Literary Events Leicester November and December 2017

A list of forthcoming literary events in Leicester up to the festive season:

Margaret Penfold at Leicester Writers' Showcase15 November 2017 6.45pm Leicester Writers’ Showcase features Margaret Penfold
Central Library, Bishop Street Leicester LE1 6AA.

15 – 18 November 2017 Literary Leicester
Leicester University – see Leicester University for full details. Most events are free but require advance booking which can be done through the website.

23 November 2017 The Venus Papers Lydia Towsey
Attenborough Arts Lancaster Road Leicester

25 November 2017 5.20pm Launch Peacebuilders Anthology
Waterstones, Nottingham – not in Leicester but worth mentioning this poetry anthology as it includes work from Leicester poets.

27 November 2017 7.30pm Shindig
The Western, western Road Leicester LE3 0GA

5 December 2017 10.30am Leicester WritersShindig Leicester  Bru Cafe and Gelato, Granby Street, Leicester LE1

5 December 2017 8pm Word! with John Hegley
Y Theatre, East Street Leicester

12 December 2017 6.30pm Novel Exchanges with Rod Duncan
Exchange Bar Leicester details:

13 December 2017 6.45pm Leicester Writers’ Showcase Literary Activity in Leicester
Central Library, Bishop Street, Leicester LE1 6AA.

16 December 2017 2pm South Leicestershire Poetry Stanza
Leicester Language Academy, New Walk Leicester.




I’ve been very busy with preparations for the opening of Scraptoft’s New Community Hub and got knocked out by a bout of sinusitis so hopefully normal service will be resumed by next week. The new Community Hub will be a suitable venue for poetry readings, book launches, workshops, book groups, author talks and similar literary events.

Scraptoft Community Hub

Scraptoft Community Hub rear view







Leicester Writers’ Showcase: Literary Activity in Leicester

Leicester Writers' Showcase logo

Wednesday 13 December 2017 from 6.45pm at Leicester’s Central Library, Bishop Street, LE1 6AA, free entry, Leicester Writers’ Showcase is hosting an event focusing on literary activity in the Leicester and Leicestershire and what can be done to raise its profile locally, nationally and internationally.

Speakers include:

  • Councillor Sarah Russell, Assistant City Mayor for Children, Young People and Schools
  • Henderson Mullin, CEO, Writing East Midlands
  • James Urquhart, Relationship Manager for Literature in the Midlands, Arts Council England
  • Emma Lee, President Leicester Writers’ Club, poet, reviewer, editor and event organiser
  • Farhana Shaikh, Dahlia Publishing who also organises Leicester Writes meetings and festival and publishes The Asian Writer
  • Bobba Cass, activist, performance poet and spoken word event organiser
  • Carol Leeming FRSA, of Dare to Diva Productions, poet, songwriter, playwright and performance artist.

The event will be chaired by Attenborough Arts Centre director, Michaela Butter MBE.

There will also be a display of books by local writers, and a discussion and question and answer session with those present.

Leicester Writers’ Showcase

The Leicester Writers’ Showcase started in January 2017 and hosts a literary event once a month. Featured writers and publications include “Welcome to Leicester”, “Lost & Found: stories of home by Leicestershire writers” (both Dahlia Publishing), Carol Leeming, Marianne Whiting, Andrew Bannister, Julia Herdman, Mahsuda Snaith, Siobhan Logan, Soundswrite Poetry Press, Ella@100 – an evening of jazz-inspired poetry and November’s event will feature Margaret Penfold (15 November from 6.45pm, Central Library). All events are free to attend.

For Readers

The Leicester Writers’ Showcase offers a chance for local readers to meet and hear from local writers and find out what books local writers publish. Readers can discover local authors who have won major book deals, been shortlisted for the Hugo Awards, Carnegie Awards, won short story competitions, have been published both in the UK and abroad and host live literature events and readings locally. It gives readers the chance to ask questions directly to authors about their journey to publication, what promotions and publications are forthcoming and be the first to hear about new work so it’s a great networking opportunity.

Local writers are those either living or working in Leicester or who have been published by a Leicester publisher or who regularly attend a writers’ or spoken word group in the city. Showcases so far have included Leicester-themed anthologies, short stories, contemporary poetry, historical fiction, science-fiction, contemporary fiction and spoken word.

