictured), she had been a shy, frightened teenager and the names of the doctors, nurses and inmates had been changed in the book for reasons of privacy. Jean reflected on her life in the mid to late 60’s – at 18 she had an office job and went out with friends to coffee bars and discos as a normal teenager, but she was unhappy at home.  The book includes a remembrance of her mother having an affair with a neighbour, and her father being affected by this.  Her brother tormented her a lot too, this fed into the general social anxiety she experienced, and she found night life empty and meaningless.  When she saw her GP, regarding her dysfunctional family, she said she would like to see a psychiatrist, although she really meant she wanted to see a counsellor.  She was sent to High Royds for ‘a rest’, and over four months she was given a number of drugs and ECT treatment which sent her into a downward spiral.  I understood very well about the Valium and Melleril dosages she was put on as I experienced the same blocked feelings on these when I attended Pinderfields Hospital several years ago. 

Jean had a further few months as an out-patient, and over the next five years she thought she was being treated for depression, but eventually on seeing her case notes, she had been labelled as ‘schizophrenic’ by the doctors.  She described the medication she was prescribed as addictive and leaving her in a near-vegetative state.  In her early twenties around the mid-seventies, Jean gradually came off the medication and left home. Jean later asked one of the psychiatrists about improvements in psychiatric treatment in particular in relation to her medication.  Newer drugs were said to be less harmful, but she had her doubts. Jean then spoke about some of her more humorous experiences whilst in High Royds.

At the day hospital, she and her friend Marlene listened to relaxation tapes, but the medication made these redundant to her.  Marlene would go off to sleep and Jean heard her snoring.  Whilst in the Occupational Therapy department after a time of ‘knitting dishcloths’ Jean was eventually asked to work in the library.  There she met Horace, another assistant, from a long-stay ward, who was previously a tramp.  He told Jean and another assistant, Hazel about his life on the streets and that he had been sent to prison after stealing a pork pie from a meat factory.  The staff liked him, though he would impersonate several of them behind their backs.

Horace and Jean did ward rounds, taking the library trolley into ‘locked’ wards.  One woman, Nancy, chatted to them about what she’d read and looked out for more books to read.  She seemed to Jean to be the most aware patient on the ward.   Another patient, Victor, wanted to shake hands with Jean, but he squeezed her hand too hard and a nurse had to restrict him.  The hospital parrot, Popsie, said ‘Oh be joyful!’ to various patients.

At High Royds, Jean wrote on scraps of toilet paper in the toilet, as this was the only way she could get privacy to document what was happening.  Subsequently, when she was living at the YWCA and later a bedsit, she still documented her life, and eventually channelled her experiences into the book.  She had read several similar memoirs beforehand to get a feeling for how it might read.  It took a long while to get the book organised into a reasonable form, as after leaving the hospital, she got into full-time work in an office and attended evening classes.  Eventually Jean achieved a degree from attending creative writing classes.  During the writing process, she would be affected by the memory of what she was documenting, but had to write it all down anyway, she had seen a number of things happening to the patients she felt uncomfortable with, however the inmates at that time were not allowed to have a voice.

Jean also got into ‘truth’ in memoir, and she asked friends to confirm events, while she looked in her own diaries to confirm the accuracy.  She sent the manuscript out to book publishers – some offered encouragement and others didn’t.  Eventually a publishing agent called Maggie Nowak got in touch, but mainstream publishers would not touch it as it wasn’t commercially viable.  Maggie became ill and died, and Jean sent her manuscript to another agent, Hazel Cushion, who said she would publish it, but also said, “and now the hard work begins”.  Jean did most of the publicity work herself, and sent the book to mental health practitioners and universities, eventually getting in touch with Dorothy Rowe, who read the book and advised on it, promoting it on her website.  Jean also had to contact copyright holders on quotes from songs and poems used in the book, especially the poem ‘The Weaver’, by Benjamin Malachai Franklin, printed below.  A copy of the book was sent to relatives of the pastor responsible for the poem in the Bible belt area of America.

The talk was followed by a lively question and answer session where it appeared many people in the audience had experienced life in High Royds Hospital, either as day patients or had undergone longer term treatment. Jean ended with the observation that life in a mental health ward was like society in microcosm, in that everyone was confused and looking for a way out.

