julie hogg

Vane Women. A guest post by Marilyn Longstaff featuring Majuba Road by Julie Hogg

From the Editor

Many poets improve their skills through writing classes and groups; whether with organisations and colleges or with self-organised like-minded people. But what happens when the course or group finishes and you’re poems are ‘ready’ for the world to read. Competition in publishing, as we all know is immense and can be a very dispiriting and lonely experience. Here is how one group of women in the North East of England responded.

Marilyn Longstaff of Vane Women

Marilyn LongstaffVane Women is a women’s collective celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. It promotes good writing by organising workshops, mentoring and hosting masterclasses by established writers. It was founded in 1991 to support the development and recognition of women writers in the North East. The writing, publishing and performing collective has come a long way from its beginnings in a women’s writing class at the late lamented Darlington Arts Centre, Vane Terrace.


Driftwood Detroit by Julie Hogg

Imagine a city built from nothing. A city that didn’t begin its life as a series of villages. A city, once a wasteland that now houses hundreds of thousands of people who work in the purpose-built factories, to make goods for the capitalist world in order to service a communist dream.


Lanzhou Xinqu is said to be China’s newest city, hewn out of the country’s northwest mountains, which by 2020 will have half a million inhabitants. These cities literally start completely empty. Such utilitarianism has given rise to the most aggressive form of industrial development in human history. One that is driven by a technological revolution backed by authoritarian rule. What will happen when a particular city’s utility ends, especially if only one product is being made? Will they simply close the city like a shop?

The lessons from western democracies, similarly driven by capitalist development, is not a good one. Local economies, founded on a single product or industry, are at the mercy of fickle and itinerant globalisation. The poster child of such a change is Detroit, the motor city. Once a thriving metropolis, now whole swathes of it are empty, with the population dropping by 25% in the first ten years of this century.

We saw something similar in the UK at a smaller scale with the mining industry, and now more recently in steel. As the base price of steel falls, the owners such as Tata in the North-east of England decide that’s it – up FullSizeRendersticks and leave. Julie Hogg’s poem, Detroit Driftwood is a Philip Levine inspired lament for Middlesbrough, where in nearby Redcar over 2,000 workers will lose their jobs. “A city is being sedated/Jesus Christ where are you now!/Listen, for God’s sake, to the almost incidental/silver-tongued debates.” (more…)