Graham Writer

Musings of an author.


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Bucket List: Part 2 Graham Watkins

Thanks Jim for the kind words and good luck with your writing.

Jim G Black Writes

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When I decided I wanted to write my first book, I created a Twitter account, so I could follow writers, authors, editors and others in the business. One of the first authors I started following was Welsh author, Graham Watkins. I saw his tweet for free books, and decided to go to his website and check them out (my most favorite words in the English language – besidesAll-You-Can-Eat -areFree Books!),and I am so glad that I did!

Graham, who refers to himself as an “apprentice wordsmith, learning the craft” has written several books in the genres of non-fiction (Exit Strategy – his first book after retirement andThe Art of the Book Fair: An Indie Authors Guideto Selling at Book Fairs),historical fiction (The Iron Masters and A White Man’s War)and,most recently, suspense/thriller (The Sicilian Defense).He is a brilliant writer, who…

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Rhys ap Thomas Hero of Bosworth

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By the end of the 14th Century the Plantagenet dynasty had fragmented into Yorkist and Lancastrian factions. In 1399 Henry Bolingbroke deposed his cousin Richard II and became the first Lancastrian monarch. The house of Lancaster ruled England for the next sixty two years but it was not a peaceful period in the history of England. Yorkist and Lancastrian nobles argued over who should be king and in 1455 the dispute escalated into a bitter war. The Wars of the Roses, as they were known, would drag on for thirty years. By 1461, the Yorkists, whose heraldic symbol was a white rose, had won a series of battles and installed their man, King Edward IV. Edward was violently Battle_of_Bosworth_by_James_Doyledeposed in 1470 by Henry VI, a Lancastrian. Subsequently, Henry was murdered by the Yorkist faction and Edward restored to the throne. The fighting and plotting continued but Yorkist kings continued to reign until 1485 when Richard III became monarch.

According to the poet Guto’r Glyn, Rhys ap Thomas struck the blow that killed Richard III himself. He described Rhys and his men, ‘…like the stars of a shield with the spear in their midst on a great steed.’

Rhys ap Thomas was born in Carmarthenshire in 1449. His father came from Llandeilo and his mother was from Abermarlais. Her ancestor, also named Rhys, had fought at Crecy with Edward III. Rhys ap Thomas’ family supported the Lancastrian cause. His grandfather was killed at the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross, near the Welsh border, when Rhys was twelve years old. Following the battle the Lancastrians, including Rhys’ father, retreated to Carreg Cennen Castle where they were besieged by the Yorkist army. They surrendered in 1462 and the Yorkists destroyed the castle. Rhys’ family lands were confiscated and the family went into exile in Burgundy.
The family returned in 1467 and recovered some of their land during the brief reign of the Lancastrian King Henry VI, who had usurped Edward IV. After Henry was murdered and the Yorkist Edward re crowned, Rhys’ family managed to keep their lands. In 1474, Rhys’ father, Thomas, died and Rhys inherited the family estate.

Shortly after the Battle of Bosworth, the printer William Caxton, who was a Yorkist sympathiser, published Thomas Malory’s book ‘Le Morte d’Arthur’ – The Death of Arthur – likening the dead King Richard III to Arthur. It was an instant success and marked the start of a propaganda war that would be won by Shakespeare and the Tudor kings.

