2019 Successful launch of High Tide FWS

The FWS 2019 Anthology ‘High Tide’ was successfully launched at the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh on 2 November 2019.

There were 21 readers, including some of the winners of the the FWS Vernal Equinox competition: Stephen Watt, Emma Baker, Derek Brown, Montague Chambers, Jane Lamb, Steve May, Sheila Millar, Deborah Moffat, Sue Proudlove, Leela Soma, Elaine Webster, Andy Allan, Paula Nicholson, Jo Gilbert, David Betteridge, Bert Thomson, Sharon Boyle, Mary Wigh, Anne MacKinnon, David McVey and Greg Michael-son

Our thanks to the Scottish Poetry Library for their super hospitality,  to the the anthology leader, Anne Connolly and her team; to Janet Crawford for co-ordinating submissions and live streaming the readings on Facebook, and also to Vincent Maguire for welcoming everyone to the event.

Thanks to Charlie Gracie and Catherine Hokin for prose selections. Neil Leadbeater and Sheila Templeton for English and Scots poetry selection, Jenifer Harley for production and distribution. Special thanks to Curriesprint, Broxburn, West Lothian who stepped in when our original printer let us down to produce the book on time with its beautiful cover from artwork designed by Loretta Serene Dunn.

Finally our thanks to Marjorie Lotfi Gill who really summed up what FWS are trying to achieve with the annual anthology: ‘These poems and stories renew our belief in the magic of the everyday …a child’s star brought down from the heavens in a public square, or the art in a car garage… There are so many glittering stars to choose from in High Tide. It’s a collection of work we’ll all return to again and again.’

Copies are available via the order form on our website. Cost £10 each plus £2 p&p for up to 2 copies, £2.50 for 3 copies and £3 for 4 – 8 copies.”

Horse Power at Heriot-Watt

davThe FWS pamphlet Horse Power, a celebration of James Watt on the 200th anniversary of his death, came to Heriot-Watt University on September 26th. HWU is partly named after the great engineering innovator, and three FWS members, two of them HWU members of staff, were invited to read from Horse Power to a large audience at the annual Stake-holders meeting.

Patrick Cottrell introduced the pamphlet and the two Horse Power readings already carried out, one at the Edgebaston church where Watt is buried and the other on Glasgow Green, where he is reputed to have had his central insight about improving stem engines.

Jenifer Harley, the FWS convenor, read her piece In Your Name, followed by Ruth Aylett, who read hers, Full Steam Ahead.  There was a FWS stall, pictured above, and a very positive reception.


Edinburgh Fringe: FWS @ Courtyard Readings Aug 14th

Calling FWS members!

Every August, the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh runs Poetry Courtyard events at which anyone can tuen up and read. This year Poetry Courtyard readings are on every day from 13-17 August 2-3pm, but we encourage all members who can make it to turn up on:

Wednesday 14 August 2-3 – hosted by FWS member Angus Ogilvie



Featured writer: Jim Aitken

We are delighted to welcome Jim Aitken as our Featured Writer. Jim is well-known on the Scottish literary scene for his heartfelt, often politically charged poetry and drama and his range of subjects. Wind and Wave – below – finds him in a more contemplative mood but the poem’s unexpected conclusion roots it in the specific. You can read one of Jim’s stories (he is a multi-talented writer) published on CultureMatters.

Jim Aitken’s last poetry collection was ‘Flutterings’ 2016 and his last play produced was ‘Letters from Area C’ directed by Karen Douglas of SpartaKi in 2017. Jim also tutors in Scottish Cultural Studies in Edinburgh and organises Literary Walks for groups around the city. He also works with the Outlook programme teaching creative writing for people with mental health issues.

His new play ‘Rosa’, about the life of Rosa Luxemburg, will be staged at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh in November 2019.


Clouds race across the sky
like mountain ranges on the run
and the dry sand skirts the beach
like a thousand plumes of smoke descending.

Only the gulls glide, hover and soar
for they believe this day is theirs
as our softness keeps us domestically indoors
while they brace the art of the elemental life.

All things will pass just like this wind
and what the wind and the sea
have blown on to the beach below
other winds and seas will take away.

And the piece of broken glass that lies
among the sea shells, smoothed by unseen salt
makes me wonder if I lay down there
would my jagged edges be washed away?

© Jim Aitken 2019

FWS 2018 Anthology: early bird offer!

Packed with poems and stories, the FWS 2018 Anthology Spindrift is now available. It will launch on November 10th at the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh where some of the contributors will read. Copies will be available there, but you can order one at a special Early Bird rate via this website – see here


2017 FWS Anthology Launch Nov 4th

We’re delighted to announce the launch of our latest anthology Landfall on Saturday 4 November at the Scottish Poetry Library. We will be joined by the Edinburgh Makar, who is a patron of the FWS, Christine de Luca, and will also be marking our 1000th member, Lianne Forbes, with a small presentation.

All contributors have received invitations but we regret that because of capacity/fire regulations there is a limit on numbers so that attendance is by invitation only. There will be an opportunity for members not in the anthology to purchase copies after the launch (details in the November newsmail) and to attend the event we are expecting to organise in Glasgow in February to celebrate the anthology, date and venue to be arranged.


Featured Writer: Fran Macilvey

Fran is a member of Rose Fraser Ritchie’s Thistle Group and her memoir Trapped is revelatory and moving – see extract below.

