Thursday, October 31, 2019


Happy to visit Brentwood School today to meet friends old and new at such a great well-organised Business Showcase.  As we all know, the world of business is changing constantly,  and professional gatherings such as today's event brought hundreds of its supporters, partners and visitors bang up to date in what is new in the business world, including finance, graphic design, marketing, education and social media worlds, to mention merely a few.
Two award winning ladies Carmel Jane and Jane Bennett

Many of today's visitors agreed that this well supported event was one of the best they have attended over the past year. Brentwood Borough Council has a continuous and strong track record of supporting not only young start-up entrepreneurs in varying fields, but offering strong links with  well-established professional businesses along the way. Enjoyed meeting members of Brentwood Chamber and Brentwood Business Partnership, again, fun to meet so many familiar faces from old times (bearing in mind I have had literary connections with so many over the last 40 years) and I also worked with firms and schools during that time. 
Jane Bennett and Martyn Stevens
So lovely to bump into the Borough's Mayor Cllr Keith Walker and Council Leader, Cllr Chris Hossack as well as some of the staff I met last week at the super remodelled Town Hall, when I presented them with copies of my latest book starring 50 of Brentwood's notable buildings, ancient and modern. 
Council Leader Cllr Chris Hossack  and Cllr Keith Parker Mayor of Brentwood &  yours truly


Tuesday, October 29, 2019


I enjoyed taking part in a recent writers' gathering where the topic of vox pop  (popular opinion) was the subject.  The topics of general acronyms and "vox pop" were top of the discussion list and were once a favourite item on the late Dennis Rookard's radio shows way back in the '70s and '80s. 
Dennis Rookard in his studio in Brentwood, Essex

The Latin phrase vox populi, meaning "voice of the people" is often requested by newspapers and magazine editors and is a tool used in numerous forms of media to find out about people's public thoughts. Random subjects are asked to give their views on particular topics and their responses are presented to the reader as a reflection of popular opinion.

Preparing for your upcoming interviews for radio or television, the interviewer approaches people "in the street" and asks them simple questions about the topic. These people will often be new to being interviewed and may be a little  nervous. It's therefore important to make them feel comfortable and relaxed. When asking people to take part, don't give them time to worry about how they look or what their friends will think. Use a short, sharp standard question such as "Would you mind answering a couple of quick questions? First, make sure you have their permission to use their answer and try to avoid leading questions.

When taking photos, these are usually framed as close-ups and it's important to think about the interviewee's looking direction, and get an equal number of left-facing and right-facing subjects. These can then be alternated when you start post-production. Some like to get all answers with a particular opinion facing one way, and answers with an opposing opinion facing the other way. Maybe this is a little contrived; it all depends on the moment and the situation. Think ahead and make sure you that an accurate mix of genders and races are represented, appropriate to the population being surveyed.

Saturday, October 26, 2019


Thumbs up for our British Allotment Society and all those interesting gardeners who grow the most amazing produce (especially in Brentwood Essex).  Here we have young Anton whose parents are excellent gardeners working on their plots at Hartswood Allotment in Brentwood.  We were delighted to be invited to the last social gathering of the year and this is where we met Anton's parents and some of their fellow gardeners a few weeks back. Shame that the rain that afternoon was steady and non-stop, but with wellies and tough weather-gear the gardeners were in autumn festive mood - and what a clever bunch of green-fingered folk they are.  The variety of vegetables and fruit were superb: I loved the  Cucurbitaceae family! gourds (some 960 varieties) and, of course, pumpkins. They can be turned into dozens of fabulous dishes, including jams and pickles (my speciality)

 Oh - and they can cook, too, as there was some delicious  food laid out in their community hut on the site.  I certainly picked up some great tips for our own modest little veg patch at home and home the alotmenteers invite us again to check out all the produce they are hoping for next year. 

Thursday, October 24, 2019


Brentwood Borough Council Leader Cllr Chris Hossack &Brentwood Mayor Cllr Keith Parker
With my new book appearing in bookshops in Brentwood, Essex and surrounds, I have enjoyed re-visiting some of the buildings I have known and written about in my history columns for local newspapers and journals over the last 30 years.  I have actually worked in some of the buildings that appear in my new book and have enjoyed meeting up with so many friends. Memories are precious and it has been wonderful to share them with former colleagues. 

Wish I had been given more space by my publisher, Amberley Books, as I had to leave out so many more fabulous historical places, but was able to talk about them on last Friday's afternoon programme on BBC Essex with the super Tony Fisher.  Lots more radio dates coming up in the months before Christmas. Hello to Brentwood expats around the world. 

Saturday, October 19, 2019


Jacqui  yours truly, Peter and Pam
End of a busy week following publication of new book BRENTWOOD IN 50 BUILDINGS (Amberley Publishing). Always a wonderful excuse to meet so many friends - new and old and read pieces from my new book (my 12th).  Yesterday, I met Tony Fisher at BBC Essex and again, an opportunity to talk books, writing, poets and the help that radio gives us after months (and sometimes years) working on our manuscripts. Many thanks also to listeners - shall be meeting some of you at upcoming talks and signings. 
Tony Fisher BBC Essex

Friday, October 11, 2019


Always a great pleasure to visit Phoenix 98fm radio studio in Brentwood, Essex. This morning our favourite presenter Michelle Ward welcomed author Lisa Horner first time to Book Club. Lisa's new book published by Amberley gives readers fascinating glimpses of Basildon as it was in 1949, when it was once regarded as one of the country's 'new towns'.  Celebrations have been going on during Basildon's 70th anniversary and Lisa's newly published book Lost Basildon with many spectacular unseen images, is a great read which will undoubtedly bring back poignant memories to those Essex folk who watched it grow from a small, mainly agricultural area, to its present huge diverse town. 

