National Poetry Day at Cradley Library

By Jackie Adams

National Poetry Day at Cradley Library

On 28th September 2017, about 40 people eagerly awaited poetry readings by Cradley Library Writing Group and Oldbury Writing Group.

The evening began with tea, coffee, biscuits, and delicious iced fairy cakes. All donations went to the Macmillan Nurses Fund. There was a raffle where donated prizes, such as a bottle of wine and dinner for two, were available to win.

Cradley Library Writing Group members read out their various poems. In particular, a poem written by Maddie Williams about her rescue dog titled ‘Freedom Pirate’ was well received. Afterwards, I chatted with Maddie as all of my dogs have been or are rescue dogs.

After the interval, more poems were read, to the delight of the audience. The poems covered many topics: the Black Country mines, song thrushes, World War Two, and the industrial revolution plus so much more.

From the Oldbury Writing Group, Angela read her poems ‘A Part of Day’ and ‘Thoughts of a Grieving Mother on VE Day’ from our World War Two anthology titled From Sunrise to Sunset. Heather Barretts read two poems, and I read my poems ‘The Song of Spring’, ‘The Song of the Song Thrush’, and ‘A Time to Pause’. (Not published in the anthology)

Undoubtedly, the event top of the bill was Dave Reeves, poet, accordion player, and a born entertainer. His rich poetry in his book Black Country –Di-A-Lects, and his CD in English for readers who doh know what we’em saying is hilarious, a joy for any Black Country womon and mon.

Dave hails from Netherton. During the event, he performed a comical poem titled ‘The Honging Do-ern’. This poem is about the settlers going out to America. Dave also read out some serious and sombre poems, such as his poem about remembering the Black Country soldiers going off to war during World War One, and his poems about Syria and the refugee children.

Poetry amuses us and makes us laugh. Poetry gives us a cosy enjoyment, and escape from the stresses of life. Poetry moves us to tears with the beauty of words and poetic expression, and it enriches our lives.

The Cradley Library’s National Poetry Day event did the celebration of poetry proud, and we all had an enjoyable and memorable evening.

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Fabrication Made in Oldbury – Launch of Newspaper by Oldbury Writing Group

By Angela L. Garratt

Fabrication Made in Oldbury - Launch of Newspaper by Oldbury Writing Group

Yet again, the Oldbury Writing Group (OWG) is raising both their heads and their voices to launch their very first newspaper, curated by Brendan Jackson, Laundry.

It all started last year when Brendan asked if we would like to go down to the archives in the basement of Smethwick library. Of course, we said yes, and each member was inspired by the old photography taken by people from the old days of the industry.

From these archives, the members of the OWG were asked to put together a string of poems and or short stories which were inspired by the pictures we were given by Brendan from the Sandwell Archives.

These stories and pictures have been put together and printed as the first Oldbury Writing Group newspaper.

The Launch and Exhibition

You are invited to the Exhibition Preview: Tuesday 3rd October 2017, 6pm – 8pm

Venue: Arts Café, Central Sixth, New Square, West Bromwich, B70 7PG

Featuring: launch of newspaper by Oldbury Writing Group, creative writing inspired by an exploration of Sandwell Archives; talk at 6.30pm by Brendan Clifford, ‘What England was to become…’ J.M.W. Turner’s Midlands Tour of September 1830.

Refreshments available.

Exhibition Opening times: October 4th – November 2nd; Monday to Friday, 10am – 5pm.

Saturday October 7th, October 21st, 10am – 2pm

Our Adventure on the Birmingham Tolkien Trail – Part One

By Angela L. Garratt

On the 26th August 2017, to celebrate our third birthday, we visited the Moseley Bog, Sarehole Mill, and Shire Country Park, which is part of the Birmingham Tolkien Trail.

