The Lakeland Books of the Year were announced yesterday at a literary lunch at Armathwaite Hall on Bassenthwaite Lake. It is an event that everyone in the Cumbrian book world looks forward to with hope (maybe this year we have won something!) and because it gives such a boost to readers, authors, publishers, booksellers, designers and printers in the county. The standard of entries gets better every year. It’s great that Hunter Davies continues to front these awards despite the loss of his wife, Margaret Forster, and giving up his home in the Lake District.
We didn’t win but… were delighted that Helen Shacklady’s history of Ulverston made the long list. It was hard not to be disappointed that Kay’s Ark wasn’t among the contenders but Kerry Darbishire was thrilled and gratified when Eric Robson, one of the judges of the awards gave it a special mention. He has clearly loved the book. So well done Helen and Kerry. You have done Handstand Press proud.
Here is the list of winners.
Striding Edge Prize for Guides and Places. THE LAKELAND DALES, by Robert Gamble
Latitude Prize for Illustration and Presentation. NOWT BUT FLEEIN’ THING, by Al Phizacklea and Mike Crocker
Zeffirelli’s Prize for People and Business. DONALD CAMPBELL – AN ODYSSEY IN SPEED, by David de Lara
Bill Rollinson Prize for Landscape and Tradition. THE MARCHES , by Rory Stewart
Bookends Prize for Arts and Literature and Lakeland Book of the Year. HOW TO MEASURE A COW, by Margaret Forster.
A series of events is being organised by libraries in Cumbria this May to celebrate local history month. Local history is what Handstand is all about so I am delighted we have been invited to take part.
Kerry Darbishire is giving a talk about Kay’s Ark in Kirkby Lonsdale Library on 8th May, Barrow Library on 16th May and Ambleside Library on 25th May. Each event starts at 2pm so do go along, if you can, to hear Kerry talk about how she approached writing a memoir about her mother’s extraordinary life. If you are looking for inspiration to start writing your own memoir I think you will find Kerry’s account of the process of research and writing very helpful.
Two more Handstand authors will be joining Kerry in Barrow on 16th May: Sarah Holmes, who wrote The Paradise of Furness – The Story of Conishead Priory and Its People, and June Whitehead, author of Lost Children – The Ulverston Workhouse in the 19th Century. Both books have contributed enormously to local history knowledge in Furness. Sarah and June will be in Barrow to talk about their writing and with books to sell.
We’re more than half way through January in this new year and I’ve been slow to get into gear. I’ve had one of those horrible colds that seem to be afflicting so many at the moment and the motivation to do much more than feel sorry for myself has been woeful. However, our local pharmacist has recommended a wonder tonic and whether or not it’s all psychological I’m feeling the energy and enthusiasm returning and it’s time to think about the year ahead.
For the moment I am not taking on any new publications in order to devote some time to promoting our title back-list. We have 9 publications currently in print and I am proud of them all. They represent the talent of their individual authors and the result of a working collaboration with Handstand Press demanding time, effort and patience. All of them are a tangible contribution to the history and culture of Cumbria, telling stories of people, places and industry that have defined our northern county. I had a lovely meeting in December with Helen Towers, the Reader Development Manager for Cumbria and we are talking about arranging events in libraries and linking up with schools in the county. There is also news of a new literature festival coming to South Cumbria and we hope to be a part of that. I am planning a series of ‘Meet the Author’ videos for our website and Youtube – starting with Irvine Hunt who I filmed in interview last autumn. There’s lot to do! I must try not to be distracted by the view from my office window.
This is just one of the comments received in response to Kerry Darbishire’s book, Kay’s Ark. Letters, emails and tweets have been arriving over recent weeks, full of praise for her memoir of her mother’s life. It is a lovely feeling to have given such pleasure. Here are a few more.
‘ I finished your book this morning having read it in two sittings. I have to say how much I enjoyed it. The format, moving between the recent and more distant past was delightful and it was so easy to read – the prose just flowed effortlessly….. At the end I almost shed a tear’.
‘It is a real gem, affection shining through, and no sentimentality……Like all good stories it hints at much more unrevealed, page turning mysteries.’
‘I want to thank you for being allowed to share your memories or your lovely Mum….. After all these years she is to me one of the few people whose face immediately comes into my mind when I think of her. What a wonderful life she led and how many people’s and animal’s lives were blessed by knowing her’.
