Make the Headington Shark a heritage site !

You have one day left to support the proposal to make the Headington Shark a heritage site.

Please do here…

The Shark is mostly associated with the owner of the house Bill Heine seen in this pic but the artist JOHN BUCKLEY who made it should be better known.

John is a much under celebrated artist and modest too. When I interviewed him, he forgot to tell me that because of his work as a war artist working for the Land Mines Advisory Group, he went to Stockholm to collect the Nobel Peace Prize! It wasn’t on his website or the MAG website! I attach John’s story.  His work has been on the cutting edge raising awareness of human rights abuses not often talked about.

Read his story here .John Buckley

Oxford City Council spent 6 years trying to get them to take the shark down. During the long boring enquiry John sketched. He has found them!  He will show them for the first time at the Oxford Indie Book Fair on April 2.

When I saw John’s sculpture Embrace, it led me to write a poem about it. (below) Embrace was intended for the Berlin Wall but when that came down the idea was abandoned. I suggested a wall much closer in  Belfast .


Joined at the hip; you have tasted the apple.

whatever tension, whatever the pain

Be bound -wrapped around -inseparable.


Trapped in tender embrace you struggle.

you ask why and how together you came

Joined at the hip; you have tasted the apple.


From different communities you blame

the other, you fight, you cry, you soften,

you are bound – wrapped around -inseparable.


One from the church; the other the chapel.

A fateful kiss and God willing amen

joined at the hip; you have tasted the apple.


With distrust and hate you must still wrestle

but as you battle your bindings stiffen.

You are bound – wrapped around – inseparable.


Stand upon the wall and be a symbol.

Bask in sun, survive the rain and remain,

joined at the hip; you have tasted the apple.

Be bound- wrapped around-inseparable






Beijing Spring coming soon.

This film about the courageous Stars artists will come to the UK soon. I’m delighted because I wrote Brushstrokes in Time to tell the story of the Stars – it’s the ONLY novel inspired by them.
I’ve had more good news .
John Gittings who was in Beijing in 1979 sent me this endorsement for the cover.
Sylvia Vetta evokes in her lively narrative China’s turbulent political culture of the 1970s and ‘80s, when China’s youth struggled for self-expression. Whether describing how students were ‘sent to the countryside’ or how, after Mao died, young artists hung their experimental work outside the national art gallery, Vetta is always accurate with a grasp of vivid detail.
John Gittings
Chief Foreign Leader-Writer at the Guardian(1983-2003)

Just launched – The Nasio I love reading project to build the first library in an area as big as Oxfordshire.

Nancy Mundenyo Hunt , the joint author of  Not so Black and White  which is inspired by her life, was on BBC regional news last night .

If you find this video uplifting you will like our novel. It’s inspired by Nancy’s life experiences growing up in Kenya and transforming lives through the Nasio Trust but also by her experiences of racism in the UK and of her work as a Diversity Trainer for the Thames Valley Police. We can change lives IF WE WANT TO. Nancy has changed thousands of young people’s lives for the better.

On  Monday she came to lunch and we launched

The Nasio- I Love Reading Project

Our aim: To build a library in Kakemega County in west Kenya.  Kakemega is the size of Oxfordshire but has not a single library anywhere.

We have the land in the Mumias township primary school and the headmistress and the teachers are praying that we succeed. They know that when children read for pleasure they learn fast, have a skill for life and knowledge of the world is at their fingertips. We will install computers and a reference section that can be used by the whole community.

Our patron is the children’s book illustrator, African born, Korky Paul who will support our fundraising.

Our corporate sponsors  Claret Press and Essential Audiobooks will fund the early years running costs of the library ie. the electricity and the librarian’s wages.

A v. small fee from adult library users and computer users and other users of the building will sustain it beyond that.

What do we need to do?

To build , on this site ,  a 40 ft by 25 ft library plus a veranda and small office (that can be used like an advice bureau) we need to raise £10,000.

Will You Help Us?