In 1483, Edward died, and his young son was proclaimed king. Richard, Duke of Gloucester was named as the boy’s Lord Protector. Richard had the twelve years old king and his younger brother moved to the Tower of London claiming the move was for their own protection. He then had the boys declared illegitimate, which thereby disqualified rhysapeither of them any right to be king, and seized the crown for himself. After Richard was crowned, both royal princes were murdered. Richard III’s involvement was never proven but the boys were a serious threat to his legitimacy as king.
​​Richard III’s coronation triggered a new wave of Lancastrian activity. In Brecon, the Lancastrian Duke of Buckingham raised an army. It was part of a plot, planned by Jasper, Earl of Pembroke, to replace Richard with Henry Tudor. Buckingham’s army marched towards England. Suspecting that the revolt would fail, Rhys refused to join Buckingham’s force. When Buckingham’s soldiers reached the River Severn, it was in flood and impassable. Discontent spread through the ranks and many of his men deserted. Meanwhile Henry Tudor was attempting to return from Exile in France but storms made a safe landing impossible and he returned to the continent. The plot collapsed, Buckingham was betrayed and executed.
A purge of Lancastrian sympathisers in South Wales followed. Having declined to take part in the rebellion, Rhys was now regarded as someone the king might trust to serve him. Rhys was obliged to swear an oath of allegiance to the Yorkist King Richard and ordered to send his son to stay at the king’s court in Nottingham as a hostage to guarantee Rhys’ loyalty. In return Rhys was made the king’s lieutenant in South-west Wales and received an annual stipend of 40 marks.
Rhys prevaricated and instead of sending his son wrote to the king saying, ‘Whoever ill-affected to the state, shall dare to land in those parts of Wales where I have any employment under your majesty, must resolve with himself to make his entrance and irruption over my belly.’
King Richard was short of loyal supporters in Wales and let the matter drop. Two years later in 1485 Henry Tudor landed at Pembroke with a small force of retainers reinforced by French mercenaries. Jasper, Earl of Pembroke was there to meet his old friend. Instead of attacking Henry, as was Rhys’ duty, he joined the Lancastrians. This presented Rhys with a dilemma; what to do about the promise he had made to King Richard. Rhys consulted the Bishop of St. David’s for advice who suggested that the oath would be satisfied if Henry stepped over his body thereby passing over his belly. Rhys considered this proposal rather undignified but it gave him a better idea.

Mullock Bridge near Dale was chosen as the perfect site. Rhys stood underneath the bridge while Henry and his men crossed it. Rhys was satisfied that the promise he had made had been honoured and his conscience was clear. However, Mullock Bridge is a fun story but unlikely to be true. Henry divided his men into two forces, one led by himself and the second by Rhys ap Thomas. Henry travelled along the coast to Aberystwyth and then turned east across the mountains. Rhys’s journeyed across South Wales collecting more men as he went. The two armies joined forces at Welshpool. When they met Rhys’ force had grown by another 500 men and far outnumbered Henry Tudor’s.

William Shakespeare’s play Henry VI Part I, depicts rival Yorkist and Lancastrian supporters picking roses to decide what colour roses they would use as their emblems. The scene is fictitious. At the Battle of Bosworth Field the Lancastrian, Henry Tudor’s battle flag was a Welsh Red Dragon. After the battle his standard was carried in procession to St. Paul’s Cathedral. The green and white background on today’s Welsh national flag was added after the battle. Henry adopted the red and white Tudor Rose as a symbol after becoming king.

The combined Lancastrian army entered England and marched east. Yorkist spies warned Richard III of Henry’s return and the king called his men to arms. The opposing sides met on the 22nd August 1485 at Bosworth in Leicestershire. Richard had mustered about 10,000 men and arranged them along the top of a ridge. Henry had less than 5,000, most of them Welsh. A third army of 6,000 stood nearby commanded by Thomas Stanley. The Stanleys had always been Yorkist supporters but Richard had behaved badly CoatofarmsRhysapThomas,_KGtowards them and their loyalty was doubtful. Suspecting trouble Richard kept Stanley’s son as hostage.
Fighting began when Henry’s men led by Rhys advanced on Richard’s position. Richard sent orders for Stanley to attack but there was no reaction from Stanley whose men stood firm, watching the battle. A furious Richard sent word that he would execute Stanley’s son. Stanley replied that he had other sons. Stanley was waiting to see who would win before taking sides. Richard ordered his hostage beheaded but in the heat of the battle the order was ignored.

The battle continued until Henry rode towards the Stanley position to ask for their help. Seeing that Henry Tudor was now in an exposed position, Richard and a group of knights charged towards Henry hoping to kill him and end the battle quickly. Richard and his men were quickly surrounded. It was the signal that Thomas Stanley had been waiting for and his men entered the battle on Henry’s side. Richard’s horse was killed but the king, now alone and on foot, fought on, surrounded by Welsh pike men. Finally, a Welshman cut him down with a poleaxe. The battle was won. Henry Tudor was crowned on the battlefield and Rhys knighted by his new king.
After the battle, Richard’s body was stripped naked, tied to a horse and taken to Leicester where it was thrown in an unmarked grave. The Stanley was rewarded with titles and estates. Rhys returned to Llandeilo as Justiciar of South Wales, Governor of all Wales and was later made a Knight of the Garter. He remained loyal to Henry and put down a Yorkist uprising in Brecon in 1486.

