Richard Booth Prize for Non-Ficiton 2018 – Judged by Oliver Bullough.

The Hay Writers’ Circle 2018 Non-Fiction Competition


The Non-Fiction competition is sponsored by Richard Booth with prizes for first, second and third places – £25, £20, £15 respectively.

We are honoured to have as our judge Oliver Bullough, a regular contributor to The Guardian, shortlistee for the Orwell Prize and winner of the Cornelius Ryan award.

The closing date for entries is Tuesday 10th July. Results will be announced in August.

Word count for this competition is 600 words minimum and 1250 words maximum.
The theme is entirely open.

Please print your entry in Arial Font 12, 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 your title at the beginning of the entry and if possible on every sheet. Please number your pages and secure them together firmly if you cannot put your title on every page.

Each applicant may submit only one entry.

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

If paying by BACS payment please make sure your payment is received, with your name on the reference, before the 10th July. Cheques will be accepted on the 10th July but must clear to validate the entry.


(Please complete the booking form below and send it with your entry, plus payment.) 


Competition (please select)         Poetry        Fiction        Non-Fiction

Title of Entry …………………………………………………………………..

Word Count ……………………………………………………………………

Your details     Name  …………………………………………………………

Address (optional)………………………………………………………………


Telephone  ………………………………………………………………………

Email  ……………………………………………………………………………

Send your printed entry with a cheque for £5 made payable to Hay and District Writers’ Circle to:

The HWC Competition Secretary, 1 Baskerville Court, Clyro, HR3 5SS. Please send a SAE if you wish to receive confirmation of your entry.

If you wish to email your entry please send it to as a word document attachment with a completed copy of this form attached. Please write ‘competition entry’ in the subject box. BACS payment of £5 can be made to:

Hay and District Writers’ Circle, Natwest Bank, Sort code 53-50-31, Account no 52557499. Please put your name as the reference.

Would you like to be added to our mailing list for updates on other competitions, courses or information that might suit you?

Please circle:                         YES                     NO


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Hay Festival Heaven – Imagining the World.


Hay Festival 2018


We’ve been blessed with fabulous sunny weather, a larger, high-spec venue and best of all an absolutely fantastic, sell-out crowd!

As the temperature soared towards mid-day our event got underway. An attentive audience were delighted by a wide variety of poetry, short stories and excerpts from novels.  Well rehearsed thoughtful, humorous and descriptive pieces easily gelled alongside fictional landscapes and characters – there was literally something for everyone to enjoy.

A huge thank you to Peter Florence and the whole team at Hay Festival for their essential support enabling the Hay Writers and giving them a valuable public platform to perform. Special thanks also to Bella from Hay Festival, who managed us perfectly and was an utter god-send of positive, calm efficiency. Finally, thank you to our audience who shunned the sunshine and ice creams for an hour and applauded in all the right places. Well done everyone!


Chairperson, Angela Grunsell with Bella from Hay Festival


If you feel inspired to join us, whether as a full time member or to attend one of our inspirational all-day workshops (see our events page), why not get in touch.

Email our secretary Marianne Rosen for more details: –

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It’s Festival Time Again!


It’s festival time again! How do I know? Well, it’s not from the throngs of people lining the roads, streets and country lanes, or the aroma of BBQ’s and a myriad of pop-up food stands serving all sorts of deliciously exotic fare; not even the colourful bunting zig-zagging over the streets or the distant throb from music carried for miles on heady evening breezes, or perhaps the increased volume of celebrities talking, reading, singing or even signing books.

No, it’s festival time again because my mother’s broom tree is blooming.

It’s little pea-type flowers explode in a riot of fountaining yellow, like a long awaited dazzling solar flare. We marvel at it, comment on it’s vibrancy and how popular it is with the bees who forage within a blinding forest of petals. There’s no mistaking this brilliant beacon and it’s annual declaration. Yes, it’s definitely festival time again!

***Hay Writers’ Circle will be performing at the Hay Festival 2018***
Sunday 3rd June, event 420, at 11.30am in the Compass venue.
It’s FREE but ticketed. 

Get your tickets HERE or direct from the festival box office.

There’s so much on at the moment, why not check out our EVENTS page too!

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Hay Festival 2018

2015-05-24-17-40-11.jpgHAY FESTIVAL 2018 – 24th May-3rd June.

It’s that glorious time of year again when we open our diaries, scan a scintillating programme crammed with stimulating events and slowly begin to fathom a literary-inspired jigsaw of lectures, talks and exhibitions – of course, I am describing the annual process which is the introduction to Hay Festival 2018.

