Tag Archives: Richard Carder

The Golden Room

Contributors to The Golden Room gather on the steps of the Stroud Subscription Rooms, 26 July 2014 by Ray Cranham

Contributors to The Golden Room gather on the steps of the Stroud Subscription Rooms, 26 July 2014 by Ray Cranham

On the 24th June, 1914, two days before the birth of Laurie Lee, a famous literary gathering took place in Gloucestershire. Just outside the village of Dymock, a group of friends met at The Old Nail Shop – the home of Wilfrid Gibson and his wife. Also present were fellow writers Lascelles Abercrombie, Rupert Brooke, Edward Thomas, and Robert Frost. There they shared their poetry, their words, their wit and wisdom and dreams. They went on to inspire each other to write some of the best-loved poems in the English language (‘Adlestrop’, ‘The Road Not Taken’, ‘The Soldier’ among others), many of which first saw light in their self-published anthology, New Numbers. They became known, years later, as The Dymock Poets. That first night was immortalised by Gibson in his poem ‘The Golden Room’ and on Saturday modern writers (many of them from Stroud and Gloucestershire) gathered in the Subscription Rooms to celebrate their legacy.

The day was co-organised by Stroud-based poets Kevan Manwaring and Jay Ramsay, with the former arranging the daytime programme of speakers and presentations, and the latter, the evening showcase of poetry and music.

The day started with a keynote speech from Chair of the Friends of the Dymock Poets, Jeff Cooper, who had come all the way down from his native Lancashire to introduce the Dymocks. As he is the grandson of their founder, Lascelles Abercrombie, this was especially resonant.

Next we had Anglophile American Linda Harte (a long-term resident of Malvern), the author of Once They Lived in Gloucestershire, to give a more detailed survey of the Dymocks, focusing on her fellow compatriot Robert Frost. She brought with her rare editions of Georgian Poetry (the movement-defining anthology of the era) and a complete set of New Numbers.

After the break we had the first of two short films by Scott Anthony and Geoff Poole – evocative interpretations of the works of Edward Thomas in music and image, and a welcome break to overheating left-brains.

There followed an engaging presentation on editor and critic Edward Garnett by Anthony Nanson, related to Garnett through his grandmother Barbara Newstead-Garnett. This once key figure, who mentored major literary figures of the early Twentieth Century (DH Lawrence, Joseph Conrad, HE Bates, WH Hudson, and Edward Thomas among others) was justly brought into the limelight at last. Nanson emphasised not only Garnett’s perspicacity as a critic, but also his conviction that literary worth should be the chief criteria for publication, not commercial potential. This, and his championing of writing with environmental sensibilities, makes him an avant-garde and topical figure.

After lunch we were shown a film about composer and First World War poet, Ivor Gurney, entitled ‘Severn and Somme’, named after his iconic collection. This was made by Bristol-based film-maker Diana Taylor, who showed up just in time to answer questions about her self-funded, and moving portrait of the impact and tragedy of war.

Richard Carder, a composer and poet from Bath (Chair of the English Song and Poetry Society) followed this up with a presentation on Gurney and his music, giving several examples of his pieces – settings of the works of Thomas, himself and others – some of which Carder himself plays on in the recordings selected. Musicality and awareness of musical genres (folk, classical, music hall) run through much of the Dymocks’ work so this was a welcome addition to the day.

The final paper of the day was by Kirsty Hartsiotis, Curator of Decorative arts and Designated Collections at the Wilson Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum. She talked to us about ‘Cotswold Characters’ – focusing on Dymock poet John Drinkwater and his connection with the Arts and Crafts Movement in the Cotswolds in a fascinating and well-illustrated presentation which unearthed many treasures – some of which can be found in the Wilson!

The daytime programme concluded with a plenary discussion about the themes of the day. Creative fellowship is the main thread that underpins not only the Dymock Poets story, but also the very special Stroud scene, which this was largely the fruit of (and which the evening showcase especially illustrated). An environmental sensiblity (what Nanson, Manwaring, Hartsiotis & Metcalfe term ‘ecobardic’) and a strong anti-war sentiment were also perennial themes that the works of the Dymock poets convey to us across the century, making their legacy more relevant than ever.

The evening showcase, hosted gracefully by Jay Ramsay, kicked off with the hypnotic sound of the HangHang Duo – Barry Mason and Lina Lotto playing the Swiss hang drum. There followed an exemplary succession of strong Stroud voices: Adam Horovitz, Marion Fawlk, Steve Morris, Gabriel Millar, Jay himself, followed after the break by Rick Vick, Jehanne Mehta, Karen Eberhardt-Shelton, Polly Howell, and Anna Saunders (from Cheltenham Poetry Festival). Each poet took at least one of the poems of the Dymocks and responded to it in their own way – conducting a conversation across a hundred years. These creative responses critically brought the focus of the event into the present day – for these are (some of) the Gloucestershire writers living and working in the county today, and, each in their way, carry on the work of the Dymock Poets, especially through the spirit of creative fellowship which pervades in this remarkable town.

This long, hot day of poetry and colloquy celebrated a special gathering and in doing so created its own ‘golden room’ – and whenever kindred spirits and creative souls gather together and share their awen, that golden room lives on.


