Once in a while it actually happens. At the start of 2019 I applied for a grant from a locally-managed creative arts and heritage org., no doubt set up to counter the problem of central funding not coming into the rural areas. Even after years of effort you never feel like a real one, producing your work on zero budget while watching the city-based poets gain from development schemes and newsworthy projects. Not thinking I would have a positive outcome, I applied for a grant and – out of the blue six months later – an award letter arrived! For the first time since I began writing as a serious thing (c.1986) a funding org. is enabling me to reach the next stage. So, I have to acknowledge the good folks at InvestSK based in Grantham; the overall effects will be felt for a very long time indeed. There is plenty of community payback of course – I’ll be providing workshops in libraries, and a set of ‘poetry kits’ has already been distributed around the area. My funder logos are included here because it’s only fair. They took a chance on awarding me, and it won’t be wasted.
I wrote several poem drafts as a result of the above, which is always helpful – nothing like a real-time deadline for kicking you into action. Archives and museums are often good starting places for me, and I spent a day reading through Lincolnshire folksong and plough play texts at Nottingham University. I have some of the downloadable copies, but there’s nothing like seeing them in an original context, along with letters and comments from the people who first collected them. Another grand day out involved going to see the ‘Claribel’ material at Louth Museum – Charlotte Alington Barnard (1830-1869) was a hugely popular Victorian songwriter in the sentimental tradition, and there is a small collection of papers up there in her hometown. Only a couple of songs are available through YouTube (‘Come Back to Erin’ and ‘I Cannot Sing the Old Songs’) but there is a large repertoire, and copies may turn up in Victorian parlour-song anthologies. I’d wanted to write something about her for ages, but she is one of those subjects where I felt it was necessary to engage with the background first instead of relying on imagination.
I’m blogging this at the start of the new school term, so it’s a busy time for all college assistants as we get used to our new charges and work on individual strategies for their learning goals. So I’m thoroughly glad to have reached the end of a novella I was drafting earlier in the year; it’s currently in the ‘resting’ drawer while I gain some perspective on the process. During the winter I’ll do a speedy hack-through of the whole thing onto disk, before beginning the inevitable lengthy revising-up period. I thoroughly enjoyed writing this work, and I managed to crack its individual voice quite early on; so instead of finding the whole thing resistant, I was listening in to what the characters had to say, and following them around as they acted out the plot. I had a specific location in mind too – although the resulting place doesn’t look anything like Great Driffield in East Yorks., it occupies the same point on the map and you can get to the same towns from there. I’m looking forward to the next stage with this one, even though it might join the Grand Pile of Unpublished Typescripts in the cupboard behind me.