A Literary Salon

I think ‘salon’ is the right word to describe our Happy Valley Pride Festival reading event. Entitled ‘Lesbian Writers Read’, it was held in our local haberdashery in Hebden Bridge on Tuesday evening—in a delightfully intimate setting, surrounded by displays of coloured wools on the walls, ribbons hanging from a wall at the back, and filled with whatever the collective noun is for a group of lesbians.

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Settling my nerves

And so I was reminded of the salons of an earlier century when like-minded people would gather in drawing rooms to discuss books, art, politics…or simply to enjoy each other’s company in a relaxed atmosphere.

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As the instigator of this event, I wasn’t very relaxed but it was ‘all right on the night’, as our host, Helen Baron, proprietor of the venue kept telling me. Four months earlier when I first sat down with her in Ribbon Circus to discuss the possibility of holding this event there, I was extremely nervous. Would any other authors want to come to our little town to read? Would anyone want to come and listen to us read?

My fears were needless, and Helen was right. Everything came together. Four other published authors were keen to come along and take part even though it meant travelling from afar – Nottingham and the Peak District. Robyn Nyx and Brey Willows were led astray by their sat-nav, ending up behind a herd of cows at one point. And they still managed to arrive in time.

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As soon as the ticketing system went live on the Happy Valley Pride website, places were snapped up at a speed I couldn’t have imagined. Within days, the venue was fully booked.

The authors all did a fantastic job, both in reading and answering questions afterwards. It was Lise Gold’s first public appearance and if she was nervous reading from her second, recently released romance, Beyond the Skyline – it didn’t show. Cari Hunter was planning to edit out some of the swear words in her selected excerpt from the third book in her Dark Peak series, A Quiet Death – but after Helen’s robust introduction to the evening, she muttered, “I’m leaving the ‘fucks’ in.”

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Brey Willows read from her book, Fury’s Bridge, the first in a series and left us wanting more by ending on a cliffhanger. Robyn Nyx’s reading from the first book in her Extractor Series, Escape in Time, took on an even darker hue leading us into the past in Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

My reading was from my most recently published book, Running From Love. My wife asked me beforehand which bit I had selected. When I told her, she said, “Oh yes, the fridge and the cat.” Not quite how I would summarise that part. If you want to make your own mind up as to how it should be described – here’s a link to the podcast version.

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So a massive thank you to everyone who turned out on a wet evening and helped make this event a success. Plans for next year will be underway soon. And if a year is too long to wait, we might be persuaded to hold another Literary Salon before then.

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The event was free – but Helen told them no one was leaving before making a donation to Happy Valley Pride!

Also, many thanks to my publisher who provided sponsorship for the event – Affinity Rainbow publications. (If you’re wondering about the logo image – it’s a kiwi.)


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Buying Links:

Running From Love: Affinity Rainbow Publications / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books / Smashwords / Apple iTunes

The Circle Dance: Affinity eBooks /Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books/Smashwords / Apple iTunes

Christmas at WinterbourneAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK /Barnes & Noble /Bella Books / Smashwords /Apple iTunes

The Starling Hill Trilogy:

Starting OverAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books /Smashwords Apple iTunes

Arc Over TimeAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella BooksSmashwords / Apple iTunes

Carved in StoneAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella BooksSmashwords / Apple iTunes


 

Lesbian Writers Read

The Happy Valley Pride Festival committee chose the name Lesbian Writers Read as they wanted something snappier to put in the programme than my offering of ‘Reading Event’.

When I was interviewed on Hebden Radio by Bev McGregor (host of the regular Tuesday evening LGBeaTs show) she asked why it wasn’t just ‘Writers Read’. Why did we need to announce that the writers are lesbians? I didn’t have a particularly snappy answer to her question at the time. But I think the aim of the Festival organisers was to give us lesbians more visibility during the event than we had last year. This is only the second year of the week long festival taking place in Hebden Bridge from 7 to 13 August, so I’m just glad we have a ‘reading event’ this time…and that it’s a group of lesbians leading the way.

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On the radio with Bev

Bev’s question reminded me though of the fact we do need that visibility. Mainstream bookshops, for example, have erased their gay and lesbian sections. I asked a member of staff in a Waterstones bookshop if they had such a section and was directed to ‘Gender Studies’.

