How local writer Linda Jones became a publish children’s author…
Words: Linda Jones.
Born and brought up in Newport South Wales I struggled at school to begin with. I couldn’t read until I was 9, but, once the school gave me additional support my world opened up.
During my early teenage years I wrote avidly — anything and everything. In my early twenties I trained as a Psychiatric nurse and had a career in the mental health field. The most rewarding part of my career was working to enable folk to move away from institutional care back into the community.I’m married with two children. My son is dyslexic which meant approaching his schooling, education in a very different way, a steep learning curve! It was at this point I re-discovered a love of writing (and reading out loud we did a lot of that!) — I’ve always loved fantasy and adventure novels. Tolkien, Ursula le-Guin, as well as science fiction.
My son, fortunately, loved a good story, and JK Rowling had just come on the scene… as did Philip Pullman Michael Morpungo.
Unfortunately, ill health meant I had to leave a career I loved. I’d always been around people, now I had become trapped – at least that’s how it felt – Writing became my escape route.
It took a while to find my voice and my confidence but in 2012 I joined a writing group that met just once a month (at the time that was all I could manage). With the support of the group and Ray Hearne, the group’s leader, I began to take my work seriously and early in 2014 I had a breakthrough. I won a ‘Free Read’ from the Northern Arts Council and received some invaluable feedback. In March of the same year, a short play I’d written was selected out of sixty entrants and performed as one of the winners, for the script slam, at Doncaster’s new theatre, ‘Cast’. My prize was a series of mentoring evenings with Richard Cameron.
The following Christmas I had the pleasure of performing two of my short stories, as part of a shadow puppet theatre. I’ve also written and performed several ghost stories for Cusworth Hall, which is a grade 1 listed house run by Doncaster council.
Being a regular member of a writing group has been an essential part of my development as a writer. Without their constant critique, support and humour I doubt I would have ever submitted anything to anyone.
In 2016 I had my first novel, A Fistful of Feathers, published. It’s for anyone aged 9 years and upward, and what a rush that was. Writing for young people is a fascinating, if at times extremely difficult ‘sport’ but it has taught me the value of keeping it real and most importantly… keeping it tight. The first draft of the second book in the series is also completed and I’m about to send it away to be edited.
Most recently in 2017 I’ve had a short story published in two anthologies. GRIT and Pomfret Short Stories.
Interested in buying A Fistful Of Feathers? Click HERE to go to the shop.
Ever since we released our dedicated #Slow issue back in May 2015, Doncopolitan has been working to encourage slow living and slow livelihoods as a means of social improvement and economic regeneration in Doncaster. The regenerative power of the slow ethos lies in its advocacy of human-scaled businesses, its support for resilient local economies and a commitment to healthier, environmentally friendly ways of living. Doncopolitan believes that the widespread adoption of slow values has the potential to help some of the poorest communities in Doncaster — the communities in which we ourselves live.
As we’ve mentioned before, we believe that our region has everything it needs to become a peri-urban paradise capable of providing a healthy and enjoyable life for everyone who has made Donny their home. We have one of the best micro-climates in the north of England; the Soil Association tell us we have one of the most interesting and diverse soil maps in the country; we still have a highly affordable cost of living relative to the rest of the
UK; we have a diverse skillset in our local communities; our communities still act like communities!; and our residents are necessarily inventive and resilient. It isn’t going to take a change of circumstances to build a braver, brighter, slower Doncaster, just a change of attitudes… and a little collaboration.
An artisanal attitude has already been blossoming over the last few years, with a number of exciting businesses and initiatives leading the way in a local slow food revolution. From Michael Price’s supper club, to The Greenhouse Eatery — newly opened on Wood Street — slow food is well and truly on the menu in Doncaster. And just because it is slow food it doesn’t mean it cannot be fast food too. Devon’s Kitchen is a fast food outlet in Bentley, which serves amazing Jamaican food. What sets Devon’s Kitchen apart from the usual nondescript, grease-dripping, beige pulp you find in too many other fast food outlets, is their amazing fresh flavours, the vibrant colours of the dishes and the quality of their produce. They not only source local produce, they actually grow a lot of the veg themselves on their own allotment.
We have played our own small part in developing the local slow food economy via our Bentley Urban Farm (BUF) sister project. BUF is an upcycled market garden which uses reclaimed materials to create a range of growing projects, each designed to combat food poverty and food deserts. BUF’s SEED & SAV£ project wants to get as many people growing their own food as possible and, as Greenjacker explains on page 32, they even want to pay you to do it. Slow Food UK are also committed to fighting food poverty through a wide range of initiatives, both at home and abroad. One of their most exciting campaigns is 10,000 Gardens for Africa, where they are providing land for communities in Africa to grow good, sustainable food, suitable for the areas where they live.