In September 2012, excavators dug up a municipal car park in Leicester and recovered a skeleton with a deformed back. Richard III was known to have one shoulder lower than the other. DNA testing proved that the skeleton belonged to King Richard. There were numerous wounds and part of the skull had been sliced off with a bladed weapon, suggesting that Richard was fighting without his helmet before he died. The remains have since been re-interred in Leicester Cathedral.
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Henry’s son, Henry VIII, had little interest in his Welsh heritage and valued Rhys’ loyalty less than his father had done. Rhys had a number of mistresses and several illegitimate children, and legitimate son Gruffydd ap Rhys ap Thomas died in 1521. Rhys himself died at Carmarthen Priory in 1525. After his death Rhys’ estates, which he’d willed to his Rhysapthomas tombgrandson also named Gruffydd, were confiscated by Henry VIII and given to a favourite courtier Lord Ferrers. Unsurprisingly, Rhys’s grandson was enraged. He threatened Lord Ferrer and held a knife to his throat. It was a serious mistake. Henry VIII had a violent temper and was not a man to be crossed. He had Gruffydd convicted of treason and beheaded. The theft of Rhys’ land and the news of Gruffydd’s brutal execution were badly received in Carmarthenshire. Rhys had been buried at Carmarthen Priory but later, after Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, his tomb was moved to St. Peter’s Church, Carmarthen. Rhys ap Gruffydd, a man who had done so much to establish the Tudor Dynasty, had been betrayed by his king.


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Western Mail shares the secret tricks of selling a business.

‘If choosing to start your own business is one of the most important decisions you will ever make, so is deciding how to pass it on’, says business writer Graham Watkins.

There are over 2 million privately owned companies in the UK employing nearly half the workforce and more than 17 million in the USA. Business owners have spent years learning how to run and grow their company but virtually none have any idea about how they will sell up when the time comes.

It was no different for us. After 11 years of running a thriving business it was time to let someone else take over. My wife and I decided to cash in and sell. Three years of stress followed before we completed a deal and walked away. During that time we went through a meteoric learning curve. There were false starts, dashed hopes and tears on several occasions. Planning, preparation, employing intermediaries, finding a quality buyer, negotiating a good price and avoiding traps laid by buyers were issues we knew nothing about.

There were textbooks written by ‘experts’. They dealt with the mechanics of selling a business but did not provide the heart of the information we needed, how to do it better, for a higher price and in a way that protected our workforce.

We realised that our exit plan should have began years earlier. Like an endowment policy, starting sooner gives bigger rewards. Thinking about selling focused our attention on issues that strengthened the company and produced superior performance. We built a team that could operate when we had gone. The team took responsibility, and sharing leadership with them energised our operation. The business grew and our jobs got easier.

We took a hard look at the company. What would make it more attractive to a buyer? Smart premises, literature and staff uniforms were a start but there was more to be done. The business needed structure, a strong business plan and a clear vision for the future.

Smartening up the business included settling disputes, making sure the business was legal, software licensed, taxes paid, contracts of employment updated and returns properly file
d. All potential minefields when the lawyers start probing.

We learned early that good advisors pay for themselves. Ours added credibility and experience. They opened doors to buyers we didn’t even know exist. For us, selling up was the biggest deal we had ever done and no time for DIY.

A properly prepared valuation was essential. It’s the tool needed to establish a realistic price for selling the company. A buyer also values the business and uses his figure, usually lower, as a negotiating tool. Our valuation added confidence and the realism that we needed to do a deal.

Finding our buyer was a problem. Advertising in the press would make the business look like a lame duck. Protecting our identity behind a box number would not get the right response. Quality buyers don’t find their target companies in the paper. Our advisors started to identify prospects and approaching them, while at the same time, protecting our confidentiality. It was time consuming but the transaction justified it.