For Writers

Leicester Writers’ Showcase offers local writers the opportunity to use Central Library free of charge to hold a launch-style event, combining a reading, talk and question and answer session to suit with the library providing light refreshments during the interval. It is possible to writers to team up with another writer or for a writers’ group to showcase the group’s work. Writers and spoken word artists can bring books, CDs, pamphlets, etc to sell at the event.

Writers also benefit from the Libraries producing leaflets for distribution throughout Leicester City Libraries and similar venues. In addition the Leicester Writers’ Showcase prepare press releases which are sent to the Leicester Mercury, Great Central, BBC Radio Leicester and Writing East Midlands. In addition each Leicester Writers’ Showcase event is videoed and photographed and featured writers are able to use these in other promotional materials.

Leicester Writers’ Showcase Projects

Projects that have arisen from Leicester Writers’ Showcase include the Local Writers’ Fair held during Everybody’s Reading and the Local Writers’ Corner, which will feature books by local writers and will be set up during 2018. Leicester has a great literary tradition which the Leicester Writers’ Showcase supports.


“The Five Petals of Elderflower” Angela Topping (Red Squirrel Press) – poetry review

The Five Petals of Elderflower Angela Topping book cover“Five Petals of Elderflower” uses the title poem, also the first poem, as a structure for the whole collection giving it a sense of unity. It’s important to note, though, that the collection does not have to be read in order, each poem can stand alone too. The title poem can be thought of as ‘five ways of looking at elderflower’, one for each petal. The first section zooms in for close examination, the second explores a different voice – here the poet’s father, the third focuses on memory, the fourth uses synaesthesia and the fifth a promise. In the fourth section,

“Elderflowers sing jazz, each petalled phrase
plays another variation on the last.
Its saxophone voice rises above twanged strings
of cello and double bass, holding the melody
as it flies high. Notes dance round our feet:
we wade in sound. It’s a five bar blues,
scrolls of baroque, rising like smoke, tasting champagne.
White is not white, is green and cream and ivory.
And it sings the blues.”

It has the exuberance of spring and, despite the last line, it feels celebratory. The enjambment used on most lines propels the rhythm forward. I not normally a fan of nature poems, but this is an exception. In contrast the rhythms in “They Pose Together” feel appropriately stiff where a mother and daughter have posed for a formal photograph,

“The mother’s in black: embroidered cross-over jacket
pinned with watch and brooch. At her throat
squats a cameo, knotted hands display a wedding ring.
Her skirt is stiff as buckram. Practical black lace-ups,
polished like lumps of coal, show under her dress.
Whitening hair is gathered back, unsmiling mouth
gives nothing away. Her back is upright in the chair.

The daughter perches on the chair’s arm, balanced,
one foot tucked behind, waiting to launch into a waltz.
White shoes and stockings, lawn dress delicate as paper.
She has her mother’s cheeks, without the fold and crease;
matching dimples in their chins. Her smile opens
on pearl-white teeth, lips softly parting.
No clip can restrain her dark curls where they spring.
They are hinged together, one a negative of the other.”

The accumulation of images build a bigger picture. A mother is stiffened by experience and used to hiding her inner life, whether grief in widowhood or the need to conform to society’s expectations and restrictions. Whereas the daughter is ready to move and grow, not yet restrained by her place in society, not yet heeding her mother’s warnings. Warnings of a different kind surface in “New Year”

“Rime freezes mittens on the bridge rail.
We speak of things that do not matter,
emerge from trees into a clearing
where a sycamore spreads its shade.

When snow falls, it will change everything
make a page for you to write on.”

Cold weather forces the walkers to keep moving, just as talking about “things that do not matter” keeps a conversation going and allows a connection to be maintained even when an issue is being avoided. In a country where snow is not inevitable, it suggests it is a metaphor. The blank page suggests erosion of memory. The poet allows the readers to imagine what that will mean, trusting that images of nature in hibernation will guide what the reader thinks.

A squirrel takes on anthropomorphic qualities in “Red Squirrel”, where a thifty mother,

“She squirreled away sugar,
stacked bags in her wardrobe
behind Dad’s swinging braces
where it set like concrete,
a wall of sweetness;
poor replacement for him
who honeycombed her life.

