Save the dates!

It’s great to see everyone emerging from the winter gloom and getting together again.

Here are a few dates which should be of interest to anyone who loves writing, reading or just listening.

March 19th: Story Sunday ‘Another Country’

As you know I’m a member of Writers Unchained and hopefully this poster says it all. Writers have until March 5th to submit, or just come along and listen.


Feb 26th: submissions opening for Stroud Short Stories

stroud short stories

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? I am very pleased to be co-judging the next  SSS event (is this the closest a writer gets to promotion at work?!) which is not until May, but submissions are open from Feb 26th to April 22nd. Why not get thinking and writing now? To submit you do need some connection to Gloucestershire or South Glos, but the theme is open. Check out the entry regulations here. Join us on May 21st to see who we picked.  Feel free to get annoyed if it isn’t you!

molpcoverMeanwhile on March 11th I am thinking of taking myself  to the lovely town of Lyme Regis where the Magic Oxygen Literary Prize winners will be announced. Yes, I am shortlisted for the short story prize and I’m planning to treat myself to a day out in Dorset. If you’re anywhere in the vicinity, the evening event looks like fun,  and as well as celebrating great writing, these people plant trees in Kenya.

Tickets here.
Copies of the winners’ anthology will also be on sale.
How nice to be in it!




Fry’s Chocolate Dream

Frys Five BoysSweets and chocolate bars must be as  evocative of past times as smells or music. One of the first errands I ever ran was when my granny sent me for a bar of ‘Caddy Pep’(Cadbury’s Peppermint Cream) and my vocabulary was given an early boost by all those long words experienced by Fry’s Five Boys.  Remember them? A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to run into someone who probably knows more about Cadbury and Fry’s joint history than anyone on the planet and who has luckily put it all in a book packed with fascinating memories and mouth-watering illustrations.

I’m delighted that John Bradley is here today to talk about Fry’s Chocolate Dream: the Rise and Fall of a Chocolate Empire. And don’t ignore the timing – if you know anyone who loves chocolate and /or history (local history for us Bristolians) this would make a fab Christmas present!

 Writing the story of J.S. Fry & Sons.

The idea to write the Fry’s story came to me as early as 2006 when I was doing the research for my first book, Cadbury’s Purple Reign. In writing the story, I was very conscious that as a “Cadbury man”(I worked for them for twenty-four years) and author of a book on Cadbury’s, I had to make a special effort to take myself out of that mindset and put myself in the shoes of Joseph Fry, Anna Fry, Joseph Storrs Fry, Francis Fry, Joseph Storrs Fry II, Roderick Fry, Cecil Fry and Major Egbert Cadbury (the men and lady who ran the company throughout its history), and tell the story from their perspective, so this is unashamedly a Fry’s book!

The title: Fry’s Chocolate Dream: The Rise and Fall of a Chocolate Empire, encapsulated the story I wanted to tell: not just the “what happened”, but the “why and the how”. How did J.S Fry & Sons become the world’s largest manufacturer of cocoa and chocolate, a position they still held at the outbreak of the First World War? Why, just a few years later, had they been reduced to effectively being a vassal state of Cadbury Bros? Just how bad for both firms was the amalgamation between Fry’s and Cadbury’s? Why, after Fry’s had just successfully completed one of the largest industrial relocations in Britain, did Cadbury’s arbitrarily force the liquidation of J.S. Fry & Sons? How did Fry’s, by then under the leadership of a renegade son of George Cadbury, completely re-invent itself during and after the Second World War to become Britain’s most vibrant chocolate company? What was the real story behind the closure of Somerdale? And why today can you find tins of Fry’s cocoa in Captain Scott’s Antarctic supply base and on Canadian grocery shelves? It is a far more fascinating and surprising story than I had imagined.

5Centre1It is too easy when writing history to fall into the trap of seeing outcomes we already know about as having been inevitable or pre-ordained: i.e. that Cadbury’s would triumph over Fry’s. But I found the reasons behind Fry’s meteoric growth and then eclipse by Cadbury’s to be far more complex and nuanced. Complacency; lack of innovation in both products and management; dysfunctional management at key times; the Union Street location in the centre of Bristol; even a poor succession planning that prompted sale of shares to the public in 1912 all played key roles in Fry’s demise.

Frys chocolate Dream coverThe book ended up at 190 pages, and large pages at that (11” x 8.5”), firstly to do justice to the many superb images and secondly because Amazon’s print-on-demand costs are driven entirely by page count irrespective of size, so naturally I plumped for the largest available size! It is available on and priced at £19.95 (or less! – ed.)



