10 November 2012

The Story of Stewed Rhubarb (So Far)

Six months ago, when I so innocently offered the contact details of a good printer to a flame-haired Irish lady I met through a friend of a friend in some pub or other, little did I realise I was about to begin a publishing adventure that would take over my life... This is the story of how Stewed Rhubarb Press came to become a thing. I mean, an actual thing. I mean, a people-I-don’t-know-‘like’-it-on-Facebook kind of a thing.

It was a dark and stormy night in Edinburgh’s Old Town, to be precise, as most of the nights of Edinburgh are dark and stormy, it was National Short Story Day, 2012. I was performing at an event of some sort and got chatting to a nice-looking lady called Rachel McCrum in the pub afterwards. Our conversation went something like this:
RACHEL: I am thinking about bringing out a pamphlet of my poetry. Do you write any poetry?
JAMES: Yes, it’s in the desk drawer at the moment. Who are you submitting to?*
RACHEL: Well I thought I’d print one out and then photocopy it or something.
JAMES: *horrified* You know that in about 90% of cases it’s cheaper to get a professional printer to do it than to use home printing solutions? Also, it’s much less effort and there’s less risk of being accidentally stapled to your desk.
RACHEL: That sounds good. Do you also provide design and editorial services?
JAMES: Oh, I just meant you should look at all of the opti-
RACHEL: I will provide wine.
* I am aware that I could have used a ‘whom’ here, but I was drunk, OK?

Rachel McCrum and James T Harding at Stewed Rhubarb Presents... in November 2012. Photograph by John Starr.
At some point in the editorial process, specifically at 2am after a bottle of ginger wine each, Rachel suggested that other spoken word artists would like to have tasty pamphlets too. By 3am, we had purchased www.stewedrhubarb.org and placed the URL on the back cover of her pamphlet. By the time I woke up the next afternoon, the print files had already been scheduled by a printer in Gloucestershire. We were now committed.

It was fortunate, I suppose, that the idea of a no-frills poetry press wasn’t such a terrible one. In fact, it looked almost suspicious like we’d planned the whole thing and new precisely what were doing...

As it turned out, Rachel has a particular talent for harvesting talented poets from the British spoken word scene, and a rather nifty ability to arrange their words into pamphlet form. Her first catch was Katherine McMahon, whose album of spoken word with music by Fiona Keenan was crying out to have an accompanying pamphlet printed on recycled paper. Then in swift succession came Jenny Lindsay, Tracey S. Rosenberg and Harry Giles. It’s been lovely to get to know all of these exciting and talented people, though I really do want my glasses back, please – you know who you are.

So, now you know how Stewed Rhubarb got to where it is now. But who knows where it’ll end up in another six months?

Rest assured that we have plans...

Jenny Lindsay reads at Stewed Rhubarb Presents... in November 2012. Photo by Chris Scott.