Although, technically, the trip started the moment we arrived at Yardley Wood Rd as the four of us (Angela, Nicole, Dave and Julian) entered Mosley Bog, the trip started for me when I arrived in West Bromwich, and I met the first group member I bumped into, Nicole. We then met Dave at West Bromwich Central Tram Station. We got off at Corporation Street in Birmingham and jumped on the 3E to Yardley Wood Road where we met up with Julian.

The moment we walked into Moseley Bog we could have walked back in time, I say that because nature is endless and it was nature that clearly inspired the great writer J.R.R Tolkien.

Tolkien was born in South Africa, but he moved to Birmingham with his mother as a young child. Moseley Bog and Sarehole Mill were the places he hung out as a youngster, and though he was not living there when he wrote The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, it is clear that the memories he held of the place were the inspiration he had to write his international best-selling stories.

I am not going to lie; Moseley Bog stunk, just as you would expect a bog to smell. Stagnant water and gases coming up from the earth made the place smell like a dirty drain. Some of the trees were dark and twisted and sinister looking, others were large and beautiful, and as I looked up in awe of the great natural spectacles that befell us, I could not be but inspired. If any one of those trees could talk, they would tell us stories of monsters and faeries and elves and many other magical creatures.

Though not all of the water was still, a stream ran into a brook and it was obvious that in turn would have run into the river. The running water just added to the spectacular wonder of the woods. As we walked along the wooden pathways put there by the people who now run Moseley Bog, we took many photos of the birds and other species of wildlife. We did not see any mammals, but I suspect they were there hiding away from us heavy footed elves, hobbits, and dwarfs.

After coming out of the other side of the bog (alive), we decided to go for something to eat. Nicole had already found a place called the Hungry Hobbit, and with a name like that, all expectations (from me) were high. Now, it is not that I am a snob in any way or form, but I must admit I am a bit fussy when it comes to my food (Anyone who knows the Hungry Hobbit and likes the place, I suggest you turn away now, at least for the next two paragraphs.).

The place was a disappointment for me as soon as we approached it, not only was it obvious that it was just another greasy spoon, but the ‘it’ on the end of Hobbit was missing, so it was just really called The Hungry Hobb. There are theories that they had to take away the ‘it’ for copyright reasons, but if it was me and I had that place, I would have at least made a bit more of an effort in creating a welcoming Hungry Hobb sign.

My friends were very happy with their meals, but I must admit I was not. I had the egg, beans, sausage, and chips. The egg was under cooked; the white was still slimy, I could not eat it. The sausage was a bit pink but edible, the frozen fries looked a bit too white but cooked through, and the standard beans out of a can (fine). It was nothing special considering where we were and what the Hungry Hobb should be representing. On the other hand, the service was good, the staffs were polite and helpful, and the food was cheap. So, really, I should have nothing to complain about, I just know I will not be eating there again.

After eating, the day became perfect once more as we walked towards Sarehole Mill. We did not go into the mill itself, as the entry fee was £6. But we did visit the gift shop, the tea room, and we explored the beautiful grounds. In the middle of the grounds was a rather large pool covered in green algae. There was much bird life there, mallards, coots, and moorhens. In the distance, on the other side of the pool stood a grey heron watching us and everyone else as we went about our business. As we walked through the wooded area, we came across a dragon carved into the wood of a fallen tree, or was it a real dragon in camouflage? I like to think the latter.

Julian stood in pensive thought as he gazed across the pool; Nicole took a great picture of this (see video). Many photos were taken there; one in particular of a robin perched in the trees near where we sat.

From there we went to the Shire Country Walk. Nicole said that it was a five-kilometre walk, which would not surprise me, as I was truly knackered by the time we got to the end of it. As we walked through the country, we could easily see how it would have been an inspiration for Tolkien. Although there was a very busy road not far from where we were, you would not have thought that for a second while on the walk itself, we could have been anywhere in the world, a million miles away from any main road and you would not have seen the difference. The brook that ran alongside the walk was flanked with wild flowers that smelt lovely. I got a citrus aroma as we walked, but as we are all different, we would have caught the scent that was obvious to us individually.

