Obituary - Jay Ramsay

Jay Ramsay, poet (1958-2018).

Jay Ramsay.jpg

By Kevan Manwaring, 31st Dec 2018

Jay Ramsay was a psychotherapist and poet who lived for 25 years of his life in Stroud, Gloucestershire. His chief influence and lasting legacy is within the modern iteration of the Romantic tradition of which he, as a prolific poet, was a significant contributor. He was a singular and influential presence on the alternative poetry scene for nearly forty years. With the rich timbre of his voice and his impassioned opinions he was a heartfelt ambassador for transformative spiritual, political and psychological awareness. Described by Andrew Harvey as ‘one of most authentic visionary poets’, he believed that poetry had a unique, catalytic role in our culture, taking Shelley’s famous notion that poets are ‘the unacknowledged legislators of the world’ and running with it. He corresponded with Robert Bly, Kathleen Raine and Ted Hughes, who were very encouraging of his work. Raine described him as ‘an unlocker of imprisoned souls, and true healer...’

Born John Ramsay Brown in London, in 1958. ‘Jay’ as he redefined himself, experienced a relatively conventional middle-class childhood and education that led to him studying English Literature at Oxford, but became alienated from its privileged, positivist world and the secular humanism that dominated. Rejecting the increasingly prevalent mainstream materialism he forged a counter-cultural path. In the early 1980s he founded the poetry gatherings known as ‘Angels of Fire’ in London, with an influential ‘happening’ at the Purcell Rooms, Southbank Centre. Through its cross art-form festivals, it found immediate success in establishing poetry as an inclusive and community-based activity. Jay contributed to many other festivals and literary events in Britain and abroad. An experienced reader and performer, he had a powerful and lyrical presence, inspiring, uplifting, challenging and entertaining. He often worked with musicians and dancers.

As well as many individual collections including Kingdom of the Edge (New & Selected Poems 1980-1998; Element Books, 1999), some classic Chinese translations Tao Te Ching, I Ching, Kuan Yin; Element, 1993/HarperCollins, 1995), and two acclaimed prose books about alchemy (1997 and 2005), he has also edited five anthologies of New British Poetry: Angels of Fire: an anthology of radical poetry, commissioned by Andrew Motion (Chatto & Windus, 1986), Transformation: the poetry of spiritual consciousness (RGP, 1988), Earth Ascending: an anthology of living poetry, 55 Contemporary British Poets (Stride, 1997), Into the Further Reaches: an anthology of Contemporary British Poetry celebrating the spiritual journey (64 poets: PS Avalon, 2007) and Soul of the Earth: the Awen anthology of eco-spiritual poetry (Awen, 2011). His later collections include Out of Time‚ Poems 1998-2008 (PS Avalon), The Poet in You (O Books) and Places of Truth: journeys into sacred wilderness, Monuments, and Pilgrimage (all from Awen).

Jay edited poetry for Kindred Spirit, Caduceus, and More to Life. In 2005-6 he was poet-in-residence at St James’ Church, Piccadilly in London (where William Blake, one of his guiding spirits, was christened). His sequence Anamnesis: the remembering of soul was displayed in the church, and bill-posted on A3 sheets on the main street outside. In 2010 he completed a residency in the Sinai desert for the Makhad Trust with a sequence of poems and photographs, and collaborated with Martin Palmer’s Alliance of Religions and Conservation. He also performed at Findhorn’s 50th anniversary celebrations, and was a guest tutor for Skyros and Cortijo Romero.

In addition to reviewing widely, Jay created ‘Chrysalis: the poet in you’, a 2-part correspondence course. The course combined poetry with personal development in a unique and transformative way. He also edited a number of individual collections for other poets. At the same time, he ran his own workshops in poetry and performance in the UK, in Ireland, Portugal, Malta, Greece, and the USA. He was a regular tutor at Hawkwood College, the Adult Education College in the Cotswolds, offering workshops in poetry and personal development. He also became a UKCP accredited psychosynthesis therapist and healer, in private practice in Stroud and London.

As a performer, Jay had a distinctive presence on stage, and gave numerous readings both solo and in collaboration, as Phoenix (a poetry group featuring, Jay, Gabriel Bradford Millar, Ella Whiting-Bloomfield‚ and others). With Gloucestershire artist and musician Herewood Gabriel, he got people dancing with his djembe drumming. And with priest, author and television present, Peter Owen-Jones, he found a kindred spirit with whom he often shared the stage at various events. Jay also became good friends with Mike Scott, lead singer of the Waterboys, after interviewing him for Caduceus magazine. Beyond his more famous alliances Jay had a wide network of creative, spiritual friends. He touched and inspired many lives.

In the last five years he began his move to Devon, near Totnes, with his partner Angela. Before he left Stroud he launched what was to be his swansong, The Dangerous Book, a bold poetic reworking of The Bible, with Martin Palmer (published by Fitzrovia Press), with a well-attended reading at St Laurence’s Church, Stroud, supported by fellow poets. He passed away peacefully in Devon on 30 December 2018. 3 months before he died Jay became engaged to Angela and is survived by her and her daughter, Ruby.

