Saturday, August 17, 2019

MY INTRODUCTION TO PARKRUN - BILLERICAY STYLE


Mandy and Gerald Miles - seasoned park run enthusiasts
Although many Billericay folk are used to meeting in Lake Meadows throughout the week for a stroll or a spot of bowls - it was a revelation this morning to meet - not just the dozen or so friends who exercise with me on Thursdays - but literally hundreds of folk of all ages who turn up, so I am told - every Saturday morning at 9am to take part in this great 'Parkrun'.  And it wasn't just some of my neighbours and friends whom I snapped, but some keen exercisers who had travelled from various parts of the UK to join the Billericay enthusiasts. Terribly impressed with this super couple who had driven from Brighton to our town to take part.  More research coming up.   

Friday, August 09, 2019

MY LATEST BOOK APPRECIATING BRENTWOOD'S LOVELY BUILDINGS

Thorndon Hall - built in 1764 and now upmarket apartments
The beautiful Parish church of Great Warley circa 1906 dedicated to St Mary the Virgin
So happy to finish writing my latest book - number twelve. From hundreds of fabulous local buildings, many of them listed, my task was to choose just fifty. This current title BRENTWOOD IN 50 BUILDINGS is due for release next month. It was fascinating to retrace my steps to places where I had lived and worked and it was also great to catch up with some of my colleagues who still live and work in Brentwood and surrounds. So very grateful for their kindness in allowing me to use their own precious family photographs and show me around their offices, homes and some beautiful buildings so that I could take my own photographs.

Loved the way this building lives on in Brentwood (see below)


Captain Charles  Fair outside Brentwood Fire Station

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

SAD TO REPORT THE PASSING OF AIR MARSHAL SIR FREDDIE SOWREY


So very sad to hear of the passing of Air Marshal Sir Freddie Sowrey (1922-2019), a good friend  who visited our town of Billericay three years ago on the occasion of the centenary of the crashing of the L32 Zeppelin. Sir Freddie, son of Royal Flying Corps Second Lieutenant Frederick Sowrey unveiled a commemoration stone in Greens Farm Lane on  24 September 2016.  This is close to the spot where the L32 Zeppelin landed after being shot down by Second Lieutenant Sowrey, when sadly 22 young German airmen lost their lives.The commemoration event brought many people to Billericay, including family members of the German airmen alongside Sir Freddie's own family. I spoke to Sir Freddie just a few weeks ago and read his magnificent book 'The Sowreys' 


Sir Freddie inspecting  our 2393 (Billericay)  Royal Air Force Air Cadets in 2016

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

LET'S FLY TO THE MOON WITH JULES CASHFORD

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary on 20th July of those first Americans landing on the moon, we have seen weeks of newspaper-filled features on this momentous event.  I am still engrossed in reading the superbly researched and written book by Jules Cashford in 2004 and learnt much about that orb in the sky at night. Now I am also reading reports on this amazing piece of history and have just come across the astronaut Buzz Aldrin's articles following the death in 2012 of his Apollo 11 colleague, Neil Armstrong, Aldrin said that he was "deeply saddened by the passing ... I know I am joined by many millions of others from around the world in mourning the passing of a true American hero and the best pilot I ever knew ... I had truly hoped that on July 20th, 2019, Neil, Mike and I would be standing together to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of our moon landing."  

So, upwards and onwards in my study of lunar landings and more reading about the moon and what exciting exploration awaits mankind.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

BARKING & DAGENHAM FROM OLD PHOTOGRAPHS - NEW EDITION

Hope Her Majesty the Queen enjoyed reading my last  book written on the 50th anniversary of the extraordinary changes in the borough's history. A special copy was delivered the morning she visited Barking exactly four years ago today and it was a pleasure to meet so many visitors and expats who made the journey to be there at this special time. It's fascinating to study those early photographs in my book, many of which were taken by the eminent historian the late Norman Gunby, a good friend and colleague. This particular book can be found at Valence House Museum and, of course, through the web.  I am happy to provide signed copies at some of the signing sessions and talks at Dagenham and Barking Libraries planned nearer Christmas. 




Weblog address: www.sylviakent.blogspot.com.
Around that time, I am also hoping to link up with the Dagenham Carnival Court girls of the mid-60s. Some great memories of an extra-special era that kicked off amazing few years.  Tempus fugit!  