Born in Congo, Fran spent eight years at boarding school before working as a lawyer for ten years. Her memoir, Trapped: My Life with Cerebral Palsy (Skyhorse) is an Amazon bestseller. Her next two books, Happiness Matters (June 2017) and Making Miracles (October 2017) explore how we can find happiness, themes which she has developed into series of workshops. Fran is also writing new fiction about women in the law. In her spare time she reads, swims, rides a horse called Fudge and dances when no-one is watching. Contact Fran at franmacilvey@fastmail.fm or http://www.franmacilvey.com for more information.
Excerpt from Trapped: My Life with Cerebral Palsy by Fran Macilvey (Skyhorse 2016)

‘…..Slowly, I made sense of myths surrounding me. I came to dread the presence of guests at our table. The repetition of punchy one-liners such as, “Fran was delivered by Kristof, you see, the cord was around her neck,” or, “An unfortunate case of negligence, but what could we do . . .?” accompanied the asparagus starter and the delicious beefsteak. Like all children whose parents will insist on embarrassing them in public, I squirmed in my seat and blushed. I dreaded hearing what had happened to me and hated knowing that the circumstances of my birth were so often part of the table talk. Embarrassment at my physical shortcomings—as well as a fear that my brain might also be slightly broken—may have fuelled the constant reminders of my deliverance. I was only expected to smile.
My mother might occasionally add, “I took you with me, you know, although they tried to persuade me to leave you at the hospital, put you in a home,” and then resume her task of pouring, eating, wiping her lips, leaving statements such as these hovering between us like unexploded bombs. Children take what is said to them very literally. Painful half-truths thrown out over their heads without any of the love or patience that is needed to disarm them, fester with hidden threats.
What was a spindle shank like me to make of this latest revelation? I felt like weeping with terror at the prospect of being abandoned, so nakedly laid out for public viewing. A precocious child might have dared to ask, “You mean . . . I should be grateful you did not abandon me?” I could not pluck up enough courage, in case her answer came back, “Yes, of course you should be grateful,” which I would take to mean, “Because you are really such a nuisance.” So I smiled inanely, nodded, and mumbled a useless “thank you” before resolving to be good forever and ever….’

© Fran McIlvey 2017

Featured writer – Ruth Aylett

We are delighted to welcome Ruth Aylett, who maintains our web-site and initiated the calendar of events on the home page, among other things, as our Featured Writer and Committee Member this issue. Ruth is a fine and sensitive poet with an unusual background for a poet, as she explains in her biog. below. You can read her tender, and deeply moving poem Birthday below.

Ruth was born in London and has moved steadily north, living in Sheffield and Manchester and then arriving in Edinburgh in 2004.

Her day job is unusual for a poet – she teaches and researches AI and robotics at Heriot-Watt University. She appeared with Sarah the Poetic Robot in the 2012 Free Fringe and poems on science and robots appear in her work. Her work also reflects her belief that ‘another world is possible’. Last year her first pamphlet Handfast, written jointly with Beth McDonough of Dundee, was published by Mothers’ Milk. It deals with the impact of loved ones with dementia or autism on their families. She has also been published by New Writing Scotland, Interpreter’s House and Bloodaxe Books among others. See more about her writing here.

On joining the committee Ruth writes:

When the FWS asked for more people to help out with committee activities last year, one of the requests was for help with the website. Because of my technical background I knew I’d find this relatively easy, especially as the design had already been laid down. I really wanted to help the FWS succeed in its role of bringing together Scottish writers and poets. This is how I became a Committee member, where I am still learning how to contribute to the FWS mission to make the written and spoken word available to the public of Scotland, with respect for diversity and recognition of additional support needs.

I started a Spoken Word in Scotland calendar on the front of the FWS website and one benefit of adding entries for this is getting a better appreciation of the amazing range and scope of spoken word activity now going on: launches, open mics, workshops, slams and lots more. I am keen that both page and performance poetry get their dues and see them as very much complementary. It’s great to see FWS drawing people into performance with events such as Sudden Fame.

Here is Ruth’s poem from Handfast:


A day of sun and cloud.
The same question again
and again “Is it my birthday?
Who will come?”
Who would you like? we say.
Clouds deepening, looks like rain.


You invite the pharmacist
from your first ever job
the man who’d just lost his wife
and shouted at you so much
you dropped the jar
he’d asked you to fetch.


You invite all those young men
Canadian bomber pilots
birds of paradise in
workaday Somerset
they were so soon gone
nothing but grief to love.


And the Indian officer who
bought you wonderful cloth
printed with scenes of France
Your mother told you off
forbade you to write
now you’ll be able to apologise.


A shower clatters on the window,
candle flames on your cake flicker
in the breath of your absent guests.
Uninvited but here, there’s us.
And when you see your two sons
that brilliant smile reaches your eyes.


© Ruth Aylett 2017

Featured Writer: Jay Whittaker

We are delighted to welcome Jay Whittaker (pen-name of Clare Whittaker) as our Featured Writer this issue. Jay is a highly talented poet with an impressive record in publication

Jay Whittaker has lived and worked in Edinburgh for over 20 years.  Her pamphlet Pearl was published in 2005 (Selkirk Lapwing Press) and more recently her poems have been published in Envoi, Brittle Star, The Frogmore Papers, Orbis, and will appear in forthcoming issues of Far Off Places and The Interpreter’s House. She was shortlisted for a Scottish New Writers 2016 Award and the 2016 Bridport Poetry Prize. Her first full length collection, Wristwatch, comes out in autumn 2017 (Cinnamon Press).

She is a member of Edinburgh’s Other Writers, and is reading at Shore Poets on 26 February.

Nov 23rd Open Mic at Craigmillar Library, Edinburgh

23 November from 17.30 until 19.30 Craigmillar Library 101 Niddrie Mains Road EH16 4DS
Shindigs Scottish Artspace are partners with the Federation of Writers (Scotland) and the Scottish Book Trust for this open mic event. Please bring along a poem between those hours and take part in the open mic. For more information or to book a slot contact Rose Fraser Ritchie at rosefraserritchie@yahoo.co.uk