Winners Announced for the Hay Poetry Competition 2022

Hot Off The Press!

The winners of the Hay Writers’ Circle Poetry Competition 2022 are as follows :

1st Prize – Michelle Pearce

2nd Prize – Jean O’Donoghue

3rd Prize – Jaz Slade

Congratulations to our winners and to everyone who submitted their work for our judge, Dr Jack McGowan. This year we had the highest number of entries and we must send our sincere thanks to Jack who has had a mammoth task reading and reviewing a slew of poems.

A full competition report will be published here in the coming days, but for now well done everyone!

Photo by Jill Wellington on
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‘More Fiya’, including Kandace Siobhan Walker and a Poem by Ange Grunsell

As we take our ease from all the excitement of Hay Festival and stretch out to enjoy a few days of glorious summer weather. The evenings are light, long and balmy, filled with flitting birds and the distant sound of revellers returning home. It’s actually the perfect time to pick up a good book and find an quiet outdoor space in which to enjoy it.

If you lean towards poetry then why not grab a copy of More Fiya : A New Collection of Black British Poetry Editied by Kayo Chingonyi

This important collection includes the work of Kandace Siobhan Walker, who has judged Hay Writers’ Circle Poetry Competition in previous years.

“(This) collection is rich for its array of imagery, lyricism and rhythm which brings to life ancestral homelands throughout the African continent and Caribbean isles while also highlighting what it means to be Black and British in the 21st century … More Fiya serves as a powerful reminder of what is possible when communities are given the opportunity to champion and celebrate themselves outside the confines of homogeneous understanding of poetrics.”

It includes work from: Jason Allen-Paisant, Raymond Antrobus, Janette Ayachi, Dean Atta, Malika Booker, Eric Ngalle Charles, Dzifa Benson, Inua Ellams, Samatar Elmi, Khadijah Ibrahiim, Keith Jarrett, Anthony Joseph, Safiya Kamaria Kinshasa, Vanessa Kisuule, Rachel Long, Adam Lowe, Nick Makoha, Karen McCarthy Woolf, Momtaza Mehri, Bridget Minamore, Selina Nwulu, Gboyega Odubanjo, Louisa Adjoa Parker, Roger Robinson, Denise Saul, Kim Squirrell, Warsan Shire, Rommi Smith, Yomi Sode, Degna Stone, Keisha Thompson, Kandace Siobhan Walker, Warda Yassin, Belinda Zhawi

More Fiya: A New Collection of Black British Poetry is available at all good bookshops.

A Poem :

The Moon has seen it all Before


leave the warm cacophonous café

mother, daughter and wakeful months-old baby

wander the Bermondsey street pavements

with pram and shawl

dodging the power scooters, the shrieking spritzer gangs, the man with the paper cup held out 

sat on the roadside as darkness falls

we turn into the park and there between

the benches and the tennis courts stands a shocking cherry tree

laden with swinging pom poms of blossoms

still just pink in the gloaming

you lift the crying child out of

the pram’s imprisonment

and holding her high reach above her to 

bounce the blossoms

she lurches and grins and laughs

The moon looks on from behind the blooms

 two drunks on the bench

look on from behind their cans

 two teenage girls stotting by in thigh high skirts look on

at the marvel of a baby wide awake at nine o’clock at night loving her life.  

by Ange Grunsell      


And finally – just 2 weeks left to enter our Non Fiction competition with £100.00 first prize.

All the details are on our Competitions page and we would be delighted to receive your entry.

To subscribe, enter your email address in the box below.

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And that’s a wrap!

As another exhilarating Hay Festival draws to a close it’s time to reflect on what an incredibly positive experience this literary machine brings to authors, publishers, books sellers, readers and of course, our own writing group. We are so grateful to the festival for its unwavering support and this amazing opportunity.

For many members performing at our event, it was their first encounter of reading their own work to an audience. After good rehearsals under the careful guidance of our Chair, Jean O’Donoghue and President, Ange Grunsell, everything went very well on the day.

My first visit and I had no idea how well organised it would be. My wife asked me if we would need umbrellas and wellies ala Glasto’ if it rained to get from tent to tent! I said maybe!
I loved every minute. What a privilege to have performed, and alongside such a great bunch of creative friends. 
” Mark Baylis.

Today I read out one of my short stories at our Hay Writer’s Circle event at @hayfestival. I was so nervous! Especially as I had chosen quite a personal piece to read and was last in the group to read. Afterwards someone told me that my story made them cry. It made me feel a bit guilty, but also pleased, as I have recently been working hard on making my reader feel emotion.” Naomi Emmanuelle

Wonderful today everyone. It was a blast.” Shane Anderson.

