Welcome to a New Year

There is much that is exciting happening at Hawthorn Press in 2019 so we are keen to get started. We have some events coming up and some new developments that we can’t reveal just yet, so watch this space.

From “Gandhi’s India”

Join Jonathan Stedall for an immersive weekend of films at Hawkwood, Stroud, 18 – 20 January with the option to stay and this lovely country house. This is a unique opportunity to see an outstanding selection of BBC documentary films – including biographies of Tolstoy, Gandhi and C G Jung, and filmed essays by Alan Bennett and Ben Okri – in the company of their award-winning director, Jonathan Stedall.

Jonathan Stedall joined the BBC as a producer in 1963, where he then worked for twenty-seven years. His earlier career had included stage managing in repertory theatre, work in the cutting-rooms at Pinewood and as a floor manager and then director in commercial television. He won a British Film Academy Award for his documentary In Need of Special Care about a Camphill school in Scotland for children with special needs. This was typical of the gentle and sensitive style of film-making that has won him so much praise over the years.

Portrait of jonathan Stedall by Saied Dai
Portrait of Jonathan Stedall by Saied Dai

He has been an independent documentary film-maker since 1990. His book, Where on Earth is Heaven? was inspired by a question posed by his young son, and looks at the challenging issues of living and dying, looking and seeing, heaven and earth, and human potential. Written since the death of his wife in 2014, No Shore Too Far is a collection of heartfelt poems and meditations on the themes of death, bereavement and hope.

Parenting Toolkit author Caroline Penney is giving a workshop and talk at Woolley Grange, Bradford-on-Avon on Thursday evening and Friday morning 24-25 Jan. Suitable for parents and carers of children aged 0 to 18.

Caroline Penney is a well-known systemic family therapist. She has been involved in training parents to facilitate parenting groups and courses. This talk and workshop will:

  • Explore what are the needs underlying all behaviour 
  • What are the needs and meaning underlying children’s behaviour. 
  • How do we get our needs met 
  • Using advanced listening skills to understand your child.
  • Tickets are £5 per person including tea or coffee.

Review: No Shore Too Far by Jonathan Stedall

This review of No Shore Too Far was written by Roger Druitt for Perspectives, appearing in Volume 88 No 1, December 2017-February 2018. It is a wonderfully detailed and thoughtful review, and we’re grateful to have come across it.

cover of No Shore Too Far

What a truly amazing book – anyone who does not read much is encouraged to give it a try – something new in writing!

It seemed proper to read the whole volume of these poems before reviewing but this became ever more inappropriate the further one read. The soul just refused to read on, wanting more time to digest, reflect and re-create for itself. The theme of bereavement is of course one of the most poignant imaginable but these poems are not only about that. They make up a near complete compendium of all the questions that modern people ask about life issues, many of which are quoted from source and expounded through the verses, now[sic] viewed through that dread but ultimate truth of our own mortality. Although the poems are not long, they contain width and depth in their concise phrasing and imagery; treasures to be released to quiet pondering.

Jonathan wrote these as an agreement made with Jackie, his wife, before her death three years ago, prompted by a letter she composed to be read to her children after it. Her own death had by then become inevitable, and predictably close. She demonstrated thereby her vision that there just might be a life after death, within which one could reach and embrace those remaining here. The reader discovers gradually how Jonathan built faithfully upon this. His long study of Anthroposophy has equipped him with all the facets of the spiritual dimension of life and in this small volume he has married these to the many different emotions that arose out of his loss, resulting in this series of spiritual researches, always keeping within the realm of experience and colouring it with artistic feeling rather than emotion. Thus he treads ever cautiously between reality and wishful fantasy. The poetic medium turns the emotions into objective human statements that then function as windows upon the relations between the living and the dead. There is no dogmatism either way but the possibility left open that the dead might in fact actually be alive in a mysterious way. The poems do not try to offer a proof but they do function as substance for experience, trading this path that the world talks too much about without really wanting to follow it.