A company sale is like any other, only bigger. It needs to be planned and prepared for, if you want to win your objectives and strike a good deal. Negotiating tactics should be flexible and realistic or you will overplay your position. Use your advisors and do your homework on the buyer before you negotiate. We did and it paid off handsomely.

After we struck the deal all hell broke loose. Auditors and lawyers descended on our company dissecting it for any weaknesses or flaws. We were glad we put our house in order beforehand. We had to keep calm during due diligence and answer all questions through the lawyer. He protected our positions and reduced our exposure to potential claims from the buyer.

The hardest part for us was the ‘Completion Meeting’ when we signed away our company. A traumatic last act, but finally we were free to ride into the sunset.

Article reproduced courtesy of the Western Mail.


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Right Foot Wrong

Researching for a new book can throw up some surprising stories. As an author, I’m constantly looking for unusual ideas and finding treasure like this is a joy. Here’s a well documented true police case that my Dad found which really surprised me.Gendarmerie

Chief Inspector Robert Ledru of the Surete was a brilliant detective. In fact, his superiors in Paris rated him as possibly the most brilliant in France. He was also vain and arrogant. But, in addition, he had a bigger flaw – an obsessive determination to continue being seen as the country’s top crime-buster. To satisfy this determination he worked excessively long hours –often 20 out of 24 – and this arduous routine damaged his health. Eventually it swept him to centre stage in the most bizarre investigation in the annals of sleepwalk killings.

 During the pleasantly warm summer of 1887 Ledru, then 35, was at the pinnacle of his success. His impressive list of triumphs included breaking up black magic cults and arresting scores of anarchists as well as notorious murderers. And he had just been applauded for his two greatest victories.

The first was the foiling of a gang of political rebels which had been aiming to overthrow the government. The second was even more notable   the rounding up of the French members of The Brotherhood of Social Order. This was an underground political organisation spawned in Germany. It was seeking world domination and had spread its evil tentacles, as Ledru called them, throughout mainland Europe and Great Britain.

 ‘Its members were not restricted to one class’ he wrote. ‘I was arresting bankers as well as dustmen, lawyers as well as pickpockets, doctors as well as the dregs of the underworld.’

Now the talent and intuition for which he was so renowned was needed at Le Havre. Police there were under fire for failing to track down those responsible for the brutal killing of six sailors and Ledru’s bosses in Paris had agreed to let him help.

 He seemed so exhausted when he arrived at the Channel port that he was advised to rest for a day or two before starting work. He refused. Too much time had already been wasted, he said, and it was vital to push ahead before the trail went still colder.

 However, by the end of his first long day at Le Havre he could hardly stand, let alone think straight, because of overwhelming tiredness. Even he was forced to recognise the folly of pushing himself any further. Maybe a bit of a nap. A couple of hours or so and he’d be fine.

 In fact he had more than a nap. He collapsed into a deep sleep lasting about twelve hours and when he awoke he was annoyed with himself for having wasted time. All he had achieved since arriving at Le Havre, he reflected, was give more lee-way to the murderers of those sailors. He had increased their chances of never being found and that was unforgivable.

He was also puzzled by two facts. The socks which in his weary state he had not taken off before going to bed were slightly damp. It also seemed that some of his belongings had been disturbed while he slept. All very odd, he thought, but that would have to wait. He couldn’t be bothering with it right now. There was too much to catch up on.

 Indeed, it was a tough assignment but after three days he felt he was making progress. He’d discovered the sailors in a drunken rampage had molested a couple of women in their early 20s – one of whom had a male friend, no stranger to the police, with a reputation for violence. Ah yes, that was a good start but, unfortunately, that friend had apparently left town and no-one admitted knowing where he might be. Ledru was not perturbed. He was confident it was now just a matter of time, probably very little time, before this case was satisfactorily wrapped up.

 But suddenly his investigation was interrupted by the local police chief who wanted him to drop it for a few days and advise instead on a strange case at Sainte Adresse — the city’s most popular and up-market seaside suburb where one of the landmarks was an elegant villa owned by actress Sarah Bernhardt.

Ledru was livid. Damnit! You don’t just stop in the middle of an operation. You keep going and nail the murdering bastards. What the hell was it with these provincial clowns? He had no intention of being side-tracked by whatever had happened at Sainte Adresse. Let the local bloody peasants do their own thinking. His superiors in Paris ignored his protests and supported the request from Le Havre. Ledru was ordered to take charge of an investigation into the killing of fellow Parisian Andre Monet.

