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New Voices: The Crichton Crowd

14/11/2006

I headed to Dumfries yesterday for the second of my two New Voice events with the Scottish Poetry Library. Lilias Fraser from the Library and I took the train to Lockerbie–a very civilised Virgin conveyance–where we were picked by Andrew Forster, who took us to the venue at Crichton Campus via a pretty decent coffee shop in Dumfries.

We arrived at the Crichton just as Helena Nelson was coming out to meet the AA man she’d had to call because she’d locked herself out of her car (with the materials for the workshop still in the car). Not a good start, but the AA van pulled in just behind us, sparing us what could have been a more than nervous wait.

Despite that inauspicious mishap, the workshop went really well. The participants were quite a different bunch to those in Glasgow. The age profile was significantly older for a start, but they also responded much more. That might have had something to do with its being an afternoon event (although the real low point of my energy is often around 3pm) or to do with the fact that most of them belonged to the same writers group. Certainly, the geography of Dumfries and Galloway seems to make for a stronger sense of creative community. Whatever it was that made them livelier than the Mitchell crowd, it made for an thoroughly enjoyable afternoon for us! Plus they almost all bought a pamphlet, in contrast to the two we sold in Glasgow (although to be fair at least one person at the Mitchell already had a copy).

So, that’s the practical side of my New Voice involvement over. Even virtually it is passing, as I relinquish the front page of the SPL website to the other New Voice, Cheryl Follon (whom I’ve yet to meet, not having been able to make it to her reading at the Shore Poets last year). I’ve enjoyed working on the events with Lilias and Helena. It was good too to meet Andrew Forster–who mentioned in dispatches right next to me after StAnza this year–more properly than I have before.

I look forward to doing more of this sort of thing in future. I’ll post something soon about my next readings, which are in the new year.

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