Sunday, June 23, 2019

ALL SAINTS CHURCH, STOCK HARVARD FLOWER FESTIVAL & 2393 BILLERICAY SQUADRON ATC

Always a pleasure to attend Stock Flower Festival in Essex, especially when the 2393 Billericay Squadron Air Training Cadets are there for the annual service of enrolment and achievement awards. This year was excellent - great day and a chance to catch up with good friends. Cadets were superb and we also welcomed the Squadron's new President Danny Lawrence BEM pictured below and goodbye to the Squadron's padre Rev. Dan Pierce. 

Friday, June 14, 2019

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO RADIO STAR JUNE SPENCER ON HER CENTENARY


Happy one hundredth birthday to the lovely actor June Spencer who has been one of my favourite people who has played 'Peggy Archer' on The Archers on BBC Radio Four since 1950.  June celebrated by doing what she loves best: clocking in for a day’s work on The Archers.
The actress, known to millions of Radio 4 listeners as Peggy Woolley and a stalwart of the show since the pilot episode in 1950, said she hopes to be an inspiration to older people.
“I had no idea I would ever be 100 for a start, let alone still working. But I’m jolly glad I am,” Spencer said. And here I am and still looking forward very much to going back the day after my birthday”.

 I met her once in the studio, along with some of her colleagues  and it was uncanny to see someone I had grown up listening to her familiar voice on radio (or wireless as we knew it) most of my life. HAPPY 100TH BIRTHDAY, June.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

SAD NEWS RE JUSTIN EDINBURGH, BILLERICAY'S SUPER FORMER FOOTBALL MANAGER

Justin Edinburgh and Doug Young 
Huge shock to hear of the passing on June 8 of Basildon-born Justin Edinburgh aged 49.  I am not known for sports-reporting although for a year or so I did write a column covering all forms of sport, including women footballers and javelin sportswomen, but do remember enjoying  a meal and a chance to talk to Justin when he was player/manager of  Billericay Town in 2004. He loved my interest in historical posters and we photographed my selection showing Billericay Town football team and their success way back in 1979 when the team won the F A Challenge Vase.  Justin was a lovely character who, although always busy, gave me time to talk about Billericay town and add to my collection of memories of both Billericay and Brentwood sport. This is such a sad time for Justin's family. He was a lovely Billericay lad. 

Thursday, June 06, 2019

D-DAY RECOLLECTIONS FROM JIMMY REDDELL


Haven't kept up my twice-weekly postings due to very tight deadlines, but couldn't miss telling you about one of our local heroes of the D-Day landings which occurred 75 years ago today.  I interviewed the late Jimmy Reddell several times while he lived at London's Chelsea Hospital and he was always welcoming. My features appeared in local and regional magazines at the time. Throughout his life - he passed away on 16 November 2007 aged 97  - Jimmy remembered what happened during the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944.

Jimmy joined the Essex Regiment in 1932 as a regular soldier and he and his family lived at Warley Barracks.  Jimmy wrote his memoirs and often gave talks to the school children of Brentwood.    In his later years, Jimmy was often the guest speaker to local societies, recollecting his wartime experiences, and in particular outlining the important Operation Overlord which has been headline news over the last week. 

“Brentwood, and in particular, Warley Barracks played a very special part in World War II,” Jimmy explained during one of recording sessions at Brentwood Library. “Soldiers had been posted to Warley for many years, coming from all over England to do their basic training.  It was one of the most famous barracks and this was usually prior to the young soldiers being sent overseas. 

“In the lead up to D-Day, several of our local country parks were seconded as training grounds.  Thorndon, Great Warley and Little Warley, Childerditch and other commons and woods were used.   South Weald was probably the most important place.  In June 1944 the locals all knew that something big was happening as the grounds around the lovely old Weald Hall were chockerblock with soldiers, tanks and army vehicles. This was all secret, of course, but South Weald turned out to be one of the many assembly points for onward journey to the South Coast.”