How, who, where, when, what time, which venue – watches synchronised, pages pencilled, holiday booked, excitement levels start to ascend as anticipation begins fillings our dreams. Ten days of inspiration which makes the brain fizz and the heart soar.

The Hay Writers at Hay Festival 2018

microphone (1)We are extremely grateful to Peter Florence and the organisers for allowing us a slot at the Festival again this year.  We will be reading our latest short stories, poetry and prose (some prize winning pieces) on Sunday 3rd June at 11.30am in the Compass venue. In a change from previous occasions, this year our event is FREE.

It’s a ticketed event so don’t forget to book your place – everyone is most welcome.

Session number is 420 and tickets are available HERE 

To view the whole 10 day Hay Festival programme, click HERE

We hope to see you there.


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Libby Houston Announced as Poetry Judge 2018

It is with enormous delight that we can reveal that the 2018 Poetry Competition Judge is the incredible Libby Houston.

libby Houston

Libby Houston (2011). Photo credit

Libby Houston has been a working poet for more than half a century, starting back in the days of the Beats with her first performance in a cellar under the 1961 Edinburgh Festival. She has taken her work all over the world.

In the 80s, she toured the West Midlands with avant garde band Earth House. She has sung her work on Dutcvh radio to settings by the great Dutch surrealist Louis Lehmann.

Cover of Darkness (Slow Dancer Press, 1999) contains most of her poetry of the last century. Her storytelling poems for children, originally commissioned for BBC Schools Radio, are collected in All Change (OUP, 1993).

A veteran Arvon Foundation and Taliesin tutor, she also started the (now defunct) Bristol writing group, Practising Poets, and has led all kinds of poetry workshops for adults, children, schools and festivals. She pioneered the concept of pop-up poetry.

Currently living in Bristol, she also works as a botanist, specialising in roped surveys of plants on cliffs, killing invasive aliens on cliffs, and leading the unsuspecting public on quite exciting nature walks. She has discovered 6 tree species entirely new to science – here, in the English West country – one of which has been named after her: Houston’s Whitebeam. Her R4 radio poem for Brunel, Bridge, was broadcast in 2006.

She was married to the late artist, cartoonist & trumpeter (leader of the free jazz Amazing Band) Mal Dean, from Widnes, who died in 1974. They lived in London & had 2 children.


Rubric from Libby Houston’s bench. Photo by Ange Grunsell

Some quotes from reviews re Libby Houston

“…very much more satisfying than a packet of marshmallows.” Jean Chesterman (that was actually printed in like the Amersham Gazette or something)

“compelling and charismatic” Sandra Stevens

“If I was a jug I would give you ten out of ten and a prize.” Jonathon Osgood (8 ½)

“… consistently original and exciting…..

…….an inspiration to other writers, of all ages…..” Shirley Brown [Venue]

“… whiteface on the highwire….” Daniel Richardson [Avon Literary Intelligencer]

“… [her] unique and inimitable [gift]….” Jay Ramsay [Green Voices]

“Her taut, elliptical and rapid-moving voice mirrors a passionate concern with emotional precision that resonates through every line….” Jay Ramsay [Green Voices]

“characteristic writing-on-the-edge (never over the top).” Keith Jebb [Poetry Review]

“…from the profound to the pleasantly feckless … . I take my invisible hat off to her collection.” Judith Kazantzis [Spare Rib]

“ original voice …..” A.S. Byatt
[“She likes to contemplate rottenness” A.S. Byatt – ]

“an unusual metaphysical intelligence…” Carol Rumens [The Oxford Companion to Twentieth Century Poetry, 1994]

Selected Bibliography


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Landscape, Memory and an Earthquake.

Landscape and Memory Workshop, 17th February 2018.
with Dr Rhiannon Hooson.

Hay Writer’s Circle felt extremely lucky to have Dr Rhiannon Hooson facilitate an all-day poetry workshop in the comfortable surrounds of Cusop Village Hall. The sold out event was attended by four members of our group and ten non-member participants who were keen in further developing their poetry.


All work and no play – Participants enjoying feedback

Rhiannon was excellent. She squeezed every drop of lyrical imagination we possessed onto the page and many of us left the day a little shattered, but buoyant with notebooks filled with poems, part poems and notes for future expansion.

We wrote about the place and places we call home, how we travel to get there and what roots us to these individual landscapes. We read descriptions of places, picked out words, reinvented a line or thought from the prose extract and constructed new poems. We always edited and highlighted successful and interesting phrases as we went, (I found this very useful). Finally we looked at our ‘home’ and travelled back in time imagining the changes it had seen, even going back many thousands of years.

