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!)


How to launch Not so Black and White – not like the crowded events of the past.

It’s taken these surreal times for me to appreciate the outstanding locations and crowded book launches I’ve enjoyed. The most special was the launch of Oxford Castaways in the Cast Gallery of the Ashmolean  which  Sir Roger Bannister wound up, with appropriately, statues of ancient Greek athletes behind him.


OC3 was in the superb Maths Institute and was compered by Roger’s daughter and fellow castaway Rev Charlotte Bannister Parker the founder of the Oxford Faith Walk and Director of the Children’s Radio Foundation UK.

Brushstrokes in Time was launched in Blackwell’s – below my friend the best selling Italian author Simonetta Agnello Hornby  whom I met when we both moved to Kennington as young mothers. Seen here with Justin who lived with her for a while when he was at UCL.  On the right is  Oxford Blue Guide and friend Felicity Lewington . In the crowd   Euton Daley, Nancy  Mudenyo Hunt  & Richard O.Smith .  Out of view Weimin He, Maria Jaschok , Bill Heine and many more Oxford Castaways and China expert Professor Maria Jaschok,  Professor Simon Altmann  and Ray Foulk  who  all endorsed the novel .

and Sculpting the Elephant in the Jam Factory – which is the name Gill Hedge and I gave Coopers Oxford Marmalade Factory when we ran an art and antiques centre there. Can you see Legs Larry Smith (so named by George Harrison of the Beatles) , Dwina Gibb, Katlin and John Matthews , Ray Foulk , James and Joanna Harrison and  Shrenik Rao the editor of The Madras Courier ?

My family and villagers mostly came to Kennington Village Centre where we had an Indian evening with food, film , dance and music and Weimin He sketched and compered by Korky Paul.



Poems in an Exhibition was in the location of oldest library in Oxford in St Mary’s, with this amazing view from the window of the Bodleian.  Dwina Gibb read her poignant poem dedicated to her husband Robin.

Yesterday Nancy Mudenyo Hunt and I held  copies of Not so Black and White but in these surreal times  we cannot look forward to the exciting  fundraising launches ( for the Nasio  Trust) we had planned. The best we can do is offer to take part in zoom Q&As for book groups , libraries and community groups . If you are interested please let me, Nancy or  the Nasio Trust know . You can read it as a gripping story  or use it to think deeply about some issues as descibed by …


(Associate Chaplain to the Bishop of Oxford, Associate Minister, The University Church) 

Not so Black and White’  looks at the cross-cultural life of an inspiring young woman Precious, caught between two worlds of the UK and Kenya. The authors manage to weave these worlds together in a proactive way that challenges the reader to take a fresh look at critical issues that are of huge importance in our world today. From gang violence and racial tension in London to arranged marriages, girl child education, and tribal expectations in Kenya. An uplifting and captivating read.

Not So Black and White written with Nancy Mundenyo Hunt and why she is inspirational.

Thanks to Petya Tsankova for the fabulous book cover!

I’ve had Whats App calls with my fellow author of Not So Black and White . Nancy is working hard to find shelter and food for families made homeless because of the severe flooding in Western Kenya . While ‘Not So Black and White’ is fiction and the main character Precious Mukosi is a work of our imagination, the authenticity of the novel is down to Nancy’s life experiences both in Kenya and in the UK .There is no doubt in my mind that she deserved the NatWest 2015 Award for Most Inspirational Woman! (pic)
We have decided to self- publish our novel through OxfordeBooks in June so the income from the sales @ £2.99 can go to the Nasio Trust.  Any additional income stream is welcome  because charities cannot mount fundraising events. My desire is that more people will come to know about Nancy Mudenyo Hunt and the Nasio Trust and hopefully be moved by our novel.

See below to understand why she was given that MOST INSPIRATIONAL WOMAN award.!

Nancy Mudenyo Hunt.

Nancy Mudenyo Hunt is an inspirational leader who impacts on the lives of so many people. Her way of thinking and responding to problems, and challenging those who say it can’t be done, breaks through boundaries to meet a need.

Nancy was born and grew up in a small village called Musanda in western Kenya, the 13th child of the Chief’s first wife. Those early life experiences gave her insight and empathy.

