Saturday, September 22, 2018


Isn't it always the way when you are writing a book?  Often folk promise to provide photos and information, invariably, the material arrives too late for your publishers' deadline date!  At a book signing recently, this unusual image was sent tome by a very kind former resident living in Heathway, Dagenham. It is an image of the Methodist church which played such a communal part in many of our young lives.  I would have loved to have included it in my book BARKING & DAGENHAM FROM OLD PHOTOGRAPHS - Amberley Publishing Ltd - Stroud.

Everything revolved around this building - Brownies, Guides,  Girls' Life Brigade, and of course, the equivalent for boys. Concerts, parties, recitals and film afternoons showing Flash Gordon and, Sunday church services, of course.  How could such an enormous building with spacious grounds to the rear be destroyed?  Progress, I suppose and profit!

Here we have an artist's impression of when the Central Hall was first built in 1925 and which is included in my book, alongside a few hundred other photographs of many places in this area.

Many thanks to those former residents who have sent such lovely emails which, in themselves have brought back such poignant memories.

Currently working on a new project linked to Brentwood in Essex. Have some wonderful images already, but who knows what's out there! 

If interested, do make contact (in good time please) 

Thursday, September 20, 2018


Lady Howard and Jane Corry both great novelists
Great lunch at National Liberal Club today with lots of friends and some new faces including, Andrew Lewer MP and our very own SWWJ member Jane Corry. Each took the rostrum and both were  inspirational in their different ways. Jane told us about her life and times  particularly following the publication of three best selling novels, the latest being  The Dead Ex which she signed today for many of our friends attending this special afternoon. 


On the evening of 11 October 2018 at the Stripe Theatre at the University of Winchester, the English Project will present its Annual English Language Day Lecture. Doors open at 17.45.  The lecture begins at 18.15.
‘Women and the English Language: A Conversation with Susie Dent’
A conversation with Susie Dent, one of England’s greatest lexicographers, will explore the way in which women use the English Language and in which the English language uses women. Questions will be put to Susie by the English Project and the Audience. Come armed with questions, but also send us questions in advance by return of this message.
In 1918, the British granted votes for the first time to women. In 2018, the Centennial year of that event, the English Project has been reflecting on women and the English language.
Susie Dent is a leading English-language lexicographer, best known as the resident dictionary expert and adjudicator on Channel 4’s long-running game show Countdown. She has written fourteen books on the English language, on subjects as varied as language change, dialect, word origins, and tribal conversation.. Susie is also an experienced broadcaster and has presented and appeared on many radio and television programmes, including Americanize for Radio 4, which examined the history of British antipathy towards US English. Her special interest is etymology, and the secret lives hidden behind the most ordinary of words. 
English Language Day. On 13 October 1362, a Westminster Parliament was convened that approved a Statute of Pleading that permitted the use of the English language in Parliament on the grounds that French was ‘much unknown’ in England. The Normans, Angevins and Plantagenets had up to that time ruled England in French. Then English was a forbidden and a despised language, but 13 October 1362 saw English on its way to becoming the twenty-first century’s Global Language. For more on this and much else related, read the English Project’s History of the English Language in 100 Places by Bill Lucas and Christopher Mulvey. See: 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


Big day tomorrow when members of SWWJ, friends and guests will be meeting our guest speakers, MP Andrew Lewer MBE and SWWJ colleague, Jane Corry at our Autumn Lunch in London. Jane's work has been hitting the headlines over the last few years and she is now a Sunday Times best-selling author.  Jane has been writing short stories for national journals for many years.   
Recently, Jane's son, Giles Bidder visited our local radio studio in Brentwood Phoenix 98fm  to talk about his own successful career in journalism and music, and was able to give us the lowdown on his Mum's latest success. 
Review of her latest novel below.
As a keen gardener, I was delighted with the opening of this third novel from Sunday Times’ Best Selling author (and SWWJ colleague) Jane Corry. Essential oils, herbs and wild flowers are the tools of protagonist Vicki’s healing aromatherapy business based in Penzance, and one that has given this psychologically- damaged woman a degree of balance and peace following years of abuse and wretchedness.
Vicki’s tranquillity is disturbed, with the mind-boggling door-step appearance - one cold, February evening - of the police. So begins a nightmare involving her ex-husband David whom she insists she hasn’t seen since their divorce years earlier. He has been reported by Tanya, his new wife, as missing and, although Vicki has no idea of his whereabouts, she realises that she still cares for him and as there is a strong suspicion that he is dead, her mind begins to reflect on their marriage and its harrowing finale.
Then we are introduced to eight-year-old Scarlet whom Mum (Zelda) compliments as her ‘clever grown-up girl" who unwittingly helps Mum pass on her drugs via their well practised ‘swing game’ in the park. Soon, Mum is caught and imprisoned, and young Scarlet enters foster care – a singularly dreadful experience, in her case, that shapes the rest of her life.