The Weaver by Benjamin Malachai Franklin.
Not ‘til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Will God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why
The dark threads are as needful
In The Weaver’s skilful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.



Intimate and charming - Doug and Maria Sandle

A Pair of Sandles - House Event
4.30pm Sunday 30 March

Doug Sandle explained at the beginning of this charming, intimate house event that the LitFest's overall theme - Surviving - was going to be broadly interpreted, which was fine, of course. He said 'coping' was possibly a more appropriate word. The collected talent - himself, Maria Sandle, and poets Lis Bertola and Sheila Chapman - spent a pleasant hour and a quarter proving that he was right, not that it mattered that much. We sat drinking them in, helped by the wine and nibbles provided.



Maria Sandle
Maria Sandle selected items from her repertoire about the survival of the environment, the concept of nationality and deportees (the Woody Guthrie protest song about migrant Mexican fruit-pickers) and read several poems by her father, including one entitled Daffodils Revisited, a parody of the famous Wordsworth poem which was written in 2002 when Foot and Mouth Disease was rampaging through Britain. Its opening lines are 'I wandered lonely as a sheep'. She also read one of her own poems, written in the 1990s, about the survival of a little mouse.
Doug Sandle

Doug Sandle read a broad selection of his own poems, beginning with Journey by Boat and Train, which is an autobiographical narrative about how he first came to the city after being brought up in Douglas, Isle of Man. Douglas, the town after which he was named, was featured in one of two moving 'disaster poems',  about the terrible events of 1973, when fire spread through the Summerland leisure centre killing fifty people. The other poem in this genre was about the 1966 tragedy in South Wales, in which the line 'There are no children of nine in Aberfan' is repeated. The Retired Athlete is about ageing, and Auction of Promises was written after the poet promised to provide a poem as part of a  fund-raising campaign in aid of the Leeds Labour Party. We heard an amusing account of how the writing of this (for a man in his seventies) was put off until the very last moment. The poem was finally delivered, and received with gratitude and applause, from the recipient and from the current audience as well.

Lis Bertola

Lis Bertola told us that she had thought about the theme, and that she had decided that most of her poems are about surviving anyway: "Well, I am living to tell the tale!" She dipped into her knowledge of Greek mythology with Travelling to Ithaca, written after a holiday in Cefalonia during which she had taken the boat for a day-trip to the adjacent Ionian island where Penelope had waited patiently for Odysseus. A storm had threatened, and the poet had considered at one point whether lighting a candle to the sea god Poseidon might be a good idea. Her witty and heartfelt poem Team Spirit, about how she had dreaded the selection process for sports teams at school, written for last year's LitFest, was brought out again, to general audience approval.




Sheila Chapman
Sheila Chapman's poems are often inspired by her Irish origins, and in particular by the memory of her mother, who was brought up in a small village in the west of Ireland. It all chimed in well with Doug Sandle's preoccupation with his Manx origins. Her first poem was about the village, next to the sea, and her final one, entitled The Mermaid in Birmingham, was about how part of her mother's make-up was always back there on that coast, when she was out of the water and in a big city.

Audience comments:
1.     Lovely afternoon! The songs are lovely and the poems were interesting. Thank you.

2.     I found the poetry from Doug and the other readers very interesting but I particularly enjoyed Maria’s singing and her tape recordings.

3.     I was moved by two pieces in particular – the ‘button box’ poems and the Nanci Griffith song ‘blackbird’s wings’ – true survivors pieces to me – thank you

4.     Deportees – enjoyed hearing that song from Maria – it’s very relevant to today. Good to hear Lis B’s ‘Team Spirit’ again too. Certainly an enjoyable afternoon.

5.     Surviving: heavy theme. So glad Maria/Doug finished on a more upbeat note. Lovely singing Maria. Pleasant afternoon and some thought provoking poems read. Thanks, Butter Box

6.     Enjoyable blend of music and poetry – well played and well read – thought provoking and amusing in a friendly environment.

7.     I nearly didn’t come as I knew I would be a few minutes late and would probably not know anyone. So glad I did – so many images painted with word and music. Welcomed in and felt at ease.

8.     A very enjoyable afternoon with varied poets, lovely singing and original and humorous words. In touch with feelings, imagination and life.

9.     Enjoyed the songs and poetry, in a pleasant, informal environment, and we were made to feel very welcome. Thanks very much.

