Festival Season – Writers are no Exeption!

The HWS stand spent last weekend at the Winchester Writers’ Festival. The festival, if you’ve ever been, is one exhilarating time. Friday night is spent debating discussions, before thrashing out the open mike. See Damon’s blog spot of April 29 Ends – Bar the Shouting in the Terrace.

Back to back workshops run all day on the Saturday, stopping only for a short lunch. But one-to-one appointments booked with any one of up to thirty agents, editors, writers and publishers continue throughout – there is so much to think about. And it’s all nourishment for a writer’s mind, inspiration stimulating the imagination. Its bliss! The fresh faces that started the day are, by tea-time blushed with unspoken ideas, itching to get onto the page. That’s all before socialising once again at the sumptuous evening dinner.

This year a well-deserved memorial to our beloved Barbara Large, the founder of, not only the Hampshire Writers’ Society, but the Winchester Writers’ Festival too, took place in the on-campus chapel at six o’clock. It was somewhat satisfying to discover what a foodie Barbara actually was. Long live the Luscious Lasagnes!

The Winchester Writers’ festival can be credited with the creation of so many new friends and contacts. A writer’s life need not be so lonely after all. Travel, trips abroad and holidays were one mainstay of the HWS stand, intriguing stories were another and of course, vampires! Oh, and writing

All in all, twenty-five new names have been added to the HWS lists. Welcome all! We so hope to meet you again in September. In the meantime – stay right here!

Snegurochka to Winchester

Dr Judith Heneghan, Creative Writing Senior Lecturer, Programme Leader for the MA Writing for Children and award-winning children’s writer, has returned to the beginning. Her first contemporary fiction for adults, Snegurochka, has been published.

Snegurochka, an English mother’s experiences in newly independent Kiev, is to be published by Salt with a release date of 15 April. Another first for Judith was seeing it for sale on P&G Wells’ stand in the foyer at April’s Hampshire Writers’ Society meeting:’A very special moment for any writer,’ she says.

It was at the Winchester Writers’ Festival that Judith met her editor and publisher. A writer needs to be part of a community, a convergence of like-minded writers, a portal into the world of publishing. Hampshire Writers’ Society is one such community and The Winchester Writers’ festival provides another.

Recently retired as Director of the Winchester Writers’ Festival, Judith intends to concentrate on the activity of actually doing the writing.

Sara Gangai will very capably follow in her footsteps, but before she commenced her talk to us, Sara paid tribute to Barbara Large, founder of both the festival and the Hampshire Writers’ Society. ‘Barbara’s voice, with its feisty nature and inability to say the word “no”,’ Sara said, ‘is a constant in my head, reminding me to be considerate, kind and inclusive to all writers.’ A memorial service for Barbara will be held in the University chapel on the Sparkford Road Campus on the Saturday of the Festival. ‘Barbara’s spirit will be “chuffed” to be there,’ Sara laughed.

The Festival will be held on the weekend beginning 14th June. Enterprising writers will be given the chance to build up a network of writing friends and contacts; ‘People come from all over the world,’ Sara advised us.

Friday sees two panels running along-side each other on both floors of the Stripe.
Let your hair down afterwards at the open mike in the Terrace Lounge right next to the Terrace bar before the knuckle down of Saturday begins.

The day begins with the plenary speaker, award-winning children’s author, Katherine Rundell. Tickets for this event alone can be purchased. The rest of the day is filled with a variety of workshops, tea, cake and an on-tap agony aunt! Seventy or so industry specialists will be in attendance and the opportunity of a fifteen-minute, one-to-one interview with one or two of them will prove invaluable.

Sunday forms a writing workshop, ‘a chance to put into practise everything that you learned on the Saturday,’ Sara tells us.

Tickets are selling fast. The community created by the Festival will be abuzz with writers. It really is a must just to be around so many friendly faces. Please do come along – it will be wonderful to meet you.

Report by Lisa Nightingale

Secret Special Guests

Secret Lives of Chandlers Ford



secretlivesThe Secret Lives of Chandlers Ford is a collection of short stories, some contemporary, some historical and some Sci Fi. All are based around Chandlers Ford.

Karen Stephen, Maggie Farran, Catherine Griffin and Sally Howard, four friends with a passion for creative writing nurtured the idea for Secret Lives of Chandlers Ford in April 2015 whilst studying creative writing on a course run our own Barbara Large.

What, they wondered, are the “secrets” of Chandler’s Ford? What goes on behind the net curtains and leafy hedges? Chandler’s Ford is a quiet, respectable backwater. A suburb, although no one is quite sure whether of Winchester or of Southampton. It has clean streets, decent and kind citizens. Could it have any secrets?

Using Amazon, the authors have self-published the Secret Lives of Chandlers Ford. This means that the technical bits and the uploading of all their work to a software whereby it can be printed on demand had to be done themselves. There are companies that will do this for writers. At a price though. Luckily Catherine is ‘down’ with technology and took it in her stride. The book was published around May time 2016.

