Be at the Beehive

img_5520-2   Two dates for your diary

1 October – Chelmsford launch party

Mark Shelley and the Deans – Chelmsford’s greatest product (after Marconi’s radio) – will be playing at the Chelmsford launch of Beyond the Beehive.


Saturday 1 October 6.30 – 9pm The Ideas Hub

It’s going to be a great night! Numbers will be limited so please contact me here  if you would like to attend.


25 October – What it was like being a teenager in the Sixties

If you can’t attend on 1 October, or if you just can’t get enough of the Sixties, I shall be speaking at the Ideas Hub in the afternoon of 25 October as part of the Chelmsford Ideas Festival – What it was like being a teenager in the Sixties.  

25 October 2016 2.30 – 4.30 Ideas Hub  For more information check here

It could get wild!

mark-shelley-the-deans-3But it probably won’t.

Look forward to seeing you there!

Beyond the Beehive


The proof copies of the book have arrived.  There is something very wonderful about seeing all those words and pages and chapters that have been in your head and on your computer for years all at once appear in a brown cardboard box as real, tangible books.  You open one of the books and see your characters smile up at you as they dance and move to the tune of your stories.


The book is out on 26 September.

Video of a great night on 2 September out soon.


By the Beehive


And in case you can’t wait to get started on the book (out on 26 September 2016) come to Waterstones in Covent Garden (Garrick Street) at 6pm on 2 September 2016 where I’ll be reading the first chapter. It’s free but you can reserve a place here. I’m reliably informed that places are going fast.

Chapter 1 – Best friends Linda and Sandra, dressed in their mod suede and leather coats and smelling of Wishing perfume, arrive at the Corn Exchange, Chelmsford’s Saturday night dance hall. Vespas and Lambrettas are parked in front and  out of town mods from Mile End, Colchester and Braintree are already here, but Sandra is waiting for Danny Mulroney, though he’s probably still in prison.  As they walk through the hall, Green Onions is playing and the stage is set for an exciting night…

Behind the Beehive

Beehive shoot 3

I’m always thinking about the cover of the book and a couple of weeks ago I asked a couple of young Yorkshire gals what they felt about the current proposal.


And they said – sweetly and without malice – that it needed more beehive so that people who weren’t old would understand the title.

A good beehive is hard to find – but a shop in Kings Lynn does a mean attempt. Two were sent for, one blonde, one brunette. They lay on the stool in the kitchen like small, self sufficient kittens.


And then niece Billie came round and the shoot began.

                                image          image         Parka

Snacks were provided – grapes and cherries – and music to fit the mood was on the iPlayer  – Mel Torme ‘Comin’Home’.

Beehive shoot 2

Chris will work on the pictures over the weekend and the results will be in soon!

              Back door


Talking about my generation


First there was the Carnival,

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then there was the Fair.  I’ve written before about the Fair in Chelmsford’s Central Park. Now, in celebration of the Living in 1966 programme (BBC1 Wednesday 7.30), after you’ve remembered the music, the pirate radio ships, the mods and the rockers, you can read a chapter from the forthcoming Beyond the Beehive.


In this chapter Linda and Sandra are going the Fair together.  Sandra is still dreaming of Danny, her bad-boy boyfriend.   Linda is just looking forward to an exciting evening – the Dodgems, the Ghost Train, the Waltzers, and hearing some good music, including Dream Lover by Bobby Darin.

Read more about Beyond the Beehive here  as you listen to Bobby Darin whose hair indicated that he was a bit of a rocker, but whose suits were really quite sharp  (the song starts 46 seconds in).

Beyond the Beehive

It’s happening!  It’s finished.  The final stages of editing are underway.  Beyond the Beehive is on track to be here in time for your (late) summer holiday reading.

Beyond the Beehive front cover

To paraphrase the Beatles, it’s been a long, cold painful winter in the Woodcraft household, but gradually the sun is shining, not least because the book is finished.

If you were wondering – how can we go Beyond the Beehive if we’re not even entirely sure what a Beehive is.  When we went out shooting for the cover of the book Billie spent a long time preparing by watching videos on the net.  Find out how to do it here. I have to admit that I have never had a beehive – though I will admit to a bit of back-combing on occasion.  It does seem cruel to hair – pulling and teasing it into shapes that we usually only see now on Bake Off when contestants do magical things with spun sugar.  But you know, when you belong to a group, be it beatniks, rockers, and even mods, you have to go with the flow.  And for rockers, the flow for the girls was a beehive.

This was what the world was like when Sandra and Linda, way beyond the beehive, wore their suedette jackets and dreamed of going to the mods’ coffee bar, the Orpheus.

