News from 26

I would love other 26ers to know about the Winchester Poetry Festival which is coming up the weekend of 12-14 September. It is Winchester’s first poetry festival and I would love to tell you that we have 26 poets coming but actually I think it is rather more than that, so 26+ poets.

I am the Festival Manager and we are all busy putting plans together. The majority of the Festival will take place at the Winchester Discovery Centre (Library) but we will also have events in Theatre Royal Winchester and a commemorative reading in the War Cloister at Winchester College. For more information visit our website.

I also work at Jane Austen’s House Museum and we have just appointed our first Poet-in-Residence. Maura Dooley will be with us for six months running workshops and other activities.

Madelaine Smith


A treat, a retreat

When you’re writing a longer work, you need to get into its world, hold its every atom in your mind, feel free to build or destroy. Unless you’re a full-time writer, this kind of immersion is almost impossible in everyday life.

Having done a lot of work with Arvon, both as brand consultant and teacher of creative writing, I’ve seen how powerful a week of clutter-free concentration can be. Ideas are tested and worked until they become resilient. Novels are started, or finished. Memoirs take shape from the chaos that is lived experience.

Arvon does not promise laurels, awards or publishing deals. It offers the right environment to liberate your storytelling without the constraints of external validation. It’s kind of zen. It’s also somewhat Epicurean: simple living with *enough* comforts, good conversation, wholesome food and contact with Nature.

Last year I discovered another kind of retreat that does wonders for the solitary writer with a work in progress. It’s important to be alone, yes. (Leave your lover behind unless s/he too is deep in a project.) But it’s also important to know there’s company if you need it. Avoid the, er, cabin in the woods! At Casal dei Fichi, Le Marche, Italy, the owners invite you to make pizza with a reliably lovely gang, while drinking unlimited good local wine, and otherwise leave you alone to get on with your novel. You can help yourself to freshly-laid chicken eggs, herbs and fruit from the garden, all organic. In September, I picked luscious figs off the trees, warm from the sun. The weather was heavenly. And there’s nothing like an early morning swim – surrounded by Nature – to set you and your stories free.

Elise Valmorbida


What else can you see in a word?

Inspired in part by the recent ’26 WORDS” project, 26er Francis Glibbery and his Creative Ampersand partner, Robert Barkshire, have set out to create an alphabet of wordographs or pictowords based on their response to twenty-six words, randomly chosen by a disinterested collaborator. You can see the results at DESIGNS ON A WORD on their website.


The beach at Vanuatu

‘Duncan Mackay has used the Guardian’s World Cup Diary to launch a daily spoof report from ‘the beach at Vanuatu’ relating footballing events to the life and customs of these Micronesian Islands. With so much racism and anger being expressed by supporters of different countries throughout the competition it has also been an exercise in therapy as much as a voyage of imaginative writing. Happy Panga-Panga.’


The Writing Ramp Club

Want help sticking to your writing goals? Join my new online writing club, the Writing Ramp Club – completely free until the end of July (apart from, fingers crossed, a voluntary donation). Email to join. “Inventive, stimulating and fun” said 26er Olivia Sprinkel of my last online venture.

Justina Hart

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