For Kevan Manwaring, co-writer (with Terence James) of the Dymock Poets screenplay, The Road Not Taken, this event was the culmination of several years’ interest. His ‘Dymock fever’ brought him to the county and he hopes that he and his fellow contributors managed to pass it on to the audience by the end of the day!

‘I feel inspired by the ethos and imaginative vision of the night and feel Stroud has a lot to teach Cheltenham. I’ve written two new poems since the event and feel that many of the poems I heard, have now influenced my own aesthetics.’ Anna Saunders, Director, Cheltenham Poetry Festival

King Bladud’s Pageant

King Bladud's Pageant7th June

King Bladud’s Pageant

Yesterday I took part in King Bladud’s Pageant, celebrating the legendary founder of Bath, and the centenary of the original Bath Pageant. I had been asked by the organiser, Richard Carder, to run a series of creative writing workshops in King Edward’s School with Year 7, leading up to the event. I got the kids to write stories based upon the local legend and poems based on flying. On the day I was heavily involved in performing – the event began at noon in The Circus with a simple public ceremony. Medieval minstrels (Sulian Early Wind Quartet) played catching the attention of tourists, the sound of the pipes skirling around the incredible space with its triple echo. I had to read out some writings from its architect, John Wood the Elder, from 1749. Not very exciting! Then we proceeded down to the Abbey Churchyard in a raggle taggle procession, led by the musicians and Rob in his white stag head-dress. We turned some heads as we wended our way down Milsom Street, the main shopping artery. We snaked through the milling shoppers, passed the busy busker-pitch outside the Pump Rooms and rendezvoused with the Natural Theatre Company, who had been hired for the event – dressed up as Queen Elizabeth I, Beau Nash, a Roman senator and King Bladud. They looked impressive between the massive ‘chess pieces’ of bull-man and hare-woman created by artist Sophie Ryder. Here I had to read out the whole of the Elizabethan charter, which bequeathed the waters of Bath to its citizens. Unfortunately, Thermae Bath Spa and the council seem to have ignored this fact. It was hard work, getting my way through the chewy Elizabethan legal English to say the least – projecting as best I could in the noisy public space. I found it tedious to read, so no doubt the audience did to listen – but this was what I had been asked to recite. And it was probably the first time in four hundred years Bath’s charter had been heard in its streets. Afterwards the Natural worked the crowd while I caught my breath, chatting to Sheila who did the poster. As we talked a bird crapped on my leg! A sign from our winged king? Or just bloody annoying. I was given tissues to wipe the worst of it off, but my trousers were ruined and I had to go home to change them. On the way back I was struck again – on the shoulder of my nice summer jacket! I must be very lucky! I had to laugh at this, but by the time I got to the Parade Gardens where the picnic was taking place I wasn’t in a great mood – and I needed to just sit down and eat something, so I missed my slot (to read out some of my own work). Fellow poet, Rose Flint, had read some of her work out and with participants placed ricepaper blessings in the Avon, where the hot springs flow out – to counter-act the curses written on lead-scrolls cast into the sacred spring by Roman bathers. People in the park joined in, including the Mayor – who had come down to judge the banner contest (unfortunately there were only 2!). A little restored I made my way to Chapel Arts Centre, where the main concert was due to start at 3.30pm. Here, Richard had ensembled an impressive woodwind orchestra and choir. After some Purcell, I was called up to recite Canto X, Book II of Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. It went better than I expected after the dreary Wood and Charter – Spenser’s lyric were far more oral, designed to be recited in court, methinks. The jaunty rhythm made it rattle along at a fair clip and the saucy allusions made more than the ladies of court giggle. Next, came the main event: Richard’s impressive cantata, especially composed for the event, ‘Bladud and the Goddess’. He used some of the verses from my Spring Fall, and it was amazing hearing them set to music and sung out by an impressive baritone (William Coleman). Rose had her words recreated in similar fashion by Pamela Rudge, mezo. They made an excellent Bladud and Sulis. Before the finale I was asked to read out some of my Bladud and Sulis colloquy from Spring Fall – I enlisted the help of fellow ‘Bladudian’, Caroline Gay Way (middle name after her ancestor, the poet, John Gay, of ‘The Beggar’s Opera’ fame), who read the voice of Sulis. It was a poignant and pleasant surprise to perform with her – she had directed the original production of Spring Fall which one me the chair in 1998. It hasn’t been performed publicly in its entirety since, although I brought out a tenth anniversary edition last year. Richard’s Cantata ended with a stirring finale – and I thought it was a splendid achievement. ‘Bladud and the Goddess’ deserves to be heard more widely – and performed in Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths. Carder is a local ‘Birtwistle’, in what he has accomplished, our own folkloric cycle.

The second half started with some suitably mythic Purcell (The Gordian Knot and the chacony from King Arthur); followed by poems from Rose Flint and her workshop participants; then a stirring new piece composed by Michael Short, which captured the soul of water; local harper, Jennifer Crook, followed with two divine pieces, Lady Marion (Clannad) and Minerva (one of her own). Some more Purcell finished the proceedings.