Sandra and Linda are young women living on a council estate in Essex, as is the exotic Sylvie – a woman with a past.  All three have very different dreams for their lives.   Played out against the wonderful music of the 60s – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the Crystals, the Animals, Chris Montez, and even Miles Davis – they grapple with love, loss and the American Way.


Also – another recent pleasure – along with finishing the book, and having lunch in the garden, was a trip to see the new movie Miles Ahead, directed by and starring the wonderful Don Cheadle.  It’s an imagined episode in his life, but gives an interesting view on the life of an artist in the 50s, 60s and 70s.  Go and see it, if only for the pleasure of listening to the haunting music Miles Davis made.

The Election

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‘… The polling station on our estate was made up of tents which were erected for the day, on the waste ground behind the shops. Poll-checking involved jumping out at voters as they entered or left the polling-booths, asking for their voting numbers. If people didn’t have their number with them, we had to ask for their address. We had little yellow pads to write it all on, which was stupid as we were Labour and yellow was a Liberal colour….’  The Election

In 1965 my dad stood for election to Essex County Council.  People who have been following the progress of A Sense of Occasion and  Beyond the Beehive will know that my 1965 diary has provided a lot of the background for my books.

In view of the forthcoming events of this week here is a preview of a chapter in Beyond the BeehiveThe Election is based on the day of that election in 1965.  Read the whole chapter  here and have sympathy for party activists working for the election of their candidate.

And vote!

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Cherchez le Bouffant

It was a cold and grey day.  It was 9am Sunday in Soho.  Not a lot is open at 9am.  We were there early to beat the crowd, taking pictures that will form the basis of the cover of Beyond the Beehive.  Our model, Billie, was shivering and needed coffee.  She was polite about the clothes she was required to wear, but it was clear they weren’t her usual style.  A straight skirt and a simple twin-set didn’t speak to her the way they spoke to me in Chelmsford, queuing to get into the Corn Exchange on Saturday night.  I suppose that’s what they call the march of progress.

And suddenly the Bar Italia was there, open.



Warmth at last.  Then we walked round Soho taking pictures.  At Ronnie Scott’s it was obviously an omen that Georgie Fame was appearing.  We hummed Yeah Yeah to ourselves as we completed the shoot.

Now we have to start making decisions.  Should it be this one?


Or this one?


Or this? …


Beyond the Beehive

Get ready.  It’s coming.

The characters you enjoyed, the music you loved, the period you know from A Sense of Occasion are all about to reappear.  And this time it’s a novel.

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Beyond the Beehive takes us back to Chelmsford, 60s boom town, and follows Linda and Sandra as they dance  to the Animals at the Corn Exchange on Saturday night and order coffee in the Orpheus while they listen to Hi-Heel Sneakers by Tommy Tucker on the juke box.

juke box

Linda and Sandra are looking for a future away from the estate.  Sandra dreams that hers will be with Danny, a petty criminal.  She and Linda visit the local magistrates’ court, Wormwood Scrubs prison, the Wethersfield USAF airbase, and Littlewoods cafeteria in Oxford Street.       And then there’s Sylvie the Bohemian who lives down the road, who has been to Paris and is now the mother of an illegitimate son.  She needs help too, to find the baby’s father.  Beyond the Beehive captures the essence of the Sixties – Motown, milk bars, CND and the Vietnam war.

And the final preparations for the book are underway!

You may remember that Christine Wilkinson designed the cover of A Sense of Occasion.  It was an onerous task – one which began in the cafe of a bookshop – the proximity to literature was an artistic necessity – followed by a Betty Crocker cake-making session with black and white photography to get us into the 60s mood.  It must be underlined that the three eggs required in a Betty Crocker mix were a luxury on their own before the exorbitant price of the mix.  My dear old mum knew that a Viota cake mix provided all you could need in a cake.

So this is the way the artistic process works.

Chris took many photos,

  A Sense of Occasion 004

A Sense of Occasion 017 (1)   A Sense of Occasion 013 (1)   A Sense of Occasion 015 (1)

we baked a cake, we ate the cake, we listened to the Chiffons (there’s a cookery allusion in there), I dug out some old snaps – and Lo!  a cover emerged.

Christine and I met recently in the tearoom of another well-known bookstore.

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As we sat at the window, overlooking  Jermyn Street with its parade of fancy dressers, our order of a pot of English Breakfast tea for two and a slice of lemon drizzle cake in front of us, once more the ambiance of quiet study and powerful prose made for a productive session.    We talked colours – those mod colours, navy, maroon, bottle green.  We discussed the style.  We discussed the font.  We have a framework.

And next Saturday we shall mooch into Soho with our fabulous model and start the search for the perfect cover.  With necessary breaks for frothy coffee and possibly Horlicks.

No never Horlicks.

More news as it happens.