Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Lovely to see them blossom

Alison Taft                     Photo: Joe Haskey
Writing for Surviving - partnership Event with the WEA - creative writing for all

HEART Centre Shire Oak Room
11.30am - 2.30pm Tuesday 18 March

Session led by Alison Taft, WEA creative and dramatic writing tutor

Sally Bavage writes:
For the fourth year running, and supported by funding for the third time by Jimbo’s Fund, to whom we are really grateful, we were able to invite our writing friends from the Osmondthorpe Resource Centre to join Headingley writers in a shared session exploring what ‘Surviving’ could mean.  We managed to fit in six wheelchairs, a zimmer and some walking sticks as well as the rest of the seventy-strong audience of performers, friends and audience members fortunate enough to know what a treat they had in store.

The work from our Osmondthorpe friends was profound in every sense: personal journeys were explored in poetry, story and song, demonstrating how various handicaps can be overcome.  There were echoes, perhaps, of the men and women from a century ago who survived the First World War and then had to cope with personal damage.  Osmondthorpers have the courage of their forebears to overcome the frailties of the body to enjoy the life of the mind.  Some knew their work off by heart - they had taken such ownership of it – and some extemporised if they forgot a line or if nerves took over, or a colleague leapt in to help.  Even some of our able-bodied contributors showed by their shaking papers and quavering voices that the polished performance they gave owed a debt to the determination with which they wanted to share their thoughts and ideas.

Photo: Joe Haskey
Richard Wilcocks, Secretary of Headingley LitFest and the author of the just-released Stories from the War Hospital – the research was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the book is to be launched on Friday 21 March in the New Headingley Club – had inspired some of our writers after he talked with the three groups and gave them some tantalising background information on the stories on which the book is based.  Quite a few pieces alluded to the so-called Great War and its devastating consequences for both sides, all races, each gender and every aspect of life at home or in the trenches. Others looked at life from a different view - holidays, work, photos, daffodils, traffic chaos, poverty – or just Leeds United (Keep on Trying) which made us laugh even as we grimaced about the truths it contained.

After the first half delights, a break for tea and homemade cake was taken, then we regrouped for the dramatic writers to give us another selection of longer pieces that were carefully staged to lift the words off the pages.  Ensemble pieces showed the trust and the confidence the group has developed in working together and in performing to an audience – using props, songs and their oft-not-needed honed scripts to convey their thoughts.  The acting was mesmerising in places, taking our amateur performers quite out of Headingley and into another realm. Nine pieces often used 'The Narrator' to take us further behind the scenes played out in front of our eyes.

Photo: Joe Haskey
Monologues, poems, plays, stories, a specially-written song – we had them all.  Some dialogue was so real we had heard it all before - only we hadn’t.  New work written just for LitFest kept us gripped.  As we said about her LitFest appearance last year, “Kay (Mellor)has a perceptive eye for detail, a keen ear for dialogue and an ability to bring people to life so vividly that we can probably all name someone in our own lives who is just like one of her characters.  As she lives very locally, it could indeed be us!  She confessed that she does use her friends, family, those she meets casually …”  Kay Mellor, watch out, we are growing our own!

Contributors to our first half included:
Lynn Alexander, Howard Benn, Kaz Byrne, Carl Flynn, Michael Freeman,  Sue Heath, Malcolm Henshall,  Mandy Hudson, Rod Jeffries, Jenny & Paul, Hazel Kilner, Janice Maldonado, Jane Moody, Myrna Moore, David Newton, Lee Roley, Richard Sharp, Adrian Simmons, Carol Swift, Michael Patrick Taylor, Robert Thorpe, Winston Whitely, Caroline Wilkinson and Val Wright.

Contributors to our second half included:
Cate Anderson, Lynn Anderson, Howard Benn, Morag Caunt, Francesca Joy, Siobhan Maguire-Broad, Myrna Moore, Jackie Parsons, Tony Scriven, Lynn Thornton, Caroline Wilkinson.

The stars of the show were, respectively, Alison Taft for her fantastic work to support and deliver such wonderful writing, and the homemade cake - which got a round of applause of its own.

Audience Comments:

A very vibrant, varied programme with some amazing pieces, especially to hear the writing from Osmondthorpe.  Cakes were gorgeous.

A wonderful collaborative event, which offers a welcoming audience to some very able and gifted writers but also encourages the less able. 

Lovely to see some of the same performers from previous years again – their work is thought-provoking and lovely to see them blossom.

Excellent event packed with variety and new writing talent.

An excellent range of poetry, prose and dramatic writing.  Some of the Osmondthorpe contributions were remarkable and moving. 

Global, national, local – it’s all here in Headingley.

An enjoyable and inspiring event.  A great variety of interpretations on the theme of survival ranging from strong emotions to humour.  Good to see such an inclusive event.

Excellent – inspirational.  Can we have copies of some of the poems – are you planning to publish – I hope so!  Thank you.

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