Sunday, 9 October 2016

In which I win an award!

Tonight I had a very nice surprise. I WON the community writing competition at the Hillingdon Literary Festival! And Benjamin Zephaniah, no less, was one of the judges.
Paul and I were invited along to a celebratory reception and prize-giving ceremony in the Antonin Artaud Building at Brunel University this evening, the final event of a packed weekend programme which included masterclass workshops, author interviews and all manner of other bookish talks and panel discussions, as well as outdoor food and market stalls, which included the intriguingly named Poetry Takeaway! Sadly, by the time we arrived, a lot of the outdoor activity was coming to a close but we made ourselves comfy in the lobby area, met the Festival producer Seb Jenner and were given a free drink as we waited to be seated in the auditorium. 

I had been asked, along with five others, to come along and read my entry to a room full of festival-goers and dignitaries (the mayor was there!) – a poem I dedicated to the wonderful nurses who work for the NHS and don’t always get the recognition they so richly deserve. This had to mean that one of us six was soon to be proclaimed the overall winner, but nobody was giving away any secrets at this stage! Having listened to the others read some thought-provoking (and generally long!) stories and poems, most of which seemed to touch in some way on political, refugee or humanitarian themes, my turn finally came. My poem was by far the shortest of the readings but got a fantastic audience reaction, and I was then - quite unexpectedly - announced as the winner!!
Here’s me receiving my prize (a goodie bag of books and a very generous cheque) from local Councillor Markham, an active champion and supporter of arts and culture in Hillingdon.


The competition (titled ‘Writing Local, Thinking Global’) attracted over a hundred entries from people living and/or working in the borough, which included quite a few Brunel students, with entries covering a wide range of genres and themes. Because it was a competition for local residents I entered under my ‘real’ married name of Vivien Brown, rather than as Vivien Hampshire, author, but several of the other entrants were already writers of some kind too, belonging to local writers' groups, as I do, or having taken a creative writing course.

Thirty five of the entries had been chosen to be published in a lovely paperback anthology, copies of which were given away free to festival attendees and should also be available in local libraries etc for a short time. Naturally, I managed to get hold of a few copies to share with family and friends! Here’s a sneak preview of how it looks. I shall be reading it from cover to cover over the next few days!

My goodie bag
The anthology

No sooner was I back home than the Festival organisers had announced me as the winner on twitter. Social media works so quickly these days!

My poem ‘Lovesick’ may have been much more light-hearted than the other entries being performed, yet it raised a few laughs and seemed to mean something to so many of those who heard it – and that to me is just as gratifying as winning the prize. People came up to talk to me at the end, to say how much they enjoyed it and to ask about my own NHS connections (well, I do have a daughter who happens to fit the bill, being a hardworking paediatric nurse at UCLH!) Two midwives even asked if they could use the poem at the local hospital in some kind of pro-nursing publicity.

Of course, I still own the copyright to the poem - but it’s out there now in the public domain, printed in an anthology, and as a competition winner I won’t be able to enter it elsewhere, so here it is. Read it, quote it, stick it on your hospital wall, if you like. Just please credit me as its author and don’t try to pass it off as your own!

Thank you
9 October 2016



By Vivien Brown

I think I'm in love with the nurse in dark blue,

with her glasses, her stockings and sensible shoes.

From my own little cubicle in the end bay,

and with not much to do, I could watch her all day.


Consoling, cajoling, controlling the ward,

so no patient gets hungry or angry or bored,

she swishes the curtains and smoothes out the sheets,

always charming, alarming, determined, discreet.


Infections, injections and incinerations,

pus-covered plasters and last week's carnations.

Dealing and healing, doing what she does best,

while bouncing an upside-down watch from her chest.


Dishing and dosing out dinners and pills,

marking up specimens, mopping up spills.

She passes the bedpans and empties the wee,

then pinches a chocolate to have with her tea.


Taking sprains and strains and all manner of pains

in her stride, her pride in her calling remains.

Yes, my thoughts may be private, but I have to confess

that I’m so glad I opted to go NHS.





Elaine Everest said...

Wonderful news Viv!

I still recall with fondness when you reduced me to tears with your 'boob' poem xx

Elaine Roberts said...

Congratulations Viv, I love the poem.

Viv said...

Thank you both Elaine's. I do love writing a poem or two. This is the first one that's actually earned me any money though!

Viv said...

Not sure how that rogue apostrophe snuck in to my comment there. And me a writer too!

Beatrice Charles said...

Congratulations on your worthy win. Great poem.

Francesca Capaldi Burgess said...

A worthy winner, Viv, well done. (And I agree with Elaine E about the 'boob' poem - so very touching.)

Wendy's Writing said...

Love it! Well done.