Tag Archives: small press

Awen 10 Celebration


On Thursday night, October 31st – Samhain, Summer’s end, the time of honouring the ancestors, of death and rebirth, the Celtic New Year – a celebration was held in Stroud at Black Book Cafe to mark 10 years of Awen Publications. I founded the small press in Bath a decade ago with the launch of Writing the Land: an anthology of natural words (with proceeds going to the local Friends of the Earth group). Since the start Awen has been a community publishing initiative with an ‘ecobardic’ flavour – this quality was articulated by Anthony Nanson, who discussed the small press’ list. Anthony and I (along with his wife, Kirsty Hartsiotis, and David Metcalfe) were founded members of Fire Springs storytelling company and in our pamphlet ‘An Ecobardic Manifesto’, published by Awen, our creative ethos was explained – offering a ‘new vision for the arts in a time of ecological crisis.’ The performers who contributed to the evening’s showcase all exemplified these ‘core values’* – in their eco-conscious poetry, storytelling and music. I hosted the evening – kicking things off with a brief speech about Awen’s origins. There followed a packed programme: Anthony’s mini-lecture; poems for the late Mary Palmer read by Verona Bass and Jay Ramsay; poems of the late Simon Miles read by his brother (it felt apt to honour these two departed Awen authors on Samhain); next up was eco-poet Helen Moore from Frome; Jehanne and Rob Mehta offered a song and a couple of poems; then Gabriel finished the first half with her perfectly crafted poems.

The host and his lovely 'assistant' :0)

The host and his lovely ‘assistant’ :0)

After a short break we had a poem read on behalf of Margie McCallum, down in New Zealand (Awen is a small but our authors hail from Europe, North America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). Then Dawn Gorman (host of Words and Ears in Bradford-on-Avon) read, fresh from her book launch in New York; Jay stepped up and performed a small selection of his poetry, including one of his Sinai sequence – aided briefly by Kate on rainstick; then Kirsty (author of Wiltshire and Suffolk Folk Tales from The History Press) offered a lively Japanese folk tale; before we had a sneak preview of work by two poets published by Chrysalis Poetry – a long-term initiative of Jay’s – Kate Firth and Angie Spencer. The evening was rounded off by the dulcet tones of Chantelle, who sang a beautiful version of the ‘Wife of Usher’s Well’.

It was an emotive evening – the summing up of ten years’ of my life, of alot of effort (a team effort, mostly, with various talented editors, typesetters, and designers involved), and a cornucopia of inspiration. Under its aegis so many fabulous events have been held – book launches, showcases, forums, podcasts…

Awen’s future is uncertain – a dearth of funding and exhaustion on my part means it is unlikely to continue. But it is good to honour what has been achieved. Very rarely in life do we get a chance to bring closure to something – to ‘end well’ – and I hope that has been achieved.

I’ve been fighting off a cold all week, and promoting and running the evening took alot of energy – I feel ready to hibernate now, or, as I like to put it ‘smooring the hearth’ – preserving my flame through the dark winter days ahead, so that it can rekindled in the Spring – reborn with fresh inspiration and energy.

Five ‘ecobardic’ principles:     

(1) connecting with one’s own roots in time and place while celebrating the diversity of other cultures and traditions;

(2) daring to discern and critique in order to provide cultural leadership;  

(3) respecting and dynamically engaging with one’s audience as a creative partner; 

(4) cultivating the appreciation of beauty through well-wrought craft;   

(5) re-enchanting nature and existence as filled with significance.  

From An Ecobardic Manifesto, by Fire Springs, published by Awen 2008

Find out more about Awen at www.awenpublications.co.uk


Awen Autumn

Gathering in the Harvest

30th August-1st September

silver apples of the moon...

silver apples of the moon...

It’s been a busy time preparing for the new season/term. It has felt as though I’ve been gathering in the harvest in terms of projects & plans coming to fruition.

But at the same time I’ve been wringing the last few drops of summer as the holidays come to an end. The sizeable lady hasn’t sung yet!

Saturday I held an Awen Summer Gathering around my place. Awen authors and kindred spirits convered in my garden to discuss ideas and plans for the small press. Jay Ramsay talked about his inspiring initiative Angels of Fire, and Peter Please (Away Publications), Skip Palmer (Tuff Talk Press) and David Lassman (Bath Writers Workshop, Jane Austen Centre) shared their experience and expertise. Loads of great ideas were shared – and with such talented people to collaborate with, anything is possible!

Kevan goes the 'Full Darcy' in Prior Park, photo by Crysse Morrison

Kevan goes the 'Full Darcy' in Prior Park, photo by Crysse Morrison

Sunday I performed in a Cascade of Words and Music at Prior Park – an event organised by local Poetry Society co-ordinator Nikki Bennet-Willis, to celebrate its centenary. Featured poets included the ever fabulous Rose Flint and Crysse Morrison, plus storytellers Anthony Nanson and Peter Please. It was a little drizzly and overcast but that didn’t dampen the spirits of the connosieurs of verse gathered – the venue couldn’t be more conducive to romantic musings (the Palladian Bridge was used in the film of Pride and Prejudice; and Henry Fielding lived on the edge of the estate, inspired in part by Ralph Allen in his writing of Tom Jones). I tried out some new poems and the response was very positive. It was nice to have a drink afterwards with Anthony, Svanur and Ola – the latter a wordsmith from Bonn, Germany, but able to converse with my Icelandic friend in his native tongue. Talented polyglots!

Monday I took a day off from it all and went on a blat to Stoney Littleton long barrow and the white horse of Westbury – after it stopped raining – enjoying a ride out on my wheels, a year on from when I first purchased her in Plymouth, thanks to my friends Nigel & Jenny.

awen autumn

Tuesday I set up an exhibition of Awen titles in Bath Central Library (with help from the industrious Mr Lassman), to kick-start Awen Autumn – a whole season of events connected to my small press: book launches, talks, workshops, performances… More than you can shake a spear at! The best thing is to go to the website to check out the brimming diary:www.awenpublications.co.uk

That evening Fire Springs gathered around the Cauldron to record a sampler CD to send to potential venues. No rest for the bardic!

Wednesday, Bath Writers’ Workshop restarted with my session at the New Inn, workshopping poetry, prose fiction and creative non-fiction. We had 8 – regulars and new faces. David and I have co-ordinated a whole programme of creative writing events for the coming months: surgeries, seminars, courses and guest writers. David has prepared a snazzy newsletter, called ‘Follow Your Bliss’ after Joseph Campbell’s famous dictum, and I have built our website: http://www.bathwritersworkshop.co.uk

Tomorrow off to Great Yarmouth to give a talk at a conference on The Sea in Legend and Tradition about my book Lost Islands…before then I’ve prepared another title for publication – The Angel in the Forest, Niamh Clune (published October 16th in Vancouver Island)…Before then have Mary’s posthumous launch on Tuesday (8th Sep) at Waterstones, Bath, with readings from family and friends (proceeds to Dorothy House Hospice) and mine, for the third Windsmith novel, The Well Under the Sea, on a boat, the Pulteney Princess, Sept 22nd – book your space today!

Now, I better get some sleep before the long ride ahead!