Even writers' groups are not free from political interference, I discovered in 1986, when I joined my first.
We met each week in the annex of a college. It had been decided before I joined to enlist the services of Patrick, an English teacher at the college. He would sit in as we read out our stories, listen pensively, stroke his beard and then issue his learned criticisms.
I did not like this pretentious pedant, but was constrained to endure him. Everybody else accepted my work for an anthology. Patrick decided to run a poetry competition. He was the only judge. I entered and lost. He even completed the faint up- and down-strokes of my typewritten letters with a pen, I noticed when I got it back.
Patrick foisted upon us a worker from Northern Arts, as it was then, to help us produce the anthology. His name was Alan and he looked like a Mexican spic. He took it upon himself to throw out all my work that the rest of the group had already agreed to include in the anthology. As by then I was the secretary of the group, I felt my position was being undermined. He suggested we hold a literary evening. It was to be held in the function room of a pub. He invited his crony, Keith, who now holds a doctorate in literature, I notice from his website, though even then was a well-known writer, though only in local circles. They both typified the liberal arty bourgeoisie espousing socialist beliefs romanticizing poverty, though having to endure none themselves.
The only reader I distinctly remember from that literary evening in 1986 was Keith, though for the wrong reason. I believe it is called “Action” poetry or something. He stood up on the stage and began reading out his poetry John Cooper-Clarke style, animating it with leaping over chairs, shouting, ranting at everybody and culminating in jumping on a table. All I can say about it was that I was less than impressed.
At that time it was the Festival of Light at the sea-front. I, along with another member of the group whom I had befriended, agreed to hawk the anthologies to the festival-goers. They had at least left one piece of his work in the anthology, so he was keen to do it and I did it as a favour to him.
We stood on the sea-front chattering our teeth for two hours on that dark winter evening and sold one magazine. A young lad bought one without looking at it. I think he thought it was a football magazine.
You're at the bottom!