These days, I think of her
with red pelt and feathery tail.
Scarce and always looked-for,
she leaps up perpendiculars,
on a quest for hazelnuts,
her neat claws clinging
to rough surfaces of trees.”

“Five Petals of Elderflower” is a coherent, crafted collection, rooted in the nature that looks at the wider world through a perceptive lens. The voices vary and the poems feel organic: allowed to grow and shape themselves instead of being constrained to a straitjacket of form.

Five Petals of Elderflower” by Angela Topping is available from Red Squirrel Press.

Angela Topping also has a blog.

Colonial Countryside Secular Hall Leicester 22 October 2017

Colonial Countryside PosterCorinne Fowler started by saying there had been something of a renaissance in British Black history with books from David Olusoga “Black and British: A Forgotten History”, Miranda Kaufmann’s “Black Tudors: African Lives in Renaissance England” and “Slavery and the British Country House” published by Historic England and the National Trust’s own project to investigate connections between their properties and sugar wealth. The UCL’s project “Legacies of British Slave-ownership” followed the compensation payments for loss of slaves and where the money was spent. A second project, “East India Company at Home” looks at influences in architecture, garden design and house decorations from connections with the East India Company.

It was important to note that Black History in Britain wasn’t just about slavery. North Africans had served in the Roman army and helped built Hadrian’s Wall. Henry VIII had a Black trumpeter, John Blanke, who played at Henry VII’s funeral. John Blanke had also successfully asked for a pay rise.

She mentioned the specific example of George Hibbert whose family wealth came from transporting raw materials to Africa, taking slaves to the Caribbean, the ownership of plantations and importing sugar. He also lobbied Parliament against Abolition. However, he also put a lot of his wealth into philanthropic projects and was seen as a generous benefactor. It was pointed out that Wordsworth’s “Lines Written Above Tintern Abbey” may not have been possible without the infrastructure of roads paid for by sugar wealth. On the new £10 note is an image of Godmersham House, owned by Jane Austen’s brother who had benefited from slavery even though Jane was an Abolitionist.

The National Trust and English Heritage have commissioned research into their own properties, investigating connections to slavery, e.g. through previous owners investing in shipping, buying shares in companies trading in slaves, owning plantations and/or lobbying against abolition. “Colonial Countryside” aims to bring together those looking at South Asian connections and those looking at Afro Caribbean connections to produce a picture of shared history.

She has a personal connection to this. Her French ancestors had a chateau in Brittany built with sugar wealth.

Eventually the Colonial Countryside project aims to involve 100 children visiting any of 10 identified houses. A group of children will visit with a historian to look through the house’s archives and write about their experiences. Children are being selected by their school which is looking for children with good writing or speaking skills and a passion for history. Initial visits are focusing on Harewood House and Charlecote House. The National Trust is recommending properties for the children to visit where there are known to be relevant connections. There are plans to hold a conference during 2018’s Literary Leicester Festival featuring presentations by the children. There will also be links with the National Trust’s 2022 project Challenging Histories. The children involved so far have responded with enthusiasm – one girl was prompted to research into her family background and had been making contact with relatives via Skype, urging them to help with the fundraising campaign.

More about Colonial Countryside here

Colonial Countryside’s Crowdfunder here. The crowdfunder enables match funding from other sources.

The Institute of Physics Flash Fiction and Poetry Competitions

Open to any writer resident in the UK for a piece of flash fiction or poem of 500 words or fewer where the theme involves physics or a physicist. If you’re not sure if your idea qualifies, email writingcompetition2017 [at] Entries restricted to one per person per competition so you can enter one poem, one flash fiction or one poem and one piece of flash fiction, but not two poems or two pieces of flash fiction. Full rules from the email address given.

Prizes in each competition: First Place £100, Second Place £75, Third Place £50.

Closing Date 31 October 2017. Free entry – entries to be sent to the email address.


  • Aspect of a physicist’s life or work
  • Fictional physicist makes a discovery or invention
  • Group of scientists working at a facility such as CERN or an Antarctic base or the International Space Station
  • A real-life physics-related event
  • A technological utopia or dystopia
  • Environments such as space, the deep sea, etc
  • Change a law of physics – what happens?

