Monday, December 30, 2019

"QUOTE... UNQUOTE" BBC RADIO 4 SHOW

Sir Tim Rice
End of the year and time for reflection. I found it interesting to be asked questions (by another journalist) about my favourite radio shows that I've taken part in over the last decade. As a dedicated radio addict, I spend time - while writing all day in my tiny office - listening to my favourite radio programmes.  These emanate from a wide range of wireless services which include BBC World Service, BBC RADIO 4, BBC ESSEX, LBC and PHOENIX FM, from which our favourite presenter, Michelle Ward, invites yours truly and a whole host of Essex writers, journalists, artists, actors and anyone linked to the written word, into her studio to tell the world about their current projects.  Love it when people I know - connected with our famous Society of Women Writers and Journalists (still celebrating our 125 years' existence) - are broadcasting. So many luminaries pop up (you will find out more at www.swwj.co.uk). 



Currently listening to QUOTE UNQUOTE ON BBC RADIO 4 in which one of our SWWJ Patrons Sir Tim Rice, is currently taking part. He kindly sent me a copy of his autobiography OH, WHAT A CIRCUS! (Hodder & Stoughton) after I had interviewed his mother, Joan (who served on our Council for so many years) when researching material for my book THE WOMAN  WRITER, published by the History Press just ten years ago. 


Over the Christmas weekend, Floella, Lady Benjamin, our famous president, appeared in the New Year Honours List with news that she is now a Dame. A lovely lady and the honour is well-deserved. Congratulations!  

www.sylviakent.blogspot.com

Saturday, December 28, 2019

CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR SWWJ PRESIDENT BARONESS FLOELLA

Great news and congratulations today for our Society of Women Writers' President, Baroness Floella Benjamin, who is now also a dame!

www.swwj.co.uk
www.sylviakent.blogspot.com


Thursday, December 19, 2019

WITH THANKS TO LOVELY PHOTOGRAPHER DEBORAH FROM BILLERICAY

Lovely day signing new book and a few other older titles at WH Smith and Waterstones in Brentwood. This is book twelve and it is good to see that my first offering circa 2001 is still on sale in some Essex (England) book stores around the county and, of course, on Amazon.  

Many thanks to readers and here's wishing everyone a lovely Christmas-tide. 

CHRISTMAS WISHES TO ALL OUR SWWJ MEMBERS

So lovely to hear  from many of our SWWJ members, both in the UK and the USA and  delighted to learn of their successes in the world of writing. Having completed the American NaNoWriMo  challenge fifty thousand words during November (along with so many other  fellow scribes), I am leaving the keyboard for the festive season.  This doesn't stop me signing copies of my new book in Essex (England) bookshops, so off we go again!  



Saturday, December 14, 2019

MEETING THE HISTORY LOVERS OF ESSEX

Brentwood Roman Catholic Cathedral

Now that my latest book BRENTWOOD IN 50 BUILDINGS has been published by AMBERLEY PUBLISHING in Stroud, Gloucestershire, I have been asked to sign copies of my book in Essex bookshops.  It has been fun to meet folk who love a little history and nostalgia and learn about each of those buildings which have their own fascinating story.  Some structures date back to the 13th century, others from the 20th, and I have included a  lot  of timber-framed buildings which still stand after centuries.  Oh, if only walls could speak, what stories they could tell, but I have done second best and researched the families and people who lived and loved within, and I've discovered some pretty interesting tales!  Some of the content will be included in my regular on-line column for www.enjoybrentwoodmore.com with more tales on Phoenix 98fm in the New Year. 
St Thomas' Chapel ruins - built 1221



Pepperell House at 44 High Street
New friend James 



Stone House, Brook Street
An image of Brentwood Assizes before the old Town Hall was built in High Street







Friday, December 06, 2019

ALMOST A FULL HOUSE AT SWWJ CHRISTMAS GATHERING



Our speaker Jackie Malton MSc
Members and guests of the Society of Women Writers & Journalists enjoyed a fabulous day in London's National Liberal Club last week with a delicious tea which ended our 125th Anniversary celebrations, and what a year it has been!  

