The first appearance of Sherlock Holmes in print has been faithfully reproduced in a facsimile copy by Portsmouth publisher Matt Wingett. Life Is Amazing.
Copies of the original magazine published for Christmas 1887 are famously rare. There are only 11 complete copies of the original magazine, and the last to come up at auction sold for $130,000 US. This unlimited edition facsimile gives collectors and fans of Sherlock Holmes the opportunity to buy a great-looking reproduction at a fraction of the price.
Written by Arthur Conan Doyle while he was a resident in Southsea, the book is a celebration of the rich literary heritage of the city of Portsmouth, whose other associated writers include Rudyard Kipling, H G Wells, Charles Dickens, and many others beside.
Matt Wingett talks about the preparations for the launch of Portsmouth, A Literary and Pictorial Tour, and some of the discoveries and surprises he made along the way.
Well, it’s been quite an intense period over the last few months, preparing images, collecting together the writings of numerous authors and then going over my own reminiscences of growing up in and near the old town to get my book out, and the launch will soon be here, at Portsmouth Central Library’s Menuin Room at 3pm on Wednesday 21st November.
I’m just preparing the talk right now, and wondering what to cover – whether in my launch talk I should make a mention of some of the extracts I had to leave out for lack of room, or tell some of the extra stories about Pompey places I gleaned while I was putting the book together. And then, there’s the distinct possibility – in fact very firm likelihood – that people will have things to tell me about the hometown. Sharing stories is one of the things I love.
That, really, is one of the reasons I wrote the book. I’ve looked through 50 full length works by 75 different authors to put the book together. The idea was a simple one. I had over the years collected engravings, postcards and drawings of Portsmouth, from the 1700s onwards. And I had read so much about the town by really top-notch and important writers. Wouldn’t it be great – I thought – to find extracts from novelists who mention the town and put them with pictures of the places they’re talking about?
That was the starting point of Portsmouth, A Literary and Pictorial Tour. When I mentioned it to councillor Steve Pitt on facebook and he asked me if I was actually doing a real tour, I thought – Yes, I could do that. Start at the top of Portsdown Hill and work my way around the island.
That’s what I’ve done, with maps at the back to show the locations of each place written about and pictured.
I’ve been really surprised over the years by the quality of writers connected to the town. Of course, there is the big four: Dickens, Conan Doyle, Kipling and Wells, who all had stronger or weaker connections here. But then there are other lesser-known homegrown Nineteenth Century novelists.
George Meredith was born in the High Street and based the opening of his novel about a social climber, Evan Harrington in the town. Walter Besant was born just off St George’s Square, and he went on to found the Society of Authors, wrote around 50 novels, was compared favourably with Dickens in his day and earned a knighthood for his charitable work. His great Portsmouth work is By Celia’s Arbour, which gives extaordinary descriptions of the place as it was in the 1840s before the town walls came down.
In the Twentieth Century, Olivia Manning was born in North End and grew up in Portsmouth. She hated the town with a passion, but still wrote three novels while she was here. Nevil Shute, Graham Hurley, P G Wodehouse (to a lesser extent), Pauline Rowson, Lillian Harry and many others have had something to say about it this century.
And right now, there is a whole new crop of writers and poets working away around Portsmouth. Some are already internationally published, others are learning their trades, doing live performances, writing plays. Portsmouth was and is a fascinating place and much really interestiing stuff has been written about it.
And that’s my conundrum for the launch. Not so much what to write about, but what to leave out!
Well, wish me luck. And hopefully, I’ll see you there tomorrow. The Menuhin Room, Portsmouth Central Library, 3pm, Wednesday 21st November!
There were more thrills and spills than planned for at the launch for Matt Wingett’s The Snow Witch on the night of Saturday 28th October at Blackwell’s bookshop, Portsmouth as part of the Portsmouth Darkest season.
Thrills came in the form of Eilis Philips’ singing and guitar playing. Her extraordinary clear and powerful voice cast a spell on the audience that set the tone for an evening dedicated to Wingett’s magic realist story that is set in Portsmouth. Eilis’s first song of the night, also called The Snow Witch, was directly inspired by Matt’s novel, with a haunting melody backed with icy chords on the guitar that caught the mood of the novel brilliantly.
Two readings from the novel were given by Matt, and Eilis treated the audience to another song before a break for book signing.
Spills came when Dr Karl Bell, Darkfest organiser and co-host of the evening, slipped from the stage on his chair, sending him in a slow motion backward somersault to the gasps of the audience. Dr Bell recovered his poise with humour and grace, and, like a trouper, the show went on.
