Sunday, 11 September 2011

Notes from the peanut gallery: Doncaster Writers' Group

So I have officially attended the first meeting of the Doncaster Writers' Group, hosted by a young gent named Tim Lee, who felt that there was a need for increasing literacy in Doncaster. I couldn't agree more. In a town where Carling is the drink of choice (at any time of day, anywhere), it sometimes feels as if the populace hasn't moved much from the medieval period, in which people, in the same exact streets and market area, drank beer, cider, and mead because of the lack of clean drinkable water. Low alcohol percentages back then, I'm sure, but still. People were drunk all the time. And probably didn't shower. I doubt there was much literacy then, either.

Carling Lager. Britain's Number One Lager.

Don't get me wrong, I love Doncaster. I have studied at Leeds, and I work in Sheffield, which are two large bustling cities that make Doncaster look like approximately the size of a pea. I love Doncaster's quiet cobbled streets and the sort of sleepy town feel it has.

And when the red awnings of the Continental Market miraculously appear, it rocks my world. Belgian Waffles and French Baguettes, here I come!

But I don't like the eight AM crowd of Carling drinkers bumbling around. I say put some Shakesperian clothes on them and turn it into a spectacle. An improv play. (Or maybe I shouldn't be so critical. I came from a place that pretty much has one stoplight.)

To counteract this, Tim has put together Doncaster Writers' Group, because maybe, just maybe, there's a chance that with eight people of a wide range of ages all put together in the Rainbow Room near the town center, we can make the world a better place. If nothing else, to distract us from the local yobs.

With fast-beating heart I walked into the quiet room and sat down at the table. There were published and newbies, poets and short story writers and any-available-scrap-of-paper scribblers. There were Doncasterians, and a Hoosier (me). There was a writer desperate to get published (me), and writers who didn't know why they wrote but that they kept paper in their van and kitchens and all around everywhere for any fleeting moment of a word or image or overheard spoken words that grabbed them (what a relief to know I'm not the only one who does that!). There was even one man who wrote who doesn't want to be seen as a writer, for the fear of becoming too big for the art he makes.

I made myself read out loud, which was the first time in front of strangers since Ball State University about seven years ago. It was terrifying in its rawness, my voice out in front of strangers. But they said they liked the couple pages I read. Which was nice.

I think this will be a very good thing. If nothing else, catharsis for us who feel the need to create. We need to speak with like-minded people, and now there is a time and a place for it. It is my hope that this new group will, at least for us, in our new-found creativity, restore our town to its original beauty. It is, like a story, hiding just beneath the surface, waiting to reveal itself.

Photo courtesy of this site.

Happy Sunday.


  1. Oh, VLB! Being with like-minded ones is soooo refreshing. People who share your "brand-o-crazy." ;o) Had goose bumps as I read of your nerves, your craggy out-loud voice! SOOOO proud of you! You inspire, young lass!

  2. *Takes a bow* It's one of those things... gets easier every time. Kind of like ignoring Carling-drinking yobs. LOL

    Thanks my lovely! x

  3. Hi. It's now 2013. Are you still there? Nick (in York, where we drink John Smiths).

    1. Well hello, Nick! I know, 2013 snuck right up on us like a very quiet sneaky thing. Yep, Doncaster Writers' Group is still going strong, with some new members and always an alternate-weekly dose of weird. We meet somewhere different now but still close to the town centre if you are interested in visiting! Just send me an email to and I can reply with details.

      And, by the way, John Smiths...yum.