Our special speaker at the event was Jackie Malton MSc, a former Police Flying Squad member who joined the police force in 1970 and worked her way up until reaching the upper echelons of police work.  Jackie enthralled us with tales of some of her cases from her Metropolitan days and spoke about her work with crime writer Lynda La Plant with whom she liaised in 199l when asked to assist in the authenticity and storytelling for the award-winning series Prime Suspect.  Jackie became the inspiration for Helen Mirren's lead role of DCI Tennison and then a consultant on other TV crime series, such as Cracker, The Bill, Trial and Retribution. During the day, we welcomed new members and, of course, many older friends who wouldn't miss the special Christmas atmosphere of our organisation, especially during our special anniversary year.  

pictures by Carol Cannavan

Sunday, December 01, 2019

TOWNS ARE LIGHTING UP FOR CHRISTMAS

I never miss a  'Lighting Up' occasion in the towns around Billericay, so here we have a few colourful characters  attending last week's festive occasion in the town. Enjoyed meeting some old friends and making a few new ones.





Great to learn that Billericay now has a ladies'  Rotary Club and membership is growing 

30 NOVEMBER AND DELIVERY OF 50,000 WORDS TO AMERICAN BASED NANOWRIMO

"Keep your head in the clouds and your hands on the keyboard."
Marissa Meyer

As a writer used to writing at speed and to difficult deadlines, I accepted the the  National Novel Writing Month Competition challenge of 2019 by attempting to write a fifty thousand word narrative during the month of November - delivery date 12pm Saturday 30th November. I based my opus on my favourite topic - an appreciation of our historical county ESSEX. Managed to finish last night with an hour to spare! (entries had to be sent off by 11.55pm).  Not easy and not my best work, but my speed, brain power and, of course, memory  increased as the month wore on and I managed to beat the clock!!!   PS (that's around a daily keyboard attack of 1,666 words with a few hundred extra - just for luck)





Wednesday, November 27, 2019

NEW BILLERICAY-BASED AUTHOR ON THE BLOCK - BRIAN HUGHES' A LAW UNTO MYSELF

Looking for literary Christmas gift ideas?  Now is the time of year  that many authors are seeing their books on the shelves for the first time - sometimes after years of writing and preparing their manuscripts.  It's always a thrill to see your name on the spine or indeed, the front cover of your precious newly published book. This month so far has been busy for me whilst reading at least three books, including Brian Hughes' A LAW UNTO MYSELF which is a fascinating autobiography described on front cover as 'the candid professional and personal memoirs of a British lawyer'.

Following his father's advice, Brian qualified as a solicitor in 1965, but at the time he was very much involved in organising student travel, particularly to Greece. By the mid-70s, Brian's legal and travel interests had expanded to the point where he had to make a choice: he decided to concentrate on the law and his subsequent career in the legal profession has been unusually wide-ranging. The reader is treated to numerous amusing and interesting aspects of a life well lived.  "Everything in my memoirs is true", says the author about his exploits which are indeed controversial and thought-provoking. Looking for literary Christmas gift ideas?  

This is a fascinating book full of stories of the travel and legal professions, along with a myriad of university tales, British history and a little bit of spooky reminiscence occurring in the towns of Billericay and Billerica,Massachusetts. Price £8.99
ISBN 978-1-84396-545-9 www.ebook.versions.com

FRONT COVER OF MY NEW BOOK - CHECK THE TITLE

Many thanks for choosing my new book - my twelfth title over the past twenty years. Readers wilI learn a little more about this fascinating town just twenty miles from London, but still enjoying a background of still woody countryside.  

Looking forward to outlining some surprising stories that appear in BRENTWOOD IN 50 BUILDINGS and from now on within the super little online magazine  'ENJOY BRENTWOOD MORE' every fortnight  and in print bi-monthly.  