10.  Very friendly informal place to listen to beautiful singing and very interesting poetry. I enjoyed the different poets’ work and could have listened to more from all of them. A strong confident voice of the singer, I am going to buy the CD.


11.  Enjoyed this event – the mix of poetry and music. It was a very relaxing, convivial afternoon and the standard of poetry and singing was very high. Atmosphere friendly and beautiful song, as well as poems by Doug, Lis and Sheila. Good that one could buy a CD of songs by Maria.

Looking Out, Looking Up

Looking Out, Looking Up - Peter Spafford, Richard Ormrod, with guests
7.30pm Friday 28 March - Heart Centre

Audience Comments
Richard Ormrod

1.     A remarkable smorgasbord of literary delights. 

2.     Brill! Lovely entertainment – varied!

3.      A very enjoyable and varied evening – good to give a space for younger performers to join with more seasoned professionals.

4.     Brilliant evening of live music. Varied and original.

5.     Fantastic event. Came to support my daughter who played and I’m so glad I did. Wonderful venue and great to see some new and very different talent. Poet Lizzie was inspirational and so insightful for one so young. Peter and Richard were funny and poignant and their take on nursery rhymes was so different but made me very nostalgic. The Graham Browning Trio had such thoughtful lyrics, great harmonies and a fab double bass. For a 17 year old like Hannah this was a great opportunity to perform to a new audience. An unexpectedly entertaining and enjoyable evening – and just how many instruments can Richard play!!

6.     Lizzie Hawkins excellent. Music fascinating. Peter Spafford great. People should not be allowed in late and definitely not mid-number!

Lizzie Hawkins

The Pleiades, Betelgeuse, Cassiopeia, Charon:
We pass these to each other like sweets
and trace the bent back of the Plough
turning our heads up, finding the white necessity of the Pole Star.
7.     An odd, but fascinating, mixture of music and poetry (and poetry set to music). The musicians were inventive and had the audience enthralled. 

8.     Very good event.  

9.     Compelling, innovative first part. Wanted more of the young poet. I didn’t enjoy the trio but people around me said they were in tune with them. Welcome exciting sounds returned in the third section. Prufrock will never be the same again but in terms of congruence of words and music Crossing the Bar worked best for me.



10.  A nice variety of words and music. Good to see young people performing too.  

Graham Browning
11.  Very invigorating and heartwarming. Lovely atmosphere and variety of performers.

12.  Extremely exciting music and range of instruments. Quirky words from Peter and lovely youthful poems from the young poet. The ukulele player had an exceptionally strong and plangent voice. The Graham Browning Trio – music pleasantly dreamy, lyrics mediocre. Loved the Browning, Eliot and Tennyson. A lot more of Peter and Richard would have been good.

13.  A great evening, sensitive, exciting and most melodious. Thank you. 

14.  There were some really exceptional songs from various performers – brilliant. All of the people taking part were highly talented – I greatly enjoyed the evening.

15.  The sort of evening you would never find in London. A kaleidoscope of music and words – a joy all round.

16.  A truly remarkable evening – the musical skills truly magic, the singing and ????? Sheer satisfying joy.

Hannah Swalwell
17.  An entertaining and illuminating variety – performance of music and poetry. More of this kind of event – Headingley LitFest is value, through and through.

18.  Wonderful evening – varied, full of imaginative creativity from a range of professionals and young performers. Nursery rhymes and T.S Eliot were a joy.

19.  Something for everyone. Varied. Lovely evening.  


20.  Great evening. Good way to hear poetry in a musical setting!





Peter Spafford adds:

The Breeze is a song about war, in particular The First World War. It's based on a true story told me by a very old man in the West Country many years ago. Music never stopped a war starting, but it's worth a try.

Images: Lizzie Coombes/Betty Lawless. Ukelele: Richard Ormrod.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gTIE3uEYCQ

Sunday, 30 March 2014

J R R Tolkien - inspired by Headingley

The Tolkien Trail - talk by Claire Randall
29 March- partnership event with Leeds Combined Arts

Carol Downing writes:
The trail began at the Hyde Park Hotel on the corner of Woodhouse Street soon entering one of the many ginnels of Headingley and the beginning of the Dales Way then on to Grosvenor road and down into Dagmar Woods where we had the main introduction.  Claire Randall’s approach to the contextualising of Tolkien’s experience is founded on her background in Art Therapy and looks at the perhaps sometimes unconscious expression of his past experiences in his work of which there are many, not just from Leeds.  A well known example of this is ‘The Passage of the Marshes’ which it is well recognised draws on his experiences in The Battle of the Somme in 1916.
               