What happened in that theatre of war has been recorded in history books, but locally,  residents remember the military convoys leaving Warley Barracks, passing up Kings Road to the High Street.  Mr Looker, from his nearby locksmith shop had the keys to the traffic light control unit and at a pre-arranged time, turned all lights to red so that the military vehicles passed through uninterrupted.  A young lad standing at the junction of Westbury and Kings Road watched as endless streams of army vehicles passed by.  A soldier threw something to the boy, shouting ‘catch’.  It turned out to be a ball of water-proofing material – very much like plasticine – unobtainable then, but turned out to be useful around the house. On Friday, June 5, a coachload of veterans, families and staff from the Royal Anglian Regiment left Blenheim House, Warley, to travel to the Normandy Commemorations over last weekend.

How Jimmy Reddell would have appreciated the ceremonies! In 1999 he became the very first  Freeman of the Borough of Brentwood, having served most of his peace-time years on Brentwood Borough Council.  Having lost his wife, he had gone to live at London’s Royal Chelsea Hospital.  He looked wonderful in his wonderful scarlet Chelsea Pensioner’s uniform and managed to return to visit Brentwood, the town he loved best.  And I do miss my old friend!   


Monday, May 27, 2019

ARTWORK REQUIRED FOR BRENTWOOD ART TRAIL (COURTESY OF 'ENJOY BRENTWOOD MORE')

L
Just noticed this little note about the Brentwood Art Trail which is included in the May-June 2019 ENJOY BRENTWOOD MORE! magazine.So many friends are clever artists and I'm hoping they will check out the website:
brentwoodarttrail.co.uk 
Neighbouring Billericay also runs a similar Art Trail and it is a pleasure always to view some of the best artwork in Essex.  Picture credit: Villene Hyam. Editor Hayley Anderson



Wednesday, May 22, 2019

WISHING OUR LOVELY SWWJ MEMBER ELIZABETH LORD A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY

So many of our wonderful SWWJ members are celebrating their  new books published this summer, and one - Elizabeth Lord (we know her as Ivy) is currently celebrating her birthday today as well as a new book. She has been a member of our Society for more than 35 years and in that time has had 30 books published.  We all wish Ivy a very happy 91st birthday. She is our great friend and my model for my first (and only) front page publication for the Writing Magazine below.

STOP PRESS! OUR PRESIDENT STRIKES GOLD AT RHS CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW

Our SWWJ President, Floella Lady Benjamin has many strings to her bow and the latest arrived yesterday at London's RHS celebration of perfect gardening. She is obviously delighted as can be seen with this snap of her receiving her second Gold Medal Award for "Floella's Future". Lovely news passed on to our many members - check us out at www.swwj.co.uk. I'm happy to do a little weeding, Floella, just drop me a line!

Monday, May 20, 2019

ROYAL HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY - VIP DAY AT CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW

Today, first day of the Chelsea Flower Show in London is usually where you once found me on VIP day. After fifteen years regular attendance, I am home in my office writing - of course - but have a deadline for my new book, so will have to resort to television-watching this evening. Always enjoyed the day meeting so many super folk from every walk of life, but then of course I had to write the features for editors and send off the images that evening.  Quite a frantic time, I seem to remember.  Here are a few memories from times past. 


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

READING GROUP DISCUSSIONS - THIS WEEK MARC CHAGALL

Although we are a 'reading group', contents and topics are invariably discussed on Book Club at Phoenix 98fm. Today, a member brought up the topic of the Russian-born artist Marc Chagall's modern stained glass windows. I remembered this unusually striking  artwork which is a wonderful memorial window set in the east window of All Saints church at Tudeley, a tiny village in Kent. Simon Jenkins, the expert on British monuments, in his great book ENGLAND'S THOUSAND BEST CHURCHES, gave this building a fascinating critique. The last time I visited Tudeley (a place I knew well from childhood) was on a dull day, but the windows in the south wall of the nave are wonderful, giving the visitor a treat in which the artist used his blue and yellow shades within his beautiful glass work. The work was commissioned by the parents of a daughter who was drowned in a sailing accident in 1963. When the first window was installed in the church in 1967, it was so admired that more windows  for the entire church were commissioned. Seven arrived in 1974 and the final four in 1985, the year of Chagall's death. 

