It is not our typical policy to comment on the social side of the Thanet literary community, however in recent weeks there have been a few disturbing events that have compelled the writing of this statement.
For several years, our friends at Thanet Writers have worked to promote the work of local writers. I have seen them produce videos for my friends and writers, to a very high standard, for free. I’ve had the pleasure of being interviewed by them and shared several of my essays on writing and short stories published on their platform. I consider myself “a writer of Thanet who benefits from the work of Thanet Writers” rather than a “Thanet Writer”. In my interactions with them, we have many of the same goals and they have been a pleasure to work with, work alongside and as members of our wider community.
My understanding is recently, one of the initial members of the group has left and is attempting to start an alternative group, Thanet Creative Writers. While I am all for as many people as possible working to support the arts on our island home, you might notice that he’s using an almost identical name. It has become my personal belief that this is in an attempt to defraud future donations made to the group he was once a member of, and that this is a blatant example of copyright infringement.
I have watched as he has claimed that the body of Thanet Writers is a splinter group and that he is the original, as well as vandalising online profiles of Thanet Writers members on projects he has run. His attempts have been juvenile and vindictive, branding them as copycats and narcissists, however I have only seen a delusional belief in their absolute righteousness from one side of this debate.
I enquired as to the happenings and I have had professional discussions on these matters, for the benefit of my future marketing approach and I learned of several incontrovertible slights made by Thanet Creative Writers, without public comment by Thanet Writers. I am a firm believer of “there is my side, your side and the truth”, so I waited for the truth to become apparent before making a decision that could affect the writers I take care of, I will not send my writers to work with an individual or organisation that causes undue stress for minimal reward.
This past week, I noticed a new forum on Reddit, a social platform I frequent regularly, promoting “Thanet Writers”. To my concern, this was set up a matter of days ago, long after this schism occurred, and was moderated by the known, and self-aggrandising, alias of the founder of Thanet Creative Writers. I have now watched him downvote content created by the local writers he claims to be assisting, and in one instance, remove content claiming it as “not writing related”, motivated, I believe simply by the source. I attempted to discuss this stance and was met by an extremely unprofessional reply:
When he later posted an image claiming a writers group was “warm and friendly” I suggested, for the benefit of his project, he may want to try to take these words to heart, before he incurs any more ill will. For my dissention against the almighty mod, I have been banned from his forum.
I do not believe this to be way to talk to anyone in the local scene when acting in a professional nature, i.e as moderator of your web presence, and on a personal level, I will not be spoken to like a child. It leads me to believe he is developing this group, not as a way of helping others but as a way of accruing power and self-importance without putting in the work to earn them.
Concurrently to this, I received a few comments from individuals in the community about his vindictive tone, condescension and his attempts to disparage others. As an admin of Thanet Poetry Posse, set up by Neanderthal Bard in the earliest days of the Thanet poetry Scene, I’ve spoken about this with other admins and came to conclusion that a ban is in order; only the third in the group’s history. I believe this will not be a detriment to the members of the group and will serve to maintain the harmonious nature we strive for.
I debated whether I should write this however I feel it has become important, as a show of solidarity with Thanet Writers, as an open letter about a toxic individual on the local scene and above all as a promise to our current and future writers that unless we see changes, that I believe impossible given the attitude I have witnessed, we will NOT actively work alongside the Thanet Creative Writers group.
For those unaffiliated writers of Thanet, and further afield, I encourage you check out those who have worked tirelessly to bring the Thanet writing community to where it is today.
For publishing, obviously I believe Whisky & Beards to be the place to go. I don’t think I could ever be impartial here but I’m also not aware of any other companies specialising in publishing others within Thanet. This may not be the case and I have simply stopped looking while carrying out my work.
For short prose and poetry discussion, Writers Unleashed meet on the second Monday of the month, at the Ravensgate Arms in Ramsgate at 8pm. It’s run by Sarah Tait and Fi McKinlay, two of the nicest people you could ever hope to come across. Their night is wonderfully supportive and a great place for first time readers, uncertain writers or lovers of discussion to visit.
For poetry performance, Neanderthal Bard puts on some of the best events I’ve had the pleasure of attending as either a lover of poetry or a poet. A constantly different collection of performers, there is never an off-night and there’s always a feature act from further afield, bringing new talent and eyes to Thanet. Any poet around the country would do well to follow him on Facebook, as he’s grown into the biggest place to find poetry events and he’s not slowing down.
The Dead Island Poetry Society is another great night, run by Penny Lane at the Ravensgate Arms on the final Tuesday of the month. Diverse and high-energy, there’s a wonderful community and I think DIPS is what a local night should aspire to be.
For the prose writers, Thanet Writers put on more discussion nights than you can shake a stick at. There’s a group to talk about writing in, and a page that will keep you up to date with anything and everything Thanet Writers-y. They do so much good work for the local community and are bounding from strength to strength. Whether you’re experienced or just starting out, it’s well worth bringing material along to get fresh eyes on a piece.
And finally, for the poets again, Thanet Poetry Posse is the little corner of Facebook to discuss work, events or even share a poetry joke or two. Constantly expanding to cover the new poets that arrive or come up in the area, as well as those who are just passing through, it’s a wonderful place and especially useful for those who are apprehensive about reading poetry in front of others.
There’s a vibrant scene in Thanet and I believe it is the duty of each person in the community to defend it, because the only way creatives make it anywhere is together.
This is me doing my part.
Connor Sansby, Whisky & Beards Publishing
Editor-in-Chief, Writer, Poet