The theft of Writers Forum’s name

This has been going on for nearly a year and an index to it will be provided a.s.a.p.

The following has just been posted on where Stephen Mooney posted an invitation to our workshops but at an address of his choosing


Stephen Mooney has announced a Writers Forum Workshop, yet again

He is still in no position to do so. Nor to declare a second series.

It is passing off. It is, as passing off, despite what is said by him and his herd, illegal under common law, although it is very hard to enforce; beyond that, it is unethical.

On July 3rd 2010, after he had already interfered in the administration of WF and only weeks before he, with others, tried even harder to take over,  he emailed me — in reply to my accusation that he was – illegitimately — trying to speak for Writers Forum Workshop for his own benefit.

In that email, he complained that the accusation was unfair.

He said _I am not party to the internal decision making in WF, nor should I be._

He went on _I can assure you there was, and is, no attempt to associate myself, or Birkbeck, or Veer with WF’s name, or to take advantage of WF. I am truly surprised that you would think that. _

He said _ I have enough to do as it is (a lot more than enough). _

Two months later he and others wrote me an email letter which proposed to do everything that this email denies he wishes to do and which demonstrated that they had been working on the project for some time.

They declared _we are in the process of starting our own alternate (sic) workshop_; but when they went public it was with the name Writers Forum.

It was, in the words of a colleague, the kind of letter that might be written by a business apparatchik with words like exciting, accessible, innovative.

It was written by Sean Bonney, Wayne Clements, Johan De Wit, Steve Fowler, Antony John Francis, James Harvey, Jeff Hilson, Matt Martin, Stephen Mooney, Nat Raha, Linus Slug and Jamie Sutcliff.

They offered to speak with me about it then, but sent the letter on the day when it was known I was going out of London; and they could have said it all earlier if they were sincere. Instead they cooked up their scheme behind my back and then offered to talk; and, if they were honest, all they had to do was a start a new workshop and walk out saying they didn’t like the way I was doing things.

The letter heaps praise upon me whilst implicitly suggesting that I was leading WF to stasis and ruin, a ruin they could avert and I could not.

I can only think that their main aim, should I have been able to talk, was to give me a verbal gold clock and persuade  me to agree to be let go.

It didn’t seem to occur to them that I took seriously Bob Cobbing having chosen me as one of those to run what he had made. He did not choose any of them, apparently perceptively.  I would not choose any of them to take over.

They have some good points in their own work but it is clear from what little they have written on the subject that they have a poor grasp of what Writers Forum Workshop is about and see only the element which they value.

I am put in mind of a reply to a review written over 30 years ago by Peter J King and Alaric Sumner of a Writers Forum publication: they laid into wf and its production method, again with the tone of those who know how to save the world. (This was words worth magazine which did quite well and made a total of 4 issues over 2 decades; it was good in parts.)

The reply, which they had the honesty and openness to entertain and publish, told them: _You have made the mistake of thinking your opinions are important_. Perceptive words.

The main criticism — for them — the Mooney Coalition made – leaving aside the undertone —  is that _there is no democratic mechanism in place by which our majority view can be expressed and acted upon_, the word _our_ apparently referring to whomever turned up to a private conspiracy invitation: two women presumably expected not to agree with the action were not invited. And nor was I, of course, despite their praise for my _long and important involvement with WF_ (I quote them – and notice in that quote that they only allow me _involvement_; while they speak of their fake wf as _our_ workshop.  No acknowledgement that the process of hand over was of two years’ thought and subsequent discussion by Cobbing; but that was known. There is no secret but it doesn’t fit their mendacious narrative.)

So they had a (secret) unanimous vote by all those who could be relied upon to vote yes.

I had not been aware of this supposedly democratic urge in those of them I knew. I think of the oil company that proclaimed Power to the people and the brewer who urged us to join the red revolution.

There never has been any attempt from Writers Forum to stop people leaving the Workshop. Nor is there any mechanism for doing so. I could hardly have objected to the departure of one who was hardly ever there anyway.

Democratic? Many voting never had participated in Writers Forum. Very democratic. (It’s actually more complex and worse than this but I am trying to keep it simple.)

When it was clear I intended ignoring them as unreliable scoundrels, they went out of their way to confuse the issue for others, leading people to think that they really are Writers Forum, taking the credit for what others have done. Perhaps that always was the intention. People were told that our meetings were off; but *that can only be done once — if and when I find out about it.

Then leaflets in the pub we use were taken, repeatedly; not all the leaflets, just ours. It could have been done by anyone, but it was a hell of a coincidence. I think I know which one did it; but I’ll keep shtumm

They said they had difficult issues to raise with me.  They didn’t explain that. They didn’t encourage the discussion.

