Guernsey Literary Festival

The first Guernsey Literary Festival seemed to me to be a success. I think the benefits of this festival will be immense in the long term. If Guernsey is an island that, with its many other blessings, is seen as a place where writing and culture happen, this can only enrich the lives of its people and greatly encourage a new generation of visitors.

For my part seeing the faces of the children from Vauvert and Le Murier schools light up with delight when I began telling them an adventure set where they live, made the whole trip worthwhile. I donated books to these schools and to St Martin’s primary too.

It was excellent to secure the backing of Barclays Wealth. It was a win-win too. Good for the sponsors because from a PR perspective, they have an image problem they need to fix. Projects of this sort that reach benignly into the island should be exactly what they should be looking for.

For my own part any time when Richard and I manage a BBC radio appearance and three poetry readings to promote the A Guernsey Double is a success in itself. I was also able to launch Defenders of Guernsey in two sessions with schoolchildren, attend a poetry cafe reading with some fine poets, and meet people like Annie Barrows, Edward Chaney, Sebastian Peake, Caroline Carver and Tim Binding, do some protracted networking on the island, and know that the best part of 160 Skelton Yawngrave stories are now in the island’s schools.

Thanks to the Guernsey Literary Festival I returned home full of a revived interest in writing and performing, in Mervyn Peake, in the poetry of Caroline Carver, the singing of Olivia Chaney and with new friends made and old friendships strengthened.

Well done Guernsey. And well done folks like Catriona Stares, Richard Fleming, Jane Mosse and the many others who dedicated enormous time and effort to the whole thing.

Appointment with Venus

My friend Catriona lent me this 1951 novel by Jerrard Tickell, an Irish novelist (1905-1966). Appointment with Venus was made into a film the same year, with a cast which included David Niven, Kenneth More, Glynis Johns and others, and shot in Pinewood Studios and on Sark. The story features an imaginary Channel Isle named Amorel, which appears to be a thinly veiled Sark.

Very much a product of its times, and seems sexist and in its reference to “seeing a coon show” in London, unacceptably racist. While Sark aka Amorel is portrayed as a backwater, with simple French speaking locals to add a bit of colour local. The plot revolves around an unlikely wartime scheme to steal a valuable pedigree cow called Venus from the island. Local girl and plucky love interest Nicola Fallaise accompanies Valentine Moreland and others on the rescue mission with predictable results. It is a surprisingly good escapist read however, if you fancy a bit of stiff upper lip brandishing wartime hokum.

Below a film poster for Appointment with Venus.

Meeting Guernsey Arts Commission

Went to Guernsey in June and had a meeting with the Guernsey Arts Commission, about creating an Anthology of Guernsey writing. Liked the Chairman Tony Gallienne right off the bat. The meeting was inconclusive, but they were encouraging.

I spent a couple of hours in the Priaulx Library where I met Amanda Bennett, the Chief Librarian, who took time to show me an extensive collection of books, all of which have some tenuous connection to Guernsey.

She told me a few things right away I didn’t know, such as PG Wodehouse went to school here, and that Samuel Coleridge-Taylor the composer had performed on the island. And that Edmund Keane the nineteenth century Shakespearean was pelted with vegetables in St Peter Port. Spent a happy couple of hours with my nose in dusty tomes. A venerable place, busy with people tracking down old stories from the Guernsey Press, and tracing their ancestors.

Then to the Guernsey Museum, which is a matter of a few yards away. Here I met Guernsey’s switched on Museums Director Jason Monaghan. Interesting chat with him. He also gave me a signed copy of a self-published book written under his nom de plume Jason Foss called Islands that never were. After a brief look at The Three Garnsey Women Martyred by the Papists {Anno 1556}. Jason has let me know subsequently of a Dr Who novelisation set in Guernsey too.There is rich ground to be covered.

Already receiving a good deal of help and advice from the excellent Catriona Stares of the Commission, and Richard Fleming and Jane Mosse, notable poets resident on the island.

Creating an anthology for Guernsey

So to catch up on recent activity. I returned from a short trip to my former home of Guernsey recently where I presented to the Arts Commission, who were interested in the project.

So I am shortly about to kick the project off, and have bought AnthologyofGuernsey.com for a song.

While I was over, I spent a couple of hours in the Priaulx Library where I met Amanda Bennett, the Chief Librarian, who took time to show me an extensive collection of books, all of which have some tenuous connection to Guernsey.

She told me a few things right away I didn’t know, such as PG Wodehouse went to school here, and that Samuel Coleridge-Taylor the composer had performed on the island. And that Edmund Keane the nineteenth century Shakespearean was pelted with vegetables in St Peter Port. Spent a happy couple of hours with my nose in dusty tomes. A venerable place, busy with people tracking down old stories from the Guernsey Press, and tracing their ancestors.

Then to the Guernsey Museum, which is a matter of a few yards away. Here I met Guernsey’s switched on Museums Director Jason Monaghan. Interesting chat with him. He also gave me a signed copy of a self-published book written under his nom de plume Jason Foss called Islands that never were. After a brief look at The Three Garnsey Women Martyred by the Papists {Anno 1556}. Jason has let me know subsequently of a Dr Who novelisation set in Guernsey too.

There is rich ground to be covered. Already receiving a good deal of help and advice from the excellent Catriona Stares of the Commission, and Richard Fleming and Jane Mosse, notable poets resident on the island.

Poems on the Buses, Guernsey

I lived in Guernsey as a child. It is my spiritual home which I still visit at least once a year.

Recently there has been a mini artistic revolution. Last year local writers have been encouraged to come out into the light, and have their work published in an initiative called Pens & Lens. This activity, much of which has been driven by Catriona Stares and local poets like Richard Fleming has lately resulted in poems on the buses.

It is so heartening to see this for all kinds of reasons. I published an inflammatory article about arts on the island about fifteen years ago (text here) challenging local people to be more proud about their culture. This was an item I deliberately designed to be galling.

These latest initiatives are nothing to do with me, of course, but I am really pleased to see them.

They have used several of my poems over the year. The one below is on the bus, and was written when I was 22. It is nice that a love letter I wrote to the island a long time ago has had this brief afterlife.

Below a poem on a bus. Click to enlarge.