Claire Randall
2014 is the ninetieth anniversary of Tolkien being awarded the Professorship of Anglo-Saxon and Old English at Leeds University.  He was a survivor of the First World War and had been invalided out of the trenches in 1916 with trench fever.  He had been born in South Africa in 1892, his mother bringing him to England in 1895.  After his father died in 1896 they moved to Sarehole, a small village on the outskirts of Birmingham which he later said was the basis for the Shire as found in middle earth.  When his mother converted to Catholicism in 1900 they were disowned by the remainder of the family and they were forced to move to cheaper accommodation in Birmingham.  He did well academically and in 1911 won an Exhibition to Oxford where he achieved a first class honours in English in 1915.  He then volunteered and served as a communications officer in the Battle of the Somme.

After the war he worked for a year in Oxford with C T Onions, the Supervisor of the Oxford English Dictionary.  In 1920 he was appointed to the position of reader in English Language at Leeds University.  To get away from the smoky streets of old Woodhouse he would walk up on the Woodhouse Ridge and the Meanwood Valley trail where some of the features are congruent with landscape in Middle-Earth.

His mythology had been developing since the beginning of the war with his poems about Earendel, The Morning Star, and such stories as The Fall of Gondolin, parts of the Book of Lost Tales, the proto-Silmarillion which was effectively completed by the time he left Leeds in 1925 to go to Oxford.
 
His world was created from his own invented languages such as Elvish which were based on Finnish and old Welsh and the landscapes in which he embedded them were imagined from the kind of people who spoke these languages.  In the sixth form with his three closest friends he had formed a literary group called the Tea Club and Barrovian Society in which they planned to make their contribution to the literary and poetic world.  After two of these friends died in the trenches he felt a tremendous responsibility resting on him to fulfil this aspiration and then set about single-handedly to produce a re-creation of Anglo-Saxon myth and culture for the English people. 

Our next stop after having passed through more ginnels was at Batty’s Wood on Woodhouse Ridge, which bears a strong resemblance to Ithilien where Sam stewed the rabbits, complete with dried bracken and herbs, and an over-looking house is reminiscent of Cirith Ungol.  When Tolkien walked here it must have seemed that he was escaping from the blackened terraces of Woodhouse which remind one of Mordor.  In their home in St. Mark’s Terrace by the University where they lived for 3 years his wife Edith would complain of their curtains dissolving from the fumes.

The use Tolkien made of linguistics is well demonstrated in the Anglo-Saxon roots of the name Woodhouse, which comes from ‘wudu-wasa’, which means Wild Man of The Woods and which Christopher Tolkien has indicated is the origin of the Woses – the Wild Men who assisted the riders of Rohan on their way to Gondor.

Headingley's Tree of Tales?  Photo: Sally Bavage
At the centre of old Headingley we visited 25 St Michael’s Road where Tolkien had a bed-sit for the first term or so before he was able to bring his wife Edith and their children to Leeds in 1921.  Also in central Headingley the site of the old Shire Oak and the Headingley War Memorial both of which must have had significance to him.  The Shire Oak being an ancient oak from Anglo-Saxon times was the centre of the Wapentake of Scyrack, and in The Lord of the Rings we see the riders of Rohan having the weapon take at Edoras: Tolkien must have had a great interest in the local Anglo-Saxon features such as this almost on his door-step.  The Oak itself was the site of the Thing, the local Moot but also of course in Latin the word for Thing is ens, entis, which cannot help but suggest the Ents of Fangorn who promptly have a Moot as they are aroused by Merry and Pippin.  Ent is also old Norse for a giant. Tolkien cannot have been unaware of this cross-linguistic punning that he was making creating a giant who has a Moot in several different languages.   There are other acknowledged roots and influences on the creation of Treebeard, but the Tree of Tales has many roots and many branches. And this is not even to mention the presence of the ‘Shire’ in the title of the Oak, surely not completely irrelevant to the naming of the land of the Hobbits. 
                                                                