Poetry in Motion at Stroud Book Festival 2018

Dalijit Nagra, Wycliffe College, Thurs 8th Nov

Dalijit Nagra, Wycliffe College, Thurs 8th Nov

The Stroud Book Festival returns for a third year on 7th November, and is thrilled to once again be hosting an eclectic line-up of poets and poetry from Gloucestershire and beyond.

The first poet on the bill is multi-award-winning poet and broadcaster, Daljit Nagra, on Thursday 8th Nov at Wycliffe College, one of the festival’s sponsors. Nagra, who was the first ever poet in residence at BBC Radio 4, will be reading from his latest book, British Museum, as well as earlier books, including the Forward Prize-winning Yes We Have Coming to Dover! “He’s a marvellous reader of his work,” says Stroud poet Adam Horovitz, who will be introducing him on the night, “and his questing, questioning, witty and politically pertinent poems are well worth discovering aloud as well as on the page.”

On Friday 9th Nov, the Stroud Book Festival Poetry Night offers up a wonderfully varied and immersive evening of readings, performance and music by a hand-picked bill of acclaimed poets, in two parts. The first part brings together three poets with Gloucestershire connections: Kate Carruthers Thomas, Patrick Mackie and Maria Stadnicka. It closes with acclaimed Welsh poet and singer Paul Henry and will be compered by Adam Horovitz.

“On Saturday 10th November we’ll be celebrating the work of Gloucestershire poet and composer Ivor Gurney with a one-woman show starring writer and actor Jan Carey, to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One,” says the festival’s artistic director Caroline Sanderson. “Author, Composer, Soldier-of-a-sort: The Life and Work of Ivor Gurney is fresh from an acclaimed run at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer and we are delighted to bring the show to Stroud.”

“We round off our poetry programme on Sunday 11th November with a magical family event inspired by nature,” adds Caroline. “We hope that children of all ages will come and meet Frann Preston Gannon, illustrator of the poetry anthology I-am-the-seed-that-grew-the-tree. It’s a glorious new gift anthology of 365 nature poems for children, spanning over 400 years of poetry, and including the work of poets as diverse as William Blake, Roger McGough, Carol Ann Duffy, John Agard, Eleanor Farjeon and William Wordsworth. As well as a chance to enjoy the poetry-telling, Frann will be encouraging children aged 6 and above to create and illustrate their very own nature poem.”

Tickets are available now from the Subscription Rooms, by calling 01453 760900 or by visiting where you can also download the programme for this year's festival.

Stroud Short Stories Anthology 2015-2018


Acclaimed by the Cheltenham Literature Festival to be “possibly the best short story event in the South West”, Stroud Short Stories’ reputation is based on the quality of the stories read at its events. This, the second Stroud Short Stories anthology, covers the period from November 2015 to May 2018. That’s six events and nearly 60 stories written and read by the cream of Gloucestershire’s authors – some professional, some amateur – but all inspired by the challenge of creating an exciting and inspirational evening of short stories.

Stroud Short Stories organiser John Holland has edited an anthology of stories in a diverse range of styles and with an extraordinary array of themes, which will in turn amuse, enchant and challenge the reader.


The Anthology, priced at £10, includes 57 stories by 46 Gloucestershire authors including Rick Vick, Joanna Campbell, Steve Wheeler, Chloe Turner, Simon Piney, Melanie Golding, Andrew Stevenson, Ali Bacon, Mark Graham, Judith Gunn, Emma Kernahan and Kirsty Hartsiotis.

To coincide with the launch of the Anthology at the Ale House tomorrow evening (see poster above!) Good On Paper have obtained an extract from one of the stories featured in the book. Click the button below to read the beginning of Wayland Smith: Warrior of the Milky Way by Mark Graham:

Following the launch the next Stroud Short Stories event takes place on Sunday 11th November at the SVA as part of this year’s Stroud Book Festival. Visit , and pick up next month’s issue of Good On Paper for further info…

Alice Jolly: Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile


The year is 1887. In a decaying country house Mary Ann Sate, an elderly maid servant, nurses Mr Cottrell, a man she knew well in her youth. Mr Cottrell does not have long to live and so asks Mary Ann to write down the story of his brother, Ned, who fought for The People’s Charter and for improved wages in the textile mills of the Stroud Valleys.

But as soon as Mary Ann begins to write, anger takes control of her pen. Which story should she write? Maybe it is time for the truth about the Cottrell brothers to be told. As Mary Ann unravels the knots of the past, she comes to see how her love for the brothers destroyed the life she might have had.

Should she now avenge the dead? Or can the mere power of her faltering pen enable her to reclaim her own truth?

In this astonishing return to fiction, the award-winning Stroud based Alice Jolly gives voice to the silenced women of the past. Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile is out now via Unbound and  in conjunction with the release  we have obtained an exclusive extract which you can read by clicking the button below:

Get a signed copy at the book launch which takes place at Stroud Valley Artspace on Thurs 28th June at 7pm. All welcome but please email to let Alice know you are coming!

Adam Horovitz: The Soil Never Sleeps

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The Soil Never Sleeps - poetry from the pasturelands of Britain - is the latest poetry collection from Adam Horovitz, author of Turning and A Thousand Laurie Lees. This new collection is driven by the need for all of us to gain a clearer understanding of our complex interactions with the natural world. As Philip Gross writes on the back cover, “Personal journal and public statement, lyric observation and prospectus for radical care of the land, this is life-writing in a fundamental sense. Like Ted Hughes’ Moortown or Sean Borodale’s Bee Journal, it is grounded in living the life, and doing the work, day by day, of a place. Unsentimental, many-angled, this is poetry to think with, not to lecture readers but ‘to open them / to the seeds of ideas’ that the earth sorely needs.” 