Afterwards, the core crew – by this time very thirsty – decamped to the Hobgoblin for a much needed and well deserved pint.

Feeling relaxed and in the festival spirit, we decided to check out the play in the park, The Raven and the Rose, which was a good team effort by community theatre Fullsail, and pleasant to watch, though a little chilly and damp – sitting in the rain! But since the play was about the Deluge, and what happened to Noah’s avian emissaries, perhaps the rain was part of it and at the end, though we weren’t treated to a rainbow, there was a lovely sunset. A fitting end to the ‘solar day’ of King Bladud’s Pageant, but …time to thaw out and – find some food!

Licking the Toad

16th-22nd May

It’s been a busy week of teaching and barding about. I’ve been running creative writing workshops at King Edward’s School (est. 1552!) around the story of King Bladud, for a Bath Fringe 2009 event, King Bladud’s Pageant, a celebration of Bath’s legendary founder to coincide with the Bath Pageant, an enormous event that took place in Sydney Gardens in 1909. Hundreds of local people joined in, as can be seen from the fabulous photos. It’s a shame B&NES Council didn’t get behind this event and encourage all to take part. Richard Carder, the organiser, was originally refused funding but eventually managed to get some from somewhere – and so me and fellow poet Rose Flint got the green light to run our respective workshops. I was chosen to run workshops for Year 7 at Richard’s old school (where he taught music for many years). Rose ran goddess-writing workshops for adults and has written a libretto to be performed on the day. In Parade Gardens on the 7th, between the start at The Circus at noon and the concert in Chapel Arts Centre at 3pm, I’ll be performing extracts from my poem Spring Fall: the story of Sulis and Bladud of Bath, which won me the Bardic Chair of Bath in 1998. It has been republished by awen in a special 10th anniversary edition which includes my prize-winning short story, Taking the Waters – deemed so controversial Le Bath Chronic was too scared to publish it!

Bath Pageant 1909

Bath Pageant 1909

Monday evening I went along to the Bath Storytelling Circle at the Raven – I wasn’t hosting this month, although I collected performers’ names before Anthony arrived, who was on MC duties tonight. The last guy I asked, a classic grumpy old man, wanted to know ‘what was I selling’ – duh, it’s a free event! I was offering him a chance to perform at our volunteer-run evening… Ah, well. Some people have their own ‘scripts’ and no matter what you say, they only hear what they want to hear. I performed an Irish eco-myth, The Yew Tree of the Disputing Sons. There were fine contributions from Anthony, Richard, Marks I & II, Verona and others. Inspirational local author Moyra Caldecott, frustratingly limited in her speech now due to age-related symptoms, asked me to read out a poem for her:


I lie


in the green cocoon

of my garden

spun of sunlight

and leaves…


to be born.

Tuesday I did another session at King Edwards, getting the kids to write poetry on the theme of flight, to link in with the lesser known aspect of the Bladud story. In the evening I blatted over to Chew Valley School to run my creative writing workshop there for adults. A good session, but I wished I could have been at the Bardic Finals in Glastonbury (when the new Bard of Glastonbury was chosen) but there you go. No rest for the self-employed.

Wednesday, I had my last session with members of BEMSCA, (Bath Ethnic Minority Citizens Association) at Fairfield House, where Emperor of Ethiopia and Rastafarian god, Haile Selassie, stayed during his time of exile (1936-1941). I had been asked to help them produce a booklet of the members’ life writing (all first generation, post WW2 immigrants). They all have incredible stories to tell – and many of them were keen to tell me! I was shown lots of photos – some very old and rare – of numerous relatives and achievements. It was touching and I felt privileged to be allowed a window into their world, to be trusted with their treasures, their precious memories. When the book, Life Journeys, is ready there will be a launch at Fairfield House. I hope to be there to celebrate the residents’ achievement, which is in small measure because of the hard work of the staff there and Norton Radstock College’s support (they’ve been running IT sessions there since last Autumn – and now they’re all surfing the web). Quite rightly, it has become an award-winning project.

Wednesday evening I ran the Bath Writers’ Workshop at the New Inn. This has been going well since we moved to our new home in January – the snug bar of a great back street pub – and since I joined forces with the inimitable Mr David Lassman, esq., master self-publicist and screen-writer. Next week, for our monthly Fourth Wednesday session, we have 2 guest writers in conversation: fantasy novelist Jessica Rydill and Chrissy Derbyshire, whose first collection, Mysteries, I published last year thru Awen.

Thursday I turned to my stack of marking from the Open University – for A215 Creative Writing – I had hoped it might have diminished if I ignored it long enough, but no, it was still there…like a squat toad, waiting for me to snog it. I hoped its inky skin would have edifying properties.

Somehow, amidst all this I have been able to make significant inroads into my new novel, the fifth and final Windsmith novel, The Wounded Kingdom – about 9000 words. This is all that keeps me sane! As long as I can write every day I feel as though I am honouring my own creativity.

All I need now is an agent who gets me a five book deal…

Tonight, though, it’s the opening of the Bath International Music Festival with a big free Party in the City – time to dance in the streets!