REVISITING BLETCHLEY PARK AGAIN - COURTESY OF THE BBC

Now and again we hear a really good programme on BBC Radio 4 and this morning's script re the gender balance at Bletchley Park during World War Two - very much a topical theme today - was fascinting.  Reminds me of some of the members of our SWWJ whom I interviewed many years ago - some of whom had served at Bletchley Park during that war and after.  I did use the  topic as a feature for one of my columns at the time, which meant more research - as there's so much out there to learn about this period of history. Here is one of my favourite Bletchley girls - the late Mary Kenyon and I know there were many other such wonderful women within our Society, who still won't say too much about their valuable work carried out so long ago.  Mary was our guest on Book Club courtesy of Phoenix 98fm radio studio, a few years back and she really was one of our most interesting contributors to the programme. 

Copyright Sylvia Kent

Saturday, May 11, 2019

POET CAROL ANN DUFFY STEPS DOWN - NEW POET LAUREATE

Gosh - that decade sped by (check out my blog post for 8 October 2009)! Now we have a new poet laureate. I've met most of the living PLs from my interviewing days plus numerous other published poets at our SWWJ and ALCS events over the last couple of dozen years at various writers' events. However, I know very little about this newly installed poet laureate Simon Armitage, a former prison officer who succeeds Carol Ann Duffy. She has been the only female PL, although one of our very earliest SWWJ members, Alice Meynell was in the running to don the mantle. 


The poet SWWJ member Alice Meynell

I write about her in one of my books THE WOMAN WRITER page 7 details below.  You will discover why, in 1913, she was turned down, yet Alfred Lord Tennyson, Rudyard Kipling and G K Chesterton were all rooting for her. You could say these were 'bloggers of their day'. 

We are proud of the poets in our Society of Women Writers and Journalists, so do take a look at our website - see below.

One of my books which is currently undergoing reprinting and available soon is THE WOMAN WRITER published by The History Press  ISBN 978-0-7524-5159-6. Part of my research covers the most momentous years of our international Society when the wonderful Joyce Grenfell was our president, followed by a succession of famous names such as Clemence Dane, Vera Brittain, Elizabeth Longford, Shirley Williams,Nina Bawden,Victoria Wood and now the lovely Floella, Lady Benjamin. You can order this history via the SWWJ website: www.swwj.co.uk




Thursday, May 09, 2019

AN ANGLO SAXON LYRE AND OTHER ARTEFACTS AWAITING INSPECTION - FABULOUS NEWS SENT TO ME TODAY

Such exciting news today from historic pals in Essex regarding the ancient burial site that seemingly was excavated some years back just up the road in Prittlewell, Southend. Pictures and more information about the content of this amazing discovery are arriving soon. Archaeologists at Essex University are releasing information gradually, but the suggestion is that Christianity may have arrived earlier than previously believed, according to experts at the University of East Anglia. I would love to see that lyre and other artefacts in due course. The burial site was discovered beneath a roadside verge and has now been hailed as the UK's  “equivalent of Tutankhamun’s tomb”. Shall update as I receive information. 


NEW EDITION OF WOMAN WRITER NEWSLETTER NOW ON DISPLAY IN LOCAL LIBRARY


MORE SWWJ PICTURES FROM LONDON'S STATIONERS' HALL

SWWJ Patron Lord Stockton and VP Valerie Dunmore
Warm wishes to readers who were interested in the Society of Women Writers & Journalists' great 125th birthday luncheon held last week at the magnificent Stationers' Hall in  Ave Maria Lane. Hello to my regular viewers from the US and Canada.  What a joy to welcome so many great writers and their guests, in particular our President,  Floella, Lady Benjamin, the Earl of Stockton and other friends and members of this ancient Society who came along to celebrate with us.  The menu was superb and this venue  is one of the most beautiful livery halls in the City of London. 