There would have been real difficulty for more than half of them because they had never spoken to me about anything. Perhaps what they meant was that I might laugh at them with their _collective impulse of all_. Where have I heard of that before? (I mean apart from in speeches from the guillotine.)

I know: it was LUC, London Under Construction, a collection of individuals, including Stephen Mooney, many of whom did some exciting things and worthy things but which was hard to work with, though I tried to, because (a) everyone was in charge, but no one seemed to have oversight or coordination (b) it kept trying to speak for Writers Forum and several times claimed to have _represented Writers Forum_ without Writers Forum’s permission.

Chris Goode wrote recently of Ulli Freer running Sub Voicive Poetry between 1992, when Gilbert Adair left, and 1994, when I took over. That was inaccurate. There were 5 of us running SVP in that period of whom Ulli was very active, perhaps the most active; but the work was supposedly shared, and much of it which should have been done did not get done. I took very little part during that time, being preoccupied fighting a criminal charge trumped up by the metropolitan police. That came to a sort of an end in early 1994.

I am not concerned to criticise anyone on the SVP committee (1992-1994), merely to cite the predictable failure of management by disorganized committee.

When I took over, I was told it was too much work for one person: I took over to stop the talk of closure. It was a lot of work, but not too much, once there were not multiple chiefs. The first months were hard, as I had to discover and deal with arrangements which had been made, unrecorded, by others without anyone else knowing.

(Incidentally, this period was cited to me last year by an observer sympathetic to the Coalition, as I call Mooney’s herd, as an example of how difficult I am to work with, on the basis of gossip, as from 1994 I insisted that things be done in a slightly organised way; and to stop people thinking they could speak and arrange for SVP as part of some kind of collective will.)

So perhaps the mistake is being made again.

Or perhaps the proposal for democracy is for the same kind of democracy that might be proposed by either Milliband.

Last year, one commentator – you can find this on the blog (who gave permission for quotation) – remarked _Their actions look wilful, treacherous, competitive and bullying_ and went on to query _whether any serious discussion has taken place as to the ethical propriety of using the name.. Or whether this is intended as deliberately 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”._

A man who sold poisons to the USA  execution industry defended himself by saying _I have done nothing illegal_.

I think the desire for the name of Writers Forum is the desire for its kudos. I think it’s careerism. That may not apply to all, but they all signed the letter. I have been told that getting a herd to move is easy: one moves and the rest follow. I don’t understand this petit bourgeois sense of entitlement among those who claim allegiance to the practice of Writers Forum. They couldn’t have been listening.

They seem to want to remake it as some kind of self-improvement process. It’s more radical than they imagine.

Writers Forum continues in its egalitarian way, but without democratic mechanisms, as it always has. And is still the target of misinformation, as witness Stephen Mooney’s latest.

There is no second series.

They have no right to the name.

They have hijacked Cobbing’s name and memory. None of them ever were members of Writers Forum because Writers Forum is not a membership organization.

They have done Writers Forum harm.

They have diverted energies.

They have done no good that could not have been done with an honest name.

Last week, some among us smelt revolution in the air.

If we *had just passed through a revolutionary moment ,and were poets any part of that, I would be less than optimistic with this kind of behaviour being accepted among us. That’s why revolutions go bad.

If even a few more challenged the Coalition, they would stop doing it; but we seem to be assailed by timidity.

Let them have their own workshop.(I wouldn’t want them back in WFW.) But let them name it appropriately.

They could use their skills to try for the professorship of Poetry at Oxford.

This is where I came into poetry as a social activity. This is how it was in The Poetry Society in the 60s and early 70s, a few keeping to themselves what did not belong to them and refusing to admit it was so whilst talking up their own generosity and commitment.

The (truly) democratic takeover of the PoSoc was lost by a vote, sold out by self-interest, though much good it did the individuals.

The squabbles after Eric Mottram died were unedifying and counter-productive – and he would have boxed the Coalition’s ears for the way they quote him; Cobbing would have spat venom.

How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world! That has such people in it!

I do not think it is necessary to take Keats’ Grecian Urn as axiomatic to find such behaviour as the Coalition’s disturbing. If we are really content for such mediocre porkies to be told, what is the point of making poetry? Why don’t they just join one of the three big parties or go into Marketing?

I have had to revise my opinion of several signatories to that letter. I didn’t know some – and they could not know what they implicitly claimed to know so they judged me without evidence; and I judge them accordingly; but some have, for me, behaved out of character.

I think particularly of one whom I had previously considered to be at least one of the finest poets among us.

There has been a year in which all have had the opportunity to retract what they wrote, even verbally, including that person – I have been in the same room with some of them (though not thanks to any of them – I am excluded and that is that)

They have not retracted and now I read their poetry in the light of both their email writing and their subsequent failure to apologise for their mendacity.

But then it’s Somebody Else’s Problem, isn’t it. So don’t worry.

Apologies for cross posting


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