The Headingley War Memorial which went up in 1921 and would have meant a lot to him for his lost comrades again bears a curious similarity to the Three Farthing Stone which was  “ as near the centre of the Shire as no matter”  being as it is at the centre of old Headingley and the divisions of the Shire curiously having an exact correspondence to the several roads that meet around it, and St Michael’s Church being found where on the map the Green Dragon at Bywater was situated, the former saint being associated with dragons of course. While most of these correspondences cannot be confirmed from documentary evidence in Tolkien’s writing nonetheless coming from an Art Therapy point of view a direct congruence between features in middle-earth and the local landscape cannot help but suggest that even perhaps unconsciously, Tolkien is using them from the vast store of his memory.

From St Michael’s we walked up to 5 Holly Bank and saw the house where he and his wife  Edith and the children lived for the remainder of their first year in Leeds before taking the house in St. Mark’s Terrace by the University until 1924.  A diversion down Hollin Lane to The Hollies reminds us of the Moria Gate in the land of Hollin where there were many large ancient Holly Trees.  The final leg of our walk took us up to No 2 Darnley Road, West Park where the blue plaque is now located to see the house he purchased in 1924 where he lived with his family until he left for Oxford at the end of 1925 when he secured a post there.  

Walkers' comments:

1.     I enjoyed the walk and the talk. It introduced me to parts of Headingley I have never visited before and it was interesting to see how Tolkien was linked to it.
2.     This is my first walk. I really enjoyed it and looking forward for future walks. I enjoyed the information given.
3.     Very interesting biography of Tolkien’s time in Leeds. Also good to see nice areas of Leeds. Very good speaker.  
4.     Very interesting and thought-provoking, nice walk at a pleasant pace through lovely scenery J  
5.     The event was very informative and enjoyable, bringing people together in a sociable way. Well done.  
6.     Amazing trail, really enjoyed all the association made by the guide, and all of the scenarios. I would love to know even more.
7.     It was very informative and great fun a most enjoyable way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Many thanks to the organizers.
8.     Very enjoyable walk. Enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide. Tolkien on Leeds is a field ripe for further exploration!  
9.     Very enjoyable. Beautiful day.
10.  Really interesting and entertaining. Brilliant to bring the landscape into Tolkien focus.
11.  Very enjoyable walk and well handled considering the numbers participating. Thank you.
12.  An interesting experience although I find the pace rather slow. Would it have helped to provide a short ‘Handout’ giving brief Tolkien details. The information was given in an interesting way and I have been introduced to the mythological world of Tolkien.  
13.  Interesting, learned a lot about Tolkien and the local area and saw places I have never been. Good value for £1!
14.  Great! Very informative – both of parts of Leeds I did not know about and especially about insights into Tolkien’s time here and its influence on his writings! Leader Cosmic Claire was brilliant.  
15.  Wonderfully presented – very interesting and enjoyable.
16.  Interesting info and a very nice walk.  
17.  Very informative. Really enjoyed the linguistic deliberation on Tolkien’s supposed influences.  
18.  I had no idea there was so much connection with Tolkien and Headingley before coming on this trail. The leader Claire R was so informative. Thank you so much Headingley LitFest for providing this excellent and very different event!  
19.  An informative (if rather speculative) presentation, providing food for thought.  
20.  Interesting, nice day. Very informative.  
21.  Brilliant ideas and refreshing new take on some ideas. Good talking points. A really interesting event. Thank you.
22.  Fascinating – really great information. Perhaps 1st talk a little too long when we were eager to walk, but it was very well presented so no problem really. Great!  
23.  Learnt some new areas of Headingley and interesting ideas.  
24.  A really enthusiastic walk leader who was very knowledgeable about the topic. A great afternoon!  
25.  Very nice walk and very interesting and informative talk. Learned a lot! Thanks.  
26.  Very informative and enjoyed the walk leader’s theories. I think that a loudspeaker/hailer (?) might be good for future talks so that there is an ease for hearing.