Despite the impromptu acrobatics, the Q and A session was lively, covering questions as varied as the use of myth in storytelling, symbolism in the novel and why Portsmouth is a fascinating place for telling tales. With ironic humour, Matt and an audience member penned a new slogan for the city: “Portsmouth, not as sh*t as you think,” which raised a laugh all round.
Bookshop manager Jo West was on hand to help the evening go with ease, where many people bought multiple copies of the book, while others who had received preview copies described how compelling the story is.
The evening was also enriched on this Hallowe’en weekend by audience members arriving in wonderful outfits that reflected the Darkfest theme.
A great evening, and thanks to all concerned.
The Snow Witch is available in paperback and hardback from Blackwell’s Bookshop, and from the shop on this website.
No doctors were harmed in the launching of this book.
My story is a blend of fact and fiction, based on incidents that occurred within my own family. After meeting a helpful Conan Doyle, Bertie writes a letter detailing how he’s put newly acquired skills to good use. But what will the recipient make of it? There’s only one way to find out.
About Amanda Garrie
Reality is a foggy island to this author, having grown up in a place where the elderly still whispered of witches and skeletons lay on the road for weeks after a road widening scheme. It all makes for interesting writing, though, that promises something a little unexpected.
Amanda gained an MA, with Distinction, in Creative Writing in 2015 and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in the same discipline. Her MA novel, ‘Fluvial’, currently awaits placement, and ‘The Eldritch Girls’, being written as part of the Ph.D., is in its first draft and due for completion in 2019.
Recently placed writing has seen her widen her repertoire:
The Rheum, an Elizabethan script written as part of the Much Ado about Shakespeare, festival (2016) was published in pamphlet form for Wymering Manor, where it is set. Extracts from the text also being printed on mirrors, as part of an art installation at the manor.
A monologue, Something Fishy and a prose poem, No Reason, nor no Rhyme – in artist Jon Everitt’s fabulous book, Octomorphosis (2016);
a poem, Counting Games, in the Edward King folder – Portsmouth City Museum (2016);
two poems, Beyond and Looking Back, in the Arts Council funded Ferry Tales anthology (2017) and on their website.
A further Ferry Tales’ poem The Wight-Link Whale was performed at the launch of the anthology, at The Square Tower, in May this year. She has also appeared as a guest author on Talk Solent TV, discussing news stories of local interest (2016).
Stuart Markham Talks About The Gosport Steampunk Society and Holmes Fest
The Victorians were a strange bunch. Alongside inequality, grinding poverty and imperialism, they also gave us extraordinary visionaries like Wells, Verne, Rider Haggard, and countless others, not the least of whom was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
So, when I heard that Holmes Fest would celebrate the life and times of Conan Doyle in Portsmouth, I knew straight away that the Gosport Steampunk Society must be involved! That’s why we’ll be demonstrating feats of marksmanship on stage, among the storytelling and the music, as well as inviting you to a duel…
But fear not! Our deadly weapons are nerf guns (and yes, I do know the Victorians didn’t invent soft polystyrene bullets!).
One of the things I love about the Victorians is the way they imagined the future. For them, it was a glorious Victorian future full of steam and brass and clanking machines and space travel and lost worlds and handfuls of scarlet-clad soldiers fighting Martian invaders, led by mutton-chopped heroes with pith helmets and clockwork rifles! (Heroes not unlike myself, I may add.)
The Gosport Steampunk Society, along with other Groups, seek to celebrate this retro-futurism at regular meetings (called Convivials) and events and gatherings all round the country – indeed, the world.
We socialise, we espouse politeness and a Victorian bearing, we costume (the Steampunk motto is Be Splendid), and we craft. We hold mock duels and shooting challenges, we attend concerts and saucy burlesque evenings, but above all we have fun, in a Victorian science-fiction setting.
In short we use our skills and imagination to participate in the future the Victorians never got to have.
So, we’re at Holmes Fest to add our own special ingredient to the mix. It’s going to be fun – and don’t forget to challenge one of us to a duel. Our nerf guns are primed!
The GSS meets every first Tuesday of the month at 7:30pm, at the newly refurbished Fighting Cocks pub in Alverstoke, a short walk from the Gosport Ferry, and you will find us a most welcoming bunch of enthusiasts.