Monet was a middle-aged businessman whose wife –the real mainstay of their moderately-successful dress shop – was later to tell police she had sent him away for a few days break because he had a summer cold. His snuffling and constant coughing had been as irritating for her as well as for customers.

 Monet had no close friends and no known enemies. He was a mild and pleasant-natured man and his wife could think of no possible reason for anyone wanting to kill him.

Yet his naked body was found on the deserted beach at night with a single bullet hole through his head. No bullet or cartridge case had been found and initially the police had a problem establishing anything about the victim. There was no identification on or near the body and no trace of his clothing. However, that part of the puzzle had been solved by the time Ledru reached the beach. The dead man had hidden his clothes under a bush some distance from where he was found, presumably to prevent it being stolen. In his jacket pockets were bits of jewellery and his watch as well as his wallet containing money and identifying papers. Nothing seemed to have been taken and so robbery was ruled out as a motive.

The theory was that Monet had taken a moonlight walk and was a long way from his hotel when — with no-one else in sight, the weather being humidly warm and the sea so inviting — he had stripped in the bushes to enjoy a peaceful swim.

 The police had failed to find a gun but, as there were no powder marks on Monet’s skin, they concluded that the shot had been fired from quite a distance away.

 Their only clue was a second set of footprints in the sand not far from the dead man. Ledru shook his head when he first saw them. ‘This killer, if he did make these marks, was in his stockinged feet and that makes it hard for us.’ he said. ‘Otherwise we might have identified his shoes and that would at least have been a start.’

 He knelt down to look closer and the expression on his face showed he was suddenly perturbed. ‘These look familiar,’ he said. ‘I have a feeling I’ve seen them somewhere before.’

He ordered that plaster casts be made of the prints. For the next hour or so the local policemen watched in bemusement as he sat silently on the beach, apparently deep in thought, staring at the incoming tide. They had imagined he would want to question nearby fishermen and beachcombers who, after all, might have something helpful to say. But Ledru was not interested in talking to anyone.

 Eventually he stood up and, with no explanation, announced that he was going back to his hotel. ‘Nothing more for me to do here and I need to think this out,’ he told them. ‘I believe I know the identity of the killer – but I do not know the motive.’

 Le Havre’s police chief was outraged when this was reported to him. ‘Impossible! Crimes are never solved as easily as that,’ he shouted. ‘Does he think we are children?’

 Ledru locked himself in his room for the rest of that day and next morning he went to face the irate officer. The cartridge case, he was told, had been found and he nodded his approval. ‘Good. That may be the final piece of evidence I need. I’d better keep that case and the plaster cast. There’s something I have to check.’

‘What exactly are you checking on?’

‘As I said earlier, I believe I know the identity of this killer,’ replied Ledru. ‘The man is sick, very sick, and could easily kill again. It is imperative that he is arrested very quickly.’

 ‘But who do you think he is?’

Ledru did not answer immediately. He looked at the officer behind the desk. ‘I’ll tell you as soon as I’m sure,’ he replied evasively. ‘I don’t think that’ll take long.’

Back at the hotel, he secured his door before taking the pistol from the locked box he’d hidden beneath underwear in a dressing-table drawer. For some years, ever since the accident, he had not carried his gun unless he considered it might be essential – like when, for instance, he was aiming to arrest a violent criminal. In such a situation it would be stupid, quite unforgivable, to be defenceless but otherwise, no, he did not carry a gun.

 Now a quick glance showed one cartridge was missing and that the one from the beach matched those in the gun. Now there was no room for doubt. He had no recollection of leaving his room that night, no recollection of any nightmare or anything unusual, but clearly he was the killer. He must have done it in his sleep. That was the only possible explanation. He must have sleepwalked to the beach and across the sand past the rock pools. Then – oh, no, please no! – in his zombie-like trance he could have been startled by that naked man and shot him out of fear. Maybe, as people had said, he had been pushing himself too hard. Maybe the murder of the sailors had affected him more deeply than he had thought possible. Maybe he’d imagined the stranger was the one who he had been hunting and who was now about to kill him. Maybe, maybe, maybe….