27.  Just a note to thank both Carol Downing and Claire Randall for promoting, organising and leading /participating in the Tolkien Trail Walk yesterday, Saturday, 29th March - it was a super afternoon - very informative and a fascinating tour of some of the places associated with Tolkien, when he lived and worked in Leeds. (Comment emailed to LCA website)


Saturday, 29 March 2014

Extraordinary Stories at Café Lento

Extraordinary Stories
Partnership with Café Lento
8pm Thursday 27 March 

There's something really special about Café Lento, a sympathetic and intimate ambiance which makes it a perfect venue for events like this. It is well known for its brilliant music evenings - often top-notch jazz - and less well-known for words evenings. This might be about to change, after this beautiful evening.
Richard Lindley

Seven readers and performers told us stories, both true and fictional, which by turns shocked, amused and entertained us. The hazards and tough times which some people go through! Sally Bavage told us the story of how members of Scott's 1912 expedition to the South Pole risked everything, in horrifically cold conditions, for a few penguin eggs, Richard Lindley, Lento's owner, referred us to a YouTube video and explained how cave divers had tried to recover a body from a watery hell-hole in South Africa and Jane Oakshott brought us some welcome light relief with poetry and an account of an AmDram actor's embarrassing  experiences with a cloak which got screwed to the scenery.

Richard Wilcocks took on the role of Moritz Schiller, the owner of that famous Sarajevo deli in 1914, for his story of how Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip had been lured in to eat lunch - Ćevapi, the local speciality - just before the archduke's car stalled, Peter Spafford told us a fable about how a young boy walking along a beach had stopped Death (in a black cloak of course) from climbing up the cliff to his grandad's house, and Linda Marshall, the inimitable Linda Marshall, was all too brief when she read us a selection of her poems. Beth Kilburn was impressive and moving when she delivered to us the words of a letter written by a woman during a First World War zeppelin raid. 

This sort of event is at the heart of the LitFest - small-scale and extremely well-done.

Audience Comments:

An excellent, varied evening – thank you! It’s a very good idea to give several people a theme and let them get on with it!

Varied, bracing, lovely idea!

Some interesting stories of survival. I particularly liked the café-owners story. A couple 
of interesting stories from Richard Wilcocks about the Beckett Park war hospital.
An interesting story on TB from Linda Marshall.

Great evening, lovely people and some fantastic stories!

A good mixture of poetry and prose. Also very informative. A good variety, with acting
 too,the evening went as well and as quickly (i.e. enjoyably) as any of the events I’d been to this year.  

Very moving and high quality performances that offered a great variety of material.

Some compelling stories. Very touched by Peter Spafford’s story and how after many 
years have found out the story behind a hymn that I would often sing with my mum and
 finally I sang it to her on her death bed. All the stories/poems were marvelous!

Excellent – intimate friendly atmosphere – talented readers – excellent stories and 
accounts. Entertaining and hugely enjoyable – brings the pleasure and power of words 
and writing. Long live the LitFest!!

An eclectic and entertaining evening of poetry, prose and anecdotes on the theme of 
‘Survivors’, ranging from an expedition to collect penguin eggs in Antarctic winter 
conditions, to an amazing take on Noah’s ark from Noah’s wife’s perspective.

War and Peace - Maggie Mash's house event

War and Peace - house event
2.30pm Sunday 23 March

Sheila Chapman writes:
                                                                            Photo: Sheila Chapman
Maggie’s front room is striped with magic –music, song, drama and poetry. I love being there entranced by the power and inspiration of words rendered with passion, integrity and talent. I was truly moved by the range of work and the way it provided such an insight into the lives of people who survived, and found hope, sometimes in dreadful situations.


Dave Robertson gave us a dramatized reading of the dialogue between Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon (his mentor) as the young poet struggled to find the ‘right’ words – this particular struggle resulted in Anthem for Doomed Youth!

Maggie Mash and Ruth Sillers told us the story of women during wartime - taking on men’s jobs, fleeing persecution, working for the resistance, and finding a personal freedom not normally available to them in peacetime. The story was told using the women’s own words with powerful readings by Maggie and Ruth of excerpts from books and from poetry. We went with these women on their journey and heard them talking directly to us.

Finally – the ‘Chansons’. Maggie Stratford and Daniel Bowen took us back in time to listen to French ‘chansons’ which inspired us all. Maggie’s wonderful voice and skilled introductions together with Daniel’s beautiful music took us back in time, and to another country, to be moved inspired and uplifted. I am definitely going to learn the Java – even at my age. Bravo! Encore!!

Thank you so much to one and all.