Low Sizergh Barn has invited Kerry Darbishire and Irvine Hunt to spend this coming Wednesday signing books in their beautiful barn shop. If you don’t already know it, I recommend a visit. The shop, on three floors, is packed with specialist food and gifts, much of it sourced locally. They have been selling Handstand books for a number of years – The Little Cumbria Quiz Book is especially popular with customers. Kerry and Irvine will be there from 10.30 until 3pm so please come and say hello. There’s a great café too!
Here’s the link to Low Sizergh Barn if you would like directions. http://www.lowsizerghbarn.co.uk
See you there!
Kerry Darbishire and I met yesterday to make final preparations for the launch of Kay’s Ark. It will be on sale from September 19th – not long now! To say that this book has been a labour of love sounds like a cliché, but in this case it truly has. Kerry tells the story of her extraordinary mother, Kay, with great tenderness but never over sentimentalises – it is an absorbing read. Ashley Holden from Chesters at Skelwith Bridge, where Kay is still remembered, describes it as ‘a lovely book ….and so fascinating’.
Book signings have been arranged so do come along to meet Kerry and buy her book. Dates are:-
Thursday 22nd September. Sam Read Book Seller, Grasmere. 2.30-5pm
Saturday 24th September. Sutton’s Bookshop. Ulverston. 11-1pm
Saturday 1st October. Just for Ewe. Coniston. 1-3pm
Saturday 8th October. Ambleside Library. 10.30 – 12noon.
We hope to see you there.
Have a look at the September issue of Cumbria Life Magazine. Mary Ingham, who interviewed Kerry Darbishire just over a month ago, has written a lovely piece which summarises perfectly what it was that made her mother, Kay Callaghan, such a charismatic person and how it was she came to have an impact on all who knew her at Rosewood in the tiny hamlet at Skelwith Bridge. The article includes a biography of Kerry, who tends to hide her light under a bushel sometimes, so it’s great to see her achievements as a poet and song writer given the recognition she deserves.
Cumbria Life is a great supporter of the arts in Cumbria. I don’t buy the magazine as often as I should. When I do I’m always impressed with the quality of the journalism and range of subject matter. New resolution….. get a subscription to Cumbria Life!
I mustn’t finish this post without paying tribute to Russell Holden who designed the cover for Kay’s Ark. We have already received a number of compliments from people who know Kerry and knew her mother. They agree that it perfectly captures the seemingly idyllic 1950’s when Kay first came to Rosewood with her children. Well done Russell!
Sam Read’s Bookshop in Grasmere is the venue for the first book signing for KAY’s ARK. Kerry Darbishire will be there on Thursday 22nd September from 2.30pm. Sam Read’s has a wonderful reputation. It has been trading since 1887 and was the winner of 2006 the Times/Independent Alliance Competition for Best UK Independent Bookshop. Please come along, buy a book, meet Kerry and support this lovely independent bookshop.
If you are unable to come to the signing Kay’s Ark is available to pre-order from the ‘books’ page on this website and will be available in bookshops from 19th September.
KAY’S ARK by Kerry Darbishire will be going to print very soon. It is the story of her mother, an amazing and resourceful woman who came to the Lake District from London in the early 50’s with three small children and little else. The café she opened at Skelwith Bridge became the favourite haunt of walkers, musicians, writers, animal lovers and travellers of every kind. In later years she founded two animal welfare charities, one with Alfred Wainwright.
Kerry’s book is a wonderful combination of a loving memoir and a poetic evocation of a Lake District community in the 1950’s and 60’s.
Kerry’s first anthology of poetry, ‘A Lift of Wings’ was published by Indigo Dreams Publishing in 2014. You’ll also find one of her poems in ‘Watershed’ an anthology of poetry by Cumbrian poets in response to Storm Desmond. All proceeds from sales go to the flood appeal. I highly recommend this collection – there are some wonderful poems which truly bring home the devastation wrought by the floods.
I’m just home from London. There’s so much going on down there of course but my friends there are incredibly impressed with the amount of literary activity we have on offer here in Cumbria. Coming up later this month is the Kendal Yarns Festival of New Plays. This amazing project has invited anyone who would like to have a go to write a 15 minute play with a Kendal theme with the promise that it will be performed. 58 plays were submitted! They will be performed for free in a variety of venues between 25th and 30th July. What an opportunity for aspiring playwrights. Don’t miss this amazing event. You can check performance dates and venues on kendalcommunitytheatre.org.