Then at around 3pm, with such intensive mental energy concentrating on the idea of landscape, the incredible happened… earthquake (4.4 magnitude), which caused a ripple of additional excitement to an already stimulating day.


I promise the above photo contains my original written notes minutes before it happened – I wrote the word ‘EARTHQUAKE’ after the rumbling ended.

Some feedback from the day: 


‘A busy, exciting and work filled workshop! Lots of interesting ideas and notes to forward for the future. Brilliant’
‘Supportive, productive, enjoyable.’
‘Excellent, thank you. Really well organised, great venue.’


**A huge thank you to Rhiannon for a truly exhilarating day which everyone thoroughly enjoyed and to Hay Writer’s Secretary, Marianne who organised us all so beautifully.**

Dr. Rhiannon Hooson is a Welsh poet and author. 

Rhiannon Hooson - Seren Books

Rhiannon Hooson – Seren Books

She has won major awards for her work, including an Eric Gregory award from the Society of Authors, and performed at literature festivals and venues across Europe and the UK, including London, Milan and the Hay festival. Her work has been featured in the Guardian, Magma, and Poetry Wales among others.

She is an experienced workshop leader and creative mentor, with five years experience of teaching Creative Writing at a university level, and fourteen years experience of creative mentoring and leading workshops.

THE OTHER CITYHer first full length collection, The Other City, was shortlisted for the Wales Book of the Year award, and was described by the judges as “Stunning… at a pitch of achievement many of us will not reach across a career.”

To purchase a copy of The Other City – CLICK HERE

To find out more about Dr Rhiannon Hooson’s up and coming events, plus workshops and mentoring services follow this link to her website –

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Hay Writer at Brisons Veor 2018

Brisons Veor – Cape of Cornwall. I arrived for my artist in residence week to hail, sleet, wind and waves! Even the distant Long Ships lighthouse (I later found out I could see Wolf Rock Lighthouse too) became completely dissolved in the drenching low cloud. My journey along dark, busy motorways, over Bodmin with its […]

via Brisons Veor – Artist Residency – February 2018 — Emma van Woerkom ~ Poet

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“Not A Stone, A Water Bottle” – by Ange Grunsell

The Richard Booth Prize for Non-Fiction 2017 winner – Ange Grunsell.

Ange has kindly let us publish her prize winning piece below.

Many congratulations to Ange and to all who entered. The competition continues to draw a plethora of compelling and impressive new voices.


Not a Stone, a Water Bottle, by Ange Grunsell ©2017


Gourd by Ange Grunsell

My gourd is the size of a skull cap. It fits over my head perfectly. The hard, thin shell is a clean light brown. It shines softly in the light, marked all over with tiny pin pricks like pores in a skin. If you run your hand over it you can see and feel a raised line along its centre, so like a vein, this could be a bald head with all its irregularities. When you tap it, it echoes softly: the gourd contains its story.

The thickness of the tough waterproof wall between inside and outside is perhaps less than two millimetres. The inside, where once the pulp and the seeds were, is like suede. It is a very long time since this fruit hung from a calabash tree: a hundred years at least and I can testify to that. One hundred years of use have strengthened its skin, preserved its shape. Thousands of miles of Atlantic Ocean separate it from its first life in the Caribbean. The gourd’s story is a long one. Its growth, its life in St Vincent, in Trinidad and in London with my glorious aunt Winnie, and now with me, provides a surprising history of interconnections.

The gourd grown not primarily for food, but for use as water container, was one of the first cultivated plants in the world. The mystery of the calabash is that it has grown in the Americas for over 8000 years and genetic plant scientists are still unsure as to whether it was brought to the Americas by Paleoindians from Asia at the end of the ice age, or more likely, whether the seeds drifted across the Atlantic from Southern Africa to take root in the Americas, all that time ago. The history and human usage of gourds, that grow on all the planet’s continents, bar Antarctica, embodies the interconnectedness of our world: both its ecology and its people. It has served as musical instrument, decorative utensil and above all  that life saving and community necessity: a water bottle.  It is a celebration of human and plant migration, of diversity and of peaceful and artistic uses of the resources of the earth.

My widowed aunt Winnie was quite the most glamourous and interesting of my relatives when I was a child. She had been married to, ‘an oil man,’ whatever that was and lived with him in Wimbledon. She had the longest, slimmest sheerest stockinged legs rising from elegantly arched feet. I sat on the floor and admired them, looking up at her statuesque shoulders, her curly hair. She spoke in a musical way, unusual to me. She liked to tell how when she arrived in England for the first time, she had taught my eighteen year – old mother to Charleston and another cousin reported her teaching her the Black Bottom outside Selfridges,(not the front entrance you understand).

