Despite a somewhat snowy start to the year and the AGM being postponed till 10 February, because of continuing bad weather, this has been a busy and exciting session for Huntly Writers. In Spring, through the Scottish Book Trust scheme, we hosted two workshops: on Sunday 21 March the long-awaited script-writing workshop run by poet and playwright George Gunn was held in the Stewart’s Hall; and on 28 March a poetry workshop was led by John Glenday. Both were open to non-members, were well attended and drew much praise from participants. Due to the success of the first event, George Gunn was invited to lead a follow-up workshop on playwriting on Sunday 11 July, which was again highly commended by those taking part.

On 16 June, several members of the group participated in an outdoor workshop in Battlehill Wood offered by Clea Wallis and Jelka Plate of Dudendance. All were enthusiastic about the experience and, when Clea and Fabiana invited Huntly Writers to take a greater role in their project Into the Wild, we were delighted to accept. This was to prove the writers’ most exacting challenge of the year. Maureen, Annie, Ruth, Cara, Anne Forbes, Anne Rogers, Haworth and Linda had already contributed imaginative work inspired by the woodland walks and Fabiana Galante, an innovative Argentinian musician, wove these pieces into a tapestry of sound, transforming the group into a Writers’ Orchestra. The Writers’ Orchestra performed at Gauld’s Shop on two Sundays in September, on both occasions to appreciative audiences, while recordings of their work were played in an audio booth during the Battlehill Wood Guided Walk.

Although still under the direction of Haworth Hodgkinson, Wordfringe mutated into the New Words festival and was moved from May to September. Huntly Writers hosted Still Voices on Wednesday 8 September at GlenDronach Distillery, featuring prominent North-East musician Pete Stollery and poet Elspeth Murray, who held a large audience riveted. On Sunday 12 September at Stewart’s Hall, Huntly, Maureen’s sister, Andi Ross, ran a successful workshop Stand and Deliver, which focused on the skills of reading work to an audience. Her advice and practical support were much appreciated. For our own event we returned to Rizza’s Ice Cream Factory on Wednesday 22 September, presenting Raspberry Ripple for the delectation of a small, but attentive audience, who lapped up our menu of stormy weather themes.

On National Poetry Day, Thursday 6 October, Huntly Writers were again at the cutting edge of the arts, as, after a rolling programme of readings in the Library, our work scrolled up the facade of Huntly’s Brander Library. Many thanks to Maureen’s son Jamie, for putting the Huntly Writers up in lights!

Members of Huntly Writers continue to have work published in a variety of publications and to take part in readings, competitions and arts events in the North-East. Margaret and Phyllis were again successful at the Strichen Festival, Linda gained Second Prize in the Doric Festival, while Ruth has had poems and Anne Forbes a poem and an article published in the Knock News. At the Wigtown Book Festival, Cara had the opportunity to read her work at the Unpublished Writers’ Jam, a demanding, but helpful experience. Congratulations to all!

The membership roll this year has remained steady. Marian Reid has expressed a wish to join the group for the summer months, although she is unable to attend in winter due to previous commitments. In November, we were pleased to welcome Lucy Aykroyd, Stephanie Ford and Carol Ann to the group.

Snowstorms struck again at the end of the session, forcing Huntly Writers to cancel the meeting on Wednesday 1 December; however a meeting was held by office-bearers during the day on Friday 10 December to finalise finances and discuss the programme for the next year.

With several new ideas already in the pipeline, 2011 promises to be another exhilarating year for Huntly Writers.

We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day. (Edith Lovejoy Pierce)