In conjunction with the release  we have obtained an exclusive extract which you can read by clicking the button below:

The Soil Never Sleeps (ft. illustrations by Jo Sanders) will be released on 6th January via Palewell Press ( and will be launched at the Oxford Real Farming Conference 2018, a gathering of the UK's sustainable and organic food and farming movements. Visit and pick up the latest issue of Good On Paper (out now!) to read an interview with Adam by Jill Mackay.

Elvis McGonagall: Viva Loch Lomond!


Viva Loch Lomond! collects the greatest hits of stand-up poet, comedian and broadcaster Elvis McGonagall in one volume for the first time. Witty, satirical but not afraid to be plain daft, his work takes aim at our septic isle of zero-hourscontracts, food banks and cup-cakery. From Scottish independence to the “war on terror” via turbo-capitalist greed; from Blair and Bush to Dave and Boris via the death of Thatcher; from William Wallace’s taste for cheese to the Queen’s love of gangsta rap VIA BREXIT AND TRUMPERY, Elvis kicks against the injustices of
austerity Britain but still finds time to wax lyrical about the joys of whisky, Greek islands and life in a godforsaken rural idyll. Viva Loch Lomond! lays bare the workings of his befuddled mind as he scribbled these poems from the dubious comfort of his revolting armchair at the Graceland Caravan Park.

In conjunction with the release and the Stroud book launch at the SVA on the 2nd Dec we have obtained an exclusive extract which you can read by clicking the button below:

Viva Loch Lomond! Is out now via Burning Eye Books.  Elvis will be appearing at Mr Fluffypunk’s Penny Gaff together with Byron Vincent and Miserable Malcolm on Sat 2nd Dec at the SVA , John Street. Tickets cost just £8.50 in advance from and £10 on the door. A framed print by Kitty Crossley of verses from the poem ‘9.3% Swing’ will be available to purchase on the night. 

Pick up this month's issue (out now!) to read an interview with Elvis by Lorna Davies...

Tamsin Treverton Jones: Windblown


Published to mark the 30th anniversary of The Great Storm of October 1987, Windblown is in the best tradition of English writing about our relationship with the natural world.

The Great Storm of 1987 is etched firmly into the national memory. Everyone who was there that night remembers how hurricane force winds struck southern Britain without warning, claiming eighteen lives, uprooting more than fifteen million trees and reshaping the landscape for future generations. Thirty years on, the discovery of an old photograph inspires the author to make a journey into that landscape: weaving her own memories and personal experiences with those of fishermen and lighthouse keepers, rough sleepers and refugees, she creates a unique portrait of this extraordinary event and a moving exploration of legacy and loss.

In conjunction with the release we have obtained an exclusive extract which you can read by clicking the button below:


Tamsin Treverton Jones is a Stroud based writer and poet. She studied French at Bristol University and went on to be Head of Press at the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal Court Theatre and Bath Literature Festival. She has produced and presented features for radio, programmed literary events for digital broadcast and published two oral histories for The History Press.

Windblown is published by Hodder and Stoughton and available now in all good book shops and on-line. Pick up this month's issue (out now!) to read an interview with the author by Jill MacKeith.

Tamsin will also be appearing at the Lansdown Hall on Sunday 5th November as part of the Stroud Book Festival. Visit for tickets and further info...

Penny Parkes: Practice Makes Perfect by Nikki Owen

Ah, summer. A time for sunshine (hopefully), for barbeques and cold white wine, for jumping in a pool and, of course, a time for a nice bit of reading. Well, if you’re stuck for a good book this summer, look no further than local, award-winning author Penny Parkes, whose latest novel, Practice Makes Perfect, is out on 29th June. And to celebrate the book, you are cordially invited to its launch at Waterstones, Cirencester on Thursday 29th June at 7p.m for an evening of fizz-filled book fun.

But first, a bit of background. Practice Makes Perfect is Penny’s second novel in her popular Practice series. In 2016, her debut novel, Out of Practice (Simon & Schuster) was not only a best seller, but earlier in 2017 it won Penny the coveted Romantic Novelists’ Association Award for Romantic Comedy of the Year - a prestigious accolade that recognises the very highest standards of romantic fiction and attracts best-selling authors from around the world, including the global success, Jojo Moyes. 

Eager to find out more, I caught up with Penny in the run up to her launch...

Practice Makes Perfect is based in the wonderfully fictional village of Larkford and centers on a GP surgery filled with doctors and their complex (love) lives. I asked Penny what was in store for us in this delicious new summer read. “Well,” Penny says, “following Out of Practice, now with Practice Makes Perfect it’s back to The Practice in Larkford this year for more dishy doctors, dogs and devilment. The team have been nominated as a Model Surgery and, with the new structure in place – 4 partners, 2 couples – it seems like a risky gambit: as we know, shining a spotlight on things does tend to emphasise the flaws!”

