‘Pieria’ was the mountain of the Muses in ancient Macedonia, site of the Pierian Spring which gave artistic inspiration to those who drank of it. Pieria is also the name, chosen ironically as a temporary measure but never improved, of a group of young writers which first met in 1973 and continued to meet about four times a year in one or other of their homes for ten years. At the start, we were “prospective and part-time professional writers of science fiction” as the invitation had it, but over the years we improved, until most were making their living from writing in one form or another. At that point the mutual support and encouragement that Pieria provided was no longer needed by its members and it just sort of … stopped.
SF and fantasy readers might recognise some of the names in this list of people who came to one or more meetings, which is alphabetical to avoid giving any sense of precedence or importance, and I might have missed someone:
Rich Coad, Chris Evans, Richard Evans, Judith Hanna, Rob Holdstock, John Jarrold, Peter Jones, Garry Kilworth, Bobbie Lamming, Dave Langford, Jack Marsh, Chris Morgan, Pauline Morgan, Joe Nicholas, Ed Phipps, Diana Reed, Mike Rohan, Allan Scott, Kevin Smith, Andrew Stephenson.
The first meeting was convened by Andrew, who gave Pieria its name because he invited nine people (and there were nine Muses). The last was hosted by Garry. After that, Diana and I held a few ‘Pieria Parties’ which tried to get the people together just for fun. The last of those was 1991.
Then, a couple of years ago, Rob Holdstock died, unexpectedly and much too young. I’d had the idea, for some time, of trying to get the group together for a party again, but it always seemed like there was plenty of time. Rob’s death showed that there wasn’t, but even so it was the beginning of this year before I started doing anything more than floating the idea with the few Pierians we saw from time to time.
I thought that, if I started asking in January, we might be able to find a mutually convenient date for everyone in May or June. That proved not to be the case because people are busy and do fill their time up, so in the end Allan & Rosemary, Mike & Deb, Dave & Hazel and Chris & Pauline joined us for a very pleasant lunch and afternoon, going into the evening, reminiscing and talking about what we were doing now.
If you had asked us in 1973 what we might be talking about forty years later, I doubt that the subject of ‘decluttering’ would have been mentioned. Everyone seemed to be wrestling with excess belongings, often trying to get two houses’ worth down to one. Hazel expounded the virtues of Freegle, where she found that people might arrive to take away one thing and end up taking two or three. Chris worried about how to remove duplicates from his book collection, where one copy might be a first edition hardback and the second a signed paperback. Hard choices. That wasn’t all we talked about, of course, but I was talking and listening, not making notes.
By coincidence, Surrey Artists Open Studios annual event was happening over the same weekend, and our neighbour Alison Catchlove had her sculptures out for display, so a number of Pierians went across to have a look and at least one came back with something. Alison seemed pleased, so I asked her if she wouldn’t mind taking a couple of photos of the entire group on my phone. And then so did three others. This is one of them:
Pieria Party, Millford, Woking, 23 June 2012
And for comparison, here are four photos from an earlier era, which Diana found and showed. You’ll notice a few differences – hair and beards, mostly, and smaller waist measurements…
Pieria 9, Boundary Hall, Tadley, 28 June 1975
Pieria 15, North Western Avenue, Watford, 21 January 1977
Pieria 17, Wolsey Road, Oxford, 19 July 1977
Pieria 30, Hollybrow, Birmingham, 16 May 1981
It was an extremely pleasant afternoon and we were only sorry that a few more could not make it. Maybe next time.