Slow living isn’t just about food though. Slow principles can be applied to all aspects of life. Slow Fashion is already well established. Similar to slow food, slow fashion is artisanal, high quality and environmentally friendly. The emphasis is placed on style rather than fashion. Quality may cost more initially, but a smaller wardrobe made up of classic, well-made pieces is far more cost effective than chasing the latest fad. We mentioned Richard Smith, now proprietor of The Shoe Room in Priory Walk, in our original slow issue. The high quality, handmade shoes he sells may cost more initially, but unlike the mass produced fashion items sold elsewhere, they can be repaired and can last a lifetime if treated correctly. You may pay less as a slave to fast fashion, but you will pay far more often and the planet ends up paying for the throwaway culture it creates. Which is why buying high-quality, second-hand goods — from local suppliers such as Keystone Vintage and Zeus Vintage — and teaching yourself the skills to repair your own clothes are also intrinsic to the slow fashion ethos. Doncopolitan’s Slowfashion Saturday event showed local students that the principles of Slow Fashion could inspire whole new ways of working. The future of fashion is bright, the future of fashion is slow.
If something can be done, it can be done slowly. As long as something high-quality, preferably artisanally produced, local, environmentally sensitive and made with the best interests of people in mind then it can be described as slow. Our magazine and our Slowdown Sunday events have showcased some of the best artisan businesses and producers in the region. And the list is growing daily. Which is why we are taking the next step and officially launching our oft-promised Doncopolitan Slow Club this year. We’ve already registered Doncaster with Slow Food UK and are currently putting together a calendar of workshops, get-togethers and events designed to help people live a slower life.
It is hoped that the launch of Slow Club, the creation of Slow Food Doncaster and Slow Fashion Doncaster will take Doncaster further along the path to becoming a Cittaslow, or Slow City. We believe that slow principles are right for Doncaster and that Doncaster is the perfect place to pilot and showcase new slow initiatives. If you want to slow down, or are already living in the slow lane and want to share your story, then please get in touch.
Life is short, take it slow.
Written by Greenjacker
For those who don’t know, the Greenjacker has a not-so-secret hideaway down at Bentley Urban Farm (BUF), an upcycled market garden situated behind Bentley Hight Street School and St Peter’s Church. Bentley is a typical Doncaster town. An ex-mining community which is officially listed amongst the top 10% of the poorest regions in England, local residents suffer from many food poverty related issues such as high rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other diet related diseases, poor nutrition and children going hungry at school. Bentley has the third highest uptake of food bank donations in Doncaster and 94% of people in the Greater Bentley region live within walking distance of a fast-food outlet, but there isn’t a single independent greengrocer to serve 21,000 souls (it is a place where it is literally easier to buy kebabs than kale). Statistically speaking, Bentley is rubbish.
But statistics never tell the whole story. Bentley is an amazing place where the people have always looked after their own. The training area where BUF is situated was created through the hard work of local people in the 1970s and the Pavilion, with its Green Flag awarded park, was paid for by miners many years ago. There is still a relatively strong sense of community. The houses around here were designed for people, rather than profit. We may be economically poor, but we’re land rich. As well as being surrounded by fertile agricultural land, most people have access to decent sized gardens and allotments. Doncaster has one of the best microclimates in the north of England and the area is rich with wildlife which is declining elsewhere in the UK. In short, like much of Doncaster, we are a peri-urban paradise with everything we need to build a braver, brighter future.
Working collectively — as people around here have always done — we already have everything we need to end food poverty locally, both in Bentley and Doncaster as a whole. We just need to change our attitudes towards food, our understanding of the economy and our relationship with the land on which we live. We have become dangerously disconnected from the fundamentals of life. Food, energy, shelter, wellbeing; the more control we have over these essentials, the better protected we are from economic uncertainty.
In their own small way, Bentley Urban Farm are leading the charge for a more resilient, slower, healthier food future for Doncaster. Their Big Lottery sponsored ‘SEED & SAV£’ programme gives you the opportunity not only to start growing your own food, but to make money from the food you grow. They have built a number of ‘community grow beds’ in various sizes which are used to teach charities, volunteer groups, families and individuals how to grow healthy, fresh, local food. The beds are free to use as long as you promise to work collaboratively to help others and chip-in to keep the site looking ship-shape.
The BUF team will teach you everything you need to know to start growing food and you can even get free seeds from their Seed Exchange project, plant pots from the Pot Library (which helps reduce plastic waste), tools from the BUF Tool Library and, if you become a fully signed up member of BUF, you can even loan books from the BUF Land Library.
