Poetry Competition 2024

We welcomed Mary-Jane Holmes as our adjudicator this year. She had obviously put a great deal of thought into the task and did a very thorough job. Before announcing her decision, she read out each of the poems submitted and gave a detailed critique. A written version was also attached to each entry for the poet to peruse at leisure later on.

Charlotte Wilson (pictured above receiving the trophy from Mary-Jane) came first with ‘Pond Life’. Sheila Whitfield was in second place with ‘Inland Dreams’ and Kate Swann came third with ‘On the Scales for Grandad’.  Mary-Jane congratulated everyone who had entered the competition.  With a high standard overall, the great variety of themes and styles had made choosing the winners difficult.

After the adjudication, Mary-Jane answered questions about her own work and poetry in general.

From her bio: Mary-Jane Holmes wanders and writes in the wilds of Upper Teesdale. She has garnered many awards including winning the Bridport Poetry prize, the Writer’s Digest poetry competition, the Live Canon Poetry Pamphlet Prize, Bath Novella-in-Flash Prize, , Martin Starkie, Dromineer, Reflex Fiction and Mslexia Flash prize as well as the Bedford Poetry competition. She has  been shortlisted for the Beverley International Prize for Literature and longlisted for the UK National Poetry Prize twice. Mary-Jane’s poetry collection Heliotrope with Matches and Magnifying Glass is published by Pindrop Press. Her pamphlet Dihedral is published by Live Canon Press and her novella Don’t Tell the Bees, is published by AdHoc Fiction. Her Lockdown poem ‘Letter from Baldersdale’ joins 20 other poems in the National Poetry Archive on their 20th anniversary. Her collection of Flash Fiction was published by V press in 2021 and was shortlisted for the Eyelands Literary prize in 2023.

Her work appears in a variety of publications including Aesthetica. Magma, Modern Poetry in Translation, Mslexia, The Lonely Crowd, Prole The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, and in anthologies including Best Small Fictions 2014/16/18/20  and Best Microfictions 2020.

She has an MA (Distinction) in Creative Writing from Kellogg College, Oxford and has been awarded an Arts and Humanities Research Council studentship to complete a PhD in poetry and translation at Newcastle University. UK.

 New Collection of Short Fiction: Set a Crow to Catch a Crow



President’s Cup 2023

Our final event of 2023 featured a buffet, a literary quiz devised by Peter, a Secret Santa and a wide variety of Christmas readings. As well as examples of our own work,  there were chosen pieces by members’ favourite authors.

The star of the show was Sheila, a clear winner of this year’s President’s Cup, which Joe was very pleased to hand to her.

NB This was our last evening at the St Wilfrid’s Community Centre. From Wednesday 10th January 2024, our fortnightly meetings will be held in an upstairs room at the So! Bar at 6, Old Market Place. (Many will remember it as the former Black Bull public house.) Details will follow when this website is updated over the holidays.



What a catchy title!



If we don’t get takers for this event, it certainly won’t be for want of a good title. Sheila has excelled herself.

Ripon Poetry Festival

What a weekend we’ve had! Many of us attended the open mic event that we hosted jointly with the Write-On Ripon! group at the Claro Lounge  and/or, at the Ripon Arts Hub, the launch of this year’s anthology in which (in alphabetical order) Maggie Cobbett, Peter Page, Susan Perkins, Ros Swaney, Kate Swann, Sheila Whitfield and Charlotte Wilson had poems.

In addition, of course, individual members enjoyed other events throughout the weekend.

An evening with Julia Usman


Our guest speaker explained that she usually wrote poetry or articles, but during a six-year stay in Dubai she had started to work on what was to become her second book, ‘A Little Country’.  Its origin was a series of poems written about growing up in a small community in Swaledale in the 1960s and 70s, and its title was taken from a line in Marie Hartley’s book about the same place.