So far, so perfect (you’re welcome.) And what about the characters? We love the Larkford team, but who’s new in the second novel? “Well, we also get to meet the wonderful Dr. Alice Walker,” says Penny. “She joins the team, along with her medical detection dog, Coco. Thankfully, as the pressure rises, she’s on the same page as Dr. Holly Graham, when it comes to prioritizing patients over plaudits. And of course, Larkford wouldn’t be the same without resident celebrity Elsie Townsend stirring up some trouble of her own.”

It’s a delight to hear Penny talk about her characters because, to us, they seem so real. So we wondered, what gave Penny the idea for her best selling book series? Says Penny, “Well, I have often joked that, as a family, we are a multi-generational drain on the NHS. It has to be said though, that if you spend any time surrounded by these wonderfully empathetic and caring medical professionals, it’s only logical to start thinking about what these same people might be like when they’re off duty – I certainly appreciate the way they use humour to cope with the stresses of their work. Sneaking behind the scenes seemed like a wonderful way to explore the ups and downs, the lights and darks, of a career in medicine. And of course, it had to be set in the Cotswolds!”

With all this expertise in medicine oozing from her books, you may be surprised to find that Penny herself is not actually a doctor, which just goes to show the extent of Penny’s talent at creating such believable worlds. As for Penny’s own career, it’s been full and varied. Before turning her attention to novel writing, Penny studied International Management in Bath and Germany, before gaining experience with the BBC. She then set up an independent Film Location Agency and spent many happy years organising shoots for film, television and advertising – thereby ensuring that she was never short of travel opportunities, freelance writing projects or entertaining anecdotes. The perfect (if you pardon the pun) ground for writing best selling romantic comedy novels, it seems.

So, has Penny always wanted to write? “I think my love of writing really began with an overwhelming passion for reading,” she says. “I certainly used to use the entire family’s library tickets to keep stocked up over the school holidays as a child. It was blissful escapism, coupled with a nosey curiosity to experience vicariously how other people lived and felt in certain situations. Writing became a natural extension of that, although I talked about writing for a long time before I actually plucked up the courage to commit to a project.”

Of course, every writer leans to others for support, and Penny is no exception. Based between Stroud and Cirencester, Penny is part of a growing group of Gloucestershire writers and authors who are taking on the world. Indeed, Penny counts Sunday Times bestselling author, Stroud-based Katie Fforde as a close personal friend (Fun fact: Penny originally met Katie at a talk run by Katie at the Cheltenham Literary Festival a few years back, and Katie encouraged Penny to submit a manuscript.)

So, when times get tough, where does Penny draw on support to keep on writing? “I find that my fellow writer friends are the best support system in this crazy new world I find myself in,” says Penny. “They really ‘get’ what it’s like to have spent all day working and to have deleted more words than you’ve written, or indeed those few days when The Edit begins when all confidence deserts you. Luckily, we’re a sociable bunch and I consider myself very fortunate to have some truly inspirational writers that I can call on for support, cocktails, or general distraction!”

Indeed, when Penny – who cites Jilly Cooper, Jane Fallon, Katie Fforde and Marian Keyes as her key writing influences - won her prestigious RNA Romantic Novel of the Year Award earlier this year, those writers were very much there for her. So, how did winning such a coveted award make Penny feel? “It was utterly wonderful, although I confess it took me rather by surprise. It was particularly special to be honoured by the RNA, as they have been so instrumental in getting me started on the path to publication.”

And it’s a path that just keeps on rolling out. Right now, fans will be pleased to hear that there are four confirmed books in the Practice series, with Penny currently busy cooking up next year’s offering. After that, Penny says of the next steps, “I guess we’ll have to see whether Dan and Taffy, Holly and Elsie are still capturing the hearts and imaginations of my readers.”

With Penny’s wonderful writing talent and her ability to create warm, engaging characters that make you laugh and cry all the way, something tells us that readers will certainly want more from the wonderful doctors and residents of Larkford very, very soon.

In conjunction with the release we have obtained an exclusive extract! Click the button below to read the first chapter:

Practice Makes Perfect is available to pre-order now from all good booksellers and online retailers. It will be available in the bookshops and supermarkets from 29th June. The book launch takes place at Waterstones, Cirencester at 7p.m. on Thursday 29th July.  Tickets are £3 per person and can be redeemed against book purchase price. To reserve a ticket, contact Waterstones, Cirecenester on 01285 658998.

Nikki Owen is an author and writer. Her third and final book in the Project Trilogy – The Girl Who Ran (Harper Collins), is out now. Follow her on twitter @nikkiwriter and

Stroud Children's Festival: Linda Newbery by Cindy Jefferies

Visiting Stroud's Museum in the Park on the 8th July is Oxfordshire based author Linda Newbery, an award winning writer, teacher and champion of the natural world. She is coming to support the first Stroud Children’s Festival, a weekend of events being held at the museum, to coincide with the Stroud Festival of Nature weekend and will be talking about her magical, green man story; Lob.

Lob, published by Random House, was nominated for five awards and was described by Kevin Crossly-Holland at the Philippa Pearce Lecture as “...imbued with a deep sense of the passage of the seasons. It’s a sort-of love song to imagining, understanding, and therefore breathing and living in the harmony with the natural world, and I wholeheartedly commend it.”  