As we walked on through the path, a lady came walking her dogs, a spaniel, and a highland terrier. The terrier had more energy than a 60 watt light bulb as he raced passed us. It was such a delight to see such a happy dog.

Among the flowers were different species of bees and butterflies and as we approached the end of the trail, we were greeted with a rather large fishing pool and umpteen Canadian geese. We took many photos of our trip back in time, and many have already been posted on our social media pages. So please do take a look at our Facebook and Twitter pages.

As we reached the end and said our goodbyes to the geese, we started the painful walk back to Julian’s car where he very kindly dropped us back off in West Bromwich and Oldbury.

Our trip to Mosley Bog, Sarehole Mill, and the Shire Country Walk will not be something that I will forget very soon. I very much enjoyed it, and it will be a pleasure to return and walk the other half of the trail that we did not get time to do all in one day. But that just means there is more to enjoy for another day.

Music:

Celtic Warrior by Damiano Baldoni

Wednesbury Day Trip

By Andrew Oram

On the 12th August 2017, we (Angie, Nicole, Dave, and I) visited four fascinating sites in Wednesbury: Brunswick Park, Wood Green Cemetery, Ye Olde Leathern Bottel, and the St. Bartholomew’s Church.

The day had started with dull, grey clouds looming overhead, the threat of rain trying to cause havoc and panic among the day trippers. I arrived early, almost too early as it was only me standing outside the designated meeting point. However, I was soon to be joined by Nicole, who was surprised by my appearance seeing as I had only joined the group the previous week. After we had walked into the library, we heard the news that Angela had arrived and was waiting for us outside so off we went to start the adventure.

After trawling through the local supermarket to purchase additional treats for the picnic, myself, Nicole and Angela set off on the way to Wednesbury. Surprisingly, the trip didn’t take too long with the bus being our preferred mode of transport. The first bus got us into West Bromwich, and from there we caught another to get us to Wednesbury. When we arrived in Wednesbury, we headed to the library to meet Dave, the fourth member of the group to embark on this outing.

Once outside the library, all four of us headed over to our first location on our list which was Brunswick Park. With the conversation in full flow, we entered the park and immediately walked down the dark path heading towards the main grass area. As we walked towards the long path, there were other dirt tracks and paths leading elsewhere with birds singing above our heads. A silhouette of a bandstand was closing in on us, and we had aimed to have our picnic inside it, but we were disheartened to see that the padlock on the gate was locked.

We eventually found our picnic destination which was covered by an enormous tree that had obviously been there for many years. We all settled down to have a bite to eat and used Angela’s picnic blanket to sit on whilst we used Nicole’s miniature blanket for the food. Whilst having our lunch, we were able to take in the lovely sunshine that the day had eventually brought us and enjoyed watching the squirrels playing and dogs running around chasing their toys.

After the picnic, we carried on our adventure through the park, and I had decided to start noting down what I could see, hear, touch, taste, and smell, which was something that Angela had advised to do to help get the creative juices flowing. As we wandered through the park, my notepad was filling up with ideas, and I couldn’t wait to get to the other places we had planned to visit. The amount of ideas that were coming into my head was already mind blowing, and I had never imagined that this trip would be able to give me some much inspiration.

With the park visit over and done with, we headed over to Wood Green Cemetery which backs onto Brunswick Park. The grass was soft and slightly damp underfoot as we battled our way through the graveyard. As we worked our way around, more and more headstones were sadly in disrepair looking like they were about to topple over before us, but what shocked us more were the dates in which the people were buried there with the majority of the graves being there between the late 1800s and the early 1900s.

As we continued our search around the cemetery, we were shocked to find a couple of headstones relating to people who had been killed whilst serving in the armed forces after the first world war which led us to want to investigate this further. Other interesting finds included a headstone which included the deceased person’s occupation which was quite an intriguing sight on a headstone. We also came across a bone that was resting on top of one of the graves along with a single shoe further up the path which again gave me more inspiration for my upcoming crime novels.

