Monday, 29 June 2015

Protest and Passion in the Seventies and Eighties

Sally Bavage writes:
Ray Brown                       Photo by Richard Wilcocks
A substantial audience crowded into the New Headingley Club on Sunday evening to hear Ray Brown talk about his recently published* novel In All Beginnings, subtitled 'a novel of protest and passion.  I can’t say it is a new novel because it was first written twenty-five years ago but a publisher rejected a book about a “dirty little town in the north.”  That was our Leeds. It was our story.  The audience had been there, you The Reader have been there.  That party branch meeting, those local politicians, the trendy gathering, those pubs, those relationships. 

The miners’ strike and the peace movement are the major themes running through the factional life of Simon and a cast of other characters in vignettes of the changes in politics and society richly described. Anecdotes were both achingly funny and achingly sad reminders of what has changed.  Read this and revisit your younger years: so little is written about these themes in the mainstream press, then and now, that conventional history has almost expunged the reality.

Ray himself moved from academe to authorship, morphing into broadcaster, writer and playwright (!ray-brown/cj3a)  This book was originally to be the chronicle of an adult William - the character from Richmal Crompton's stories for children.  However, what he really wanted to write about, with acid wit and even anger, were the political changes that impacted all of us.  Still do.  Still inspiring Ray with his waspish comments.  The passion and protest are still there.

*Armley Press has now published nine books by local authors.  To find out more visit their website

Audience Comments:

Lovely to be reminded of a period in our history that isn’t officially recognised, isn’t quite counterculture but nevertheless still makes you feel … angry, disappointed, dispossessed, cheated, manipulated.  Same old same old.

Excellent.  Should be more like it.

Very funny, interesting evening with lots of memories.  Good to have an event with local authors.

Funny and relevant, a really good evening. Glad I came.

Comfortable venue.  Interesting evening; brought back memories from the 70s and 80s.  good to raise the issue of education about the miners’ strike.

Very good event, well presented.

I enjoyed this very much.

Very enjoyable – really looking forward to reading the novel.  Ray and Doug a great double act!

Vintage Ray.  Funny, warm and politically incorrect in the best sense.

Very enjoyable.

Great to hear local work by a local writer published by a local press.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Have Your Cake

Doug Sandle writes:
Linda Marshall and Lis Bertolla              Photo by Sheila Chapman
During this year’s March LitFest we held two events at the delightful Meanwood Institute and we decided it was the perfect venue for a pleasant Sunday midsummer afternoon listening to readings of poetry and prose on the theme of cafés and food and drink generally, presented by two local poets Linda Marshall and Lis Bertolla -especially as there was an opportunity of an afternoon cup of tea and to partake of the delicious cakes on offer. 

The Institute decked in bunting and the stage set up with a table, cake stands and tea cups, the two poets entertained a full house with their readings. The programme featured the writings of such as Nigel Slater, John Betjeman, A.A. Milne, Lewis Carrol (the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party of course) as well many of their own writings. A highlight was an amusing dialogue between the two that was based on a conversation overheard by Linda in a café in downtown Leeds. With titles such as Making Jam Tarts with Mother (Nigel Slater), At Betty’s (Linda), The Friendly Cinnamon Bun (Russell Hoban), How to Eat an Orange (Lis), In a Bath Teashop (John  Betjeman) the audience soon had an appetite for the delicious cakes on sale. 

The two highly talented poets entertained a very appreciative audience, many of whom remarked that it was a delightful way to spend a Sunday afternoon – and please could they have some more!

Many thanks are due to Mary Francis of the Headingley LitFest, Tracy Cooper of Café 57 and currently on-line purveyor of antique china (The Leeds Vintage House)* for their delicious cakes and  to Malcolm Coles for flowers from his allotment - and of course to the two café poets, Linda and Lis themselves. [*]

MADEIRA (Linda Marshall)
If only Madeira
Were nearer -
Then happily I would meander
Under the blue jacaranda.
Meander - I say it with candour,
Because after the sweet, heavy wine,
I'm unable to walk in a line.

If only Madeira
Were nearer
For the sake of the tea and the cake
And the view
At the Villa Cliffe.
If only Madeira were nearer,
Then our lives would be simply

How to eat an orange (Lis Bertolla)
First, lift gently in both hands. 
Raise it to your nose, inhale the sharp sweet smell
of sunshine, the excitement of childhood Christmas -
whatever is there for you...

Then, use your eyes; study the skin, porous yet
protective. Regard the navel, recall your own births.
Remember, imagine, orange blossom on laden trees
fragrant in some foreign land.

Look and smell...
Inside, a small miracle of segments, contained yet
conjoined, nudging each other for comfort.
Ease them apart; the first one you select is important.
Now put it in your mouth, the skin will break
without force, release juice.

Finally the richness is yours, a trickle of goodness
bathing in the taste buds, soothing the throat...
Thank God then, for simple, complicated things.