Monday, September 17, 2012

Stand Magazine at 60

On Saturday I attended the 60th anniversary celebration of Stand Magazine at Leeds University. The origins of Stand are legendary. As current Managing Editor Jon Glover related, Stand was started by the now sadly deceased poet Jon Silkin in 1952, when he used his £5.00 severance pay as a lavatory cleaner to buy paper from the company office, and printed off the first copies on a mimeograph. He had been trying unsuccessfully to start a union, and instead Stand became his act of protest: to make a stand for things that matter through poetry. At a forum on small presses which I attended in the morning, Jon Glover held up copies of the first three issues for us to see: home-made looking objects, far removed from the classically designed publication Stand became. But very quickly it achieved a prodigious reputation, with huge names - including Angela Carter and Peter Carey - beginning their writing careers between its pages. It is one of the few important magazines to have survived from that time. Also legendary are Silkin's efforts in distributing the magazine: Jon Glover and poet Jeffrey Wainwright, who were later students at Leeds, related how they would come into the students' refectory to find Silkin flogging copies, and Lorna Tracy, who became his fiction editor, told how they would travel the length and breadth of the country by car with the magazine.

I was delighted that Lorna Tracy was present at the celebration. As I said when I read in the afternoon, I have felt very nurtured by Stand - as a new writer I drank in its contents, and it was a huge part of my creative education - and by Lorna in particular. When I first began writing short stories my great aim was to get a story in Stand; Lorna turned down the first story I sent her, but she was so very helpful, discussing my story in detail, and so very encouraging. As I said to her, it's people like her who make writers. Lorna eventually stepped down from Stand but returned in 2004 to edit a special fiction edition, and I was thrilled that she included my story, 'A Glossary of Bread' (now included in Balancing on the Edge of the World). This is a story I've never read at a reading, as it's interspersed with dictionary definitions of bread and types of bread, and I didn't think it could work read out loud. But it seemed so fitting to read it on this occasion, that I had a go, and, after all, it seemed to work fine!

Others reading prose with me with were Janette Jenkins, Elanor Dymott, Elizabeth Cook and my fellow Salt author David Gaffney. Later we heard readings from poets Alison Brackenbury, Julian Turner, Vahni Capildeo and Ian Fairley. Unfortunately I then had to leave and was very sorry to miss a further two sessions of poetry readings, including those from John Cassidy, Amanda Dalton, and a trio of Ians - Gregson, Samson and Duhig.

I do urge you to subscribe to Stand if you don't already. You won't be disappointed - eclectic but excellent poetry and prose. I'm very pleased to say that my new story, 'The Relentless Pull of Gravity', originally scheduled to be included in a 2014 issue, has now been brought forward and will appear in the next issue, due out at the end of September or the beginning of October.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

End of summer, start of new things

Well, now that our stormy summer is over and the autumn sun is beating down (!) I'm back from mountainous Wales and once again at my desk in the city. I do love autumn, though, with its air of new beginnings: the theatres starting their programmes and Manchester Literature Festival on the horizon, and as a rule whole new writing projects ahead of me. Next weekend there are two mini-festivals in which I'm taking part. On Friday and Saturday (14th and 15th) there's a celebration of 60 years of Stand magazine at Leeds University, with workshops and poetry and fiction readings. (I'm reading with other Stand fiction contributors at 1.30 on the Saturday afternoon). Meanwhile, on Saturday Edwina Currie will open another 2-day festival: the Oxfam Alderley Edge Community Book Festival, with readings from writers such as Melvin Burgess, Nick Royle, Livi Michael and Conrad Williams. (And me: I'm kicking off the Sunday readings at 11.00 am, and if no one manages to get out in time to hear me, at least I'll be compensated by a day of other, fabulous readings to attend!)