Thursday, February 28, 2013

Friends of Westerman Yarns

Friends of Westerman Yarns is a new initiative that has been developed through the annual Westerman Seminar’s. We initially aim to produce two newsletters a year and members are invited to submit articles, news items, letters, book information, finds, and reviews.

The newsletter; The Westerman Yarns, will have Westerman at its heart, but is open to other children’s literature related material that may appeal to members. Items published in the newsletter will not be posted on the blog for at least 12 months

Members will also receive advanced notice and priority booking for Westerman Yarns events.

There are no membership fees.

All newsletters will be sent by email as pdf files. However, if members wish to receive a paper copy, please send two, stamped, self-addressed A5 envelopes to cover a one year subscription to:

The Westerman Yarns
14 Court Close

Click here to join Friends of The Westerman Yarns

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Westerman Seminar 2013

The seminar at Portsmouth Grammar School on Saturday 16 November was a real departure from our previous programmes. We kicked off with an abridged performance/reading of the play of Captain Blundell’s Treasure by a talented group of students from Springfield School, Portsmouth who really captured the spirit of Westerman’s characters. After their performance they happily answered questions from the delegates about their perception and views of the play and the style of writing.

Steve Rudge showed examples of rare and unusual dust wrappers from his collection, looking at their introduction and development including some very unusual examples with advertising wrap-around’s that many of us had never seen before. I then gave out copies and discussed the story The Prisoner of War, written by Percy and included in a feature about him and his first book A Lad of Grit from a promotional paper printed by the company W. Pink and Sons Limited for circulation in the Portsmouth area at Christmas 1908.

The introduction of 'bring and buy' where delegates were invited to bring along spare books for sale was a great sucess and we will definately carry that through to the next seminar.  During the breaks there was plenty of time for networking and chat, and a few people have already offered ideas for the next seminar.

After lunch Greg Worwood discussed the use of dating Blackies annuals and periodicals using the production codes. These codes can also be used to track the order that books were published in any given year. I then shared the results of recent research including quotes, forewords, acknowledgements and press cuttings that are helping to build the Westerman story.

We closed the day with a presentation about the history and background to the rediscovered silent film of the Westerman book Haunted Harbour mentioned on the dust wrapper blurb of the 1936 book, followed by a screening of the film.

Our thanks to Portsmouth Grammar School for their continued support of the Westerman Seminar; The University of Worcester Research Archive for the loan of material from the Westerman Research Collection; The Media Archive for Central England, Brian Griffiths – Walsall Sea Scouts, Robert Crewdson and Greg Philpot for the Haunted Harbour film and information; Drama Students from Springfield School, Phelim Rowland and the loan of the script from The University of Worcester Research Collection for the performance of Captain Blundell’s Treasure; Greg Worwood and Steve Rudge for their presentations.

What a difference a day makes - The blue plaque unveiled

I never imagined that the installation and unveiling of a blue plaque would do so much towards raising the profile of Percy F. Westerman. The ceremony held at 55 Campbell Road, Southsea on a bitterly cold Friday afternoon, attracted around 60 guests and visitors, The News (regional paper) and a BBC South Today television crew, to witness the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth and children’s author, Michelle Magorian unveil the blue plaque in honour of Percy F. Westerman.

The plaque, unveiled on the 54th anniversary of his death, is on the house that was the Westerman family home from 1880 and is significant in the Percy F. Westerman story as the place he grew up, went to school, started his job as an Admiralty Clerk in Portsmouth Dockyard, met and courted the love of his life – his wife Florence, and most importantly, began his writing career, submitting features for the magazine ‘Cycling’.

After the unveiling we hosted a reception at the Portsmouth City Museum and took the opportunity to display a selection of books and photographs. The guest were very interested and surprised at the range and scope of the books and the attractive qualities of the dust wrapper artwork.

The children's author, Michelle Magorian was invited to  unveil the plaque after we learnt that she was born and spent time in her youth, at her home in Victoria Road North, just five minutes’ walk away from the Westerman home. Inviting a successful children’s author to unveil a plaque in honour of a successful children’s author from an earlier generation seemed the right thing to do.  We were delighted when she agreed, Michelle Magorian was, without any doubt, key to attracting the media and raising the profile of the event, and of course, Percy F. Westerman. We are very grateful for her kindness and support.

My gateful thanks to the Lord Mayor for taking part in the ceremony thereby giving the event ‘official’ recognition by the City of Portsmouth.

I must also thank the home owner for kindly allowing the plaque to be placed on the house and for allowing us access to documents essential in gathering the provenance needed, and to Diana Gregg for her help in deciphering those documents.

The plaque was unveiled on Friday 22nd February.

The link to the BBC South Today report:

The News - Portsmouth

Blue plaque (top)
Michelle Magorian with Nigel Gossop (centre)
Photographs courtesy of Maureen Walder