John BradleyAs well as being a chocolate expert, John has published a humorous self-help book on living with Crohn’s disease called The Foul Bowel, which was a top-three seller on Amazon in the Crohn’s disease category for over 18 months. He now lives in Canada but his books are all available via Amazon UK. In fact I picked up a copy of Fry’s on Amazon for quite a bit less than the RRP – so head over now to get a bargain!


Bristol Suffragettes – historical walk, historic day

Bristol Suffragettes coverWell before the tennis action got under way last Sunday, I was over in Clifton learning about Bristol Suffragettes from local author Lucienne Boyce  whose book from local publishers Silverwood has just come out.

Annie Kenney lived here
Annie Kenney lived here

Assuming like many people that the suffragette movement was London-based,  I was fascinated to learn on our walk around leafy Clifton how the movement was organised across the country and how big a part Bristol played in the action, from the appointment of local organiser Annie Kenny to an attack on Winston Churchill at Temple Meads station.  I was amazed too at the ladies’ grasp of marketing. Way before twentieth century gurus pronounced on medium and message, the WSPU had newspaper owners onside and sold suffragette merchandise from shops throughout the land. Plus ca change…?By the end of the walk I had learned a huge amount about the suffrage movement as a whole as well as the Bristol Suffragettes.  clifton mapAnd as a reminder of the day, the book arrived yesterday in the post. Packed with detail, photos and research,  I think this is also an outstanding example of book production with a generous use of white space, pleasing layout, good quality paper (so that even old photos look crisp) and a fold-out map of the walk we did last week.  When the average paperback retails at £8 I think this is exceptionally good value at £11.99.

And the historic bit? Well I’m still basking in the glow of the Wimbledon final. What a day, what a win, what a man!

As for me, it turns out to be six years ago to the day that I first registered for WordPress. Should be up for a long service award if nothing else 😉

Banksy at Bristol

Yesterday we managed to squeeze in a visit to Banksy versus Bristol Museum. I say ‘squeeze in’ because even on a Monday afternon we queued for 45 minutes which left us just less than one hour to see what all the fuss was about.

In the two main exhibition areas I was initially unconvinced. The images (and several 3-D exhibits, most of them with moving parts) were arresting and sometimes witty, but also fairly crude in their invective against obvious targets – child labour, pollution and  politicians, as well as the stereotypes of art.

More intriguing were the individual items dotted through the museum’s own galleries: ‘Venus after Surgery’ in which a nude views her reflection complete with sticking plasters is slipped in between classical paintings. Amongst exponents of the Bristol School, ‘View of New Hartcliffe’, complete with sunset and pastoral accoutrements, is defaced by  he wreck of a burned out car.

The overall effect was a lot more than the sum of its parts and as the title of the exhibition suggests, raises real questions about the nature of art and the way in which it is traditionally displayed. It’s great that the city has had this opportunity to take part in the debate.

All Cows Eat Grass

When I heard the  news that Bristol City Council is to raise cattle on a tract of land adjacent to the M32 motorway I did check the date, but April 1st it was not, and I think it shows remarkable  initiative for a council not exactly famous for emlightened approaches to anything. There are sure to be protests from veggies, but I would rather see cattle roaming beside the motorway than more new houses built. I assume someone has already investigated the effect on cows (and their ultimate consumers) of prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide.

The title is a mnemonic dredged up during my recent excursions in to tenor territory. If you don’t know it, ACEG are the notes in the spaces of the bass clef.  I learned this when I had piano lessons around the age of eight and don’t think I had cause to think of it for the intervening xx years,  proving if nothing else that this is a mnemonic that worked!

Ladies lunching

Cabot Circus by Ellie Bacon

 Pausing in the yellow theme to post DD’s wideshot view of Cabot Circus. Cabot isn’t quite the temple of Mammon that is Westfield, though the design strikes me as similar. I fear it may also be suffering a similar fate: many visitors but not a lot of money being spent. Managed to come back empty handed myself, though rather the better for a ‘light lunch’ at Carluccio’s. I could get used to this lunching thing. Beats cheese on toast!

Don’t worry, yellow will be back!

Circus comes to town

Until recently I had myself down as a suburbanite, but not any more. The fight of DD and DS into the city centre has given me the chance to explore the waterfront, the old centre and the university area all over again and I’m suddenly finding even more excuses to go there. Visitors are now being dragged to Clifton village rather than Cheddar and to look at the Wills Building rather than Wells. Hey, my birthday bash was even in ultra cool Zero Degrees microbrewery, instead of the usual neighbourhood pub or pizzeria. Maybe I’m searching (in vain) for my lost youth, but now Cabot Circus has opened and we have shopping too! No, I haven’t been recruited by the Bristol Tourist office, but I have commissioned DD to take some pictures which I’ll post here soon as. Meanwhile here’s our new shopping mecca courtesy of  Pip on Flickr.