Living in Dubai had given Julia the chance to reflect on Arabic culture and some of the similarities it bore to her own. As a child she had lived in a tight-knit community with traditional values and customs, now very much changed alongside its agricultural practices. Despite this, Julia still felt a strong sense of identity, not only with her ancestors, those Anglo-Saxon and Viking invaders, but with the land itself, which she knew would outlive those who ever farmed it. She offered her book as a ‘patchwork of recollections and reflections’, some of which she read to the group.

Ian thanked Julia for coming to talk to us, and then members were invited to ask questions. A lively discussion ensued.

After a break for refreshments, Julia read some poems from her book, ‘She Who Sings Is Not Always Happy’. These were ‘Child of Montmartre’ and ‘Finding a Voice’.

As there was a little time left over, members were also invited to share some of their latest work. Charlotte read two poems, ‘Pond Life’ and ‘The River Bed’.  Sheila involved members in a short play called ‘All In A Day’s Work’ about a woman finding a gecko in the fridge and Maggie read ‘Never Not Prepared’, a revised version of a poem about a school motto.

Poetry Competition Adjudication

Sylvie Bräunig began by thanking us for choosing her to judge our poems. She had felt some initial trepidation in accepting the task but did so as she felt that it was important to extend one’s comfort zone.

She explained that her interest in poetry had begun in her youth but she had not written any at that time. She then taught in primary schools and began to develop a strong interest in words and language. This led to a post with responsibility for language and reading development. She also became involved in several poetry ventures with an educational aspect that included well-regarded poets such as Vernon Scannell.

When her marriage broke up, poetry became a personal medium for self-expression. In attempting to learn more about the craft she eventually met Andy Croft and attended his writing courses. Along with members of her family, he encouraged her to share her work with a wider audience. This resulted in the publication of two volumes of poetry, any profits from which are donated to local libraries.

Sylvie had been impressed with the wide range of work submitted to her and remarked on the differences in subject, style and scope. She commented on each poem in detail, focusing on what she felt had commended it to her. She also gave us her personal reactions to each poem as well as the questions it had provoked in her.
She had enjoyed the research that had arisen from some of the pieces, which had made the experience even more rewarding for her.

From the twelve entries, Sylvie awarded Sheila Whitfield first place with Kate Swann and Solvig Choi joint second.

Sylvie, invited to read some of her own poems, chose ‘Slipstream’, ‘Memory Bites’ and ‘Breaking out’.

To conclude the evening, Ian thanked Sylvie once again for her adjudication, into which she had very obviously put a great deal of thought.

Pre-Christmas event 2022

Ian opened the last meeting of the year by handing out copies of the 2022-2023 programme, inviting questions about its new features and promising a review in the spring.

We were very pleased to welcome back Kathleen, part of the Group almost since the very beginning and now an honorary member. She’s fourth along on the right hand side in the photo above, which also gives an indication of the concentration required to do this year’s quiz. Based on book titles, it was won by Carol and Sheila with 36 correct answers out of a possible 48. Well done, ladies!

The President’s Cup was presented by Joe to Susan for amassing the most points in our competitions. Well done, Susan!

Joe was also pleased to cut the delicious celebration cake provided by Ros. Thank you, Ros!

As ever, there were more contributions to the buffet than we could possibly eat in one sitting.

Ros and Chrissie catered for those who preferred tea to wine – not that we couldn’t have both, of course.

Cheers, everyone! Is Maggie’s smile due to relief at having handed over the Chair to Ian? Could well be!

It can be lonely at the top, but the 2023 programme Ian has devised with considerable input from the Committee is a good blend of the innovative and the traditional.

An enticing array of Secret Santa gifts made a fitting end to what had been a very successful evening.

The 2023 programme will be published very soon, so please watch this space. In the meantime, Ripon Writers’ Group would like to offer to anyone clicking onto our website all the best for the festive season and a Very Happy New Year.

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Our friendly group meets once a fortnight at the St Wilfred's Community Centre on Trinity Lane and is always open to new members from the Ripon area and beyond. Whether your interest is in poetry or prose, novels, short stories, plays, wacky humour, a more analytical style of writing, or just listening for the time being, you're very welcome.

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