Sunday, November 24, 2019

WRITING ABOUT LOCAL HISTORY - INCREASING READERSHIP

Pepperell House today at  44 High Street

Pepperell House is sited in front of St Thomas' chapel (from an 18th century etching)


PEPPERELL HOUSE - STILL STANDING
      
Essex historians are rightly bemoaning the threat to the county's timber-framed buildings, often now located among modern state-of-the-art high street structures.  Sixty years ago, Brentwood was also in this position, as some of the borough's finest old buildings were destined for destruction. The inevitable took place. As readers can see from this 1884 image of the eastern part of the High Street, there were many fine structures which had been in existence as private homes for several hundred years. They were replaced by Mr Spurgeon's shops Nos 1-23. This view was photographed from the newly constructed St Thomas church tower in 1884. Fortunately, in later years, the Council added some of the older venerable houses to their protected listed building files, saving some, at least, from the bulldozers.
 
Today, a few buildings that were familiar to local residents in Victorian times, still stand. Numbers 12 (Mansion House now Halifax plc)) and 44 (Pepperell House) which Professor Pevsner dated c.1700,  remain. Both must have seen much life - if only walls could talk! We know much about the town from the chronicles of local property owner and philanthropist John Larkin who, with his brother George - owned several buildings in the High Street. We learn about the highs and lows of this then busy farming town. More importantly, in his busy life, John seemed to know everyone who owned or rented property in the towns unusually long and wide thoroughfare. He obviously loved his High Street, describing who was who, shop by shop, and eventually this book was published by Gazette writer, the late Brian Lynch in the 1980s.
 
John Larkin particularly loved 44 High Street, now Grade ll listed, which he described in his memoir Fireside Talks about Brentwood in 1906 writing:
 
“this square, red-brick house which was built on the old thirteenth-century Chapel of St Thomas the Martyr, was, no doubt, built in some way connected with the church, for the house and huge buttresses of the tower were all mixed up together, at the back.”
 
By the turn of the twentieth century, this building had been rented by a succession of estate agencies and surveyors. Other firms used the warren of little offices in the upper part of the building until October 2002 when the owner of the property, Mrs Elsie Pepperell, died. This lady had spent many years of her life in the town with her husband Sam, and loved every aspect of it. She bequeathed the premises for the use of the townsfolk. That was when the building was re-named Pepperell House and appropriately, with such a central position in the High Street, it served the town as Brentwood Tourist Office for years until it became the hub of the Brentwood Community Transport Charity. It is also now the address of the popular Brentwood Chamber (of Commerce). Lets hope it will be standing in centuries to come.



 
More local history tales in my new book BRENTWOOD IN 50 BUILDINGS published by Amberley Books ISBN 978-1-4456-13-5 from Essex bookshops or via Amazon.  
(This feature recently appeared in Archant's Enjoy Brentwood More)

Many thanks to my readers and to all our writing members of Brentwood Writers' Circle. Watch this space!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

A GREAT EVENING AHEAD NEXT SATURDAY AT WOODLANDS SCHOOL, BASILDON

A return visit to Basildon in Essex is ahead of us next Saturday, for, as you can see, our friends in the amazing FORGET NEVER  PROJECT TEAM and their pals have been working hard again, resulting in a super concert next Saturday 7 December when they present CHRIS HOBAN known as The Best Unknown Songwriter in Britain". Their venue is Woodlands School in Basildon SS16 5FT. 

Chris will be performing material from his new album "1918 - THE UNTOLD STORIES OF THE GREAT WAR" with super choirs from Greensted Junior and Vange Primary schools and a rather special appearance by Rayleigh Brass - what a line-up for a fabulous evening. Tickets cost £5.00 via text 07597 360089 or contact Basildontwin@gmail.com

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

WONDERFUL SATURDAY EVENING WITH THE ESSEX POLICE CHOIR RAISING FUNDS FOR LITTLE HAVENS HOSPICE

SINGING FOR GOOD CAUSES!

