Sunday, 14 April 2013

Talent in abundance

I have just been thinking how lucky we are, as a society, to be able to call on such a wealth and depth of talent when planning our events.  The speaker programme for September's annual conference in Cardiff is now confirmed as including prolific author and broadcaster Phil Carradice, distinguished editor and anthologist Anne Powell, and one of Wales's top poets, Mike Jenkins.

Last Friday I was fortunate enough to be invited to Phil and Mike's latest book launch, where Phil read from his new children's adventure novel The Wild West Show, and Mike from his new poetry collection Barkin!  It was an evening that emphasized the versatility of these two writers, who are both novelists, poets, and non-fiction writers on a range of subjects. Phil, of course, is a founder member of the SSF and has been a great help to us from a publicity angle, in addition to appearing on the speakers' platform to host the discussion between Dennis Silk and Max Egremont which remains one of our most memorable past events.

Anne Powell is best-known to many of us for her contribution to Cecil Woolf's War Poets series:  Alun Lewis: A Poet of Consequences. Her other works include Deep Cry: First World War Soldier-poets Killed in France and Flanders (1998) and Women in the War Zone: Hospital Service in the First World War (2009).  She is also something of an expert on Edward Wyndham Tennant.  Just to underline her versatility, the title of her talk at our conference in September will be "Gardens of War".

Mike Jenkins, who is a former editor of Poetry Wales, and himself won the Wales Book of the Year title in 1998, taught English at two South Wales comprehensive schools over a period of thirty years, and an extract from one of Mike Jenkins' poems has been used as part of the "public realm regeneration" of Merthyr Tydfil town centre.  Siegfried Sassoon, as you may know, visited Merthyr in 1921, and Mike has found Sassoon's poetry a major inspiration.

Knowing that we have three such illustrious names on our programme has given me a feeling of confidence in the success of this year's conference, and it will be interesting to see whether the composition of the audience differs significantly from our previous conferences, since we have never strayed beyond the borders of England for a major event before.  (Scotland, we haven't forgotten you - plans are afoot.)  This, of course, comes hot on the heels of our recent meeting at The Lamb, where we also welcomed two very distinguished speakers (see my previous post) who did not fall short of expectations.

Some day, I trust, we will be able to afford to pay such speakers the level of appearance fee they have a right to expect.  For now, we rejoice in our ability to draw from a pool of eminent people who are prepared to speak to the Fellowship because of their admiration for the remarkable man in whose honour this organisation was set up.  In life, Siegfried knew all the major literary figures of his day, and many from other fields such as politics, music and the visual arts.  What a legacy he has left us|

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