For Winnie, daughter of my Worcestershire grandmother’s brother, had grown up in Trinidad.  Dad was the bad-boy uncle sent away to where he could not damage family reputation, to become a newspaper journalist in  Trinidad. A common tale of colonial times, perhaps. But the story of Winnie’s mother’s family was a far from familiar one. This story I heard only for the first time when I was aged almost forty and we were travelling together to a family funeral.

Winnie had an Irish great grandfather on her mother’s side. How many ‘greats’ it was I don’t know. He was press – ganged off the west coast of Ireland into Napoleon’s navy around the very beginning of the nineteenth century. Napoleon’s fleet had been assisting the Irish in their rebellion against the English in 1798. Subsequently some of the same ships formed part of an invasion force of Haiti, to increase French control and attempt to re-enforce slavery, reversing their earlier policy of support for the resistance leader Toussaint L’Ouverture. A noticeboard on the quay at Killybegs confirms this history. According to Aunt Winnie, great, great etc. grandfather was taken down to Haiti by the fleet, where, somehow, he managed to stay and to marry her great grandmother, an emancipated ex-slave of African descent. Later generations included other ethnicities, other Caribbean islands and adventures of which she told me little, culminating in her own parentage that had introduced the English Midlands strain of my mother’s immediate family. But what does all this have to do with gourds or with my gourd, in particular, I hear you ask…even if the standard coin in Haiti is still called a gourde.

In 1991 I visited the Caribbean, myself, for the first time. I stayed in St Vincent, as part of a work tour with Oxfam, to interview Windward Island banana farmers whose livelihoods were under threat under changing international trade rules. On my return, I paid one of my regular visits to  Aunt Winnie, now in her eighties, who had remained a good friend as I grew up and who still lived close to my mother during my adult life.  She wanted to hear all about the visit, even though it had not touched Trinidad. I happened to mention that we had been stopped in our minibus by the sight of an agricultural workers’ land occupation protest.

“So, where was this in St Vincent?” she asked.

I replied that it was a place called the Hadley Estate, close to the East Coast.

“But that is exactly where I stayed on a holiday when I was eight years old.”

The echoes of that unlikely coincidence bounced off the walls of her small front room

Winnie remembered visiting the Windward Island of St Vincent, at the age of eight, and staying in the South East of the island. It was there, at the Hadley Estate, she had been given the gourd in around 1911, taken it back home to Trinidad and then brought it to England when she moved to London, as a connection for her with her childhood and as her lifelong daily tool. This was the day she offered the precious gourd to me.

When my aunt Winnie gave it to me she had used for over 80 years. She had used it every day to pour water over herself in the bath from when she was eight years old, up to this time, when, due to infirmity, she was now having to wash in a sit- down shower and had no more need of her trusty scoop.

In 2017 it has passed its century. But it remains as watertight as ever.

It sits on my shelf as a reminder that migrations, diversities and above all peaceful and life sustaining activity can prevail, link and unite. Our inheritance is not a stone it is a water bottle. (*)



This refers to Bertolt Brecht’s play ‘The exception and the rule’

The judge…Is this the stone? Do you recognise it?

Merchant   Yes this is the stone.

 Guide       Now see what’s in the stone. (He pours water from it).

Judge        It’s a water bottle not a stone. He was offering you water.

Merchant   But how was I to suppose it was a water bottle? The man had no reason to offer me water. I wasn’t his friend.

Guide        But he gave him water

Judge        But why did he give him water? Why?

Guide        He must have thought the merchant was thirsty.



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New Year, New You, New Us by Marianne Rosen

New Year, New You, New Us.

It’s New Year again. Time to regret the few too many chocolates consumed, the too loud clang of bottles entering the recycled bin, and any goals never achieved in the year now gone. It’s a great time to consider what we might like to look back on in delight in another year’s time.

Last year for me this was when I finally decided I was going to grasp my dream of being a writer and weave it into my daily life a thread at a time until it could not be unpicked. Joining Hay Writers’ Circle was one of those terrifying and immensely uplifting steps. I have met an amazing group of diverse, intelligent, kind and empathic people who have been part of that journey. I have shared my work, received great critical feedback, been supported in my goals and, most importantly, been made to feel part of this wonderful group. Writing is no longer an elusive, pitifully private hope. It is a daily, clamouring part of the fabric of my life. I no longer ask myself if I shall write, but what am I writing next?