The next stop on our travels was the pub. The pub was called the Ye Olde Leathern Bottel and was a particularly special location for Angela, who had used the pub as a location in one of her novels which made the rest of us equally excited to pay the pub a visit. Once we entered, we were greeted by the landlord who was very friendly, and once the drinks were poured, we took a trip out to the back of the pub to have a good chat whilst we quenched our thirst.

After a short break at the pub, we headed to our last destination which was St. Bartholomew’s Church, which is also known as The Black Church. It is known by this name due to the fact that many bricks have turned black due to the church being situated on the site way before the industrial revolution. The site also interested us as there has been a place of worship on the site since the 12th Century and it is said to be mentioned in the doomsday book.

We started the tour of the church by walking up the steep entrance with headstones surrounding us on all sides. The church has many levels, which we were all disappointed not to be able to explore in more detail. As we walked around the side of the church, you could tell the age of it by just looking at the years on the headstones which go back as far as the mid 17th century. At the back of the church, you could really see the stunning architecture stand out and with the wind howling around us, and the rain a constant threat; it really did feel like the perfect setting for a horror or crime novel.

As the day drew to a close, we took a trip back into the heart of Wednesbury to have a look at some of the old buildings with Angela as our guide. The day had certainly been a success with my mind full of ideas, and I couldn’t wait for the chance to get some of the ideas put onto paper.

Music:

Happy Ending by Scott Holmes

Spooky Theme by Mystified

Peas Corps by Podington Bear

Oldbury Writing Group’s 3rd Birthday

By Angela L. Garratt

I suppose the best place to start this story is at the very beginning. You’ll see why.

I have been writing for as long as I can remember. It all started with writing non-fiction, I did, and I still do, have a massive interest in the natural world. For many years I wrote and studied zoology; it was my passion and, to a certain extent, it still is. I wanted to write fiction, but for the life of me, I just could not get my imagination working. I was convinced that it was my busy lifestyle that was suppressing it, one way, or the other I just could not write a fictitious story.

Then, on the 1st December 2009, my dad called me and told me that he had cancer, lung cancer. I didn’t think about it; I handed my notice into my gaffer at work to look after my dad. I didn’t know how much time he had left, and I had no idea about carers allowance or income support, but I was willing to give up my flat and move in with my dad, thanks to the DWP, I didn’t need to do that.

On the 23rd December 2009, I went to the hospital with him to find that his cancer had moved to his liver. I was distraught, my dad was terminal, and there was nothing they could do to save him, and after a few hard and very emotional weeks, my dad passed away on the 11th February 2010.

My dad’s flat was under Walsall Council, and they only gave us three weeks to clear out his belongings and return the keys. At the time, I could not think of anything other than how cold the council was: they hardly even gave us time to grieve before we were bagging up his clothes to give to the charity shop. His furniture was shared among the family as none of us could bear to see all of his belongings go to the local tip.

On the day the council inspector came out to ensure we were leaving his flat in a reasonable condition, I sat on the counter in the kitchen, and as I stared at the kitchen floor where his dining table used to be, or the marks where the fridge-freezer, washing machine and cooker used to be, I thought, ‘Is this it? Is this all that’s left of our lives when we’re gone, a few marks on the kitchen floor that will be taken up in a matter of days?’ I knew then that I had to leave a little bit of myself behind; I could not allow my life to be worth nothing more than a few temporary marks on a kitchen floor. That thought scared me more than anything did, even more than death itself. So, I got to work on my imagination, and the first words to Innocent Spirits (my novel) were born.

As I started writing, the story just came through my fingers as I wrote. I didn’t plot. I had an idea, a few character names, and I wrote. I told my family that I was writing a book, and they laughed. They thought that it was just another phase, which to be honest with you; I was a bit disappointed in their attitude. I don’t very often do phases, if I say I am going to do something, generally, I do it.

