Ryedale Writers

We normally meet once a month on a Monday at 7.00pm in the Studio/bar at Helmsley Arts Centre. However, because of the current Covid pandemic restrictions we have been meeting on Zoom  instead.

We met  in the flesh again at the Arts Centre for our July meeting  with its theme "The Troubador" in the Studio/Bar

The dates for future meetings so far arranged are : Mondays    October 18th, November 15th, at 7.00pm and in the Studio/Bar at Helmsley Arts Centre. 

The theme for the November 15th meeting is :" It can't be true...”


The work we bring to the meetings should be no longer than it takes to read in five minutes or less.The time limit has proved a useful curb on verbiage!

We've been delighted by the wide range of different responses to the themes we’ve come up with, both in style and content.

Further activities for the future will include workshops, public readings in the Arts Centre programme, outreach into local schools and more detailed exploration and analysis for those members submitting their work for more in-depth feedback.

We regularly display members' work in the Arts Centre foyer and place audio/video recordings of it here and on HAC's facebook page.

We pay a yearly membership fee of £20.

For further information do contact our secretary : [email protected]

Here are some pieces written by our members


by Penny de Quincey

In the plague years we were less visible.
We slipped quietly into the great houses
Wherever we were welcomed. But the richest
Often nursed the greatest fear. We left them
Scouring their bodies for signs that we had
Brought the contagion to live amongst them.

In darkness we polished our lutes until
They gleamed like skin stretched taut on merchants’ skulls
and honed our words til they were sharp as blades
that would pierce the hearts of all who heard them.
We sang to ourselves in the dead of night.
We played for the souls of the dead.

When we emerged from darkness into light
We found a world stripped of its gentleness.
The people had been harrowed like their fields
Their voices were hoarse, their words were half-formed.
We sang of nightingales and unicorns
Of sweet briar and honeysuckle. Of love.

Their tears flowed as freely as our melodies.



Playing for Cash at Key West

By David Smith

The sax shimmers in your ear
man that guy can play
pulls you to the
pig-tailed group of 60's throwbacks
high-stooled behind the jar of dollars.

The New York harley chapter
overtook us, blurted on seven mile bridge,
now lolls around the group,
beached leather porpoises.

The singer says that at the time
of making the next CD,
his third wife, Red
had her shirt off
thought it would help sales.

“Anyways Red’s gone now-
there’s no reference in the song
but the covers good so
make the most of the picture.

This next song takes 14 minutes
and I just lit a cigarette -
would you believe that after
30 years-you‘d learn something.?”

meanwhile-as the sun heads for Japan

the second guitar loses himself
in Bechet
whilst double-bass gets to take
the blond in front row home.


by Ione Harrison

In the valley of the Windrush light
the days of summer pass slowly
for these new lovers:
they wander for hours
along damp lanes and river paths,
by Cherwell, Isis and Thames,
through Port Meadow’s molten orchids.

They swim in muddy water
where cows swing their udders
and slurp their feet in the green brown river.
Soaked in dew, they return at dawn
past spectral beasts and herons gliding
through green tangles
of meadowsweet, bullrush and cow parsley.

she is fragile, unreliable
as the catch of a flame in kindling,
so one night
as the moon hangs
like a silver hinge
between light and dark,
he winds her
onto his fingertips
like new prints,
spooling out the thread of her.

For days she wears
the bloom of his fingers
around her neck
like a necklace.

With the press of his thumbs
he is locked inside her,
as if he were a pulse of flame
at the throat, slow-burning.

Easter – The thrush flew into the window

Jeanette Hambidge

Broken dream
By a transparent wall
And the illusion of air
Here in my hand
Beautiful and brown
There is no weight to him

He will not become tired
By the second half of life

Little bird
Can you see what we can do?

Even to Him
Held up by wounds
On his feet and in his hands
So deep
You could stick your fingers through

The cross
And the nails
Whose invention was that?
Whose idea?
And who agreed
That yes it was a good idea
A decent invention
Cross and nails.

And then who else
Said yes let’s do more of that.
Cross and nails
Yes let’s do that
Over and over again
It is a good idea
We will write it into law
This is a right and just punishment.
See what we can do.

Altering the Clocks 2020

by David Smith

After the essential ones, the kitchen, the bedroom
I normally dodge this job
but seem more concientious this year
hunting forgotten ones
suprising the garden shed
which can dawdle for weeks.

The wrist watch with the nail-breaking winder
and even my old truck
which usually tells the correct time
for only half the time.

a big reminder that the seasons
are ignoring what is going on
bringing hope
an hour nearer

That afternoon in Lisbon - David Smith

when I was absolutely confident
there was no action
in that siesta shuttered city
of chrome sky, indolent air
sleeping dogs.

I knew it was exactly the time to ask
if you were languishing
under that lazy fan
a faint breeze playing your legs
through the slats and
whether I could join you
put your book down quickly
being confident that there was
absolutely nothing better
to do.

A Man I Used to Know

by Sue Harris

“Now then. I’ve just come to have a cup of coffee with you, lass.”

So he would turn up, unannounced, at my back door, and he and his dog would come in and settle at the kitchen table. At ease, he would reach into his pockets, slowly unpacking his tobacco and rolling a cigarette, with practiced yellowing fingers, while the kettle boiled.

We had lived in the village for fifteen years and were still regarded as newcomers. The story went that you had to fall in the beck before you could consider yourself a true villager, and I soon realized only children did that. Robin was the first real ‘villager’, rather than ‘incomer,’ to have crossed my doorstep.

And so there he sat, ancient underpants rolled over the top of grubby trousers, splendid in grey Victorian whiskers, regaling me with stories about the village and villagers past and present, one of them about a ‘yowth’ who ‘fell up off ladder t’other day’.

The children would burst in from school and look at me quizzically. This was a smoke and dog-free house hold, yet there the old man sat, wreathed in smoke, watched by his adoring old dog, whose smell had by now pervaded the house. She struggled to get up to welcome them, and found that she was just tall enough to do a circuit of the room, licking all the kitchen’s surfaces. They fled.

Robin had first come along, agile and fearless, to replace cracked pantiles on the roof, somehow always sourcing old tiles which fitted and matched perfectly. Over time, though, he became less agile and wiser. He took to turning up at the end of winter, announcing that he’d ‘come to clear t’gutters’. His bills were random, sometimes negligent, sometimes exorbitant, depending on need.

On one such visit Robin was waiting for me when I came home from work. He gestured at the doorstep.

“I’m coming back tomorrow to fix your step,” he said. “We can’t have ye living wi’ that.” I looked at the back door. I was so used to the step that I had never noticed how narrow and unstable it was. The next day I returned to find two solid steps the width of paving stones. Henceforth, each exit from the house was to be a dramatic entrance onto the world’s stage.

“Thank you very much. Do you have a bill for me?”

“Nay lass. I shall be back tomorrow to put you up a handrail.”

“I don’t need a handrail, Robinl!”

“Yer will.”

It was not long after that I heard that Robin had died. We can’t always tell who we will profoundly miss. I think of him in all my comings and goings.


And here are some videos we’ve made during the lockdowns.