Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Red 'ouse

With the help of funding from a Creative New Zealand Arts Grant, I was able to travel to the UK from early April to the beginning of this month to research Mary Taylor. 

Mary Taylor was for about fifteen years a shopkeeper in Wellington in the 1840s and 50s, and much more, but she is best known as Charlotte Bronte's best friend. 

I had planned to travel to her ancestral home, Red House, in West Yorkshire.

 This is not Red House.
This is Oakwell Hall.

Kirklees Council chose to save Oakwell Hall instead of Red House.

Thank you for showing an interest in Red House. You may not be aware that at the last General Election the country chose to elect a government that made no secret of their commitment to austerity and their desire particularly to “shrink” local government. 

They have also shown and demonstrated their wish to move resources from authorities in the North of England and to protect authorities in the south. As a consequence we have seen a cut in government funding of £180m . This is at a time when demand for social care, that already makes up 60% of spending, is rising significantly.

Given the choice between protecting a child from abuse, supporting an aged person to stay at home, helping a person with disabilities to lead a normal life or subsidising visitors to a House once occupied by a significant historical figure, there was only one choice we could make.

We didn’t want to make the cuts. But we have no choice

David Sheard

Leader Kirklees Council

"Do you know anything about Oakwell Hall?"
"Isn't it the ancestral party pad of some privileged white men?"
Ha. ha ha h...
I asked, would have closed Red House if Mary Taylor had been a man? I imagined my words in a bubble, written in Comic sans.

 This is Red House.

In "1565 Henry Batt purchased the manors of Oakwell, Gomersal, Heckmondwike and Heaton. The Oakwell property was described as, 'Okewell Hall with the appurtances in Okewell, Gomersall, Birstall and Heckmondwike, now in the occupation of James Nettilton, Christopher Nettilton, Robert Popelay and William Taylor...'
     We cannot be certain that this William was one of the Red House Taylors, but the family tree does show a William Taylor of Gomersal who died in January 1588." (Ferrett, 1987)

Although, I was lucky enough to gain access to Red House, it was no longer running as a museum and had been stripped of its period furnishings and Taylor family art.

The Bronte Society now have the stained glass windows depicting Milton and Shakespeare. Red House is to be sold on the open market.

Barnsley poet Ian MacMillan once demonstrated that the difference between a Yorkshire accent and a Derbyshire one hinged upon the phrase "You can come in my house". Tykes say 'ouse whereas Derbyshire folk pronounce arse. It's a bit like difference between selling an 'istorical 'ouse to save an 'istorical arse.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

First fox

First fox is launched! And what a launch.
Early arrivals to Mojo's Bledisloe were greeted with warmth from the staff and a glass of bubbles!  
Unity Books ordered in seventy copies for the launch.

Big thanks due to Anita Arlov - she was a superb emcee, bringing her characteristic generosity of spirit to the introduction of First fox.

Big thanks, too, to Lawrence Brock for setting up and running the sound system and much of the behind-the-scenes work that made the launch run beautifully.

 Leanne gave a moving reading of her title story, "First fox".
 And cracked everyone up with her comic timing at the end. She finished with a story called Hummingbird, that isn't in the book -- I am already looking forward to the launch of the book it makes it into!
Yours truly read "The Very Old Mother".
Then Frankie McMillan read from her collection My Mother and the Hungarians, also part of the Auckland Writers Festival, with some laugh-out-loud moments.

 Heaps of laughs and applause all round meant it was time for book signing!
More behind-the-scenes thanks due to Jane Brock.
 Chatter, nibbles and drinks followed and more books were sold.
New friends were made.
More books were sold.

 Leanne signed and signed and signed.
 Everyone was talking about First fox.

It was particularly wonderful to see a New Zealand writer get the long overdue praise and attention she deserves! 
 Every launch copy of First fox sold!

Leanne Radojkovich is a writer to watch! And if you're in Auckland, you can do just that on Sunday May 21, in the Limelight Room of the Aotea Centre at 12 noon, as part of Auckland Writers Festival.

I'm so very grateful to have been given the opportunity to be a part of First fox. This book was made beautifully by The Emma Press, with design and production values to die for that set it apart as an artisan press. The Emma Press is a truly exciting small press run by Emma Wright, a remarkable woman with an amazing vision for what a publisher can be. Having previously published only poetry pamphlets, she took a leap into the unknown with Leanne's fiction collection, but I'm sure you'll agree, it's paid off.

First offer

I'm chuffed to bits that while I was in England I got to meet Emma Wright, the one-of-her-kind inspirational woman behind the innovative and imaginative The Emma Press.

Here we are holding First fox, the debut fiction collection by New Zealand writer Leanne Radojkovich that I was lucky enough to illustrate.

First fox is available to buy direct from The Emma Press and online.