Vivian Lister writes:
On a daffodil sunny spring afternoon, a group of twenty writers entertained and delighted an audience of friends and visitors with a mixture of poetry and prose that was by turns sad, edifying and funny.
Some of the work touched upon themes of tragedy and loss as in the beautiful elegy for the long dead seaman John Torrington who at just twenty years old died of TB, malaria and lead poisoning (Beechey Head by Campion Rollinson) or the poignant empathetic description of a frail widower examining a ‘biscuit tin of memories’: Coconut creams of holidays on tropical beaches/Chocolate bourbons of times in France/ and Lemon Puffs of Acid words /when Mary was alive (Memory Box by Jenny Jones).
Others focused upon capturing and describing very personal experiences and events. In Collide, for example, the poet ( Howard Benn) strives to pin down those very painful ephemeral thoughts and feelings as ‘fragile as glass’ that accompany lost love, whilst in vivid prose B. McLinley describes the hazy thought patterns of the drinker.
Here is the brisk concreteness of Beans on Toast- by Chris Woodhead:
- Open the tin with a crocodile snap
- Pour into the pan with a little tap
- Into the toaster with bread nice and thick
- Whilst watching the clock with a tick tick tick
And here the lyricism of Marlene: She walked slowly towards the beckoning waves –young, beautiful, full of sadness, beyond control
This wide range of subject and style was welded together by a singleness of purpose - the writers’ desire to create something true and authentic. Each individual had performed that magical language trick of transforming an experience whether of a single event (a day out in Wales , dancing , catching a teapot, a foster child’s temper tantrum, falling asleep) or a series of life shaping incidents ( first 78 to lifelong love of jazz, the day of the Bradford Valley Parade fire, moving from rural Tanzania to urban Leeds) into exact and honest words and went on to deliver them with courage and openness.
The performance was as inspiring as the material . At the end of the programme, a member of the audience said, "Thank you for having me" and I knew exactly what she meant. The speakers supported each other, creating an easy and relaxed atmosphere - all the more commendable when you know that they came from two separate creative writing groups, Osmondthorpe and Headingley, and that the first joint run through had been two hours previously.
Becky Cherriman, the WEA tutor of both these groups was pleased that the joint venture had worked so well, although she stressed the welcoming nature of both these groups. Some people have been attending the groups for several years and they form a supportive centre, always open to people and ideas so that nervous newcomers quickly feel at home She also talked about the tremendous support of helpers for people with physical disabilities at the Osmondthorpe group particularly Mary and Jenna.
Talking to members of both groups revealed just how much they valued the creative experience of their weekly meetings. Here are just a few typical views:
It’s wonderful to find a way to express yourself creatively , to try something new – and also to make new friends. And the group is local and easy to get to (Jenny)
I like to try out different genres of writing and it’s great to learn from the different backgrounds and experiences of others in the group. (Howard)
Writing and sharing my experiences helped me to deal with lots of situations in my personal life.(Steven)
The afternoon ended with a rousing ‘seize the day’ poem by Carl Flynn urging us all to experience our lives to the full, to treasure our friends:
And all the sorrows , all the joys
The chance is yours to make the choice
I am sure that I wasn’t the only audience member who felt inspired by the spirit of these performers to do just that!
And so say all!