Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Let Me Speak

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! 

In summary, I shall steal the words of an audience member, Mary Heycock. She wrote: A very entertaining and heart warming experience. I loved every minute!

And so say all!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much to Litfest for having us. It was great to see such a good turnout and my groups really enjoyed themselves. I was privileged to be a part of it.