Here this path is trodden courageously, making this valuable material for anyone wishing to research this still fairly taboo area in a wholesome way. Besides the bereaved, anyone engaged in any form of counselling would certainly find the poems valuable, in content as well as method. The book is an effective approach too for other realms of human life, for the threshold of death runs not far away in everything we do. We can take courage too in the substance of this researcher’s work.

The book itself is a joy to hold, the cover smooth to the touch and beautifully designed. Within, the sheer variety of subject matter and imagery is likely to touch everybody’s experience somewhere. From gardening to philosophy, from marmalade to science, there are beautiful renderings of  shared items of life becoming parables for what is truly human in the love that bridges the two worlds.

Is a co-working between two souls across the river between two worlds here demonstrated? It is certainly worth everyone’s while to find out for themselves.

At the end there is a bibliography valuable to anyone taking life’s questions seriously. The final poem, ‘Farewell’, speaks the phrase “and thought by some as dead.”. This is the gentle way Jonathan floats his ideas; but another line could sound like a suggestion that we make a new beginning with the same partner.  Some might find it hard to imagine here that in the longer run this is unlikely and we may have to face never having exactly the same relationship again. Yet the penultimate poem, ‘Exploration’, prepares us for that: “we’re huge, as huge as each new thought that takes us to those billion stars”. But the poem that opens these last three and alo gives the volume its title, ‘No Shore Too Far’, this poem is a tiny but profound dissertation on Leibniz’ question “Why is there something rather than nothing?” It gives a firm ground to all the issues Jonathan has touched, including that of ultimate existence and meaning to life.

Buy the book here…

More about Perspectives here…

Review: No Shore Too Far by Jonathan Stedall

This review of No Shore Too Far is from Towards Wholeness issue no 149 Autumn 2017. Towards Wholeness is the journal of the Friends Fellowship of Healing, which in turn is an informal group of the Religious Society of Friends. Many thanks to Judy Clinton for writing this review.

No Shore Too Far cover image

Jonathan Stedall, who made documentary films for over fifty years, largely for the BBC, wrote this series of poems for his wife, Jackie, who died in 2014 from cancer.

The author describes these poems, which were written since the death of Jackie, as meditations on death, bereavement and hope. Some of the poems are deeply personal: specifically about Jackie, Jonathan’s relationship to her and the depth of his loss and grief. Others are reflections on where this bereavement has taken Jonathan in his thoughts and feelings about ‘the Bigger Picture’ – a deeper reality within which we live and die and where, he senses, communion with the departed is still possible.

I wept my way through many of these poems – not only because they resonated with my own experiences of grief but because they connected me to ‘the Other’ – that which is mystery and deeply loving and which we can turn to for comfort, inspiration and hope.

These  are profoundly spiritual poems, written in non-religious language (although within some of them there are religious references to different traditions). They contain a gentle questioning, a human fluctuation in spiritual certainty, searching and expression of human experiences of many different kinds. Underpinning it all lies a quiet knowing that there is ‘No shore too far’. I found this to be the most beautiful, moving and thought provoking book of poetry I have read in a long time.

The preface to the book and a selection of the poems can be viewed on Jonathan Stedall’s website: www.jonathanstedall.co.uk

Buy the book here…

Towards Wholeness is the journal of the Friends Fellowship of Healing, and all members receive three issues per year. For more information about the FFH please contact David Mason, 2 Fir Avenue, New Milton, Hants, BH25 6EX, david.mason1948@gmail.com.

Event: Jonathan Stedall interview at the Bleddfa Centre

Jonathan Stedall

Jonathan Stedall, author of Where on Earth is Heaven? and No Shore Too Far will be at the Bleddfa Centre on the 29th October to talk about No Shore Too Far with Nicholas Murray from Rack Press; join them for a poignant and honest evening, leavened with humour and an ultimate sense of redemption. There will also be poetry readings and a chance to ask Jonathan your own questions.

Tickets £5 to include refreshments (£4 concessions) 5:00pm – 7:00pm.

For more information and to book, please visit the Bleddfa Centre website: http://www.bleddfacentre.org/events/no-shore-too-far/