No matter where I looked, I could not find the support I needed. I was trying to class myself as a writer as I had been writing for many years, it was just at this point, I had not yet been published, and I did know how to go about being published. I just wanted to write, and I needed support, but there was none. Not for me anyway.

Eighteen months after writing the first words of my novel, I signed a publishing deal, not a great one as it was published in America by Xlibris, they are not a publisher I would recommend to anyone by the way. A few weeks after that, I received the first copies of my book, and I was in awe to see it in print. I gave a copy to my mom and my sister, both were pleasantly surprised, and they ate their original words which gave me immense satisfaction, but I was still not getting the support I needed as a writer, I didn’t know any other writers.

So, one day, I walked into Wednesbury library and asked if there were any writing groups about. The lady at the counter said no, but she gave me the name and phone number of a fella that was the leader of Poetry Wednesbury (I am not going to share his name because he may not like being in my story). Well, I called him, and it turned out that he did not have a venue for Poetry Wednesbury. So, the whole idea of it was on hold, but he did invite me to a local pub where a poetry and music event was taking place. I went, and I met a whole bunch of writers, some published and some not. From then, Poetry Wednesbury started taking place at Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery. Every month, I went there (and met my fiancé, Niven). After that, poetry and music events were taking place at Wednesbury library, and by now people were getting to know me, my book Innocent Spirits was selling well, and I got to know all the staff at my local libraries. So, I asked Samantha Goode (the then area manager of Wednesbury, Oldbury and West Bromwich libraries) if she wanted a writing group at Oldbury Library. She said yes, and after a month of advertising, the OWG was born on the 22nd August 2014.

Starting the OWG was one of the best things I have ever done. Not only have I met an array of wonderful, talented, and interesting people, but also I have made some very special friends. The support I needed at the beginning of my writing experience I have had, tenfold, and in turn, I have supported other writers. We go on trips together as a group to find new skills, inspiration and have new experiences. These trips have included the VE Day Celebrations at Cannock Chase Museum, Haden Hill House, Birmingham library for the Shakespeare exhibition, The PowWow Festival of Writing for the last three years, the very first Wolverhampton Literature Festival. We have visited graveyards, parks, pubs, churches and that is to name but a few. We have put together charity events and raised over £500 for the British Red Cross and HSI (Humane Society International). And we have published a book together, an anthology of poems and short stories based on different aspects of WW2 called From Sunrise to Sunset. We plan to publish another book next year of poems and short stories based on the different writing assignments I give each week. These assignments are nothing more than imagination prompts. We have been on the radio, and in newspapers.

I have never known a writing group as supportive as ours. I am not only proud of our achievements and believe me; there have been many, from an increase in confidence and self-esteem to publishing via magazines and different anthologies worldwide. I cannot put into one article all of the amazing achievements the writers in this group have made, and I cannot put into words how proud I am of each writer.

Since I started the OWG, one thing I have discovered is that all our members, myself included, has not only developed our writing skills, but we have also developed our confidence in our writing skills. From the very beginning, in 2014 we have members who were afraid to talk and/or read out their own work, now those members are not only reading out their own work to the group, but they are reading it at different events, some have even been on the radio. I have seen first-hand how a good supportive writing group like ours can help writers, and not only with their writing skills but also with their confidence and self-esteem. This is not to mention the people who write for therapy, we have had and still do have members that write for therapy, and it is amazing to see how much they love the stories they write from the assignments I set each week.

There is one member in particular that goes above and beyond her call of duty, Nicole J. Simms. Not only is she a very talented writer, but she is our second in command. She is in charge of our online presence, and if it was not for her, I dare say the OWG would be what it is today, so a very special thank you goes out to Nicole.

Although I may be the leader and the founder of the OWG, it is every member that makes it the special place that it is. It is a place where our imaginations are endless, a place where the real magic truly happens, and I am proud and privileged to be the founder and leader of such a wonderful group of very talented people.