We meet other unfortunate female characters as the plot unfolds and the reader learns quite a lot about women’s prisons and those who administer control therein. "Time goes slowly in prison. For inmates, that is." Here we have first-hand experience, as the author spent three hair-raising years, working as ‘Writer-in-Residence’ in a high security men’s prison, which has helped inspire this and Corry’s other psychological thrillers, one of which is destined to be filmed soon for television. I moved through the pages rapidly, not expecting the twists and turns of this gripping novel and I must admit, I was hooked. Now want to read more of Jane Corry’s work.    

Monday, September 17, 2018

Friday, September 14, 2018


Dawn, Anita, Jim, Joan, Patrick and Sylvia at the end of a fascinating day spent with fellow writers, photographers and other creative folk at Galleywood Heritage Centre, not far from Chelmsford, Essex, England.
(Image courtesy of John Cummin)

Tuesday, September 11, 2018


Billericay's famous Mill Meadows Nature Reserve was the place to be on Sunday morning. This special green area is a 90-acre site fairly close to the centre of our small town in Essex. Open to the public all year round, visitors can explore the beautiful meadows and woodlands and spot a range of wildlife.

But Sunday's special open day was rather special with so many friends turning up. It was well organised by the Mill Meadows' team and obviously a huge amount of work was involved with clearing the site in readiness for the collection of interesting stalls.  Loved the honey table with Frances Adam, a local beekeeper and I enjoyed a chat about my last batch of mead. Among the collection of stalls and tables, were the Cater Museum hosted by Katie Wilkie, Trevor Jeffery with samples from his Billericay Brewing Company, particularly his special Zeppelin Beer. There were many other stalls selling the weird and wonderful, colourful and delicious!
Thomas Wood (Ross Holland) and Lord Petre who opened this special occasion
We arrived in time to snap Lord Petre and "Thomas Wood", that historical 'ghastly' miller who welcomed visitors to this countryside event. Here are a few more pictures from a fascinating visit.  

Billericay Archive Member David D'eath and a young visitor
By the way, stories of Mill Meadows are reproduced in one of my early books  BILLERICAY VOICES which outlines some of the town's famous people past and present and their links with this lively place in Essex. We have a few copies left - so do make contact via

Tuesday, September 04, 2018


John Baron MP: 2018 Fun Walk smashes £1,000,000

2,000 walkers and stallholders raise money for numerous charities

The annual Fun Walk took place at Barleylands Farm yesterday (Sunday, 2 September). Around 2,000 walkers and stallholders raised money for numerous charities and good causes. Because we now already know the amount donated into this year’s bonus pot, we know yesterday’s walk will bring the total monies raised since the Fun Walk’s inception in 2002 to over £1,000,000.

The exact monies raised by the charities at yesterday's event will be made known at the Presentation evening on 23 November 2018 (at Anisha Grange, Hallmark Care Homes, Billericay) when bonus pot cheques will be awarded to each charity and good cause taking part. As usual, the bonus pot sponsors and the local press will be invited.

Yesterday, there was a massive BBQ courtesy of 'Team Handsome', music courtesy of Gateway 97.8, a field bordered by stalls and a variety of other refreshment tents. Billericay's Town Crier, Jim Shrubb, helped proceedings along. John also said a few words of thanks before he and Jim led the walk off. As usual, medals were awarded to the walkers at the finish.

John said:

"This year's walk has smashed £1,000,000 in total monies raised since we started the walk in 2002. It has been a tremendous effort by our family of volunteers, to whom we all owe a great debt of gratitude. Many good causes, people less fortunate than ourselves, and animals in need, have all been helped by our efforts – we can be very proud.”

“My thanks for Sunday’s walk go to the 2,000 walkers and stallholders for taking part, to the Marshalls, to the wonderful team at Barleylands for hosting the walk, to the Army cadets for car parking duties, and to our own family of volunteers and Committee members for making it all possible. We now wait to see total monies raised from the charities."