All four agree that writing and production of this book has been a most enjoyable Untitledprocess. In fact, were it not for much gossip, cake and tea, it might have been produced a bit quicker. However, this simply adds to its charm.

Book two is due to be finished later this year.

The four will be speaking at the September meeting of the Hampshire Writers’ Society which takes place on Tuesday 13 September in Room 303 St Elphege at 7.00 for 7.30pm

A Celebratory Retirement Tea for Barbara Large MBE FRSA HFUW, Abbey House, Winchester

Report by Celia Livesey

A celebratory retirement tea was held in the elegant Abbey House, official residence for the Mayors of Winchester. The current Mayor, Cllr Ernie Jeffs and his wife, Barbara, the Mayoress, paid tribute to Barbara Large for the tremendous success and international reputation of the annual Winchester Writers’ Conference, especially with this year being the 33rd and also the last under the direction of its founder Barbara Large.


The Mayor said he was keen to recognise Barbara’s contribution to the the cultural and economic life of Winchester by marking the end of her era with an impromptu celebratory tea. He went on to say that Barbara is a well know local figure, full of energy, inspiration and fun. Council officers and a succession of Mayors have enjoyed working with her, and participating in some unforgettable events over the years.

Although Barbara has already had her official retirement ‘send off’ from the University of Winchester many collegues from a range of local cultural organisations, friends, authors and members of the Hampshire Writers’ Society, (of which Barbara is also the founder), had come along to wish her well for the future.

Cllr Robert Humby, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Economic Development gave a short address. He said that just as he was getting to know more about Winchester’s cultural life, the guest of honour, Barbara Large – was taking leave of one of the City’s finest institutions after an incredible thirty-three years at the helm.

04_ BL receiving poem

He said that Barbara has achieved what many of us hope to achieve in our lifetimes… She has not only created something of great value to very many people. She has also left a Conference with a national – even international reputation that will continue long into the future to the benefit of Winchester as a visitor destination, a place for academic study and a cultural centre. And she has left a legacy of countless writers and illustrators to whose first books she has, in some senses, played the midwife.

03_ Mayor & Mayoress & BLShe has maintained her smile, her energy and her passion throughout these thirty-three years. She has been the official face of the Conference, but she has also been a loyal and caring friend to many of the delegates and authors, and also many people here today.

Cllr Humby said they were proud that Barbara is ‘of Winchester’. And it was felt that the end of her time at the Conference needed to be signaled in a suitable way. So poet, performer and playwright Keith Bennett, with whom Barbara has worked on numerous writing competitions for the Conference, had been invited to write a few lines on the occasion of her retirement.

It was particularly apt that, Keith should start by launching into Old English. It was because of Alfred the Great the English language became further developed as a written language.

Hweat, we Gardena in geardagum theod cyninga, thrym getrundon un tha aethelingar ellen fremendon

The translation:

So the Spear Danes in days gone by and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness.

Keith said that he had known Barbara for a number of years and had come to realise that Canadian was a language, which although sounding similar to English, had a completely different meaning in some instances. For example, when he said no to Barbara – it was always changed in translation to yes, I’d love to.

Keith then read aloud the poem he had written for the occasion:

A Celebration of Barbara Large

founder of the unique, highly successful Winchester Writers’ Conference

A moment’s pause in the hectic pace of life;

celebration, trumpets, fanfare, drum-roll

of thunderous proportions, most un-like

Barbara, who has relinquished control.

Large enough to let her baby grow, not

founder like those lesser shows but shine out

of her generosity of spirit and thought,

the honesty, support and without doubt

unique approach she brought to this endeavour;

highly wrought, each year outdid the last,

successful in every way success can come.

Winchester applauds its Canadian treasure.

Writers too, without hesitation raise their glass,

Conference, and Barbara Large MBE, well done.

Copyright © Keith Bennett, September 2013

A framed copy of the poem, together with a letter formally thanking Barbara for her contribution to the cultural life of Winchester over many years was presented.

Cllr Humby invited Barbara to say a few words in response, which started by Barbara thanking the Mayor and Mayoress and Cllr Humby and everyone for the wonderful reception in her honour.

She went on to say that although she had retired from the Winchester Writers’ Conference, she had no intention of slowing down. A new website had already been launched, and she had just recently come back from presenting a poetry festival in a castle in darkest Wales, which featured Carol Ann Duffy, the poet laureate. Barbara assured the Mayor that if he needed anyone to help with cultural matters in Winchester, then she was his girl.06_BL with flowers

Barbara said that Abbey House, and this reception room, held very special memories for her. The Children’s Poetry awards from the Winchester Writers’ Conference have been held here year after year, and to see children all dressed up in their best clothes stepping up to the microphone, eyes shining, was something she would never forget.

Barbara spoke about all the authors who had been discovered at Winchester, and asked Jack Sheffield to recount his story, from arriving at Winchester as a ‘rookie’, to beginning a second career and being told he was marketable. Jack presented Barbara with a copy of his latest book, School’s Out to be released on the 26 September.

The Mayor and Cllr Humby presented Barbara with a bouquet of flowers, and again thanked everyone for coming and helping to make this a very special occasion.