Commentary received

The following was posted on “UKPoetry” on Sunday, November 14, 2010 8:43 PM by Chris Goode and is reprinted here almost in its entirety.

I have omitted the final paragraph which does not address issues related directly to Writers Forum

It is reprinted with Chris Goode’s permission

Subject: Writers Forum Workshop (New Series)

My commitments away from the world of poetry — sometimes, it feels, a very long way away — mean that I sometimes, regretfully, have the sensation of being rather out of the loop. (The loop, happily, does fine without me.) Thankfully I’m not so estranged as to miss out on everything, though, partly because I still keep half an eye on this list and a few other useful online portals and trapdoors. It’s been particularly heartening to witness, again without being able to be quite in the thick of it, the different kinds of engagement being made, both here and in connected zones, with the imperatives arising lately in attempting to respond publicly to the assaults being perpetrated on the education system and on arts funding, &c. In fact I received an email just now which I thought pretty heartening and exemplary in its determination to ensure that our anger keeps being translated into direct action, adventurous critical thought and plausible collectivity.

In that context, wherein more than ever we (many of us) want to feel that we stand together — and feel that it’s true when we say so — I would really welcome a few words from any of the individuals who have taken it upon themselves to hijack the name of Writers Forum in establishing a new workshop series that seems, as far as one can tell from the currently visible information, intent on supplanting and presumably obliterating the series that, since the death of Bob Cobbing, has been run by Lawrence Upton and, until recently, Adrian Clarke.

I myself was only briefly a regular attendee of the WF workshop, while I was  running the venue that offered its hospitality to WF during a period between about 2003-05; it is certainly true that I was aware even then of a level of discontent (largely muttered behind hands) about some aspects of the running of the series — not least, at that time, the unsuitability  of that venue. (Fair enough.) To a degree I am surprised that it’s taken until now for a similar workshop, inspired by Cobbing’s model but run instead by those who’ve felt unhappy with current WF proceedings, to emerge: and probably on balance it’s not a bad thing that it has. Were I ever in a position to attend either, I would quite like to attend both.

Can I ask, though — perhaps someone involved in the so-called “new series” would be able to comment? — whether it’s correct to say that their workshops are deliberately being programmed to clash with the, hm, “old series”? (WF Classic? — No, hang on, fuck off: Writers Forum.) And whether any serious discussion has taken place as to the ethical propriety of using the name of Writers Forum in doing so? Or whether this is intended as deliberately — to be polite and collegiate as ever — provocative? I have read a small number of ad hoc defences of this manoeuvre; none of them seem to get beyond “there’s nothing to stop us doing so”.

I’m puzzled because many of the signatory movers behind the “new series” are friends and colleagues towards whom I feel nothing but affection and respect (and whom I dare say would, and will, make a good job of running a workshop of this kind): so I sort of imagine I must be missing something. From the outside, assuming I have an accurate picture —  and I concede I may not, from this distance — their actions look wilful, treacherous, competitive and bullying. All of which are things we have plenty of room to be, because no one will stop us, no one owns the means to do so.

As far as I know, no discussion of this wretched situation has been essayed here, and on a couple of occasions when I’ve tried elsewhere to ventilate my concerns informally I’ve been met only with embarrassment and fudging. I wonder would anyone care to set the record straight? I wonder if I might encourage them to do so front-channel, even? I am a bit sick of the amount of behind-the-hand whispering that goes on in a group of two hundred people. It is, to say the least, one of the characteristic behaviours that make my time out of the loop a little easier to bear.

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