Much can change in a year and, following a dynamic AGM in September, Hay Writers are delighted to announce the hosting of their first open workshop. This has been in response to Members requests for more inspiration and challenge, and follows on from a powerful Mslexia workshop the group shared last July with poet Fiona Sampson. We have had many enquiries from writers wishing to join the group but who are unable to attend Tuesday twice monthly meetings and intend this as a way for new writers to engage with and get to know our group.

Poetry workshop A4 poster (2)Our first poetry workshop is on Saturday 17th February and will be led by poet Dr Rhiannon Hooson, focusing on Landscape and Memory (click here for details on our website). Another workshop on non-fiction writing is in development for July. So, if you are looking to engage with other writers, or further your own projects and ambitions, perhaps our workshops might be a great starting point for you. We include in the fee the opportunity to enter your work in our competitions which are judged by external, highly acclaimed writers. Iain Rowan recently judged our Fiction competition, giving carefully considered feedback to each entry.

Another new development is the piloting of our Work in Progress sub group. Aiming to give a specific platform to the longer projects that some members are pursuing this group is currently exploring the dynamics of focused retreat days and shared critique. If you think this could be the impetus you need to kick start your writing project, or push it to the end, please contact us for further developments. All workshops and the Work in Progress group will meet on Saturdays, specifically to offer a new face of the group to writers who cannot attend our standard Tuesday meetings.

Our group is always open to enquiry from new writers and we aim to meet every one for a personal conversation before joining, so, go on, don’t be daunted, get in touch. Take that first step in believing in the New Year, and in all its fresh potentials, and put that writing dream first.

Marianne Rosen 

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Get your Muse on

Hay Writers’ Circle are delighted to present a poetry workshop on Saturday 17th February, with award-winning Welsh poet and highly acclaimed workshop leader, Dr Rhiannon Hooson.

THE OTHER CITYDr Hooson studied and later taught at Lancaster University, where she was awarded first an MA with distinction in Creative Writing, then a PhD in Poetry. She performs her poetry at literature festivals and venues across Europe and the UK, and her work has appeared in the Guardian, Magma, and Poetry Wales among others. Her first pamphlet, This Reckless Beauty, was published in 2004, and she has since been widely published in literary magazines and anthologies. Her first full length collection, The Other City, was published by Seren in November 2016, and was shortlisted for the Wales Book of the Year. The judges hailed it as “Stunning”. Her work has been described as “uncompromising and sharp-edged,” (Joanna Boulter) and “compelling and provocative” (Graham Mort). She has won an Eric Gregory award from the Society of Authors for a short collection, Un.

Rhiannon Hooson - Seren Books

Rhiannon Hooson – © Seren Books

Dr Hooson is a dynamic workshop leader, choosing to focus on the production of multiple first drafts during the day. In this workshop we will attempt to untangle the relationship between environment and memory through creative writing. How does our experience of the world around us colour our interactions with the landscape of the page? How can we use the landscape in our writing effectively and evocatively? Down country lanes and through primeval forests; across vast oceans and the cities of the past, we will look at the intrinsic link between history and sense of place, and chart our own journeys across a changing landscape.

The workshop will be presented in the modern and comfortable facility of Cusop Hall, situated just on the outskirts of Hay on Wye. Suitable for disabled users, within walking distance from Hay and with excellent on-site parking. The day will begin promptly at 10am with an introduction to Dr Hooson and move swiftly into productive writing. We will break for morning refreshments, have a late lunch and wrap up around 3.30pm in time for afternoon coffee and cake. This will be a chance to talk to Dr Hooson and the members of the Hay Writers’ Circle as well as to purchase some of Dr Hooson’s work. Included in the cost for the workshop is the chance to enter your work in our annual Poetry competition. Our competitions are judged by external, highly acclaimed writers and offer the chance for valuable feedback. This year’s competition deadline is the 13th March, and our judge is Libby Houston.

To best accommodate individual dietary requirements we ask that you bring your own lunch. The venue has kitchen facilities, including microwave but not an oven, if you need to use them. Hot and cold drinks will be available throughout the day. Biscuits and afternoon cake are provided so please inform us when booking if you have any allergies.

Saturday 17th February 2018Poetry workshop A4 poster (2)

10am until 4pm

At Cusop Hall, Hay on Wye, HR3 5RW

£35 per person

Numbers are limited and booking is ESSENTIAL.


Contact Marianne Rosen to book a place:


phone or text: 07967 454322


To find out more about our workshop leader please visit her website

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