Always delighted to meet a chef or two pictured here with our friends who just loved the results of his kitchen

Photographer Olivia Gerard with her camera and yours truly

As Archivist to SWWJ, it was interesting for me to meet others who share this title and love history which was all around us. Former members met here over 80 years ago and we have held some amazing events within, hosted by some of the world's most famous writers and entertainers. 
Our guest speaker last week was the well known novelist Kate Mosse and I am now reading her new book  The Burning Chambers which is the Sunday Times No. 1 best seller. More pictures will pop up soon, but currently working on my own manuscript with deadline approaching.  Click on to www.swwj.co.uk for updated information and maybe a chance to join us.   

Saturday, May 04, 2019

SUPER SWWJ DAY SPENT AT STATIONERS' HALL IN THE HEART OF LONDON'S CITY FOR OUR 125TH CELEBRATIONS

Well, we waited and planned and eventually met many of our lovely members and guests on Thursday at the historic Stationers' Hall in the City of London to celebrate our 125th birthday.  Chairman Barbara Field-Holmes and her team worked hard to make the occasion memorable and it was a truly wonderful day. The lunch was superb and Floella, Baroness Benjamin - our President - gave an inspirational introduction. We absolutely loved meeting our guest speaker Kate Mosse who spoke about her life and work as one of the most successful novelists today, later signing her current best-selling book The Burning Chambers.  We now have more members and some new friends - always positive additions to our sometimes solitary lives as writers.  Long live the SWWJ!  Do stop by at www.swwj.co.uk and see what's on offer to professional writers. 
Laura Burkin and Patrick Forsyth from Brentwood Writers' Circle



Monday, April 29, 2019

THE INTERNATIONAL SWWJ GATHERING ON THURSDAY IN LONDON

Not long to go now for our special 125th Anniversary Lunch to be celebrated on Thursday 2 May.  Already packing my case full of historical artefacts to display at the fabulous London Stationers' Hall.  What a history!!! Can you believe that our team met there (in the stock room) while bombs were dropping during World War Two? The Council members carried on as usual - stoic lot in those days. 
Kate Mosse OBE our Guest Speaker on Thursday
I


The newly bombed Stationers' Livery Hall London 1940
I'm looking forward to meeting lots of our new members, as well as old friends, most of whom have served on our Council within living memory. Oh, and hope to get around to meet our special guests, too. 
Big smiles from Kate when I  snapped her at Chelmsford Waterstones six years ago - super lady! 
On Thursday we are so fortunate to be meeting the most fabulous guest speaker: novelist Kate Mosse, OBE, whose books have sold in excess of an incredible seven million copies to date. Wait till you read her new creation The Burning Chambers. Check us out at www.swwj.co.uk   

Saturday, April 27, 2019

OUR LATEST GUEST ON 'BOOK CLUB' PHOENIX 98FM, BRENTWOOD, ESSEX


It was lovely to meet journalist and author, Laura Burkin, yesterday who was invited onto the programme by popular presenter, Michelle Ward at Brentwood's community radio station.  Laura is a hardworking journalist, who is also an award-winning writer, having previously won the BT Regional & South East News Journalist of the Year prize.  Our guest speaker is also a member of the international Society of Women Writers and Journalists, members of which will be celebrating the organisation's 125th birthday in London next week. She is also a committee member of the Brentwood Writers' Circle.

Laura's background is interesting in that she followed her dream of becoming  a professional journalist working for local newspapers in south/east London and West Essex and later writing freelance for national titles on a myriad of topics, before becoming a senior press officer at a Premier League football club. Laura is currently writing her first novel which she outlined during the programme with Michelle and we all look forward to reading her book when it is published. 


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

VISITING KENTWELL HALL - ENVIRONMENTALLY SPLENDID

Planning to visit Kentwell Hall at Long Melford,  Suffolk soon. This is a perfect environmentally friendly place which will be welcoming back by popular demand The Suffolk Regiment Living History Society. The group accurately re-create the British Infantryman around the time of D-Day, 6th June 1944. 
Enjoy seeing how they lived and watch their drills and infantry tactics through displays and battle re-enactments.


* House & Gardens
* Lambs & piglets
* Miniature Shetland ponies
* Rare breed Poitou Donkey
* Take the Story Book Adventure Trail around the grounds
* Have fun at the outdoor games and on the obstacle course
* Enjoy lunch or afternoon tea in the  Stable yard Tearooms
* Children under 5 are free
* Free on-site car parking 
* perfect environment 
  

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

BOOKS BY MY BEDSIDE...