"Our thanks also go to our bonus pot sponsors which this year were Swan Housing, c2c, Abellio Greater Anglia, Tunnelcraft Ltd, Brown & Carroll, Hallmark Care Homes, Leonardo, McDonald’s, RSE Building Services and others.  Their £40,000 will help many good causes and actually pushed us over the £1,000,000 mark before the charities themselves raised any money on the day."

"Finally, our thanks go to Hallmark Care Homes for sponsoring the medals, to the team from Waitrose for volunteering on the day, to Abi’s Catering Supplies Ltd, to Gateway 97.8 for great music, to the Essex Ambulance Service for also manning an ambulance on the day, and to Jim Shrubb, our Town Crier. It was a great team effort all round.”

Friday, August 31, 2018


John Baron:  Fun Walk, Sunday 2nd September
Photoshoot with bonus pot sponsors at 12.45pm
On Sunday (2nd September) the annual Fun Walk will once again be held at Barleylands Farm. The event will start at 12pm with a BBQ, followed by a photo-shoot at 12.45pm to thank the bonus pot sponsors who so far have donated over £40,000. The walk will start at around 1pm.
All press/media welcome.
 Notes to Editors

 The Fun Walk Trust is a registered charity (no. 1151626)
  • Attached is the Fun Walk Factsheet
  • Website:

Sunday, August 26, 2018


I somehow thought that one of the presenters on Classic FM would create a special programme in remembrance of Ralph Vaughan Williams, who died sixty years ago today. Searched and listened intently, but don't think it was mentioned.

New residents to the Clements Park development in Brentwood are often intrigued with their road names linked to England’s greatest composer.   The late Frank Dineen, a local writer, could have explained, for Frank championed the idea when the Council were seeking road names for the new estate. Frank was an expert on the life of his favourite composer who came to Brentwood in 1903 and inspired Frank’s book “The Ingrave Secret", linking Vaughan Williams to Brentwood.

Vaughan Williams, then aged 30, was guest speaker at the Montpelier House School for Girls (later Brentwood County High) then in Queens Road. This was a time of decision for the composer who had been trying to compose music that drew on a specifically English tradition. Along with Cecil Sharp, he was currently collecting folksongs, many of which he felt were in danger of being forgotten.

While a guest at the Ingrave home of the local Rector, Henry Heatley, he met Charles Potiphar, a 74-year-old illiterate farm labourer who sang the old songs of Essex. So entranced with words and melody, particularly the famous Bushes & Briars, he later commented that “he felt it was something he had known all his life”. Vaughan Williams spent ten days cycling around Little Burstead, Ingrave, East Horndon and Billericay collecting songs, some 120 of them which subsequently were published in the Folk Song Journal, and used many of the tunes, not only in choral and orchestral works but also in the 1906 English Hymnal. He visited several counties in Eastern and Southern England, returning to Essex in 1909 when he made some recordings on wax cylinder. He returned many times to Essex in the ensuing years.

In 2003, the Essex Record Office marked the centenary of Vaughan Williams’ Ingrave encounter with a superb exhibition celebrating folksong in Essex and the composer’s role in preserving and handing on “that precious legacy”. On 26th August, music lovers the world over make a poin of remembering our great composer on this memorable day. 


How I love a good Book Festival!  And how grateful is the team of Essex authors who have been invited to meet and talk about their work!  The venue is the Galleywood Heritage Centre, address below, on SATURDAY 8 SEPTEMBER!  Susan Wilson is the superb organiser of this upcoming event, which starts at 10.00 am until 3.30pm.

Why not come and meet us, enjoy refreshments and listen to some of the best of Essex writers, perhaps discovering some of their secrets and information on their latest books and, maybe more importantly, how they set about writing and publishing them.  The timetable for talks is below and I hope to be seated in the front row!  You can book the talks when you arrive on the day.  Refreshments will  be available from the Horseshoe Tearoom. I am very much looking forward to meeting everyone, particularly those lovely folk who have listened to some of our broadcasting about Essex history.

 Galleywood Heritage Centre

      Off Margaretting Road, Galleywood Common, Chelmsford


Saturday, August 18, 2018


Many thanks to our SWWJ members who have emailed us following their wonderful week at the world famous Swanwick Writers' Summer School in Derbyshire. Recent photos will follow!

This was always to be a rather special year!  Well, it was their 70th birthday and organisers were prepared - and received - a tremendous response.  Many of those three hundred delegates return year after year, both to build and renew their writing skills and their friendships with fellow writers. It turned out to be 'standing room only'.   

