Andrea Holland wins the Cafe Writers Norfolk Commission

The 2012 Café Writers Norfolk Commission, in collaboration with IS&T

Poet and UEA tutor Andrea Holland is £3,000 better off after being announced the winner of the fifth Café Writers Norfolk Commission.  Also included in the award is publication of a poetry pamphlet by Gatehouse Press and the opportunity to read at Café Writers and the Poetry- Next-the-Sea festival.

The prize established by the Norwich-based writers network Café Writers, and in collaboration with the webzine Ink Sweat and Tears, is to encourage an emerging Norfolk-based poet in the difficult early stages of their writing career.  Every year, Norfolk poets are invited to submit a proposal for a new pamphlet of work that responds to Norfolk in some way.  Andrea Holland’s winning proposal this year is focussed around the war effort in Breckland, when in 1942 the residents of four villages and nine parishes were given little more than a week to leave their lands and homes to make way for military training. She will looking at the effects of dislocation on local residents, and in particular at Lucilla Reeve, a remarkable woman who refused to leave her home until the tanks forced her out. [full synopsis below] Andrea comments ‘It is wonderful to be selected as winner of the Cafe Writers Norfolk Commission and have the opportunity to give voice to the forgotten villages North of Thetford and the thousand or so inhabitants compulsorily evicted from their homes, with no official relief or relocation for villagers, some of whom could trace their families back 500 years in the community’.

The standard of entries for the award, which was this year opened out to all Norfolk residents was outstanding. Judges George Szirtes, Helen Ivory, Kate Birch and Chris Gribble also shortlisted Tom Warner (Faber new poet), Heidi Williamson (Bloodaxe author), Julia Webb (winner of Stanza Poetry Comp.), Caroline Gilfillan (Winner of East Anglian Book Award), Richard Lambert (Rialto author) and Laura Helyer (Winner of George Crabbe Memorial Prize).  Helen Ivory commented: ‘The judging process was physically painful once we’d selected a shortlist.  In then end we focused on the strength of the Commission proposal, and then looked at the sophistication of the writing.  Andrea Holland’s idea and her poetry ultimately sang out.’

Café Writers supports writers at all stages of their development from beginners right through to well established names. The Norfolk Commission Patrons are Dominic Christian and Kate Birch.  Kate who is also one of the judges and part of IS&T  said: “The Commission has proved to be an ideal way to celebrate the richness and variety of Norfolk, while at the same time promoting and supporting at least some of the many talented poets who are inspired by it.”

Synopsis of Andrea Holland’s winning proposal

In June 1942 the British military decided they needed somewhere to train for D-Day, consequently six Breckland villages were requisitioned by the armed forces and residents were given seven days to leave their land and homes. As one village’s school mistress put it, ‘The war had taken our husbands and now our homes and way of life was to go’. 

Real and imaginary villagers who gave up their homes and their land, for what would have been described as ‘the war effort’,  will appear in this sequence of poems and in particular, Lucilla Reeve; a complex character within the community who refused to leave her home until tanks forced her out. East Anglian journalist Keith Skipper has written of her tenacity and ‘eccentricity’ as well as the book Reeve published, The Earth No Longer Bare, written under the plain label of “A Norfolk Woman” (she donated all profits St. Dunstan’s Institution for the Blind).

With this collection I hope to engage Norfolk readers who might not usually read much poetry via a significant episode in regional history which has nevertheless been almost entirely forgotten by the subsequent two generations.


Because of their origin, carrs are treacherous and uninviting…with dense wet undergrowth
                                                                –    R Jones, Birds of the Norfolk Broads

I thought it boatable, our Broad.  We came
prepared to row.  Ancient cuttings
have made things uncertain; bounded

by unstable banks as we are.  I thought
I was sinking.  I thought you would
take my hand.  Green light of Reedswamp

to cling to and I watch the water receding:
A consolidation into fen.  Still, I am not sure.
You climb through Purple-loosestrife, beat back

the flowering Rush.  Denser plants are establishing themselves,
my boots thick with alder, while wet woodland becomes carr.
Now you’re gone: a grey heron fished out and tree-bound.

I’m pulling the boat of us behind me, to solid ground.
I hear only water: it sloshes in my boots like wake,
so loud I wouldn’t recognize your call.

*Andrea Holland

(‘Consolidation’ is not part of the Commission, but formed part of Andrea’s original submission)

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