You can use the community grow beds to get started, but the main purpose of SEED & SAV£ is to get you growing at home. This will save you money on your food bill, but BUF will also buy back some of your produce for their ‘BUF Bag’ veg box scheme, giving you the opportunity to earn a little pocket money from your newfound growing skills. For those who show a real knack for growing, BUF will even help you set up your own micro-enterprise to supply local food outlets, cafes and restaurants. Meaning that SEED & SAV£ offers a genuine opportunity to change your life. So why not get started today?..
07422 966 115
Later in the year I will also be launching the ‘Greenjacker School of Green Wizardry’ to help you become more resilient in other aspects of your life. Contact Bentley Urban Farm or follow me on Twitter for further details: @ Greenjacker
Is Donny even ready for culture?
Guy Russell Interviews Rachel Horne
So what is culture?
Culture means different things to different people but in its broadest sense, it’s behaviours or rituals that define a particular group of people. You might like opera, northern soul, listening to country music or grime. It’s all culture.
Throughout history we’ve always created and expressed the world around us, from 5500–2350 BC we played drums, danced round fires, painted caves, built and erected stone circles. The way we create as humans defines our culture. For me culture can be anything and we created Doncopolitan to show there’s no such thing as a cultural desert. We were sick of being told that people in Doncaster didn’t get the ‘arts’ and that we didn’t have culture here.
So do you think Doncaster is ready for events like this? Is there a market?
When we started Doncopolitan, I knew it was something that needed to happen but wasn’t sure if it would work. I’ve been supporting and working with artists and creatives in Doncaster now for 8 years. People have been talking about doing an event like this since 2010. It’s long overdue. It’s only going to work if we get it right. There’s an Artwalk in Wakefield that’s really successful. If it can work in Wakey it can work here.
You mention the Artwalk in Wakefield how did that come about?
The Wakey Artwalk was founded by Jonathan Lang who went to the States and was inspired by an arts walk in Chicago (need to check this). He decided to recreate the event in Wakefield, which now takes place 6 times a year. The idea is that artists and creatives open up their studios for members of the public to check out their artwork and meet local people and visitors. It’s basically a chance to see your town or city in a different way, it’s a different kind of night out. People often feel inspired meeting artists, it’s interesting finding out about their artwork. It can be anything from traditional painting to bizarre performance art. It will certainly be a night to remember.
How did Culture Crawl come about?
Basically, I was sat in a few meetings with local businesses where everyone was talking about culture and how important it is for our local economy. I just knew it was the perfect opportunity to push for the event to happen. I’m really excited to be curating an event of this scale that will bring so many people together. It’s about trying to boost the night-time economy for local business too. It also gives businesses an opportunity to get behind local artists through collaborating and commissioning their work.
What date will this be happening?
The first pilot event will happen 23rd of July. We chose this date because it coincides with DMBC’s culture week, summer holidays and university students are back home. It’s a Tuesday night from 5pm onwards so we’d like to encourage people to come out after work, with friends and colleagues, similar to mad friday but not as mental.
Is it a bit risky putting something on mid week?
There’s not much to do mid week so it’s the perfect opportunity to make something happen. It will bring a new vibe to Doncaster that will change many people’s mindsets and open their eyes to the culture of Doncaster. Similar to the Wakefield Artwalk many people will travel so in turn it will make Doncaster a better tourist attraction and boost the local economy.
What will people do on the Cultural Crawl?
People will get the chance to have a look in cultural venues such as Cast, C-View (old Art College) and The Point, these venues are usually closed in the evening so people who work wouldn’t be able to visit during the day. It’s about trying to boost the night time economy for local business too. I know it’s a school night but it will be something totally different. It’s not about getting blindo and waking up with a hangover.
How many venues will it run across?
Hopefully between 15 and 20, so there’ll be plenty to check out. Most art spaces will finish at about 9pm followed by live music in some of the pubs and venues involved. We’re really excited L-Cafe is already behind the event. We’ve got SPzero76 coming up from Bristol painting a mural on the side wall of the cafe. It’s going to be huge. Electro Music is working with Graphic Design lecturer Simon Gnomes on a Blues inspired exhibition with live blues. It’s too early to say but hopefully we’ll be curating two pop-up spaces in empty shops as well. I love curating. Everyone hates seeing empty shops in the town centre so we’re excited at the prospect of transforming a few spaces into pop-up arts venues.
How do I get involved? How to find our more?
If you’re a creative and you’d like to get involved just email firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re always keen to meet new creatives and support how we can. We’ll be publishing regular updates online and producing a Culture Crawl map which will be out in June with our summer issue of Doncopolitan.