This family event, which starts at 2pm, is for children aged seven plus, and costs just £2 per child. It will appeal to anyone who is interested in the mysterious, the natural world, and who maybe has a yearn to write. Not only is Linda an award winning author for both adults and children, she has also taught adult writers as well as children, and has even written a book about it - Writing Children’s Fiction: A Writers’ and Artists’ Companion. From her picture book, Posy, to her Radio Two Book Club choice, Missing Rose, she covers all ages and is both accessible and inspirational.

Linda’s first novel was Run with the Hare, a young adult title about a girl who becomes involved with an Animal Rights group. She has been passionate about animal welfare, and a vegetarian, for many years.Set in Stone, a Victorian Gothic novel won the Costa Children’s Book Prize in 2006 and was also published as a novel for adults. She has also written extensively for children, including NevermoreThe Treasure House and The Brockenspectre.

Stroud is full of grown-ups who write. I wonder how many will be suggesting this Saturday afternoon session to their children, so they can accompany them, to pick up some tips themselves? No doubt they will be most welcome!

Visit for further information and for the Stroud Children's Festival programme. 

Cindy Jefferies is a author with twenty four books for children in print in more than a dozen languages. She was the artistic director of the children's part of the first Stroud Book Festival in 2016, is working on the Children's Festival, and enjoys promoting others rather than

The Apple’s Rounded World

Laurie Lee

Laurie Lee

The Apple’s Rounded World, a unique guided tour of the Slad Valley in poetry and music, comes to the garden of Rosebank, the house in which Laurie Lee spent his formative years in Slad, this July. The show marks the 20th anniversary of Laurie’s death, not to mention the centenary of his arrival in the Slad Valley, and is a fundraiser for nearby Sheepscombe Primary School, which has served the children of Slad since the 1970s.

Originally commissioned for Laurie Lee’s centenary in 2014, the Apple's Rounded World is a non-stop lyrical guide to the valley performed by poet Adam Horovitz and fiddle player Becky Dellow. It features poetry and prose from the Slad Valley written by Laurie Lee, Frank Mansell, Horovitz and his poet parents Frances and Michael, and covers nearly every decade from 1914 onwards.

Woven in among the poetry and prose are English folk tunes, many of which would have been played by Laurie Lee. “The tunes selected to complement the poems are from the traditional English dance music repertoire with the majority chosen from an old handwritten manuscript book which belonged to my great-great grandfather, thought to date from the mid-1850s,” says Becky Dellow. “This hand-stitched and well-worn tune book was passed on to me by my grandfather, Charles Hampton in the 1990s. During the late 1920s and early 1930s Charles and Laurie Lee met regularly to play fiddle together and most likely would have played tunes from this book.”

Sheepscombe Primary School are hoping to develop an outdoor area for the children and Hester and Iain Collins, owners of Rosebank, are keen to support them. “The plans include creating a covered woodworking area to be used by the whole school, improved access and an all-weather surface to enable the children to use the planned new equipment all year round,” says Hester. “Their plans can only begin to come to fruition with the help of fundraising support.”

The Apple’s Rounded World takes place at Rosebank, Slad, near Stroud on Saturday July 8th from 2.30 p.m. Please bring blankets and chairs to sit on, and an umbrella if needed! Tickets are available in advance from Eventbrite here and can be picked up from the school for £10, to include a glass of Pimms and nibbles. Places are limited, so advanced booking is advised. Click here for the facebook event page for further info and updates.


The Girl Who Ran by Nikki Owen

Running from the enemy…Dr Maria Martinez has finally escaped The Project facility that has been controlling her since birth. But in going against The Project’s rigid protocol, the powers at the very top of the organisation will go to any length to re-initiate her. Their aim? To bring her back to the tightly-regimented headquarters where their intense training of Maria can be completed. Fleeing to Switzerland in an attempt to outwit her enemy, Maria must never lose sight of potential danger, but soon finds there’s nowhere to run. And as she starts to question whether she can trust even those closest to her, returning to the one place she has fought so hard to leave might be her only option...

In conjunction with the release of Nikki Owen's The Girl Who Ran - the last book in the Project Trilogy - we have obtained an exclusive extract! Click the button below to read the first three chapters...

The Girl Who Ran (published by Harper Collins) is available now from all good book shops and on-line. Visit for further info.

Ballad Tales: An Anthology of British Ballads Retold

A ballad is a song that tells a story and many traditional British ballads contain fascinating stories – tales of love and jealousy, murder and mystery, the supernatural and the historical. This anthology brings together nineteen original retellings in short story form, written by some of the country’s most accomplished storytellers, singers and wordsmiths. Here you will find tales of cross-dressing heroines, lusty pirates, vengeful fairy queens, mobsters and monsters, mermaids and starmen – stories that dance with the form and flavour of these narrative folksongs in daring and delightful ways. Richly illustrated, these enchanting tales will appeal to lovers of folk music, storytelling and rattling yarns.

In conjunction with the forthcoming publication of Ballad Tales we have obtained an extract which you can read below!

Edited by Kevan Manwaring Ballad Tales will be published on the 8th June via the History Press. A free launch event including a lively showcase of storytelling and song from a selection of contributors including Kevan Manwaring, Chantelle Smith, Anthony Nanson, Kirsty Hartsiotis, Nimue Brown, Fiona Eadie, David Metcalfe, Chrissy Derbyshire, Karola Renard, Mark Hassall and Laura Kinnear will take place at the British School (opposite the Star Anise Arts Cafe) on Friday 9th June at 7pm. 