As always, delegates enjoyed a marvellous programme of speakers, courses, workshops, panels, talks and so much more.  Every year the School's impressive reputation attracts top-level speakers and tutors from a wide range of writing genres. With something different to choose from every day, delegates were able to create their own bespoke programme. Delegates did not need to sign up in advance for courses or workshops - people were able to choose what inspired them  on the day. 

 I am awaiting a line-up snapped of some of this year's  "Swanwickers" but thought you might like to see a picture taken in 1951. This precious archive photograph includes some of our SWWJ Council members who were among the founders of Swanwick in 1949.  More detail in my book THE WOMAN WRITER published by The History Press in 2009. See




Friday, August 17, 2018


Michael Parrish owner of the secret bunker

Great coincidence when listening to this morning's Sadie Nine Show on BBC Essex Radio, based in Chelmsford. As a theme, they chose to visit Michael Parrish's Nuclear Bunker at Kelvedon Hatch near Brentwood Essex.  Michael was super in offering me a warm welcome some years ago when I interviewed him and took pics of the remaining artefacts from the Cold War.

 Then, of course, I wrote several articles about the place and it has pride of place in one of my books written at the time VOICES OF BRENTWOOD - PUBLISHED BY THE HISTORY PRESS.  Now it is a popular tourist attraction and is believed to be haunted.  I must admit it did give me 'the shivers' when I passed through the very ordinary entrance (a modest little bungalow), and then deep down into the bunker, but on the whole, found it a fascinating experience. For full details  and tickets check


The tour is self guided by personal handsets. This is included in admission price. There is an adult and child tour available which both follow the same route. There are several films to watch en-route and a dressing up area where you can try on authentic military uniforms and gas masks! As a rough guide the tour takes about an hour to an hour and a half to complete. However, should you stop to watch all of the included films and take some time out to try on the uniforms then this extends the tour by four hours. Some people find one tour just isn’t enough to take it all in!

Sunday, August 12, 2018


Presenter Michelle Ward
Phoenix 98fm presenter, Michelle Ward's Eat my Brunch show regularly attracts the most interesting guests into the Phoenix 98fm studio based at the Brentwood Centre, Doddinghurst Road.Over the past 6/7 years, she has hosted the best talent in music, stage, film and, of course, the book world. Well, it IS our monthly Book Club programme.   

This week, we were lucky to welcome GILES BIDDER into the studio. 
Giles is a London based journalist with a music column in a national newspaper, whose talents also include his work as a music journalist, singer/songwriter, radio presenter and a blogger (oh, and he started his own band)!

Tuesday, August 07, 2018


Lorraine Pascale at a media gardening exhibition in London
Cookery, preserving food and fermenting fruit for my own style wines, have been a lifelong passion and I've been lucky in seeing the results of my experiments and recipes published in numerous consumer magazines over the last few years.  I've also had connections with some of the most famous cooks and chefs and, as you will know by now, it is important that I record my visits - both on the page and of course I always take my camera. At earlier media events, I've met Raymond Blanc, Jamie Oliver, Madhur Jeffery, one half of the 'hairy biker' cook duo, David Myers, Mary Berry, Nigella Lawson, Ken Hom, Ainsley Harriott, Gary Rhodes, Jane Asher, Lorraine Pascale, Jilly Goolden, among others and watched them do their stuff at the Chelsea Flower Shows in London over 15 years and at food & wine exhibitions. 

Johnnie and Fanny Cradock during the sixties

But years earlier, I enjoyed a connection with Philip Harben (knew his cousin Mary) and good old Fanny Cradock who often gave me a phone-call talking recipes (often when I mistakingly left out an ingredient!

Managed to snap Mary Berry and her daughter at Chelsea

Currently, I am experimenting with 'no oven baking' of sponges, cakes, scones, even bread (for a caravan journal) - yes, it can be achieved and I am working my way through dozens of recipes.  Russian food is fascinating and I am selecting some of their most famous dishes. So... watch this space!!!


Michelle Ward's Eat my Brunch show always attracts the most versatile of musical guests in the studio and once a month she also invites folk who can write.  Tomorrow, Giles Bidder who is certainly talented at both genres, is paying us a visit so do listen around 11.30am. Listen live or later via streaming. (Hope he brings his guitar)!

@swwj   @sylviaakent   #swwj