If you’re a well-known author, then having your book placed in the general fiction section is no doubt considered a major achievement. But for those of us struggling to make a name, it’s like we don’t exist. And for anyone wanting to browse through the shelves to find new LGBT writers, they’re going to have to visit one of the few remaining specialist bookshops like Gay’s the Word in London.

Anyway, that aside, I’m very much looking forward to our Lesbian Writers Read evening. A few months ago I didn’t think this was possible…to be able to put on something like this in our small town. But it is happening…on 8 August from 7pm at Ribbon Circus, 18 Market Street, Hebden Bridge.

I’m thrilled with the lineup of authors who are willingly donating their time to come along and read, talk about their writing, and sign books (that’s right – we will all have books available on the night). I would like to thank them in advance because I know they will do a great job…Lise Gold, Cari Hunter, Robyn Nyx and Brey Willows.

Thanks to Helen Baron for offering her shop premises as a venue (as well as calming my nerves as the event looms ever closer). And a heartfelt thank you to my publisher, Affinity Rainbow Publications, for sponsoring the event.

Lesbian writers read – and lesbian writers will keep on writing as long as readers, lesbian or otherwise, keep on reading.

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The festival week is packed with a wide variety of performances featuring art, music, dance, comedy, films, speakers, workshops…leading up to a full day of brilliant entertainment on Saturday and the Pink Picnic (including the Pink Pooch Parade) on Sunday. So come along if you can, and enjoy the fun.

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Buying Links:

Running From Love: Affinity Rainbow Publications / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books / Smashwords / Apple iTunes

The Circle Dance: Affinity eBooks /Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books/Smashwords / Apple iTunes

Christmas at WinterbourneAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK /Barnes & Noble /Bella Books / Smashwords /Apple iTunes

The Starling Hill Trilogy:

Starting OverAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books /Smashwords Apple iTunes

Arc Over TimeAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella BooksSmashwords / Apple iTunes

Carved in StoneAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella BooksSmashwords / Apple iTunes


 

A Tree for All

The theme of this year’s Happy Valley Pride Festival, taking place in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire from 7 to 13 July, is LGBTQ Heroes.

From artwork being produced by local primary school children to a full programme of diverse entertainment throughout the week, we’re celebrating our heroes. This can be anyone from a family member to a celebrity.

As one of the festival’s volunteers, I was asked a few months ago to nominate my hero. It was a tough choice to only name one. But the name that immediately came to mind was, who else, Lee Lynch. Anyone who has been following my blog will know that this person was likely to be my first choice. I wrote a few words to explain why I chose Lee.

“She may not be a well known name in the UK, but Lee Lynch is a writer whose syndicated column, The Amazon Trail, was published in many newspapers across America. A collection of these columns in a book titled, An American Queer, spans four decades of her writing life. Lee has also written novels and the themes of these go back to growing up in 1950s/60s America and what it was like for young LGBTQ people finding their way in a hostile world.”

Happy Valley Pride was also able to get a tree to decorate in the town as part of the Hebden Bridge Arts Festival.

We had great fun decorating it under David Kennedy’s artistic direction. All the names contributed so far have been written up on a postcard and the card laminated. The decorative umbrellas and cards are now hanging from the tree, with more cards being added all the time. If you want to nominate your own hero, just visit the Happy Valley website or Facebook page.

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As we were decorating the tree last Monday a lot of folks stopped by to ask what it was about. Some even wrote out their own postcards to be added. Many people took photos. It is a very photogenic tree.

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And if you’re in the area on Tuesday 27 June, from about 7:30pm, we’re having a tree launch…by the tree to mark an historical moment and remember our LGBTQ Heroes:

“On 27 June 1969 began the Stonewall riot. This pivotal moment became the turning point of the modern gay rights movement. Let’s mark this date with an evening of peaceful reflection and a moment to remember those individuals who you personally feel have made a difference to the perception and acceptance of LGBTQ lives.”

A time for celebration and commemoration…Be Here, Be You, Be Proud!


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Buying Links:

Running From Love: Affinity Rainbow Publications / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books / Smashwords / Apple iTunes

The Starling Hill Trilogy:

Starting OverAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books /Smashwords Apple iTunes

Arc Over TimeAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella BooksSmashwords / Apple iTunes

Carved in StoneAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella BooksSmashwords / Apple iTunes

The Circle Dance: Affinity eBooks /Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books/Smashwords / Apple iTunes

Christmas at WinterbourneAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK /Barnes & Noble /Bella Books / Smashwords /Apple iTunes

Christmas at Winterbourne is in print…available on Amazon: Amazon UK / Amazon US


 

Summer of love…GCLS and Happy Valley Pride

June is proving to be a busy month.