It's taken some years to have the great Essex Police Choir pay a return visit to Billericay and their Saturday concert was worth waiting for. With their superb musical arrangements organised by our friend Doreen Potter (a great pianist) and her team, this fundraising event was organised especially to raise money for Little Havens Hospice in Essex. Again, what a great evening enjoyed by an enthusiastic audience. Loved the music and the selection of songs and a chance to publicise this wonderful charity for children. They certainly need our helpl.




Doreen Potter maestro

Sunday, November 17, 2019

COME TO THE CIRCUS - MICHELLE WARD INTERVIEWS JOAN ROSAIRE AND KEN PORTER IN BRENTWOOD'S PHOENIX FM BOOK CLUB

Queen of the Rosaire Circus, Joan, author Ken Porter and yours truly 
A super Friday visiting Michelle Ward at Phoenix FM studio in Brentwood with two friends who have just published their book about the circus.  Here we introduce Joan Rosaire and Ken Porter. Their book LADY OF THE CIRCUS is now on sale on Amazon and also directly via Ken Porter, well known local author who has already written half a dozen books set in the Essex countryside and I'm currently enjoying this memoir of Joan's  incredible life in the circus ring, and her earlier appearances at London's famous Palladium theatre, among others with her famous horse, Goldy. We are also treated to tales of her working with the world's top entertainers and meeting so many famous folk, including former King Peter of Yugoslavia, Charlie Chaplin and our own royal family. Many people all over the world remember Joan's work training animals, particularly horses in her Great Burstead home. 


This book costs £12.50 from kenneth.f.porter@gmail.com or collected from the Green Centre, Wat Tyler Country Park, Basildon, SS16 4UH.  


Thursday, November 14, 2019

MEETING MY READERS OF BRENTWOOD IN 50 BUILDINGS - READ ABOUT THEIR FASCINATING STORIES

Mr and Mrs David Sparks
After much research, writing and photographing, I am sure all authors are pleased when their book manuscript reaches their publisher and eventually the shelves of the bookshops.  It's so  lovely to meet some of my readers and contributors to my latest titles and just a few days ago, I was able to meet Annie and David Sparks and sign a book for them.  BRENTWOOD IN 50 BUILDINGS is now to be found in all good bookshops including Waterstones and Foyles - super book stores, plus other smaller outlets. I am happy to sign my books as Christmas gifts - just make contact. 


Tea with Brentwood Mayor  Cllr Keith Parker and Leader of Brentwood Borough Council Cllr Chris Hossack who christened my new book

Monday, November 11, 2019

101st ARMISTICE DAY COMMEMORATION

Sunday, 10th November  saw hundreds of Billericay and Great Burstead residents marking the poignant 101st commemoration of the Great War Armistice Day. Even more people than usual attended the ceremony at which Billericay's Member of Parliament John Baron MP, the Reverend Paul Carr and other church leaders officiated. Wreaths were laid by members of dozens of the town's organisations,civic and community,  schools, armed forces and families and the it was a sad, but such a meaningful morning.
  

Thursday, November 07, 2019

NEW BOOK - LET'S GO TO THE CIRCUS WITH JOAN ROSAIRE

It is with great pleasure that I introduce a great friend Joan Rosaire, whom I've known for such a long time. Another pal, the author Ken Porter has just published this wonderful book about Joan and her amazing life set in the background of the Circus Rosaire. Not only are readers treated to this fascinating life story, set in Billericay and London's famous theatres where she and her famous horse Goldy performed before Her Majesty the Queen and the royal family, but we learn of the origins of the circus, the famous celebrities Joan met during her exciting world of work. We also are treated to images of Joan's family and their link to the then King Peter of Yugoslavia and the many famous people she performed alongside.There are many wonderful photographs to illustrate Ken Porter's work and we will hear more during Book Club on Friday 15th November at Michelle Ward's Book Club on Phoenix 98FM.  Do listen in!