Writers Invited by Kate Montgomery

Debbie Young, Stroud Short Stories @ Cheltenham Literature Festival 2016 (image by Tim Byford)

Debbie Young, Stroud Short Stories @ Cheltenham Literature Festival 2016 (image by Tim Byford)

This April there are more opportunities than ever to put pen to paper and tell the story you’ve had rattling around your mind forever. Whether you’re an established writer or quake at the very idea of putting your work in front of people, there’s something for you...

This year is the 14th Stroud Short Stories competition, heralded as “Possibly the best short story competition in the South West” by Cheltenham Literary Festival. The event is organised by John Holland and this year there is no theme or genre. Writers are invited to submit a short story of up to 1500 words by 22nd April with a maximum of two stories per author. Entries are free! Click here for entry rules! 

The event is focused on showcasing and promoting writers from Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire. The ten shortlisted stories will be read by the authors at an evening event at the SVA on Sunday 21st May. 

Hawkwood College, Painswick Old Road

Hawkwood College, Painswick Old Road

Prestigious Stroud institution Hawkwood College is looking for a Bard of Hawkwood 2017. The annual spoken word competition will take place at the Hawkwood College Open Day on Monday 1st May. Co-ordinator Kevan Manwaring explains the rules of entry: "We’re looking for an original song, story or poem of 10 minutes or less, on the given theme; plus a 200 word statement of intent describing what you would do as your time as the Chaired Bard for the coming year. As it’s a bardic competition, pieces performed from memory or in an extempore fashion are preferred.’"

Last year’s winner, Nailsworth-based poet Anthony Hentschel has set the theme for the 2017 competition as ‘Contentment’. Deadlines for entries is the 23rd April, 3 copies of the entry and the statement to be sent to: K. Manwaring, The Annexe, Richmond House, Park Rd, Stroud, GL5 2JG. Entrants must be able to perform their entry at the college open day and be a resident of GL5/6/8/or GL10. The competition is open to anyone 18 years old or older living in the Stroud area. 

There are also two writing workshops coming up at the Subscription Rooms in April. John Bassett from Spaniel in the Works Theatre Company is hosting a ten week Introduction to Script-writing workshop from April 18th. Over the 10 weeks you will learn how to get started, the difference between theatre, radio and T.V. writing, how to create characters and plot, how to write effective and believable dialogue, the differences in writing required for different audiences and different formats and how to layout a script. Each week will feature practical exercises as well as formal teaching. Click here for further details.

Kevin Manwaring is also hosting a ten week workshop to give writers the tools to help them get their work into print. Over the 10 weeks you’ll look at finding an agent, finding a publisher, getting commissioned, your media profile, self-publishing, and entering competitions. Click here for more information and to book. 

With such a diverse and supportive writing community on your doorstep, what are you waiting for?

Kate Montgomery is a writer, artist and blogger. She lives in Stroud with her husband and two daughters. She hosts creative writing groups and wastes far too much time instagramming her food @clevermonty

Stroud Radical Reading Group

The Stroud Radical Reading Group has just celebrated the milestone of meeting up once a month for a year. Regular hosts Nick James and James Beecher introduce us to the group, and offer a taste of the topics explored so far....

Rarely a week goes by in Stroud without a protest, and the High St is so often populated by political groups a part of it has earned a variety of nicknames. Both newcomers and long-term residents might not be aware that these features are far from new phenomenon. Stroud is a town with a radical history – one visible in the arch of Archway marking the movement to abolish slavery among other landmarks - as well as a politically active population. Seeking to engage with the ideas behind protest and social movements of the present and the past (whether local or global), the Stroud Racial Reading group is an informal monthly meeting for people to learn and discuss texts about dramatic innovations, complete reform of society, or the fundamental nature of things.

People involved in some of the groups seen leafleting on Stroud streets - from Stroud Against the Cuts, Transition Stroud, local trade unions and political parties – have attended our meetings, but the group is open to anyone. As an informal group we have thirty members on Facebook and several more on an e-mail list. Topics and readings are suggested by these members, who gather in a pub for a conversation inspired by the text – though free to roam from it and onto the news of the day or the experiences of those attending. We’ve visited the thoughts of different thinkers through time and become excited and deeply inspired by the range of topics for discussion. We’ve met in the Ale House, and Golden Fleece but are currently residents of the back room at the lovely new Little George  micro-pub on George St.

With even the President of the USA being referred to as ‘radical’ there might be some confusion about the term. To help us, our first reading was Rosa Luxemburg’s Reform or Revolution. First published in 1899 this pamphlet was written as part of a debate within the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). Could it be considered relevant to current debates within the UK’s modern equivalent, the Labour Party, we wondered? Certainly, it prompted a lively discussion about what radicalism means today. Broadly, we welcome anyone to our sessions, and allow the meaning of radical to be a matter for those who are interested enough to turn up! In principle, we are committed to challenging relations of power and oppression across the world. Discussions are always dynamic and open but tend to look on constructing a more socially and environmentally just humanity in conditions and contexts that trouble us in the 21st Century.