GCLS 2017

I’m getting geared up for my next adventure—attending the Golden Crown Literary Society conference in Chicago. This will be my third time at the conference. The first two—New Orleans in 2015 and Washington DC in 2016— were pretty amazing. How could they not be – with so many lesbians in one place!

I expect this one will be just as exciting…a chance to meet up with old friends and new. If you’re at the conference this year, please stop by the Affinity Rainbow Publications table. We’re a friendly bunch and always happy to talk with anyone who comes along—you don’t have to buy a book (really!!). The Affinity authors hanging out there with me this year are Ali Spooner, Annette Mori, Renee MacKenzie and Angela Koenig.

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Two illustrious visitors who stopped by our table last year!

Amidst the serious business of readings, workshops, keynote speeches, book signings, and awards, there’s always time for fun and laughter…and hugs if Beth Burnett is anywhere in the vicinity. As she can tell you, I was a bit hug-averse at my first conference. But at the end of three and a half days, Beth told me my hug-ability had improved 110%. Not bad for a reserved Brit.

This year I’m on a panel moderated by MJ Lowe, entitled: Across the Genres: why I write what I write. My fellow panelists are Erica Abbott, Donna K Ford, Catherine Friend, and Bonnie James. We’re scheduled for the first session at 8:30 on Thursday, 6 July…so, set your alarms and bring coffee!

The Author Spotlight groupings have just been released and the group I’m with has the 10:10 slot on Friday. It’s going to be amazing…Suzie Carr is moderating and it’s an enticing line-up…Ann Aptaker, Stefani Deoul, Cheryl A Head, Micheala Lynn, Michelle Reynolds, Kenna White, and Barbara Ann Wright. I’ve started practicing reading, as I don’t want to mess up in front of anyone here, plus I know how strict they are with the five-minute timings for each reader.

Happy Valley Pride Festival

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Then just one month after I get back home from Chicago, it’s time for the second annual Happy Valley Pride Festival in my own backyard, Hebden Bridge. This is a whole week of LGBT fun. And this year we have a special event titled “Lesbian Writers Read” sponsored by Affinity Rainbow Publications.

Rainbow logo

I didn’t have to twist their arms very hard…absolutely thrilled that these four UK authors will be joining me to read from their books…Lise Gold, Cari Hunter, Robyn Nyx, and Brey Willows…on Tuesday, 8 August from 7 to 9pm at the Ribbon Circus. Check out the Happy Valley Pride website which will have regular updates between now and the start of the Festival to let everyone know about all the great events happening during the week.

New book release

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And finally, I guess I should mention that my latest novel was released last week. Running From Love was certainly a labour of love, as I managed to combine writing about two of my favourite things…romance and golf. Sure to be a winning combination! You can read the first chapter on the Affinity website.


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Buying Links:

Running From Love: Affinity Rainbow Publications / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords / Apple iTunes

The Starling Hill Trilogy:

Starting OverAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books /Smashwords Apple iTunes

Arc Over TimeAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella BooksSmashwords / Apple iTunes

Carved in StoneAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella BooksSmashwords / Apple iTunes

The Circle Dance: Affinity eBooks /Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books/Smashwords / Apple iTunes

Christmas at WinterbourneAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK /Barnes & Noble /Bella Books / Smashwords /Apple iTunes

Christmas at Winterbourne is in print…available on Amazon: Amazon UK / Amazon US


 

2016…what a year!

2016 is almost at an end – and I should think we’re all mostly pleased to see the back of it. However, I will concentrate on a number of positive things that have happened in my life this year.

In Roman history, 69 AD is known as the year of the four emperors. For me, as an author, 2016 will be known as the year of having three novels published.

This may never happen again.

So, I do have a lot to be thankful for this year. Carved in Stone, Book III of The Starling Hill Trilogy, came out in February. Having this published was a thrill because when I wrote the first book, Starting Over, I had no idea there would be a second, let alone a third

The Circle Dance followed quickly, in March, and is a standalone romance set in the same area of Yorkshire as the trilogy books. Writing this was another ‘starting over’ moment, if you like – new characters, different plot, and one very special black cat.

