Thursday, May 17, 2007

I have just got back from a wonderful weekend conference with the West Country Writers Association. I was born and brought up in Bristol, so I have very strong links with the West Country, and it is always great fun to go back and spend time in the area. This year's Congress was at Worcester, and took place at Fownes Hotel, which used to be a glove factory and has been beautifully converted into a very comfortable hotel. Worcester is probably stretching the West Country a little far north, but we were looked after very well and enjoyed a visit to the Cathedral and its library, where we were privileged to be able to look at some of their precious books and manuscripts. To see the beautiful script and ornate illumination in the medieval manuscripts was a real treat: as someone who loves Georgian history I particularly liked the first edition of Dr Johnson's Dixionary and a fascinating gardening book from the 1730's.

Of course the main purpose of the congress was to talk about writers and writing. Actor, director and writer George Baker gave the Christopher Fry Memorial Lecture. He had been a close friend and colleague of the dramatist and his talk was not only entertaining but very moving, too. Other luminaries of the West Country were on hand, including two speakers of especial interest to those of us interested in historical novels: Helen McCabe gave an insight into how she researches the historical figures that feature prominently in her books and John Wroughton described the pleasures of researching and publishing books on Bath that cover periods other than the well-documented Georgian and Roman periods.

Then there was plenty of time in the bar afterwards to discuss everything from literature to Landrovers. A fascinating weekend. As always I met up with old friends, made some new ones and came away refreshed and inspired. The West Country Writers Association is in the process of building a new website, so I am sure if you search for their name in a few weeks' time there will be plenty more information available.
Melinda Hammond

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