Workwise, my new book BRENTWOOD IN 50 BUILDINGS will be available from 1 September 2019 from all good bookshops and my back list (11 titles) with four different publishers, is still obtainable through Amazon and can be ordered through bookshops. 

http://www.swwj.co.uk More details at the Society of Women Writers & Journalists


Monday, July 15, 2019

FABULOUS FELINE NETWORK

Feline Network Patron MP for Torbay Kevin Foster and Debbie Johnson
While in Devon recently, I visited the Feline Network Charity shop at 11-13 Torquay Road, Paignton and was delighted to learn that it is dedicated to the world of cats. You all know how I love these furry creatures, as do so many in the UK and my readers in the US. 

This non-profit rescue organisation was set up by Debbie Johnson helped by her volunteers who all do their best to rescue and care for unwanted, ill-treated, abandoned and stray cats and kittens, ensuring they are neutered, vaccinated, micro-chipped flea/worm treated, prior to finding  them suitable new homes.


Debbie Johnson Founder of Feline Network and volunteer Jenni Elliott in the Feline Network Charity Shop in Torquay Road, Paignton, Devon 


Debbie and her team recently celebrated their ten year anniversary by arranging a great BBQ in Paignton to which one of their patrons,Torbay Member of Parliament Kevin Foster and friends of the charity attended and we all enjoyed a lovely evening listening to live music from Paddy's Whiskers.  

It's good to hear of such charities that help animals in this way, particularly cats.  Debbie and her team - all volunteers - are self-supporting and are able to do so by fundraising, raffles and the donations that help support this charity. 

In return, the Feline Network volunteers make themselves available offering help, information and advice to the public on all aspects of cat care.  A warm welcome awaits new volunteers whether in the shop (their main source of funding), fostering cats prior to re-homing or, indeed, their fund-raising events.  

The next big event is the Torbay Carnival on 31 July where the team will be parading through Paignton.  To find out more, do take a peep at their website:  
http://www.felinenetwork.co.uk


and perhaps make a donation or get involved if you have a little time on your hands. 
Tel: 01803 392550   http://www.felinenetwork.co.uk





Friday, July 05, 2019

SIGNING MORE BOOKS THIS WEEKEND

So good to clear up your office after a long period of research, interviewing, writing  and providing images for the new book (my 12th). Then comes the marketing and more talks and book signings, so off we go again. 


At the same time, you have to think of signing and sending off your earlier books - but all essential in keeping your brain and fingers working well. Glad that readers like their social history. Keeps me in business! 

Now picking up my threads of short story scribing which I started so many years ago. 

Thursday, July 04, 2019

MEET THE NOVELIST VASEEM KHAN IN LONDON

Society of Women Writers and Journalists


The Society of Women Writers and Journalists’ next event is with author Vaseem Khan, who will talk about how he went about getting published, before he takes us on a journey from the days of the Raj to the heart of modern India, a colourful and conflicted environment of vast new wealth and historical problems. Vaseem will explore the background to his Baby Ganesh Detective Agency novels, examining the realities of life in a country being transformed by unprecedented global change. He will also answer the intriguing question: how do you fit an elephant into a crime story?

Vaseem Khan is the author of the bestselling Baby Ganesh Detective Agency series featuring Indian detective Ashwin Chopra and his baby elephant sidekick. The first book in the series, The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra was a Times best seller and a Waterstones Paperback of the Year and is now published in 12 languages.

It takes place on Monday 22 July, at 6-8pm, at the Lounge at Grant Thornton, 30 Finsbury Square, London. Tickets cost £10  Details at http://www.swwj.co.uk


Thursday, June 27, 2019

SIGNING SOME OF MY BACK LIST BOOKS TOMORROW





It's strange how your books lie low for a while and then off we go again with some lovely book signings. Very grateful to some super on-line publicity gurus and their interest in nostalgia which I enjoy researching and writing.
The Dagenham Idol
who stars in my book
he/she is just 4,000 years' old





My new manuscript has been sent to Amberley Publishers in Stroud, so now some spare time to write some short stories and perhaps a little poetry. Writers rarely lay back and laze!

FRANCES CLAMP - JUNE GUEST ON PHOENIX FM'S BOOK CLUB

No stranger to Phoenix FM's Book Club programme, yesterday Frances Clamp was warmly welcomed back into the studio by Presenter, Michelle Ward. Frances, who is President of Brentwood Writers' Circle, Essex's longest established writing organisation, has contributed more than three years' broadcasting live on Phoenix FM through her weekly programmes linked to local history. Brentwood Writers' Circle will celebrate its eightieth birthday in 2021 and plans are already in hand to mark this special occasion. 

A prolific author, Frances has written fourteen books and has had numerous short stories published in national magazines for adults and children. Her writing career followed her retirement as a teacher and Head of Year in Essex comprehensive schools. 











Sunday, June 23, 2019

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

Stock Flower Festival 2019
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. 

The Rev Dan Pearce

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