Judging Panel includes a physicist and fiction judge. I will be the poetry judge.

“All the Naked Daughters” Anna Kisby (Against the Grain) – poetry review

Anna Kisby All the Naked Daughters book coverThe title poem in this pamphlet of 20 poems has a daughter asking her mother, “where are the pubes?” in a gallery of paintings of nude women and the mother’s answer about a male gaze feeling inadequate to a daughter who is also a woman. It sets the tone for a questioning of how women are depicted, the gap between image and reality and the impact of that gap. The opening poem, “The Fallen Alices” juxtaposes the publication of “Alice in Wonderland” against reports of female suicides in the Thames river,

“Of all the stories told by the Thames this is ours:
we are the curious, the questing, the covetous, the lost,
we are the girls who never grow up. We are hanging
from bridges because the river listens to our petitions.
We are flower-selling under arches, distracted by the ticking
of this gentleman’s fine pocket-watch, we will follow him home.
We are the eat-me drink-me, the locked room, the golden key
on the glass table. We are the drugged, the tricked, the riddled,
the concealed.”

Alice is the archetypal curious girl but the real life Alices, whose curiosity leads to being unable to slot into the role society has given them, end tragically. The “flower-selling” is a nod to George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion” where the flower girl is taught proper diction by a phonetics professor so becomes able to improve her life. The title of the play is a reference to the myth where a scultptor’s wish that his statue comes to life is made true. Anna Kisby’s use of enjambment and quick rhythm hurries the reader along to the next idea or image, just as news readers might pause over a sad story then move on. The merging of the stories of the suicides with Alice, suggests that those who expressed concern over those suicides were satisfied to write these women off as tragic rather than explore the reasons behind their actions and allow women fewer restrictions. The power imbalance of knowledge against innocence is explored in “Just Like A Woman” where the narrator is telling the story of seeing Bob Dylan playing in Paris while she was still young,

“at the first strums of my favourite song
(which would lose its shine when
I got fired up about misogyny
but that was later, not then) as he filled
his lungs to sing Nobody feels any pain
he looked directly at me –
with Dylan I was living the phrase
we locked eyes – at which point
in the story my husband always replies
Yeah right.”

The colloquial vocabulary belies the serious points being made, not just about the power of a seasoned performer to fool a young girl, but also about the dichotomy of being a music fan when the lyrics are misogynous and the scepticism of a man it would be natural to feel you should be able to rely on. It’s a familiar undermining of a woman’s experience: she’s fine as an adoring fan but when she gets to move central stage, she gets the eye-roll treatment. In “The Outsole and Insole of the Cowboy Boot Shopgirl” the narrator gives her sales pitch that mentions “lemonwood pegs” and then considers her lonely heart,

“lassoed on Main Street, two-stepping into the store, shelves immaculate
with boots – every colour, exquisite and best. In a quiet grove
citrus limon gives herself up to the axe. A hammering in my chest
like I’m held on a last and being entered carefully, fixed
with lemonwood pegs. Love me. Live your life at extreme pitch.”

The exterior efficiency of sales gives way to a inner sentimentality which wants her customers to care as much about the boots as she does and take them on adventures rather than just dreaming about it. The final poem, “Tortoise Missus,” considers a late marriage,

“All the jerks I practised on: teenage jack rabbits,
bullies making me jump at the scrape of a chair.
How little they loved me, or how much, but themselves
more. How they or I fell short. The many ways
I irritated them: texting when walking; falling mute”

and ends,

“Time is precious, fleeing, on my heels – my slow smile
crosses the finish line.”

This won’t be a marriage repented at leisure.

“All the Naked Daughters” is the first publication from Against the Grain and carries a weight of expectation beyond its 20 poems. Fortunately, “All the Naked Daughters” is hefty and carries that weight with ease. This is a fabulous beginning.

“All the Naked Daughters” by Anna Kisby is available from Against the Grain Poetry Press.