I signed the contract for Christmas at Winterbourne in November 2015 – so it was a yearlong wait for its release in November 2016. I’ve described the process of writing this book in a guest blog for the UK Lesfic website called Journey to Winterbourne…and in part of a guest blog for Women and Words called Five and Counting.

I also contributed a short story to Affinity’s Holiday anthology, It’s In Her Kiss. Affinity authors were invited to submit stories for whichever holiday event took their fancy and the collection includes a wide range – Christmas, New Year, St Patrick’s Day, Hallowe’en. My story is called ‘Beltane in Space’, so you can see where my mind was going – fertility rites and so on – with an all female crew on a spaceship! The proceeds for this book are going to the Montrose Center, which provides services to the LGBT community in Houston, Texas.

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Affinity’s 2016 team of authors: Ali Spooner, Jen Silver, Annette Mori, Renee MacKenzie (Annette’s looking nervous – this was before the ceremony – when she collected a Goldie for Locked Inside.)

In July I travelled to Washington DC for the annual bun fight known as the Golden Crown Literary Society Conference. This was my second time attending so it was good to meet up with friends made the previous year – and to meet new ones. Also wonderful to meet so many people I communicate with on Facebook. The conference offers plenty of opportunities to interact with authors and readers through discussion panels, readings, book signings…and book buying. (Lesson learned from the first year – take a bigger suitcase.) Years ago when I first started reading lesbian fiction, I could never have imagined meeting such iconic authors as Katherine V Forrest, Lee Lynch, Karin Kallmaker, Rita Mae Brown, Dorothy Allison, Jewelle Gomez…to name a few…plus the host of talented authors who have come along since then.

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Have I mentioned I’m a big fan of Lee Lynch?

A few weeks after getting back from GCLS, I discovered there was an event happening closer to home…the very first Happy Valley Pride, being held in Hebden Bridge…a whole week’s worth of activities. So, I immediately volunteered to help out, as well as taking the opportunity to do a reading at the poetry evening (the poets very graciously let me read prose), and sell some books. The whole range of events throughout the week was well supported by the community and the Happy Valley team is already preparing plans for August 2017. The Christmas Festive Fundraiser earlier this month was fantastic fun as well…with the lip-sync competition as a highlight. (If you want to see photos, visit the Happy Valley Pride page on Facebook.)

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Volunteering at the Happy Valley Pride Box Office

In September I took part in what has become a yearly pilgrimage for me…two weeks on my knees at Vindolanda, the large ongoing excavation of Roman forts near Hadrian’s Wall. It is voluntary and I do love scraping away with a small trowel unearthing pottery and cow bones. Other volunteers found coins, toga brooches, numerous shoes and evidence of child cremations – but I’m not suffering from find envy – not much. Again, it was a lovely group of people to be with and the two weeks passed all too quickly. (Note: I have booked to go again next year.)

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In the trenches!

In October I had a visit from my mother. She lives in Victoria on Vancouver Island, so we don’t see each other very often in person. We have weekly chats via Skype, but it was wonderful to have some quality time with her.

The annual Azincourt Longbow shoot also takes place in October – on the anniversary of the famous battle. Famous in England and celebrated for the last 600 years, because we won. Nothing against the French, of course, but I was pleased with my three arrows on this target – the ones with the red and black fletchings. (Oh, and we dress up in mediaeval type costumes – woolly hat optional.)

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November 1st saw the release of Christmas at Winterbourne …quickly followed by signing a contract with Affinity for another book, which is scheduled to be out in July. This one is a golf themed romance and the title is Running From Love.

And then it was Christmas! Where did this year go?

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So, politics aside, I feel I’ve had a pretty good year and I’m looking forward to 2017.


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Buying options for my books:

Christmas at WinterbourneAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK /Barnes & Noble /Bella Books / Smashwords /Apple iTunes

The Circle Dance: Affinity eBooks /Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books/Smashwords / Apple iTunes

The Starling Hill Trilogy:

Starting OverAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books /Smashwords Apple iTunes

Arc Over TimeAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella BooksSmashwords / Apple iTunes

Carved in StoneAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella BooksSmashwords / Apple iTunes


 

Happy Valley Pride: Coming out in Hebden Bridge

I’ve done readings in New Orleans, Washington DC, and Urmston (Manchester UK) – and now Hebden Bridge.