As well as creating material for my regular historical columns, I am also researching and writing my next book linked to the town of Brentwood within the Brentwood Borough Council. This will be called BRENTWOOD - IN 50 BUILDINGS and I have problems in that I have three times that amount of structures that deserve not only a mention, but a full period of intense research. In the meantime, I am also trying to read two books, one written by our guest speaker at next week's SWWJ 125th celebratory lunch, Kate Mosse and by another author, new to me, Ken Follett, so not a moment to lose!  

HOPING TO SEE YOU ON 2 MAY IN LONDON!

Our 125th Anniversary Lunch approaches.
The day of our great celebratory lunch is drawing ever closer. Thursday 2 May at Stationers’ Hall in the heart of London is the magnificent venue for a wonderful meal with waiter service, including a glass or two of wine. There will be a display, detailing some of the Society’s highlights ‘past, present and future’, a raffle with some lovely prizes, goody bags for everyone to take home, and a fantastic guest speaker: novelist Kate Mosse, OBE, whose books have sold in excess of an incredible 7 million copies to date. More details on our SWWJ website www.swwj.co.uk   Details of the above are on the Diary page and, of course, in the The Woman Writer magazineDiary   Latest News

Saturday, April 13, 2019

JOYCE AND NORMAN IN PERFECT HARMONY

I often write about the joy of listening to BBC Radio 4's Saturday Live (Richard Coles and Aasmah Mir); well, this morning's edition was great in that we heard the recording of Joyce Grenfell and Norman Wisdom both singing Narcissus. This always makes me laugh and reminds me what a super president she was in the twenty-one years she headed our SWWJ organisation. In Wikipedia she is described as a great comedian, singer, actress, monologist, scriptwriter and producer. She was also an excellent writer and I have all her books on my bookshelf.
In Joyce's film appearances, she was cast in such roles as the gym mistress Miss Gossage in The Happiest Days of Your Life and Ruby Gates in the St Trinian's films. At that time, it was still unusual for a woman of her  social class to be professionally engaged in show business, but somehow she managed it, as well as turning up at our council meetings and special events. 
Joyce Grenfell with Elvis Presley
 You can learn more about Joyce Grenfell in my book (pictured) and about our Society of Women Writers and Journalists who will be celebrating their 125th birthday on Thursday 2 May, 2019 full details on our website www.swwj.co.uk  

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

BEERY NEWS FROM NEIGHBOURING TOWNS BILLERICAY & BRENTWOOD

Journalists invariably enjoy a mixed working day, out and about interviewing, but in my case, mostly at my office desk. Last week was different in that I received an invitation from Press Officer, Wendy Pike take some of my local history books for signing to the Billericay Brewing Company headed by Trevor Jeffery.  

It was great that Trevor and his friend Roland Kannor MD at Brentwood Brewing Company, joined forces to showcase their latest styles of beer. Trevor's brand new brew is Workhouse IPA and it is a fabulous variety from his long list of varied beer styles You may wonder why he chose this unusual name for his new creation and the reason is that workhouses were both prevalent in Billericay and Brentwood from the mid-Victorian century. 

I feel it is great that two local famous firms have joined forces in this way. Roland said: "We've always enjoyed a friendly relationship with Billericay Brewing Company and we plan to build on this neighbourly relationship, to our mutual benefit. We will continue to operate as separate companies yet we aim to find ways we can work in co-operation with each other."  Roland Kannor, Managing Director of Brentwood Brewing Company said: “It makes perfect sense for breweries like us to work together to utilise spare capacity in brewing, deliveries and staff to cut costs and to reduce our carbon footprints. Billericay Brewing will make use of the extra production capacity that Brentwood Brewery has to offer."

Trevor Jeffery, Director of Billericay Brewing Company said: “It will be a great move for us to brew our best-selling beers at the larger Brentwood Brewery. Shifting this production will also give us more space at Billericay and so we will be able to serve even more people at our popular micro-pub and brewery every weekend.” Cheers.