Today I went along to the relaunch of the Portsmouth Writers’ Hub. Having only moved here a little over two months ago, I was unaware of the old Portsmouth Writers’ Hub. It was an interesting and enthusiastic meeting of people wanting to promote networking, a central database of resources, collaboration between mediums and working towards making Portsmouth a literary city. As the birthplace of Charles Dickens and where Arthur Conan Doyle first wrote about Sherlock Holmes, there is certainly a legacy here.
What surprised me however was the reiteration of an active contemporary writing scene. Even before I moved here I started looking for writing workshops, critique groups and courses. I searched the usual sites- Google searches, council and library websites, meetup/craiglist/gumtree sites, Facebook etc. All I found was a group in Portsmouth, USA, and a defunct email address. Upon arrival I bought the local newspaper, looked in shop windows and asked work colleagues. It was only by the mere chance of passing the New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth and deciding to look up their events schedule that I even found this event. Sure there’s been a well publicised Bookfest in the city lately but I found the programme somewhat uninspiring as I only knew of one author, most of the events appeared to be midday midweek and the emphasis was on crime fiction. By the sounds of things, low ticket sales shows that the general public were equally as uninspired. I understand the big name writers are expensive but they really needed some more interactive workshops such as flash fiction, script writing, novel writing, blogging, book binding, child friendly events etc.
Anyway throughout the evening I kept hearing about this thriving writing scene, the multitude of writing groups and so forth. It frustrated me as I have been unable to catch sight of any of this. If the elusive writing scene does exist I suspect it is either university/ paid writing course cliques or public library run midday midweek making it inaccessible for most working people. The reason that was fielded, was that independent groups didn’t have the budget for advertising.
Didn’t have the budget for advertising? I thought this was the age of free advertising. We are continuously being bombarded with the concept that everyone can make it these days. You do not need money, all you need is a blog, a funny Youtube video, an open FB group or a Twitter account. This blog costs me nothing and puts my name on the first page of a Google search. Even the old fashioned way of posting on bulletin boards, shop windows and flyering pubs costs little more than a couple of pound in photocopies. Say a group did want to go professional and buy a domain name. They cost as little as £5 a year these days and I know many friend who have dabbled in website design at home and put together a decent site.
You could say I’m being arrogantly optimistic about how easy it is to self-promote. To be fair I’ve never been a huge fan of self-aggrandisement and mainly started this blog because I felt coerced into providing a website for a writer’s biography. However I do feel that if I was in charge of anything for which I wanted public support or membership- be that a charity, an event or a hobby group- I would have followed these steps first at least.
That’s all I’m saying.
In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve become rather prolific in my verbal diarrhoea lately. Having failed to ever start NanoWritmo and having still not found a writers’ group, I’ve decided to blog every day this month if I can. Suffer through it if you choose.