Hay Festival returns for the Winter Weekend – 23rd – 27th November. Remember, you can watch again on Hay Player.
For more information CLICK HERE

Other news –

At 1.30 pm on the 21st June the winners of the annual Hay Writers Circle Poetry Competition will be announced and details released on the website. A huge thanks for our judge, Dr Jack McGowan, for all his hard work and patience due to the elevated numbers of entries this year. We appreciate it greatly.

Don’t forget there’s still plenty of time to enter our Non Fiction Competition – First prize £100.
For more information and full competition rules please go to our Competitions page.

To subscribe to our quarterly newsletter,
enter your email address in the box below.

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Real Hay-on-Wye Book Launch and Book Signing

Hay Writers’ Circle send a huge congratulations to the outstanding Kate Noakes on the imminent launch of her new book, Real Hay-on-Wye at Hay Festival this coming Sunday. Her latest book combines “memoir, anecdote, social history and arcane facts with subversive wit to provide an affectionate portrait of the town famed for its secondhand shops (and Hay Festival). She describes how it faces the challenges of any small market town, with a rich rural hinterland, and a landscape vying for attention with the best that metropolitan culture has to offer.” Real Hay-on-Wye is the latest in the Seren Real Series of offbeat guides to towns and cities around the UK.

Real Hay-on-Wye is her first non fiction title. Kate was elected to the Welsh Academy in 2011, has published seven Poetry Collections and was the judge for the Hay Writers’ Circle Poetry Competition in 2020 naming Emma van Woerkom winner that year.

Kate shares her Hay Festival event (number 369) with Rosie Hayles, who has written the story of one street in Hay seen through history, in a narrative rich in the detail of everyday life, peopled with characters from Norman times up to 1980 when Broad Street had its first two bookshops. Rosie has spent many years collecting stories of those who have lived or worked on Broad Street. FINDING HAY: A JOURNEY UP BROAD STREET They will be interviewed by Tom Bullough.

Tickets are £8.00 each and can be booked by clicking HERE – Book signing afterwards.

It’s also less than 12 hours until our Hay Writers’ Circle event in the Summer House at Hay Festival. We are always so grateful for the continued support the Festival provides and the generosity of our audiences too.

Don’t forget three of our exciting writers, Mark Bayliss, Marianne Rosen and Emma van Woerkom will be signing their books (see below) in the Festival Bookshop straight after the event. Hope to see you there!

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A Film, A Book and A Festival!

Bronwyn Goes Dancing by Shane Anderson

Bronwyn Goes Dancing is a short film written by new Hay Writers’ Circle member, Shane Anderson, and directed by Chris Lang at a time when both were members of Pontardawe Arts Centre’s ‘Script Cafe’ – another dynamic writers’ group (now defunct) – which was run by poet and playwright Emily Hinshelwood.

The script itself was the culmination of a series of ‘short film’ workshops run by The Script Cafe during its 2016/17 season when we managed to secure funding from the Arts Council of Wales/National Lottery/Ffilm Cymru for the course. The funding included up to £500 for the production of selected short films written by workshop attendees. ‘Bronwyn Goes Dancing’ was fortunate enough to be one of those chosen. 

In 2017, the script of ‘Bronwyn Goes Dancing’ was a semi-finalist in the L.A. based Bluecat (Short) Screenplay Awards. The film itself has received an ‘Honorable Mention’ from the L.A. based Independent Short Film Awards in 2019. In January 2020 I entered ‘Bronwyn’ into the prestigious Lewes-based WOFF Festival (Women Over Fifty Film Festival). Although selected, unfortunately there was no trip to Lewes to see it shown on the big screen as it all had to happen virtually. However, under the WOFFF ‘Best of The Fest’ banner, it was shown at a partner festival ‘Leytonstone Loves Film’ in September 2021. 

I feel very fortunate that Chris Lang asked to make the film and over the moon that he managed to secure the talents of actors Menna Trussler (‘Pride’ and Oscar-nominated ‘Affaris of the Arts’) and the late Tony Wright MBE.

The film was originally going to be about a male pensioner, all outdoors and much more expensive to make (scene in the rain & in a moving vehicle – thousands. Watch BBC’s ‘Doctors’ to see a drama made on a tight budget). I changed the main character to a woman, put her in her home and half an hour later the script was all but done.

The basic story…

Bronwyn is close to despair. A life, once so full of family, friends, jobs and interests has slowly diminished over the years and now, with the recent loss of another beloved friend, she is in danger of becoming ever more fearful, lonely and reclusive. But she has one last companion – the radio.

