The Folkestone Writers Group was established in 2009, building on the work of John Sussams with the Folkestone Book Festival.
The festival has often and successfully highlighted the broad literary heritage of this area, but it was apparent there was little collective activity for living writers based around Folkestone. We created the group to address this need.
We are for working writers, rather than people only with an observer’s interest in literature (they are already well catered-for in several groups around the area). You don’t have to be published, but if you’re interested in writing as a practitioner in any form (including non-fiction) then we hope you’ll join us.
We meet regularly, usually in each other’s homes to help keep costs down, to discuss topics of common interest. We are also exploring publishing possibilities: our fourth anthology is currently in press and we are now collecting material for our eighth anthology (see the Anthology tab on this site for more detail). We’re a friendly and informal group so if you’d like to get involved please click on the contact/join us tab for further detail.
Background, by John Sussams
“In 2006 and 2007 I organised a Local Authors’ Day and Book Fair to take place as part of the Folkestone Literary Festival (since renamed Book Festival) at the Metropole Arts Centre (2006) and the Leas Club (2007). On both occasions, twenty authors from all over Kent came to display their wares. Twelve of them gave ten-minute talks, in two separate one-hour sessions, about their work. Unfortunately and presumably because of a clash with other events – or it could have been due to lack of publicity, attendance was poor and book sales were minimal. The audiences for the ten-minute presentations consisted mainly of the other authors, and we ended up buying and/or exchanging one another’s books. It was agreed not to repeat the exercise in 2008.
I still wanted to do something for local authors and thought it might be possible to resuscitate the Folkestone Literary Society, which was born during the time (1947-50) when there was an Emergency Training College in Coolinge Lane (my father was the Principal). The supply of students keen on literature dried up after the closure of the Training College, but the Literary Society lingered on during the Fifties, when I was an undergraduate. I know this because I was asked to fill in for a speaker who had to cancel at the last minute due to some disaster or other. All I felt competent to talk about at short notice was ‘Modern French Poetry’! I don’t know when the FLS finally gave up the ghost.
In 2009 I organised a well-attended meeting, which was kindly hosted by Michael Stainer at The Grand, to see whether we could raise support for some kind of literary society. A questionnaire was issued and the majority of those present were in favour of a Writers Group as opposed to meetings being held with visiting speakers and other literary activities. So Folkestone Writers was formed, and meetings were held, mostly in members’ homes, and mostly in the evenings.
At the early meetings, members read out short stories or extracts from work in progress, and these were discussed by those present. An improvement was to ask contributors to provide hard copy so that we could at least judge the written language rather than be influenced by the authors’ variable performance as speakers.
Even so, this format did not suit authors of longer works or of non-fiction, and it did not suit the mix of established authors who understand the nuts and bolts of writing and unpublished beginners who don’t. The latter are advised to attend ‘creative writing’ courses, workshops and seminars with tutors who know what they’re talking about.
Our evening meetings have evolved into social occasions with a pre-advised literary or linguistic theme which one or more members may present for discussion. The discussion may well diverge from the original subject to embrace other events, local and national, in the ‘arts and books’ area.
In 2010 we published our first Folkestone Anthology which attracted back into the fold a number of experienced writers, who were not interested in or were unable to get to evening meetings. Standards are high and the stories and other pieces are intended to appeal to an intelligent adult readership. The second anthology (cover illustrated) was published in 2013, the third in 2014 and the eighth is now in the pipeline.
In 2012 we took over the annual Short Story competition from Friends of the Folkestone Book Festival and this has attracted numerous excellent writers from all over Kent and further afield.
In 2012 also Alexander Tulloch started to host ‘literary luncheons’ at the Tavernetta. There is now a considerable overlap between Alex’s mailing list and the Folkestone Writers’ mailing list.
So, we are now actually doing most of the things we said we might do on that original questionnaire … apart from the critique sessions!”