Excerpt from Pat Barker's Regeneration.                                                                 David Robertson
Excerpts from Ruth Siller's audiobook, War Girls.                          Ruth Sillers & Maggie Mash
Excerpt from Janina Bauman's Winter in the Morning.                                           Maggie Mash
Excerpt from Marcelle Kellerman's A Packhorse called Rachel.                             Maggie Mash
French chansons.                      Maggi Stratford (singer): Daniel Bowater (piano & accordion)

Wolf White writes:
                                                      Photo: Sheila Chapman
Very well attended and warmly welcomed into Maggie and Bob’s home. Ruth Sillers did ensemble piece with Maggie Mash about the previously invisible women who suddenly became visible everywhere doing ‘men’s work’ with great expertise. Of this period we know much from male poets but many women wrote also – where was their work? I learnt a great deal from this performance about women’s thinking in a range of voices. Brilliant. Maggie Stratford (and pianist and accordionist Daniel Bowater) then gave us a very French rendition of wonderfully energized and sung chansons. Maggie’s intro to each piece set the context both personal (regarding the song writer) and historical. Hats off to Headingley LitFest for making this truly a community arts event - inviting local people to provide the intimacy of their homes for some of these presentations. It’s a great and practical means of people crossing paths in mutual enjoyment of local talent and thinking about ways to render the theme of surviving.

Audience comments:

Beautiful selection of material. Wonderful interpretation by ALL concerned.  

Please more time between heart moving poetry readings. There is so much to comprehend!
A superb event in every way!! Thank you so much for setting it up.

What a fabulous afternoon. What a feast of talent and a plethora of emotion! Many thanks – I’d like to have it all over again. Bravo Maggie!

French singing was very lovely indeed. Readings too were fascinating.

What a wonderful afternoon! 

Most interesting and entertaining. Thanks to all concerned for making a very enjoyable afternoon.  
A fantastic performance and getting insight into the women’s perspective through some amazing poetry and prose read with great feeling and emotion. Beautiful French songs – so tuneful!

Superb afternoon. Poignant and delightful. A wonderful mix of memories & sentiments. 

Wonderfully nice and varied programme of poetry, prose and music – poignant, haunting and amusing! Fantastic!

A wonderful collection of poetry, prose and songs. I enjoyed very much. Thank you.

Very lovely rendering of poems and great voice, introduction and songs.

I enjoyed talking and singing and playing

Enjoyed yes – Readings very interesting and informative from WW1 and 2 war girls. Superb and what more to come Encore - well done to Maggie and Daniel. Well done to hosts – thank you very much.

A very enjoyable afternoon. Well thought out and researched. ‘Encore’ was very entertaining and their enthusiasm was obvious and made the audience part of the experience.

A most enjoyable afternoon of poetry and music. Thanks to everyone involved. Will look forward to future events.

A brilliant event! Exceptionally well-read poetry and prose and a stunning rendition of French songs.

A lovely mélange of poems, prose and songs. Five talented performers and two separate instruments – piano and accordion. A great range of themes and periods. Skilful rendering of the moods of women during WW1. 

Brilliant! A wonderful way to treat a sad subject. Couldn’t be more interesting and entertaining.  
An unexpected mixture. But the readings were nice, and the French chansons are indestructible. 

Most enjoyable. Tremendous combination of verse and song. Brought home the suffering of women and war – the pity and the sorrow, but also the sweet chagrin of love that can ….. (complete as you see fit).

Beautiful poems and chansons. A thoroughly enjoyable afternoon!

A wonderful afternoon of moving and exhilarating poems and readings and songs. Many thanks.

Really excellent. I loved the readings and the musical numbers – a very enjoyable afternoon. 

Wonderful afternoon – inspiring and moving. Lover every element – songs, readings etc. Thank you.

A wonderful introduction to two aspects of war and often think about –the women and the music.

 Fantastic reading, absolutely stupendous. Inspirational female talent channeling their energy into meaningful drama. Thank you. ‘Barbara’s’ final song was so sweetly sung and played. I can’t speak or understand a word of French … did it matter? Not at all, I was in awe.

A most enjoyable afternoon – (as a guest). Wonderful performances and fascinating history of the First World War. Thank you so much.


Lovely atmosphere engendered by private house venue. A collection of wonderful performers and unusual material. Great variety and total entertainment in widest emotional and intellectual sense. Brilliant to be stretched by songs in French! (or any foreign language).