You can view the short film, Bronwyn Goes Dancing by CLICKING HERE

In other news –

We are delighted to congratulate the wonderful Alex Josephy, (photo above), who is one of 4 winners of the 2022 Cinnamon Press Poetry Pamphlet Award. In the past Alex has been one of our esteemed HWC Poetry Competition judges and a leader of poetry workshops. Her pamphlet will be published by Cinnamon Press in 2023.

The Adjudicators comments for Alex’s pamphlet were as follows.

Alex Josephy’s -Again Behold the Stars

“Set in winter 1553 in a small Italian hill town under siege, the people are hugely outnumbered, but their town, with its fortress walls, has never been taken in war and these people have uncommon endurance. It’s a story that could have been laboured, that in other hands might have been over-told, laden with too much commentary. But Alex Josephy inhabits the place and people with exquisitely-phrased precision. Told in the voices of women, including a chorus, a nearby mountain and the fortress herself, the uniting
voice of the pamphlet is a girl, through whose eyes we see the minute details of life under immense stress and feel the nuances of loss, hunger and uncertainty. This is an intense immersion into a lockdown that challenges all the senses, one utterly different from the modern experience of lockdown in the pandemic, yet also hauntingly resonant with it. Most vitally, the empathy evoked reaches us across almost five centuries, making us care in the present.”


And finally…

Our event at Hay Festival 2022 is sold out!!! 🙂

Do not despair – please go to the event page and click on the “WISH LIST” link.
You may get a ticket yet…

Wishing you all a very happy Hay Festival from everyone
at Hay Writers’ Circle and we hope to see you there.

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The Curse Of Helios by Kerry Hodges, Hay Festival Reminder and More!

To offer some non-fiction inspiration for anyone wishing to enter our present competition, here is Kerry Hodge’s excellent, The Curse of Helios. Kerry attained 1st place in last year’s competition with another piece, The Curse of Helios being placed 3rd in a previous year.

All the information on the Richard Booth Prize for Non-Fiction can be found on our
COMPETITION PAGE – Closing date for entries – Thursday 30th June 2022.

The Curse Of Helios

By Kerry Hodges

I’m standing in a field. To my left a river meanders. To my right a battalion of conifers stand proud. The sky is azure blue and blemish free. A perfect picture I paint. But I need to move go hide in those trees, seek refuge from the dangerous light of day, the sun. Hide? Yes, hide. My allergy is a burden, a blaspheme, a bugger.

For nearly thirty-five years I’ve been at the mercy of the sun, trying to outwit him, hoping to overcome his power. But to no avail. He gets me every time. 

We do daily battle. He comes out, I stay in. He stays in, I come out. And if I’m out when he comes out I hurry to shelter from his persistence, his dogged persistence.

When I need to be in his presence I wear an armour of sunscreen. Factor 150. If I don’t protect my skin, the sun attacks and very soon I feel the result – sore, swollen skin.

It all began in Yorkshire in 1988. I was just married and my husband and I were camping at Easter near Hawes. At the end of our first day of walking, enjoying the warm spring sunshine, I noticed my hands were red, mottled and prickly, like I had nettle rash. I thought nothing of it until it became a regular feature in my life. Where the sun hit my skin I had a problem. 

I have to choose my clothing carefully – always dark glasses and gloves when driving, wrist length sleeves, dark colours, trousers that cover my ankles. 

To feed the chickens, hang out the washing, walk the dogs, garden – all these daily tasks are tempered by what the weather’s doing. Is the sun on the prowl? 

This affliction tempers my life, changing, interfering, preventing. Heightening anxiety as I wake to a bright day. A miserable me.

When our children were very young we visited a beach, the best beach, an empty one. The girls squealed their delight as the waves crept closer. Nearly naked, and slavered in sunscreen, they raced around like puppies with too many legs. I was dressed as a Victorian woman might have dressed. Covered from head to toe. Every bare inch of skin, none was allowed to escape. Though my toes did escape and they suffered before I realised. Self-pitying tears spotted thick linen. I didn’t want my daughters to see – their day spoilt by a selfish Mummy – so hid in my pop-up tent. I unpacked our picnic, watching the seagulls hop along the beach as they warily regarded my family.

Nowadays I don’t go to the beach, except in moonlight or heavy rain.