Leicester Writers Showcase Ella @ 100

Inheritance Ruth Stacey and Katy Wareham Morris (Mother’s Milk Books) – poetry review

Inheritance book coverAnother in the poetry duets series where two poets create a sequence of poems by one writing in response to the other. Here nights with a new baby are interwoven with inspirations from a nineteenth century relative’s letters and diary entries. In the title poem Ruth Stacey writes,

“I would do something with it all
one day, find out her story.
Then real life, taut and bright,
with its newly made tendons
tugged me into tomorrow
and tomorrow. I forgot her.
Late nights, late nights;
they taste of tannin and tears.
I stubbed my toe on the box
beneath the bed and dragged it angrily
into the room, blindly opened it
and began to read the old wounds.
My baby turns in the crib.”

The alliterative “t” sounds act as a reminder nagging readers back to remember the box of papers. Newborns leave a primary carer with short slots of time to do things inbetween feeds so it’s difficult to find a length of time that can be focused on one thing. In response, Katy Wareham Morris’s “Spellbound”,

“I reach for your testimony:

soft, soft words sit
sharing my bed, sequence my mind.
I catch your beat –

feel your skin on the paper,
misty ink, the blue black blood
of your heart.

Baby suckles now,
your voice is my calm.”

It’s tone is softer with sibilant sounds with long vowels countering the abrupt “bl” alliteration. The words being read calm and centre the mother as she calms and feeds her baby. Ruth Stacey then takes the reader back to 1887 in “Knowledge” where a new mother leaves baby in crib in a houseful of guests,

“Mindlessly I walk to the pool, linger
To watch the rabbits jump
I am fixed on their lazy pleasure.
Turning sodden, I head for home.
There is nothing unknown – a herb
For this, a prayer for that. Women
Come to the cottage; if I shouted
My voice would carry and someone
Would come. A woman would come.”

This contrasts with Katy Wareham Morris’ 2016 “Answers”

“Why is it the things I know must be Googled?
It shocks me and scares me but I do it anyway
even though I know the truth; your truth
is not shocking or scary, it just seems that way
when we’re on this derailed train
for days and nights. I rely on the net to figure out
where you fit in this heavy volatile spree,
even though you are surging away from me.”

Modern mothers are often left to muddle through on their own and sometimes the wealth of generic or unreliable information available in a matter of seconds on the internet can be overwhelming rather than helpful and lead mothers to mistrust their own instincts. In a time before the internet, women turned to each other and new mothers weren’t so isolated.

Ruth Stacey returns to 1887 and the new mother suffers a fever and writes to her sister, Maggie, in “Sister”,

”                                Maggie, what I mean
To say is this, will you care for my baby
When I am dead, for this fever burns me,
And I am finding it hard to write this,
My last letter.
Sing to her.”

In response, Katy Wareham Morris’ “Easter” the contemporary mother takes her baby on a walk,

“Moving in the wind, waiting to dissolve,
wandering through meadows. I hold you,
wrapping my arms tight enough around that you would be buried
with me. If I shouted

My sharp tongue

I cut this up it
.                            s
.                                c
.                                     a
.                                          t
.                                              t
.                                                   e
.                                                        r
.                                                              s”

A different approach to the same fear: who cares for a dependent baby when the mother can’t. Whilst the pamphlet’s focus is on mothers, the fathers’ absences are felt.

“Inheritance” does capture those early days with a newborn baby with tenderness and craft. It shows that the utterly dependent relationship between baby and mother is timeless and universal: there’s as much to recognise in the nineteenth century’s relative’s diaries and letters as there is in a contemporary mother’s Google searches. It’s not afraid to look at the frustrations and bewilderment as much as the rewards of early motherhood.

“Inheritance” is available from Mother’s Milk Books.

The Institute of Physics Flash Fiction and Poetry Competitions

Open to any writer resident in the UK for a piece of flash fiction or poem of 500 words or fewer where the theme involves physics or a physicist. If you’re not sure if your idea qualifies, email writingcompetition2017 [at] Entries restricted to one per person per competition so you can enter one poem, one flash fiction or one poem and one piece of flash fiction, but not two poems or two pieces of flash fiction. Full rules from the email address given.

Prizes in each competition: First Place £100, Second Place £75, Third Place £50.

Closing Date 31 October 2017. Free entry – entries to be sent to the email address.


  • Aspect of a physicist’s life or work
  • Fictional physicist makes a discovery or invention
  • Group of scientists working at a facility such as CERN or an Antarctic base or the International Space Station
  • A real-life physics-related event
  • A technological utopia or dystopia
  • Environments such as space, the deep sea, etc
  • Change a law of physics – what happens?