Originally a collection of villages in Essex, Basildon was developed as a new town after the Second World War in 1949. The last seventy years have seen incredible changes take place. New residents started to move in during the 1950s as the first homes were completed and, alongside the new housing, the town attracted businesses to its industrial parks, many of them household names such as Ford, Gordon’s gin and GEC Marconi, as well as leading the way in new retailing with the largest covered shopping centre in Europe when it was built in the 1980s. Further regeneration of the town is planned, and the town retains traces of its historical past, as well as green, open spaces.

Lost Basildon presents a portrait of this town in Essex, showing not just the buildings, streets and industries that have gone or changed, but also a way of life that is no longer. This fascinating photographic history of lost Basildon will appeal to all those who live in the town or know it well, as well as those who remember it from previous decades.

Sunday, October 06, 2019


BWC Chairman Patrick Forsyth pictured with our special guest Sarah-Jane Page
Members of Brentwood Writers' Circle enjoyed a superb whole day writing workshop yesterday as we all listened (and worked) with our guest speaker SARAH-JANE PAGE, who is based in Woodbridge, Suffolk.  We certainly learnt a lot via Sarah-Jane's 'motivational mojo' - which I'm certain will rub off on members in our upcoming literary competitions both in Brentwood and at London's SWWJ. 

Sandra-Jane's new project THE WRITE START  is about to be launched and writers of all abilities will benefit. Check out her website Retreats and Revision trips in Andalucia, Spain for 2020. Sounds absolutely wonderful!

Creative writing retreat for adults

Thursday, October 03, 2019


I was delighted to be invited to the upcoming Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival this year, which I discovered,  is the longest-running festival of its kind in the world.  Started in 1949 by George Wilkinson, in conjunction with Tewkesbury-based author, John Moore, serving as its first director, its provenance is second to none. 

I would add that my own fabulous annual Essex Book Festival, which takes place throughout the month of March each year, is also a wonderful place to visit, also with a prestigious line-up of famous folk from all genres of contemporary literature and the Arts.
Yours truly and Lord Bragg at Essex Book Festival
But let's study the current Cheltenham bonanza of literature due to start tomorrow. What an amazing historical beginning when that famous actor of the past, Sir Ralph Richardson, born in Cheltenham, launched that first Festival, with Cecil Day-Lewis - another of my favourite  writer/poets - who taught at Cheltenham College - reading a selection of his favourite verse at that very first gathering. 

This 70th Anniversary Festival currently enjoys being sponsored by our national newspaper The  Times and Sunday Times as its 'title' sponsor: therefore making the full name of the Festival "The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival". 

The Festival's current Artistic Director is Sarah Smyth and its Festival Director is Jane Furze. The Festival prides itself in showcasing the biggest names from contemporary culture with award- winning authors, up-and-coming writing talent and controversial debate. The 2013 Literature Festival issued around 135,000 tickets and certainly remains one of the most prestigious literary events in the world. Each year, visitors look forward to the presentation of the Nick Clarke Award for the best broadcast interview, as well welcoming literary prize winners to discuss their most recent work. This Festival interprets the term "literature" widely, featuring writers in every genre, including a good number of journalists and politicians. 

The Festival's current Artistic Director is Sarah Smyth and its Festival Director is Jane Furze. The Festival prides itself in showcasing the biggest names from contemporary culture with award- winning authors, up-and-coming writing talent and controversial debate. The 2013 Literature Festival issued around 135,000 tickets. This Festival remains one of the most prestigious literary events in the world. The Festival also sees the presentation each year of the Nick Clarke Award for best broadcast interview, as well welcoming literary prize winners to discuss their most recent work. The term "literature" is interpreted widely, featuring writers in every genre, including a good number of journalists and politicians.

Described as a 'literary lovers dream', the Festival in past years, has hosted the talents of some of the world's leading novelists, poets, humorists, historians, philosophers, actors and politicians. Previous guests include:

DanTDMSalman RushdieZadie SmithRuth RendellGordon BrownMartin AmisJudi DenchStephen FryMichael PalinIan HislopStephen HawkingRichard HammondArmando IannucciRik MayallRory BremnerJon SnowSimon SchamaMichael BuerkBruce ParrySophie DahlIan McEwanAnne EnrightA. C. GraylingSebastian FaulksNaomi KleinTony BennTerry JonesNick HornbyBob GeldofJeremy PaxmanRupert EverettFrank McCourtBrenda BlethynDoris LessingPatrick StewartToni MorrisonIan RankinKate AdieRichard AttenboroughDavid StarkeyAntony SherMichael ParkinsonTerry JonesTony RobinsonSandi ToksvigDawn FrenchSimon ArmitageClive JamesRuth RendellAlexander McCall SmithBruce ParryRay MearsFrank SkinnerJanet Street-PorterRoger MooreTony CurtisJohn BarrowmanRussell T DaviesDave GormanCharley BoormanAlexei SayleMark Thomas, and Laura UlewiczWhat a lineup!
More news and views from the Festival will follow.