Writers Forum

Initiated July 2007
Transferred to wfuk.org.uk and revised March 2012


Writers Forum is a major small publisher and a poetry workshop. (To be brief, it was run for over 40 years by the late Bob Cobbing who passed direction to Adrian Clarke and Lawrence Upton. Writers Forum remains Cobbing's primary publisher and we have many exciting plans in that regard.

In 2010, Adrian Clarke resigned. His place was filled later that year by Tina Bass who is now Assistant Director.

A separate website was planned to replace the one which WF had lost in March 2007 when the British Library closed its pages. In fact, it was not until the spring of 2010 that the new website was set up, but these pages were left where they were, in a subsection of Lawrence Upton's personal website where they had been placed in response to the BL closure.

Other organisations use the name Writers Forum and generally there is no confusion. There has been, since late 2010, a grouping which calls itself Writers Forum (second series) which seemingly intends to cause confusion, presumably to acquire the kudos of Writers Forum without the hard work and, perhaps, the ability. Some of them frequently shorten their name by dropping the bracketed part of their hijacked title so it is impossible to know to which organisation they are referring. We deplore their intellectual dishonesty. There are similarities between the aims the two express; but there are important differences. Lawrence Upton says that the "second series" passers off sound like the Futurists of 1909, and that would be a serious flaw in any grouping seeing itself as 21st century avant garde.

Some of the differences -- our opposition to careerism and point-scoring -- are implicit in the next section; but there are things our ex-colleagues do not understand or cannot learn. [revised March 2012]

Our aims

At Writers Forum Workshop, poets may learn from each by encouraging each other. Negative comment is strongly discouraged. This opposes building reputations and egos by point-scoring, but does not exclude discussion. Our focus is upon experimentation and innovation. Meetings last up to two hours, including publication launches by the press, Writers Forum. Occasionally, we invite guest poets. All who support our ethos and focus may attend; and we are keen to meet new people. {March 2007, unrevised]

Previous workshops

There is an up to date list of meetings at the blog. It goes back to the inception of that list. Few may be that interested in what has happened in the past; but Mr Upton's predilection for documenting a lot of what happens to him artistically has been praised by some; and this encourages the man. Perhaps, in due course, the various lists can be combined, the chronological direction standardised; for now we just leave it as is, making the task of researchers that much more challenging.

There is a gap in what is here between Autumn 2007 and Spring 2010. There is no reason to think that the information is not in our possession; it's just not readily available; and it will be obtained and published as soon as possible. Breath-holding is not recommended.

The constitution of Writers Forum and Writers Forum Workshop

In the months following Cobbing's death, the method of operation of the WF / WFW convenors changed several times as they tried different divisions of labour over a considerable geographical distance.

There came a point at which something like the division of labour which obtained in the Summer of 2010 had been reached -- and for the sake of future researchers that date will be provided in due course. From that point, Lawrence Upton took the lead de facto, by agreement between the two convenors, although it was never expressed as him taking the lead, Clarke proposing the change. At the time it just seemed like taking turns; and perhaps that was all it was.

From the start, from Autumn 2002, Upton had been concerned about a few people who sometimes attended the workshop passing themselves off in a careerist manner elsewhere. They would say: " I am a member of Writers Forum, " and speak for it in ideological terms; and there was evidence that people who did not know us assumed it was a real debating forum with aims and objectives and a shared ideoology. A few attendees wanted that, and asked for it in their supposed spirit of innovation and progress. Both convenors rejected that kind of meeting; and Upton, who is writing this and will not speak for Clarke, saw it as retrograde and illusorily progressive.

It is probably accurate to say that Clarke was not worried, seeing no threat; it is accurate to say that Upton saw it as a major threat, an invitation to time-wasting and hot air, a distraction. His ideas were not widely aired at the workshop because to do so would be to concede the demand which was being rejected; and neither chair -- Clarke often chaired -- tolerated much of that kind of discussion, merely moving on politely to the next event or artefact. (In retrospect, it is clearer that some there went into a kind of sulk in protest, though to Upton it seemed that they lacked commitment. Certainly few if any raised any concerns though they may have complained about being ignored, behind backs.

A constitution was drawn up and agreed by the convenors although, in a spirit of compromise, it was merely posted on the web with an anodyne preamble, of which this is a total rewriting, and not drawn attention to.

WF Constitution until Summer 2010

Upton was content with that. His idea was that it would be there if needed. A foregrounded set of rules was, he felt and feels, against the spirit of the organisation as Cobbing had developed it and as he, Upton, had received it.

In fact, in 2010, a planned and well-timed walk out of the workshop was staged with an announcement that a new workshop would be founded. Then, the new workshop stole the name of the existing workshop. That is separately documented and will be linked to in due course; but, clearly, no quantity of rules can be used in the face of disengenuousness.

Their response to criticism, that their action is not illegal, showed where a strong response could go. It is actually illegal; but the idea that WF activities would be guided by legality still seems ridiculous. Mutual regard and communality appear to have been ditched.

A revised constitution was drawn up to avoid the administrative problems of the past, in the strong belief that had decisive decision-making been available in 2010 things might have turned out differently. As it was, the failure to respond immediately to a careerist taking advantage of goodwill was seen as weakness and taken advantage of opportunistically.

Of course, in an egalitarian poetry workshop, decisive decision-making and hierarchies are the last thing that is wanted and certainly the last thing that is needed; so this too is somewhat regressive. It's difficult to know what to do in the face of Thatcher's Children mouthing Revolution Lite.

WF Constitution since Autumn 2010

The positive element in this is that a number of people whom one would not wish to work with, in the light of their behaviour, have gone. There was one surprise and a number one might have anticipated. A farmer friend says it is easy to herd animals: you just get one to move and most of the rest follow. Those who left had consulted every male in the group it seems. One who was not consulted by accident turned up and stayed for the entirety of the workshop suddenly reduced in size. The two women were not consulted; it is good to be free of that sort of thinking.

The negative element is that they were not content to separate themselves but still seemingly seek to conflate the two meetings, apparently in an attempt to destroy the reality they claim to be.

[March 2012]