The creative circle

By Hermione Eyre
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The Independent Online

Most of the Muses (bar Urania) are represented in this long-running book group, whose members include a writer and novelist, two painters and a dancer-turned-opera director. Based in East Sussex near Hastings, they have been meeting once a month for 11 years. "We've seen each other through many crises," says Charlotte Moore, a writer, journalist and long-term member. "Radiotherapy, divorce, bereavement... it's been a sort of informal feminist support group, without ever setting out to be that. It fulfils a real need for intelligent conversation."

That was how it all began, when most members had toddlers. "Now we all drone on about the menopause. It's very interesting to me, seeing how women's lives take shape." Has the group featured in her novels? "Not explicitly, but everything feeds in."

Hosts take turns, in alphabetical rotation. "The food's hit and miss; we're not socially competitive in that way. Power is remarkably equally shared."

No one could be said to lead this group, nor does it have a name. It "comes in and out of focus, becomes more or less important at different times in our lives".

Once, in an orgy of creativity showcased at a Sussex arts festival, the group's members rendered portraits of one another in their own different media – words, food, and painted representations, both abstract and realistic. The Bluestockings would have been proud.