Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Something Else to Think About

Sally Bavage writes:

Come along Milord... sit at my table...  as Edith Piaf might have said

The programme for this fifth collaboration between the WEA Headingley Writers group and the writers from the Osmondthorpe group of adults overcoming barriers to learn suggested that “To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect “(Oscar Wilde).  Well, we are very modern indeed here!  Thanks again to the Jimbo’s Fund who helped us with supporting this opportunity for local writers to explore the theme of Something Else in a wide, and wild, variety of pieces.  You can hear more about Oscar Wilde on Saturday 21 March.
The hall at the Heart Centre had been transformed into Le Chat Noir cabaret bar, with low lighting, mood music, a ‘cast’ in rather louche attire - and a promise of some really strong writing to entertain us. Nearly two hours of mesmerising original work came to a close, leaving our audience delighted, proud and frankly stunned at what they had been privileged to hear and see.  And the home-made cake made its usual guest appearance as an old favourite.

Headingley Writers had produced the backdrops - thank you to Chloe Wilkinson and Howard Benn – the King of the Rhyming Couplet – who then filled the role of compere by producing a poem to introduce each piece of work, as well as his own feline musings.  I was reminded of the old joke, the very old joke – “What’s black and white and re(a)d all over?” Answer: a newspaper and our costumed Headingley writers, who had really got into the spirit of a Parisian dive. 
Photos: Sally Bavage

What followed was extraordinary –
political prose, stand-up comedy, poetry, kitchen sink (or couch potato) drama, children’s stories and hard-hitting news-reporting. 

We moved between fun and wit to horror and tragedy, all handled with a light touch and providing the humane in the human stories.

After a break for tea and cake and time to set-up, the Osmondthorpe Hub gave us a second half as strong as the first.  Life stories for some – accidents and illness – as well as musings on nature, family and friends were explored in poetry that proved both a challenge to write and perform as well as a triumph over nerves and the occasion.  Yes, hands that often shake were shaking more than usual, but so too had been those of the abled writers.  Performance is never taken for granted, but performing original work grants the audience the privilege of sharing another’s world.

These lovely poems contained such lines as “Don’t take things too seriously”, “I can scamper in my heart” and “Life is about being part of a team, Now I am in the Osmondthorpe Hub team”.  From “In a moment my life changed” to “.. and I love a whiskey too.”  “Literacy has been my magnificent friend” said another.  “I am very proud of myself” and “… but I am still here!”  Of death, “My bell was never rung”.  “To make my family proud of me, I am living through adversity, I am being independent in my own unique way.”   Indeed.  Humbling. Cue tears and cheers.  The End.

Lynn and Rod
Work from the Headingley writers: Howard Benn, Hazel Kilner, Alan Harding, Rod Jeffries, Lynn Alexander, Caroline Wilkinson, Di Spence, Janice Maldonado, John McMahon, Lynn Thornton, Michael Freeman, Jim Mallin, Karen Byrne and Val Wright.

Work from the Osmondthorpe Hub writers: Lee, Carl, Jenny, Sheila, Julie, Mally, Paul, Winkie, Sue, Mandy, Jane, Paul, Robert, Julie.

Grateful thanks to Alison Taft, tutor for the Headingley writers, and Maria Preston, tutor for the Osmondthorpe Hub group.  Also thanks to John and Howard from the Headingley group, David and Gavin from the Hub, who set up and wrestled the technology into submission, and Rachel and Mary, who made such wonderful cakes.

See more on Alison Taft’s work at http://www.alisontaft.co.uk/

See more on Maria Preston’s work at http://www.mariapreston.co.uk/

Audience comments:

Fantastic set of performances

Great event, a great surprise.  Some very thought-provoking humbling and inspiring writing and performances.  Particularly impressed with the bravery and courage of Osmondthorpe Hub insights into their lives.

I really enjoyed the variety of the pieces performed.  The venue is excellent and really well decorated for the event

Very thought-provoking and sensitive work.  A joy to listen to people over 50 being creative!

Impressed with Howard’s artwork, loved Fifi, moved by Val, spellbound by Lynn, entertained and tickled by Lynn, very grateful to Alison for her great commitment and skill in producing such a varied atmospheric programme.  Not sure about the flashing light effect and reminded by one or two artist that my hearing is only around 67% these days.

Everything was so professional from the performers, to the scenery and running of the event.  Such a diverse range of performances at a fantastic quality.  I have really enjoyed myself. The Osmondthorpe group were very impressive.  All of their poetry and prose pieces were very good and incredibly moving.  I’m looking forward to seeing them perform again next year.  Thank you. It’s a wonderfully diverse event and really entertaining.  This is the second year I’ve come and I look forward to next year.

Having attended this event twice before, I always look forward to coming again, but this year the quality of the writing and the ambient atmosphere created by the group surpassed all expectation.  There is some exceptional talent in Leeds

Never having been to an event of this nature before, I was unsure of what to expect.  But have been pleasantly surprised at the wide scope, talent skills, variety and content of the group.  Also a pleasant friendly group feel was very apparent.


The Headingley Literary Festival provides the Osmondthorpe Hub creative writing group with a forum to be heard!  The Hub is about working towards the social model of disability, breaking down barriers that society puts in front of disabled people.  The LitFest gives individuals an opportunity to experience something that they may not have had the chance to do before.  A tremendous experience!

Fantastic atmosphere, warm and friendly and beautifully decorated.  Some great performances from everyone.  Thank you.

Having performed in the morning it was so exciting to see old friends from the group in Osmondthorpe performing and enjoying themselves.  Excellent performances and content!  The Hub performance was truly amazing.

Loved the room setting and music – Cabaret.  Created a terrific ambiance.  Packed room – Le Chat Noir theme and themed red and black clothes added to a polished and enjoyable performance.  The quality of the writing was excellent and the varied programme enabled students to show their individuality perfectly.

This was a very good and enjoyable event.  I thought that the poetry and cabaret theme by the Headingley WEA group particularly the dialogues were very good. I also enjoyed listening to the Osmondthorpe group reciting pieces about their own lives.

Very enjoyable and inspiring.  Full of admiration for writers and performers – their talent and courage – and hard work!  The Heart Centre is such an attractive environment and really inspiring with artworks on walls and dedication to positive creative values – for disabled as well as able-bodied.  The atmosphere was heartening and deeply humane – and the warm of the reception by the audience was an indication of how it was all appreciated.

This was something else!!  It was amazing.  Such talent; different tones, different stories and voices and I loved the black cat slinking its way through the pieces.  Can’t wait to see what you will all do next year.  Thank you writers.

An inspiring event, brilliant combination of groups, wonderful individual contributions – as ever.  Wonderful Osmondthorpe!

Really wonderful, welcoming uplifting, encouraging, thought-provoking, funny, amusing, clever, inspirational, heartwarming  - and long may it continue.

Loved the variety of offerings – torch song, children’s stories, sketches and I went through the gamut of emotions with all of them.

I found the event interesting as it is good to see and hear what other groups are doing

And tutor Alison Taft adds:

It's hard to explain what an impact performing at The Headingley LitFest each year has on my creative writing class. It provides a focus to the Spring term, and it turns a group of sometimes quite disparate individuals into a team, a troupe. The shared experience of writing, editing, rehearsing and performing together breaks down any barriers or reserve between group members. It unites the group, making them feel part of something. We have an age range from 20 something to 90 something. We have the abled bodied and the differently abled, we have people from all walks of life, some with mental health issues and by the end of the spring term, we have forgotten any differences and we are a united force.

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