Unsurprisingly, last year we took a look at a perspective on the EU referendum debate, but we also explored whether there could be such a thing as “The Right to be Lazy” (an 1883 essay by French revolutionary Paul Lafargue). We found insight into debates in modern Feminism in journalist Dawn Foster’s Lean Out – a short and punchy critical response to the best-selling book by Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. On a summer’s day in July several of us caught the sunset in a pub-garden, contemplating Karl Marx writing in Volume One of Capital: “A commodity appears at first sight an extremely obvious, trivial thing. But its analysis brings out that it is a very strange thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties.” Who said Marx and economics were boring?

We don’t stick to books or essays – we’ve also looked at historical trade union badges, read Chartist poems, political Haikus, and academic journal articles on complex concepts like the Anthropocene, Capitolocene, Social reproduction and Liberation Ecology. If nothing in that list has intrigued you, perhaps recent events would have tempted you to our sessions examining Fascism, or “Race, Class, and The State”? Maybe our most recent reading - a chapter on Orwell’s Sense of Smell will get up your nose?

The upcoming reading is motivated by the sad early death of Mark Fisher, an influential writer and theorist on politics, economics and culture also known as k-punk. His short book Capitalism Realism is one that we enthusiastically recommend, “as well as being essential reading for anyone perturbed by 'the slow cancellation of the future' it’s also full of film recommendations and pop references”. For a fuller review, join us at The Little George on Weds 22nd March, 7.30-9.30pm. We should make clear that though we of course encourage people to read the text, we welcome people to take part in the discussions even if they can’t find the time – even if we haven’t made up our mind about "The Right to be Lazy"!

Forthcoming dates:

Weds 1st March: Orwell's Sense of Smell from William Miller's The Anatomy of Disgust (click here for further info)

Weds 22nd March: Capitalism Realism: Is There No Alternative? by Mark Fisher (click here for further info)

1. Reform or Revolution by Rosa Luxemburg (1899) / 2. The Capitalocene Part I: On the Nature & Origins of Our Ecological Crisis by Jason W. Moore (2014) / 3. Vagabond Capitalism and the Necessity of Social Reproduction in Antipode 33(4) by Cindi Katz (2001) / 4. The Poetry of Chartism by Mike Sanders (2009) / 5. Exit Left: the Socialist Case for Britain Leaving the EU by Thomas Barker (2016) / 6. Lean Out by Dawn Foster (2016). / 7. The Commodity - Chapter 1 of: Capital. A Critique of Political Economy. Volume 1, by Karl Marx (first published 1867) / 8. The Fascist Offensive and the Tasks of the Communist International in the Struggle of the Working Class against Fascism, by Georgi Dimitrov (1935) / 9. World Economy in Word Economy by Ruth Yarrow (2010) /  10. The Right to be Lazy by Paul Lafargue (1883) / 11. Race, Class and the State by Ambalavaner Sivanandan (1976). Published in the collection Catching History on the Wing: Race, Culture and Globalisation (2008) / 12. Liberation Ecology. Development, sustainability and environment in an age of market triumphalism - Chapter 1 in Liberation Ecologies: Environment, Development, Social Movements by Richard Peet and Michael Watts (Editors, 1996) / 13. Orwell’s Sense of Smell, chapter in William Ian Miller's The Anatomy of Disgust (1997) / 14. Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? by Mark Fisher (2009)

Hopeless Maine by Tom and Nimue Brown

Tom and Nimue Brown have been working together for about a decade. This is a creative partnership that turned into a marriage, and that continues to result in books and other curious offspring. Their story started on opposite sides of an ocean and now finds itself alive and well, and living in Stroud, Gloucestershire. The joint project that brought the Browns together is Hopeless Maine - a graphic novel series set on a co-created island, inspired by a shared love of all things strange, steampunk, gothic and moody, as well as ongoing love affairs with landscapes and wildlife. Working at the same table, sharing the same coffee maker, being trampled by the same cat has led to greater depths of collaboration, with non-fiction titles, novels, and an illustrated novella with Professor Elemental.   Aside from the bookish joint projects, Tom and Nimue do workshops together, lead bad poetry slams, sing radically political folk songs and turn up wearing hats in places no one expects hats to be... (the events, not the bodily location).

In conjunction with our recent feature in issue #23 of Good On Paper (out now) we have obtained Chapter 1 from the graphic novel which you can read below:


Tom and Nimue Brown have kindly offered three original pages from Hopeless Maine to three lucky Good On Paper readers! To be in with a chance of winning one of the above pages simply email your name with 'Hopeless Maine Giveaway' in the subject line to: Winners will be notified on Monday 6th March 2017.

Hopeless Maine is available now from Stroud Bookshop and on-line at the Visit for further info!


Bill Jones: The Life and Times of Algernon Swift

Bill Jones’s The Life and Times of Algernon Swift is a lavishly illustrated novel of puns that pits its earnest young hero, Algernon, against the pitfalls and pratfalls of the English language.
In the book, we follow Algernon as he attempts to cope with the extreme relativism of his elderly relative, Reverend Hawker, as well as the exorbitant passion of the exquisite Mavis (a woman with X on her mind).
The book puns on subjects as diverse as Henry VIII’s wives, pre-Raphaelite painters, mathematics and fairy tales, and contains over 200 puns, some of which may be familiar to the residents of Stroud from the cards that Bill has sold around town over the last few years (both as a pedlar and in Made In Stroud). Bill is also known in Stroud for performing stand-up as his alter-ego, Miserable Malcolm, Stroud’s most miserable poet.
In the following excerpt, Algernon arrives at Hawker’s Pot, the residence of his uncle, Reverend Hawker, and once again encounters his uncle’s exasperating inability to mean one thing at a time...