To bring you up to date, we are at the old school renovating it to sell. It’s a Victorian beauty complete with sparrows nesting in the soffits. We’re in the garden, sorting scaffolding to take home as we’re decorating, that ‘painting the Forth Bridge’ occupation. My exposed parts – face and hands are generously smothered in sunscreen so I’m confident I can be in the sun for about 20 minutes with no ill effect. Wrong, I’ve forgotten something. I’m wearing my old grey ‘jeggings’ (that cross between jeans and leggings, clever. Not as confounding as a ‘skort’!) and I remember the day Kipper the black and tan terrier, long dead, bit through the leg. His teeth left a small hole in the denim and there you have it, a tiny ring of red, sore skin where the sun’s crept in. 

One day I visited a specialist in skin, a dermatologist. He was kind, listened to my tale of woe with sympathy and a tissue as my tears annoyingly fell. He explained it is probably poly morphic light eruption, (I can never say this without imagining disco lights and carefree dancing), thought to be caused by UV light altering something in the skin. The immune system then reacts to this which results in the skin becoming inflamed. He suggested all the precautions I had been taking for years which made me frustrated and desperate – I’d assumed he’d have an answer. I suppose he did to a degree. He added another layer of sunscreen, the now legendary factor 150 coverage. He could offer me drugs too but a life of taking drugs which would suppress my immune system, didn’t appeal. 

As I left he scratched at a red raw patch on his hand and I wondered if he had been to see a dermatologist yet.

I have adapted. Taken to night time walking, gardening under the stars, filled each window with a blackout blind, own a pretty black parasol and I want no pity. Goodness no, I only have to think of arthritis sufferers and the pain they have to endure to realise how lucky I am. At least I can hide from the sun.

And that’s what I’ll do the next time the smiling mouth on the radio tells me we’re in for a settled period of high pressure, I shall retreat to my shaded study, allowing my adversary to win this battle of our war. 


Next Thursday, gates open on the 35th spring Hay Festival. 
Discover the full programme and book tickets now.

Don’t forget our Hay Festival event, number 212, takes place at 2.30pm on Wednesday 1st June in the Summerhouse. It’s a FREE but ticketed event, so please click on the following link to secure your ticket. TICKET FOR EVENT 212

You can also catch us after the event in the Hay Festival Book Shop
Book Signing details below

Hope to see you there!

To subscribe to our quarterly newsletter,
enter your email address in the box below.

Email Address:


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Announcement – Richard Booth Prize For Non Fiction 2022


Submissions are now invited for our annual Non Fiction Competition, The Richard Booth Prize 2022, named after one of Hay-on-Wye’s most notable residents and it’s self proclaimed ‘King of Hay’. Richard was always a great supporter of books, Hay-on-Wye and of course, local writers.

Sadly, Richard passed away in 2019, but his name lives on everywhere in Hay, including this writing prize which he so graciously sponsored during his lifetime.

This year we are honoured to confirm that the judge for our Non Fiction Competition is Gilly Smith, an award-winning food writer and podcaster who’s been writing and making radio, television and podcasts since the early ’90s.

Gilly written lots of books, mainly about the influence of culture of food in its various forms, as well as articles for the national press and academic journals, largely about food, philosophy and ethical travel. Her book, Taste and the TV Chef won the 2020 Gourmand Award for best UK food writing and the International Impact Award 2021.

She’s also the producer and presenter of a number of podcasts including:

Cooking the Books with Gilly Smith , the delicious podcast ,

Leon’s How to Eat to Save the Planet 


The first prize of £100 has been generously sponsored by an anonymous donor, with additional cash prizes for 2nd and 3rd placed pieces.

Without further delay, here are the Non Fiction Competition details :

This is an open competition meaning – ANYONE CAN ENTER

The closing date for entries is Thursday 30th June 2022. Any entries received after this date will not be considered. The results will be announced at the end of August. 

We would like original, unpublished work.

Word count for this competition is 500 words minimum and 1250 words maximum. The theme is entirely open.

Please use ONLY Arial Font 12pt, double spaced. 

Your name must NOT appear on your entry. Please put your name, title and contact details on the booking form only. 

Please put the title at the beginning of your entry. Please number your pages and secure them together if you are submitting a hard copy. 

The results are final and correspondence will not be entered into over the results. All entrants will be informed of the results.  

At our discretion, the winning entry will be published on the Hay Writers Circle website. Publication may prevent eligibility for future competitions. All rights remain with the author.  

The entry form and full competition details can be downloaded here –


Don’t forget our Hay Festival event, number 212, takes place at 2.30pm on Wednesday 1st June in the Summerhouse. It’s a FREE but ticketed event, so please click on the following link to secure your ticket.

