Huntly Writers can look back on 2011 with a genuine sense of achievement. The group is flourishing and this session saw members tackle a number of new and exciting challenges, while developing skills as writers and participating in a variety of readings, events and festivals.

Our first visitor in 2011 was Peter Liversidge, an artist who works in text, who gave an interesting insight into his project for Deveron Arts. On the afternoon of Sunday 27th February Huntly Writers then hosted a poetry reading at the Stewart’s Hall, given by Donald Goodbrand Saunders, followed on Sunday 27th March by an equally successful event featuring Kenneth Steven, again at the Stewart’s Hall. Both performances attracted attentive and appreciative audiences, who also seemed to enjoy the tasty home bakes provided by members.

Our meeting on Wednesday 4th May was attended by Amy Fung, a Canadian art critic, currently Writer in Residence to Deveron Arts. Amy had begun a blog about her experiences in Huntly and the group was delighted to read her complimentary remarks about an evening spent with Huntly Writers. Later in the year, on Wednesday 10th August, Amy led a stimulating workshop on free-flow writing.

A new project for the group came in July with Huntly Writers at Orb’s Bookshop. Several members offered to help out at Annie Lamb’s bookshop, while she was in America. Thanks to an efficient rota and help sheet, drafted by Annie and Carol Ann, the venture was voted a tremendous success, with members discovering a talent for window-dressing and tackling stints in the shop with gusto.

Due to the recession, funding for the arts was difficult in 2011, but Huntly Writers has already proved itself a resourceful group and, to raise funds for our various enterprises, a group led by Carol Ann organised a stall at Huntly Farmers Market on 6th August, selling Huntly Writers’ poetry leaflets and publications, quizzes, books and, for the youngsters, brilliant face-painting by Ruth!

Our contribution to the New Words Festival was Walk the Way a celebration of the Pilgrims Way to Santiago de Compostela featuring Music Centeral, (The Artisans — mediaeval musicians) poet Paulina Vanderbilt and Huntly Writers member Lucy Aykroyd, who read extracts from the journal of her walk along the Way, Leaf or Lizard. A large audience was clearly captivated by the performance. Again as part of the New Words Festival, Huntly Writers met on Wednesday 21st September at Lucy’s home in Ford of Clatt, where Cal Wallace of Lemon Tree Writers gave a hugely enjoyable workshop on monologues.

Huntly Writers’ dramatic contribution to National Poetry Day last year was a hard act to follow, but our 2011 tribute Hoarding and Boarding somehow managed that amazing feat, as we sneaked round Huntly at dead of night posting poetry on every available inch of space. On National Poetry Day itself Huntly Writers, joined by members of the audience, gave readings in the Brander Library, chosen either from their own work or from personal favourites.

Again, congratulations are due to those who have achieved success with their writing. August 2011 saw the arrival of Dudendance’s delightful publication, Into the Wild and several members of Huntly Writers feature in this imaginatively presented booklet. In September we were thrilled to attend the launch of Phyllis Goodall’s poetry and prose collection, There’s been bonnie days, which was held at the Grouse Inn on Saturday 17th, a long-awaited and well-deserved accolade to a talented lady and stalwart of Huntly Writers. We were also delighted to hear that Anne Forbes has completed her history of the Gordons and is now involved in negotiations with a publisher who is interested in her work and that Annie Lamb will soon bring out another novel in the DI Armistead crime series. Our treasurer and long-standing member of Huntly Writers, Margaret Grant, is also to be applauded as the second edition of her book of Doric poetry and prose, Anither Keckle, is to appear soon, the first edition having sold out completely. Well done, Margaret! In May Linda Smith won the David Toulmin Prize with her short story, The Last Een, while Anne Rogers recently had a story short-listed for Writers’ News Magazine. Maureen Ross and Haworth Hodgkinson enjoyed a successful re-launch of their Koo Press chapbooks on Sunday 20th November and both had work published in Poems in the Wind, while Maureen and Cara Stevens had poems selected for Amnesty International’s book Poetic Justice. Haworth has continued to feature in arts events locally and further afield.

Lastly, we were pleased to welcome new members to Huntly Writers over the session. Terry and Jules came along in April, although they have been unable to attend recently, while Mary Burgerhout and Janice Keir joined us in July and Susan Cunningham in October.

This has been another hectic, but fulfilling, year for the group and, with offers to appear at the Coast Festival and at the Huntly Hairst, Huntly Writers is looking forward to broadening its horizons even further in 2012.