Geoff’s In The Garden This Year
In this first of this year’s In The Garden interviews, I’m talking to Geoff Parkes, who will be known by many Swanwickers for his enthusiastic involvement in Page to Stage and Julia’s first night Ice-breakers; and for the myriad photos he takes every year. But this year, he’s attending VS. He’s been helping Helen pull the programme together and is running a couple of the live sessions during the week.
Hello Geoff and welcome. Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself and your writing.
I had a chequered career in my twenties: bra-planning section of a lingerie company; dogsbody in a dustcart factory; primary school teacher in London. Those early experiences inevitably forced their way into my fiction decades later. Retraining as an EFL teacher gave me a passport to travel and led me back to my first love, English Language. I taught English to university students in Norway, Germany, Spain and Denmark for eight years, and my first half a dozen books were all language textbooks. By 2014, in need of a change, I began writing fiction and loved it. I now write stories, novels, short plays, and poems.
What’s your link to Swanwick? Have you been attending for many years?
I heard about Swanwick from Maggie Cobbett, who had been an EFL colleague of mine in the 70s in Broadstairs. I’ve been attending since 2015 and thrive on the atmosphere.
After dinner speakers are a highlight of the week at Swanwick. Given an unlimited budget and access to any writer, living or dead, who would you invite to speak?
That has to be Laurie Lee. He’s rightfully famous for Cider With Rosie, but the whole autobiographical trilogy, Red Sky at Sunrise, is a joy and constant inspiration to me, as are his poems. He always regarded himself first and foremost as a poet, and he had a gift for creating sounds and images that few of his contemporaries could match. I’d love to hear his wonderful word combinations echoing around Main Hall.
And finally, Geoff, give us a picture that represents VS2021 to you, and tell us why.
I’ve gone for a symbolic picture rather than a group photo of Swanwickers – I’ve posted enough of those. When I arrive home from Swanwick, it’s the camaraderie and mutual support that linger in my mind most, and this little picture neatly sums that up.
Thank you for finding the time to chat with us today, Geoff.
Folks, don’t forget today’s programme at Virtual Swanwick: Lift Up Your Pens (Facebook from 9am); World Building Q&A with Mark (Facebook 3pm); Uplifting Hour with Geoff (Zoom 6pm).