Why is this noteworthy? Because although my novels are set in and around Hebden Bridge, last week was the first time I’ve made a public appearance in the town.

This opportunity was made possible by the organisers of the Happy Valley Pride Festival, the first of its kind…and hopefully the start of an annual event.

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At the Festival Box Office

Throughout the week, I enjoyed meeting lots of wonderful people…from my volunteer stint at the Festival Box Office in the Town Hall, attending the Poetry evening (where the resident poets were happy to let me do a reading from The Circle Dance), enjoying a glass of wine at the launch party at Nelson’s Wine Bar, selling and signing books during the main Festival activities day on Saturday, and sharing some moments in the park during the Pink Picnic on Sunday.

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My book stall as part of the Expo on Saturday – a great success – I didn’t take many books home!

Just walking around town wearing my Happy Valley Pride t-shirt brought smiles to the faces of many and helped initiate random chats with a variety of locals and visitors.

It’s been a blast – and I think the organising team, Mike, Darren and David, will probably be hibernating for a while to recover. During the week, they were everywhere, making sure everything ran smoothly. And it did. Even the spells of drizzly rain on Saturday failed to dampen the spirits of the crowd at the Town Hall who enjoyed the activities on the terrace – particularly the Pink Dog Show. The cakes in the Bake-off competition were of a high standard as well.

The stated aim of the Festival was to ‘celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer life in Calderdale’. And they succeeded. Thank you to everyone who took part…looking forward to next year already!

Keep up with Happy Valley Pride events throughout the year by visiting their website. And the art exhibition will be on display at Nelson’s Wine Bar until 1st September – so still time to visit and take a look at the wide range of works by local artists.


Where to buy my books

The Circle Dance: Affinity eBooks /Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books/ Smashwords / Apple iTunes

The Starling Hill Trilogy:

Starting OverAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books / Smashwords / Apple iTunes

Arc Over TimeAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella BooksSmashwords / Apple iTunes

Carved in StoneAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella BooksSmashwords / Apple iTunes

Happy Valley Pride Festival

Hebden Bridge will be host to a very special event next week and I’m proud to be part of it. I attended a volunteers’ meeting last night and came away enthused and excited about the whole thing.

The organisers have done a fantastic job of creating the Happy Valley Pride Festival and this is the inaugural event.

 

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Information on the website

If you are in the area, please come along and take part. There are a series of fringe events leading up to the main day of celebration that takes place on Saturday 13 August.

I’ve volunteered to help out at the poetry evening on Thursday 11 August and although I don’t have any poetry to offer, I will very likely be able to do a short reading sometime during the evening. Also on Thursday I will be on hand at the Festival Box Office in the Town Hall, selling tickets and merchandise from 12 til 2.

Festival Day: Saturday 13 August

There are a lot of fun family-oriented things planned which will be free of charge such as a treasure hunt, pink dog show, plus a bake-off and cake auction – all taking place in the Town Hall where there will also be a number of stalls, and I will be there to sell and sign my books as well.

At 4pm, Peter Tatchell is giving a talk at the Birchcliffe Centre titled: The Unfinished Battle for LGBTQ Rights. Then on the Saturday evening it’s party time with the Happy Valley Pride Main Stage at the Trades Club –live music and DJs, also featuring David Hoyle and Huddersfield Ska rockers Wobbly Bob.

From 4 August to 1 September, the Happy Valley Pride Art Exhibition is available to view at Nelson’s Wine Bar showcasing a wide range of work by local artists.

That’s just a flavour of what’s happening. Please check out the progamme and see what catches your eye. If you can’t make it to the festival, there are two regular events that take place year round – the Happy Valley Pride Social Evening and the Happy Valley Pride Poets Society.

All good fun – with the aim of bringing the community together to celebrate just being who we are and being free to express that in so many ways, particularly through the arts.


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Where to buy my books:

The Circle Dance: Affinity eBooks /Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books/ Smashwords / Apple iTunes

The Starling Hill Trilogy:

Starting OverAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books / Smashwords / Apple iTunes

Arc Over TimeAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella BooksSmashwords / Apple iTunes

Carved in StoneAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella BooksSmashwords / Apple iTunes