Having had a successful career as a leadership trainer for senior police officers and then running her own training consultancy, she gave that up to tackle the plight of orphaned and disadvantaged children in western Kenya. All aspects of a vulnerable child’s life are covered, supporting their emotional, physical and psycho-social development through access to education, emotional support, advocacy, food security, health and welfare service. Through supporting children in their communities, rather than in orphanages, they are enabled to reach their full potential and able to support themselves, their families and their community.  The projects are geared towards breaking the cycle of poverty. Some of the earliest beneficiaries have graduated – a previously unheard of achievement from their background. Two exceptional students have been given scholarships to study in the USA.

Nancy’s leadership has had a profound impact in this area of high poverty levels. Not only has she set up the infrastructure to support the health and educational needs of children, she had the vision to build a medical centre in this remote rural area. This facility now treats 10,000 patients a year and provides maternity support for the delivery of around 50 babies a month and provides immunisations to keep them safe.

While working for Thames Valley Police a programme to help young people who had lost direction was born. Nancy, with police colleagues, developed a unique programme culminating in volunteering at the Nasio projects in Kenya. This life-changing programme has taken over 200 young people from South Oxfordshire to Kenya, many of whom were disadvantaged or otherwise vulnerable. The connection between two very different communities had a profound effect on the young people, discovering how communities with little material wealth are rich is other ways, changing their lives for good. Nancy, has just written a novel  ‘Not so Black and White’with me. It is  inspired by her life experiences in the UK and western Kenya in transforming lives. It draws out the common humanity that lies beyond differences of nationality, culture, race or class and is aimed to cast light on issues that affect many young people today.

Another example of how Nancy thinks is the Spirulina project – a solution to feeding malnourished children with a healthy diet and provide a sustainable income for women. The potential to scale the project across East Africa to provide income and improve health is being now being developed with interested partners.

Nancy’s commitment to help people is further demonstrated by her support in Oldonyosambu, Tanzania. She discovered children were being born with severe abnormalities due to excessive fluoride in the water, a problem first identified in the 1960s. She visited the community, identified their needs and organised funding and installation of rainwater collection tanks to allow children to drink safe water while a longer-term solution is found.

Nancy has also been instrumental in persuading central government to build a technical college for 1,000 students which is giving further opportunities to this neglected community to find their route out of poverty.

Other initiatives include providing Peer Educators for sexual health for young people across the county, partnering with One Acre Fund to provide food security for 1,000 subsistence farmers, eradicating jiggers and establishing a programme to give additional support to exceptional students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Currently Nancy is in Kenya and has taken the initiative (to fill a gap left by the Kenyan authorities) to set up and lead a team of 1,000 Peer Educators and local government workers to sensitise the communities on Covid-19 and how to keep safe. The community has now been hit with floods resulting in 68 families losing their homes, their crops and their livestock. They are in temporary accommodation in a primary school. She has raised £50,000 to provide food, clothing and essential items for those whose homes and small incomes have disappeared and is now turning to rebuilding their lives.

These videos will give you a flavour of what Nasio does and the personality of Nancy.


So you want to be a writer!



I’ve just sent this 600 word feature to James Harrison for the  booklet. As well as exhibitor lists, plans of the building and the events program  the free oxib booklet will have a super variety of book and creativity related features . I have just sent off my contribution . I could have called it JUST DO IT!


I don’t want to discourage you but to warn you that it won’t be easy and you’ll need determination and to make sacrifices unless you have a private income. In my second published novel Sculpting the Elephant, Harry King is a young artist who, like most of us, needs to earn a living so he opens a shop in Walton Street, Oxford called Decorator’s where he sells C20th design and his own work.  My advice in other words to would-be artists, writers and actors is clichéd but holds true: “Have a second string to your bow.”

Many artists also teach or do graphic design. When I was in the antiques trade I met some actors who traded to secure an income when they were ‘resting’. I know actors, writers and artists who often work on cruise ship giving talks and workshops to supplement their income (nice work if you can get it).

Back in the day I was privileged to interview Colin Dexter the author of the successful Inspector Morse books. As he told me his story I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing so I asked Colin ‘Have I understood correctly – you wrote nearly all the Morse novels while you were working full time at the Oxford Delegacy [for school examinations]?’