Link to the event is HERE
Bentley Urban Farm
From our very first issue back in 2014, Doncopolitan has brazenly declared its intention to build a brighter, braver Donny. Central to such a project is the development of what is known as the Foundational Economy. Manchester’s Centre for Socio-Cultural Change
(CRESC) says that the Foundational Economy is: “built from the activities that provide the essential goods and services for everyday life.” These include utilities such as energy and water; food production and processing; retail and distribution; and health, education, housing and welfare. Because they are essential to everyday life, these elements of the economy dramatically influence each other as well as the wider economy and society in general. None more so than food.
Which is why, when the Chief Executive of Doncaster Council – the formidable Jo Miller (a woman recently named the third most influential person working in local government) – asked to meet with Doncopolitan, we knew we had to use the opportunity to take the first steps towards turning our dreams into reality and present our plans for the disused Bentley Horticultural Centre. Thankfully Jo liked our ideas and Bentley Urban Farm was born.
Bentley Urban Farm is a co-operative social enterprise — a non-profit business created to benefit local communities – which is using reclaimed materials to create an ‘upcycled market garden’. The vast majority of the resources and tools we use are donated by people, businesses and groups who would otherwise have had to throw them away. For instance, much of our wood comes from the crates which Doncaster’s new LED street lighting was delivered in; we’ve made grow beds from pallets which were used to deliver new tiles for Woodlands’ church roof; we have benches and planters made from old filing cabinets; and
an off-grid water system made out
of IBC containers previously used by Chef’s Kitchen, a local vinegar importer (we even use any leftover dredges of vinegar as organic weed-killer). Almost everything we have used to get the site back up and running is a resource which we have rescued from becoming ‘waste’. In the same spirit we like to keep our own waste to an absolute minimum. We even have a demonstration compost toilet to help show that there is no such thing as waste, only wasted opportunities.
Ecology and the environment is very important to us, but the main purpose of Bentley Urban Farm is to fight food poverty and food deserts. Doncaster has major problems with food poverty and food related health issues such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Most towns have more than their fair share of fast-food outlets, but there are virtually no independent greengrocers, especially in the former mining towns. Doncaster is literally a place where it is easier to buy kebabs than kale. A fact which is even more worrying when you consider that we’re a largely rural area with fertile land and one of the best micro-climates in the north.
Bentley Urban Farm was set up to develop new food education strategies and to supply healthy, fresh, local food to some of the poorest communities in
the UK. Not by telling people what they should eat, but by showing how new attitudes to food — the way we produce it, the way we buy it and the way we consume it — can make you healthier, wealthier and, most importantly, happier. Food is fundamental, but we rarely treat it with the respect it deserves.
Our SEED & SAV£ project, covered in detail by Greenjacker on page 38, teaches people how to grow their own food, encourages them to eat together and even pays them a bit of pocket money for the food they’ve grown by buying it back for our BUF Boxes. This is the veg box scheme which helps to fund the project. By buying a BUF Box you not only help to keep the site open for the community, you also help to subsidise heavily discounted and free BUF Boxes for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. Other ways of helping BUF include volunteering, donating (tools, materials and money), becoming a member and attending our workshops and events.
At the moment Fridays are the best day for volunteering as our friend and neighbour, the wonderful Manna Café, is also open. Soon we will also be running special Saturday afternoon volunteering events where we share food, drink, stories and music around a fire after an afternoon of light volunteering. We are currently putting together a programme of other social, cultural and arts events which will take place throughout the year. We will also be hosting regular growing, crafting and therapeutic workshops, including workshops by Doncopolitan’s very own Greenjacker and local holistic therapist, Suzie Wass.
The best way to keep up with what we’re doing is to become a member of the BUF Member’s Club. Not only will you be kept informed about our public events and workshops; you will have access to exclusive member only events too; you will receive a generous discount on your BUF Boxes and other produce and merchandise; and you will receive a regular BUF Newsletter.
We might be Bentley Urban Farm, but Bentley is just the beginning. Our aim is to seed the knowledge and skills which will allow people to build a network of independent urban farms around Doncaster; each one with their own specialist skills and produce. The region’s uniquely diverse soil map and favourable micro-climate means that we can turn Doncaster into a niche growing area, specialising in crops which are not already well known, or which are hard to find commercially. If we work together to rebrand Doncaster as the number one specialist growing region of the UK, we can create new and untapped markets and guarantee Doncaster’s place in the future of UK food production.
If you want to be a part of Doncaster’s food future or would just like to support what we do please get in touch: bentleyurbanfarm.com 07422 966 115