Writers' groups up and down the country provide their members with valuable and much-needed support and encouragement, but they often do a good deal more than that. I was reminded of this recently when I was invited to talk to a group of writers based in Oldham in the delightful setting of the Saddleworth Museum at Uppermill, a charming place on the edge of the Moors which boasts not one but two second-hand bookshops.
I enjoyed the event a good deal, and the allotted two hours simply sped by. There were plenty of questions, and it is always gratifying to see the enthusiasm of members of groups like this. Before I had my first novel published, I was for quite a few years a member of a writers' group in the Wirral, and I found the regular meetings a source of genuine encouragement. The only reason I left the group was because I left the area.
I was pleased to be given a copy of Shadows, a book which the group put together recently under the name of 'Oldham Writing Cafe', and which is quite a bargain at the price of £4.50. It contains a number of pieces written in various styles by various hands, often drawing on memories of local people about their community. Certainly, it is well worth a read.
The publication of the book was funded by a grant from the local authority – money well spent, in my opinion. Inevitably, there is bound to be concern that similar projects in the future will be denied funding because of cutbacks in public expenditure. One can only hope that decision-makers will recognise that, despite the need for savings, local communities do need to be supported and cohesive and that worthwhile projects of this kind deserve to be backed.
Tomorrow - a guest blog post from Ann Cleeves about another most worthwhile institution.