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Hay Writers’ Circle at Hay Festival, 2022

We are thrilled to announce that Hay Writers’ Circle will be performing at Hay Festival 2022.

Our event, number 212, takes place at 2.30pm on Wednesday 1st June in the Summerhouse. It’s a FREE but ticketed event, so please click on the following link to secure your ticket.


Hay Writers’ Circle have a number of talented authors in our group and those performing at this year’s festival will be showcasing a variety of exciting new works including short stories, poetry and extracts from newly published books. We are positive you will want to be there to enjoy their stirring creations and take advantage of getting a book signed too.

A huge thank you to Hay Festival.
We cannot stress enough how grateful we are for Hay Festival’s continued support of our group.

The entire Hay Festival 2022 programme is available online at :

Get booking and hope to see you there!

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Gladstone’s Library Reading Rooms, March 2022

by Emma van Woerkom

Silence is Golden

It is always a treat to spend many hours in the quiet company of books. Needless to say, my visit to Gladstone’s Library has been nothing short of a revelation. Not only are the buildings and surrounds beautiful, the library staff seamlessly knowledgeable and helpful, but the excellent quality of the reading stock and quiet places in which to read are to be applauded.

Planning ahead and using the online ‘Main Cat’ search facility honed my inquiries, (for anyone wishing to explore the volumes owned by Gladstone himself, use the website’s  ‘Glad Cat’ search). Of course, there were some registration forms to complete, proof of ID etc, but this is all quite standard for viewing rare volumes. I found the process slightly easier than registering for the British Library Reading Rooms.

The heart of Gladstone’s Library harks back to its high Victorian roots. Rich wooden bookcases, pillars, galleries, and a lofty vaulted ceiling where natural light pours in. Individual desks are located on both floors, along the main centre concourse or positioned in discreet niches in between the heaving book cases. Not wishing the leave the 21st Century totally behind there is excellent access to Wi-Fi throughout the building complex, plus scattered plug points for ailing laptop batteries.

When I arrived, everything was ready and waiting for me. I had a whole table to myself right at the centre of the library’s ground floor, complete with a comfortable chair, book pillow and snake weights – I find it’s important to have enough space to spread your material and some modicum of seated comfort for the hours of research and reading ahead. My first selection, an original 3 volume publication from 1761 appeared and away I went.

This library is so in tune with its readers, possessing an easy quiet atmosphere so conducive to concentration, that three hours slipped by without my notice. I returned after lunch to my desk exactly as I had left it, eager for my second selection.

One of the great delights of research is the discovery of new links to your source subject. At Gladstone’s, Teresia Constantia Phillips led me to Hestor Chapone, who in turn led me to her correspondence with Samuel Richardson. So, was there also a printed copy of Richardson’s Letters at Gladstone’s too? Yes! And as quickly as it arrived at my desk, I found mention of Teresia again – the circle complete!

With a little time to spare and the “when in Rome” attitude, I decided to treat myself to requesting a large, beautifully illustrated volume from the History Room, which is located just off the main library. The book was set out for me on a table next to a window. In the peaceful afternoon sunshine, the colours of this illustrated volume just glowed – what a thrill for this book lover.

If you are staying at Gladstone’s Library overnight then don’t forget to take a walk around the library just before it closes at 10pm. It is a wonderful atmospheric experience.

Gladstone’s Library after dark.

A special thanks for making this visit to amazing goes to my fellow travelling Hay Writers
and to all the Staff at Gladstones, especially Isobel Goodman, Assistant Librarian.

For more information on Gladstone’s Library Reading Rooms

or go to

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Poetry Competition 2022 Deadline Looming

It’s a little over a week to go before the deadline of our annual poetry competition, but that means there’s still plenty of time to enter. If you’ve a verse hiding a drawer, an ode to a favourite pet, a ditty about a car or a haiku on Lockdown, we’d love to see it and it could win a cash prize too!

Ojo Taiya won First Prize in 2021 with his evocative poetry sequence “Conspiracy of Silence / Moira Camp: The New Colossus / Let Me Tell You a Different Story / Listen“. With this success, Ojo entered his poems into another competition (so they cannot be printed here), but to satisfy our craving for his words here are some links to his published work online as well as details of his book.


Don’t forget it’s an open competition open to everyone, poems up to 40 lines in length and on any subject can be entered. Our judge, Dr Jack McGowan, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing and Head of Department of English, Media & Culture at the University of Worcester, is eagerly waiting to choose his favourites.

Details on how to enter can be found on our Competitions Page or by downloading this link –

Good Luck!

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