Attached to the outside walls under the veranda either side of the entrance will be colourful display boards. Under the heading I Love Reading, your name as a donor or the name of a child or grandchild can be inscribed for a gift of £50. If you can’t give that much yourself, you can hold a  Nasio Library Coffee Morning or Tea Party for a few friends to raise £50 towards the project and have your name or group name  on the board. Recommend us to your book group, library friends group, church or youth group and have the organisation name inscribed for £50.

We need just 200 names to give a community access to knowledge. Interested in being one of them?










Before the Oxford Castaways books and my three novels,  I produced a book of ten mostly five mile circular walks for KOA.  They were originally led by Jack and Margaret Ibbott, who I thought had walked every inch of Oxfordshire’s  footpaths.

Oxfordshire Rambles

Because of Oxfordshire Rambles , The Oxford Mail asked me to suggest walks for their readers .

Here is one of them:

I’m so lucky to live on a beautiful stretch of the Thames . Wanting to encourage families to get  children walking and connecting with nature, I’ve recently written a short series of 1-2 mile shire walks in Tuesday editions of The Oxford Mail.

Some local readers of Sculpting the Elephant asked me to suggest a walk that took in the locations in my novel.  This takes you to the Oxford most tourists don’t visit – Harry King’s TOWN sites as well as to the spires of Ramma Gupta’s  ‘gown.’


If you go to London, here’s an unusual London walk compiled by my fellow Claret Press author Julie Anderson . There are a lot of intriguing underground locations in her thriller The Plaque 


Click to access plaguewalktrifoldv2.pdf

The Jericho Art Fair July 24: artist Weimin He and I

Do you remember this?

Radcliffe Observatory Quarter artist in residence, Weimin He, had 60 works of art on hoardings

and my poem about the site was also on one.

 Tower of the Winds is a fabulous record of his six years work!

If you are interested in seeing Weimin’s  hoarding pictures and my poem click on the link.

North Hoardings Revised 02-06

 I’ll bring copies to the Jericho Art Fair. Weimin can come between1-2 to sign them. We’ll sell them at £5 less than the Bodleian price.

As well as antique watercolours – all under £40, and leather-bound 1850s art books for £10, I’ll bring some Art Deco to sell. The artist and deco loving protagonist in my novel Sculpting the Elephant had a shop in Jericho called Decorators.


Looking forward to seeing you at this free and friendly fair .

I’ll also bring  copies of Oxford Castaways which includes  Weimin’s story . He illustrated the cover .

Oxford Castaways - Sylvia Vetta


PS  Weimin’s take on ME!



Precious is the daughter of a rural chief in Kenya. She is strong, smart and utterly determined. There is so much she wants to achieve in her life. But this will not happen here. Not in Kenya. Not under the stifling burden of tribal expectations and cultural traditions. To become the woman she wants to be, she must leave her homeland and all she knows and head to London. But Precious soon discovers that her new home, a south London sink-hole estate, is just as challenging and tribal as the one she left behind. Against the backdrop of London’s gang violence and racial tension, Precious will become an inspirational figure and embark on an epic adventure that will have a profound impact on so many lives.

‘Not so Black & White’ is a totally gripping and uplifting tale of justice, love and gritty determination.

Here are a few of the reactions to the FOKL Author talk we did on Nov 4 . Nancy was in Mumias and I was in Oxfordshire but it worked well as you can see from this small sample of  the unanimously enthusiastic reactions.

‘What a great double-act Syl and Nancy are. The talk was interesting, thought-provoking and entertaining too. I literally shed tears with Nancy as she talked about her experiences as a girl in Kenya. (Sheila Costello/author)

‘Adrian and I have just participated in a  moving Kennington Library
meeting about Not so Black and White. It was so good to meet Nancy and listen to her own experiencesand the lack of opportunities for girls to be educated. She is an
amazing woman and has set up education and medical facilities in Mumias.’

‘It was excellent.  We really needed something uplifting like that today of all days'(Marilyn)

Nancy and I are happy to talk to schools, community groups and book groups or have discussions (internationally)  and on BiT and Sculpting the Elephant too . Get in touch on (No charge!)


To buy copies of Oxford Castaways 2
Go to
and click on the cover image.