The Life and Times of Algernon Swift is published by Head of Zeus on 9th February, 2017. Bill will be signing copies of the book at Stroud Bookshop from 11am on Saturday 11th February. 

Casimir Greenfield: Slow Poison

Slow Poison opens in Amsterdam in the days around the feast of Saint Nicholas in December in the mid 1980's.

The brutal slaying of a British tourist and the subsequent arrest and imprisonment of a young football supporter sparks off an orgy of violence. But the killing is no random act. The boy is innocent. The real killer returns to England to begin the final chapter of an obsessive campaign of revenge spanning several decades.

The twisted acts of violence and vengeance are punctuated by the pages of a stolen diary written in the dark days of the second world war. The killer identifies with the unspeakable horrors of the death camp as he coldly wreaks revenge for a series of traumatic events that took place in the mid 1950s on a Gloucestershire council estate.

The story culminates with an abduction and a bloody siege high in the snowbound Cotswold hills...

In conjunction with the recent release of Slow Poison by local author, musician and broadcaster Casimir Greenfield, we have obtained an excerpt of the book which you can read below:

Slow Poison is available now and can be purchased via

Judith Gunn: Dostoyevsky - A Life of Contradiction

This biography by local author Judith Gunn is an accessible introduction to the life and work of Fyodor Dostoyevsky for those who might be interested by his life, but are daunted by his work. The book offers an account of his difficult and eventful life, introductions to his major novels and an exploration of how his work has influenced modern film and media; directors such as Martin Scorsese and series such as the X-Files and others owe a great deal to Dostoyevsky.

Published on the 15th December via Amberley Publishing the Christmas season coincides with some of the major events in Dostoyevsky’s life, not least a mock execution and the journey to Siberia. He also wrote a famous short story called At Christ’s Christmas Tree a Russian version of The Little Match Girl

Dostoyevsky: A Life of Contradiction is available from, Amazon and bookshops UK wide.

Judith and Amberley Publishing have kindly offered Good On Paper reader's an excerpt of the book prior to it's release which you can read below:

Adam Horovitz: Love In A Celebrity Climate

Stroud poet Adam Horovitz releases a new, book-sized pamphlet this month to coincide with his Inheriting the Mantle event at Stroud Book Festival on November 13th (click here for tickets!)

Love in a Celebrity Climate is a furious little book of satirical, political and topical performance poetry that stares unblinking down both scraped barrels of the tabloid arsenal and takes a swipe at all-comers, be they David Hasselhoff, terrorists of any stripe, celebrity cannibals, the England football squad, the Royal Family, Brexit, ATOS, banks or the advertising industry.

“These are poems to be spoken aloud, as loud as possible,” says Horovitz. “A quiet part of me has always enjoyed the noisy performance side of poetry, the act of getting up in a club or bar and spitting words into a microphone, despite the fact that I more usually write in a quieter, more measured voice nowadays. Releasing Love in a Celebrity Climate was a chance to feel the noise again.”

Some of the poems were written while he was poet-in- residence for the Borkowski PR company’s website, where his remit was to write topical poems that dug under the skin of ‘celebrities, politicians and other scoundrels’, but many more of them are very recent, triggered by events in the news.

“The book is laid out in three sections, almost as if it were an evening of watching TV” says Horovitz. “It starts with a Celebrity section, which is followed by an advertisement break and closes with the news.”

Adam has kindly offered Good On Paper reader's an excerpt of the book prior to it's release which you can read below:


Love in a Celebrity Climate is released under the Little Metropolis imprint, priced £6.50. The limited edition first printing is available to pre-order until November 14th at a 20% discount from the Little Metropolis bandcamp page.

Stroud Short Stories at Cheltenham Literature Festival

Stroud Short Stories takes to a larger stage with a special event at the prestigious Cheltenham Literature Festival on Monday 10th October.

The event is a one-off fifth birthday celebration for which organiser John Holland has chosen seven of his favourite stories from those performed at SSS events from its beginnings in 2011 to the most recent event in April 2016. As usual the authors will read their own work.

John explained, ”I thought it would give some of my favourite local writers a real boost to read alongside internationally acclaimed authors like Ian McEwan, Jonathan Safran Foer and Tracy Chevalier, who are also appearing at the festival. It wasn’t easy to choose seven from the hundred or more stories that have been read at our eleven events to date. The evening will have a nice balance of serious, nuanced writing and the downright silly.”

The seven authors chosen are Ali Bacon, Bill Jones, Rick Vick, Katherine Hunter, Mel Golding, Philip Douch and Andrew Stevenson. All the authors are from Gloucestershire, the majority from Stroud.

The event takes place at the Cheltenham Literature Festival on Monday 10th October from 9pm to 10:15pm. Tickets are £8 and are available from the Cheltenham Literature Festival website here

Stroud Short Stories returns to its regular home of the SVA on Sunday 20th November. All information about submitting stories for this event is on the Stroud Short Stories website