HOLMES FEST 2017 – JAMES WATERFIELD MAKE POISON BOTTLES AVAILABLE
With a macabre and slightly gothic twist, Poison Bottles will be available on the night of Holmes Fest, on 28th June.
The idea of Portsmouth artist James Waterfield, these customised bottles of “poison” have unique labels designed and donated by artists illustrating their favourite poison. Who knows what Poisons the artists might dream up? “The Crocodile Tears of Theresa May”, perhaps?
James is sticking each label to one of his customised bottles, filling them with a brightly coloured bubble bath and selling them to raise money for the Macmillan Cancer trust. They look great, have a lovely Gothic feel and add a definite Victorian ambience to the room. They’ll make a great keepsake and, since they’re filled with bubble bath, are useful. And once the bubble bath is gone, if you want to use them to keep your own “poison” – a good whisky, perhaps – then they look great in the drinks cabinet.
Hudson and Lestrade AKA Janet Ayers & Matthew Parsons perform under many subtly crafted disguises. As Les Kazoos D’amour they have performed over the years at Tongues & Grooves, Lymington Library, Teapoet Collective, Open Word and the Front Room, plus guesting for book launches and community events in Portsmouth.
Q: “What do you love about Victorian music hall songs?”
The songs are a window into a world that we no longer inhabit. Finding the true meaning of the slang words puts the songs in context and you find they do mock the upper classes, with all the various performers taking on different identities: women dressing as young men, posh ladies affecting a common accent, men dressing as tramps… Above all, we’ve picked the best tunes and melodies and catchy choruses for the audience to join in with.
“What’s the worst thing about them?”
Some of them go on for ever and ever and ever… and lots of stereotyping and sentimentality. Also, not all of them would have been recorded or notated so some are lost forever! Perhaps they were the better songs?!
“If you could be any Victorian, who would you be?”
Matt: Queen Victoria
Janet: Prince Albert
Community choir singing for all over the summer:
If anyone would like to sing over the summer, then please join Sing for Water Portsmouth from Tuesday 18th July for 8 weeks! More info from Janet on email@example.com or this link only £45 for 8 weeks includes song sheet and audio cd. Raise money and awareness for Water Aid. Performance on Sunday 10th September 2pm outdoors in Old Portsmouth! https://www.facebook.com/groups/1632043353687486/
The Case of the Shyster Watson – My Story For Holmesfest 2017
‘My story for Holmes Fest 2017 is set later in their careers and was inspired when reading through Arthur Conan Doyle’s original ideas for the stories. There is a name in there I hope the Sherlock fans will recognise, a name that ties the piece together. Trying to write a very short detective piece has proved interesting and hopefully I have managed to pull together enough for the audience to both recognise the characters and to tell an interesting story.’
About A J Noon
AJ Noon was and born bred in Portsmouth, and, after an extended absence, returned home three years ago. The history of the area has a firm grip on his interests and when not writing and performing in the area he can be found skulking on the decks of HMS Victory. He writes short stories and is putting the finishing touches to his first novel in conjunction with studying his MA at Portsmouth University.
Any Housekeeper Worth Her Salt – My Story For Holmesfest 2017
Any housekeeper worth her salt knows it is not the number of staff in the household you are in charge of but the quality of the gentleman you serve. My story is a downstairs view of why we should sit back and trust our betters to look after us. Even if we don’t understand there decisions, surely the fact that they have been educated in the right school means that they are always right! Doesn’t it?
Charlotte Comley is a creative writing group organiser and self employed writer of educational resources. To the outside world she devotes her time to helping with homework, and trying to earn a crust. But in those brief moments of alone time she writes and dreams of seeing her work on a book shop fiction shelf. Her fiction has been published by Ether Books, Darwin Evolutions, Flash Flood, Chuffed Books, and 1000 words. Nonfiction work has appeared in magazines such as The Green Parent, Take a Break, Woman’s Weekly, The Motion Online and Grow It.
Charlotte Comley was one of the writers and script editors of Express FM’s Conway Street, a radio soap airing three times a week for eighteen months. She has also managed to win the odd writing award and came highly commended at The Winchester’s Writing Conference competition for children’s fiction. She regularly blogs at http://www.charlottecomley.com/ . In 2012 she read at The Umbrella Festival at The Groundlings Theatre, came third place at Alton’s Book Festival The Pint Pot of Fire, at Wordsouth Havant and in the Portsmouth Book Fest 20 x 12. She was short listed for the You, Me and Everyone project in Portsmouth. She has won various poetry prizes at poetry Cafes.