He replied in the affirmative so I asked him,

‘How did you do it?’

‘It was like this. I came home from work,  had supper, listened to [Radio 4’s] The Archers, went to the pub for pint or two and worked out that if I then wrote a page a day after 365 days I had written a book,’ said Colin. Not all of us are lucky enough to have a Dorothy (his wife) to get supper ready on the table after work… but the thought is a good one.

I was a passionate reader from the day I joined Luton Library aged seven.  My background was such that I couldn’t imagine myself becoming a writer and maybe that was fortunate. I got a lot of life experience before I started writing seriously. When I was director of Oxford Antiques Centre at the Jam Factory, The Oxford Times gave me my first opportunity to write professionally and I was soon writing for four magazines. When I stopped trading in 2005 I was able to devote myself to writing fulltime because our mortgage was paid and our children grown up so I could be free! I studied on the Diploma in Creative Writing Course at Oxford and that gave me the confidence that I could write fiction. The wonderful Jenny Lewis who will perform at the Oxford Indie Book Fair also instilled a belief that I could write poetry.  A good writing course helps .It makes you write outside your comfort zone.

I was fortunate, having written for newspapers and magazines, because I became aware that once your copy has left your computer the editor will do what he or she likes with it—often adapting it to fit their readership… but occasionally I did sigh.  Then I shrugged my shoulders because I learned not to be precious about my words. When Claret Press offered to publish my first novel Brushstrokes in Time, I discovered that Katie Isbester is a fine editor. She has since told me that I am easy to work with.  So my advice is be open minded, listen to advice and be prepared to change your work drastically if necessary.

There were equally talented students on my Diploma Course who could write like a dream, but they haven’t been published and I have. Why? I write and write and write. Basically you have to do it. If you have a great idea and a passion to write it down—do it.

Best of Luck!

PS Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook (Bloomsbury £25) is useful to own or to refer to in your local library.

Little Winter is a passionate artist from the time she can hold a pen. (Brushstrokes in Time)



By |February 21st, 2020|Events|0 Comments

Celebrating the launch of the first Oxford Indie Book Fair

Yesterday Ray Foulk, James Harrison, Andy Severn and I celebrated the launch of the first Oxford Indie Book Fair which will take place April 4 10.30am -5pm @ Wesley Memorial Halls New Inn Hall Street Oxford. (next to St Peter’s College)

Oxford is blessed with an internationally celebrated  literary festival which runs from 27 March  to April 5 .The Financial Times sponsored festival is now in its twenty fourth year and locals have noticed it grow and change.  The line-ups for the festival tend to be famous established authors, media celebrities and politicians and so the tickets have inevitably risen in price.

Oxford is a major city of arts and letters, renowned for writing and publishing and we felt it is time for the ever-growing indie sector to have a stronger voice. If the Oxford Indie Book Fair on April 4 is a success we see it as a spring board to a fringe festival next year. The event itself is not only about selling books although there will be 40 exhibitors, it will include performance art, performance poetry, as well as a fascinating diversity of talks.

Joanna Harrison the director of Going on a Bear Hunt and the script writer for the latest Channel 4 Christmas film The Tiger who Came to Tea will give a presentation on animation. The ever popular Korky Paul will present Magic Moments with Winnie and Wilbur to under 8s. The aim is to have something for everyone of all ages and backgrounds. Go to and click on What’s On. I’ll be talking about why mixed relationships inspired Sculpting the Elephant.

We are working on a logo. Here is one idea? Opinions welcome . Oxfordfolio  published Bill Heine’s book Hunting the Shark . I sent Bill Heine the owner and John Buckley the artist who made it   to Oxtopia  and like Picasso’s Desmoiselles d ‘Avignon its was  pretty radical at the time so I think it is appropriate. OxfordIndieBookFair Logo 3

Food will be provided by Puks and they will donate 10% of the profits to Asylum Welcome. It is one of the chosen charities of Lord Mayor of Oxford Cllr Craig Simmon’s  who the organisers are delighted has agreed to open the event. The Oxford Mail has just flagged up the event and used a pic they used of me in a previous article.


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