 Nothing but maybes – except for the undeniable evidence that, whatever the reason or motive, he had killed Monet. He had to share that appalling truth with people he knew and trusted – not those amateur policemen at Le Havre   and that meant leaving immediately for Paris.

 His chief there was astounded next morning when Ledru said he intended to arrest himself and added: ‘I don’t want to be locked away – of course I don’t — but I’m too dangerous to be free.’

‘Sorry Robert, the way you describe it … well, I know it looks bad … but I’m not entirely convinced.’

‘Then perhaps this will convince you,’ replied Ledru taking off his right sock. ‘You remember that accident when I shot myself in the foot? That’s when I lost my big toe. He held up his foot. Now see there! No big toe! And if you again look carefully at that plaster cast, although the sock disguises it a bit, you can make out that big toe is missing. What you are looking at there is my foot. Absolutely no question about it. And, in case you need still more evidence, here are the socks I was wearing that night.’ He produced the socks which he had carefully wrapped. ‘They haven’t been washed and you’ll see that they have grains of sand on them. Get some-one to check and I think you’ll find they match the sand on the beach at Sainte Adresse.’

He folded his arms. ‘Now you understand, I hope, why I must arrest myself.’

‘But listen man, you must understand that’s just not possible …’

‘Then you arrest me or get one of the men to do it. But for God’s sake let’s get it over with.’

 The chief was in a dilemma. He respected Ledru, admired his exceptional skills, and, although they rarely socialised together, he regarded Ledru as a friend. He could not put such a man behind bars like a common criminal but, on the other hand, he could now see it was not safe to let him stay free. He decided on a compromise. He would say nothing about this session to anyone except those who needed to be advised. Ledru would be given special leave for unspecified health reasons and would not be allowed out of his own apartment. There he would be monitored day and night by trusted men.

The watchers included a couple of police doctors working on a roster who stayed in his room at night. As part of a test a pistol loaded with blanks was left on his dressing table. For three nights Ledru hardly stirred as he slept through until morning but on the fourth night the doctor watched him, apparently still asleep, get out of bed, pull on his day clothes and pick up the gun.

The doctor stood up from his armchair and stood between him and the closed door Ledru gave a little gasp, as if suddenly startled, pointed the gun as his head and squeezed the trigger. The doctor was shaken but physically unhurt. Ledru put down the gun, returned to bed, and almost immediately was again apparently peacefully asleep. When he eventually awoke he had no recollection of his night-time behaviour.

That clinched the diagnosis. He was given permanent sick leave and for the next 50 years he lived in seclusion on a farm outside Paris, watched over by police-paid observers, until he died in 1937.

The killers of those six sailors were never arrested. Ledru’s track record made it highly likely that they would have been caught and punished if he had not joined the ranks of sleepwalk slayers.

 An Extract from The Sleepwalk Killers – The Nightmare Truth About Violence During Sleep.

Available now for pre-order from Amazon for delivery to your device on the 21st May.

 


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Llandeilo Book Fair 2016 in pictures and review

A great day during which I met some lovely authors and lots of new readers. Fun, informative and productive. Well done Christoph for organising the book fair.

writerchristophfischer

The first Llandeilo Book Fair happened on Sat 30th April and I have to say it was everything I hoped it would be, and more. 13116117_10154111069195890_3030147215879274381_o13119740_1091090187580860_3565965637614321087_o
From the first day of organising it people have been supportive: friends, local residents, businesses, schools, the libraries, the press, authors and readers. It’s been a dream to organise. 13118978_10153346314352132_7476212192213809584_n
I need to thank Helen, Robin and Luke from Caffi  lechyd Da for doing such a great job with the catering, Tracey and her team from Heavenly Chocolate for donating the cake and all their advise and support, Naomi Edwards from the local school and Janet Lewis from the library.

Also thanks to the best event day team ever: Hugh Roberts, Ryan and Meryl – Thanks for running everything so smoothly and professional.13119896_10154111069815890_7673435550460422218_o

We had a busy hall all day long and huge interest in the workshops, readings, talks and the discussion panel. The footfall was more than…

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