I look back to before my dad died, and I know that his death caused me to take a different track in life, but I know he is with me. My novel, Innocent Spirits, is dedicated to him, and as I said in his dedication, he is and always will be my muse.

This month as a part of the three-year celebrations of the OWG, we will be going to visit the Tolkien’s Trail on Saturday 26th August 2017. We will be taking many photos, and we will share them with you online.

For more information about us and what we do and why we do it, then please keep in touch via our Facebook page, Twitter or this website. But don’t forget, you’re more than welcome to come along to the group meetings and see for yourself, but remember, Rome was not built in a day, so, if you like what you see, keep coming and you will not be disappointed.

Music:

Universal Happy Birthday by Rusu Mihai

Julian Hadley: Why I Joined Oldbury Writing Group

Julian Hadley: Why I Joined Oldbury Writing Group

  1. When did you start writing?
  2. Apart from a few lengthy college assignments, I’d never written anything until 2009. That was quite a turbulent year in one way or another; I was on long-term sick leave and rather than watch TV, I did plenty of reading. As I read, I started having ideas for a story of my own.

  3. What do you write?
  4. For the most part, I write science fantasy, because that’s what I enjoy reading. Recently, though, I’ve tried my hand at poetry and some flash fiction. It all depends on what comes to mind.

  5. How long have you been a member?
  6. I joined OWG towards the end of June 2017

  7. Why did you decide to join the writing group?
  8. I wanted to meet other local writers and give myself a push to get some of my work published.

  9. How did you hear about Oldbury Writing Group?
  10. I called into Oldbury Library and just happened to see a flyer which mentioned the OWG.

  11. Have you joined a writing group before?
  12. No, this is my first time.

  13. What do you enjoy about being a member of the Oldbury Writing Group?
  14. They’re a friendly bunch with real talent.

  15. How have you benefited from being a member of Oldbury Writing group?
  16. The greatest benefit comes from being among like-minded people. It’s a very supportive atmosphere.

  17. Has joining Oldbury Writing Group changed your writing life?
  18. I think much more about what and how I write, and I now consider different genres.

  19. Would you recommend Oldbury Writing Group?
  20. Yes, without hesitation.

Our Visit to the Warstone Lane Cemetery

By Julian Hadley

On Saturday 29th July 2017, The Oldbury Writing Group visited Warstone Lane Cemetery, in the heart of Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.

After a very brief encounter with an automated public convenience (enough said), we made our way over to the cemetery itself. It’s a great little place (if ‘’great’’ is an appropriate term to use here), popular with dog walkers, photographers and others, like ourselves, just out for a walk. Amid the stillness and greenery, it was easy to forget that we were in the very heart of Birmingham.

We took a leisurely stroll along well-trodden paths and through tree lined walkways, seeing many elaborate and intricately crafted head stones; some dating back to the 1800’s, yet still tended and decorated with fresh flowers.

Eventually, we made our way down to the catacombs, situated in the lower portion of the cemetery. The catacombs themselves are arranged in the style of an amphitheatre, on two terraces, built into the sides of a sand quarry that once occupied the site. Alas, these days, all catacombs are sealed, so we can only guess at what may be hidden inside.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, the only apparition we encountered was a slowly deflating helium balloon, drifting (in something akin to a ghostly manner) over the lawn of the lower terrace, guided only by the breeze.

So, no close encounters of the spooky kind on this occasion, perhaps, but certainly worth the visit!

PS: We later learned that ‘The Friends of Key Hill & Warstone Lane Cemetery’ – a group dedicated to the preservation and upkeep of the site – offer people the chance to adopt a grave. If anyone is interested, here is a link to their site: http://www.birminghamconservationtrust.org/2011/07/09/the-friends-of-key-hill-and-warstone-lane-cemeteries/

Music:

Haunting Memories by Ars Sonor