Judging Panel includes a physicist and fiction judge. I will be the poetry judge.

Leicester Writers Showcase Ella @ 100

Journeys in Translation 30 September 2017 write-up

The event had a simple plan: have a poem read in English and then the same poem read/performed in translation. There were 14 poems and 14 translations which would be included on posters displayed at the event. In addition display books would show further translations for audience members to browse through. We hit two problems before the event started: the venue couldn’t find a working microphone (which had been booked in advance) and a working replacement couldn’t be found even after an hour, and one of the translators didn’t turn up without sending apologies or giving a warning. Fortunately, one of the poets was able to provide a working microphone which we were able to use on the night. However, the German translator’s absence was still a problem. Had the microphone problem been resolved sooner (or a working microphone provided in the first place), I might have had chance to ask another translator to read in place of the absent translator.

We had an audience of at least 40. I gave an introduction explaining that “Over Land, Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge” had only sought poems in English, a language common to all three co-editors, because we’d prioritised raising funds and wanted the anthology to be published quickly. It is currently on its third edition. At last year’s Everybody’s Reading, we’d selected 8 poems and printed them as postcards which were given out at Leicester Railway Station. These proved so popular, we ran out of postcards by the fourth day. This year, we decided to build on the success of the postcards and invite translators to translate some of the poems. To keep the project manageable, we started with 12 poems which have expanded to 14 and tonight we were going to have readings of the poems in English and one translation (there were 101 poems in “Over Land, Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge”.)

Journeys in Translation Event during Everybodys ReadingRod Duncan read his poem “but one country” and the Shona translation was read by Ambrose Musiyiwa.

Malka Al-Haddad read her poem “Children of War” in English and I read Dania Schüürmann’s German translation. Luckily I’d brought the display books so was able to read Dania’s translation from the book and got chance to rehearse it in my head while the first two poems were read. My written German is reasonable, but my spoken German is very rusty.

Chrys Salt read “The Insurrection of Poetry” and a University of Leicester PhD student from Syria (who doesn’t wish to be named) kindly read Ghareeb Iskander’s Arabic translation. Ghareeb hadn’t been able to attend and two people translating a poem into the same language would still use different phrases or words so reading someone’s else’s translation is not straightforward.

I read Lydia Towsey’s poem “Come In” and Giacomo Savani read his Italian translation.

Pam Thompson read “Dislocation” and Elvire Roberts performed her British Sign Language translation.

Marilyn Ricci read “Framed” and Ambrose Musiyiwa read his Shona translation.

Carol Leeming read “Song for Guests” and Malka Al-Haddad read her Arabic translation.

Unfortunately, as I was acting as master of ceremonies, I didn’t have chance to also read through my German translation of my poem, “Stories from ‘The Jungle’”, so had to make the decision to drop it. In hindsight, I wish I’d at least read one stanza of the translation.

I read Siobhan Logan’s “The Humans are Coming” and Antonella Delmestri read her Italian translation.

Ambrose Musiyiwa read his “The Man Who Ran Through the Tunnel” in English and Malka Al-Haddad read her Arabic translation.

I read Liz Byfield’s “Through the Lens” and Giacomo Savani read his Italian translation.

Kathleen Bell read “Waiting” and Ambrose Musiyiwa read his Shona translation.

I read Penny Jones’s “What’s in a Name?” and Antonella Delmestri read her Italian translation.

Trevor Wright read “Yalla” and Elvire Roberts performed her British Sign Language translation.

After the readings, we rearranged the chairs into a circle and had a discussion about translation, including whether multilingual people find that using a different language offers different perspectives or logic, why some bilingual writers only write in one language and don’t translate their own work into their other language, whether rhyme and rhythm can be translated into sign language, how translating different writers in a relatively short space of time prompted one translator to think about different approaches taken to writing the poems and the careful reading required to translate made one translator think about the poems she was translating and made her realise that the stories being told by refugees weren’t so different from her own story and how any of the refugees could have been her.

For more information about Journeys in Translation, see the Facebook Group:

Leicester Writers Club Everybodys Reading event flyer