Sally Bavage writes:
During this year's ever-popular local creative writers’ event, I was reminded of the lines from the 1969 Peter Sarstedt song (yes, I know, it's a clue to the age of the writer):
But where do you go to, my lovely
When you're alone in your bed?
Tell me the thoughts that surround you
I want to look inside your head ..
The Osmondthorpe Hub writers took as their theme 'A Special Place', and the range of locations they explored with us were as wide-ranging and poignant as their writing always is. It was notable, too, that the writers frequently smiled as they called up fond memories.
Julie reminisced about a holiday to Germany some years ago, where what might have been more ordinary pleasures for some had left deep and vivid impressions for her.
Mandy was always happy to be where her mum was, especially when by her mum's special seat at bingo.
Lee's poem told of his joy at recently being allocated his own flat, number 6, somewhere special that was his, where “My independence blooms.”
Annie recalled Benson Street where she grew up. Remember liberty bodices with a little pocket for a camphor ball (or, in my case, a house key)? Leaving school at 13 to earn 13 shillings a week, she recalled the best of neighbours. Aged 91, the memories remain undimmed.
Sue smiled with pleasure at the friends she meets every day at the Osmondthorpe Hub, where they congregate to chat, watch TV, sing, do reiki or boxercise – and do creative writing of course.
Robert had loved a trip to Australia by himself, staying with an uncle and aunt whose back garden had a pool you could swim from end to end. And he had got to stroke a koala bear at the zoo.
Pamela had loved a trip to Spain, exploring the town after checking in at the hotel, as well as being with family. The beach and swimming had been delightful freedoms.
The group agreed that a place can be special to us alone. Time, or its location, or the company of our family and friends, can give us memories that last a lifetime.
|Some of the Osmondthorpe contributors|
Our writers from Headingley took a similar theme, Sanctuary, but interpreted it in so many different ways. They used prose, prose poetry, creative non-fiction, an acrostic, a memoir and even a sonnet to draw descriptions in our minds' eyes.
Julie answered her own question, “What does sanctuary mean to me?” She loves the quiet of night, a place to calm her mind, or walking in the weather.
Karen loves the sky, its colours of pink and bright blue, not the grey rain she remembers from watching through the classroom window. It was her transport to another realm, certainly one beyond the consultant by her hospital bed giving her unwelcome news.
Marie-Paule reflected on a migrant's bus journey, giving us a young girl escaping from the bombs and guns, alone, hungry, all family dead. She couldn't go home, at least not now; her face and eyes told the story without words.
Rosie told us of Bootham Crescent – the spiritual and actual home of York City Football Club. Echoing a riff on the psalm 'The Lord's My Shepherd', with ritualistic preparation for the match, ascending the steps to the ground of the gladiators and, of course, some commentary on the qualities of the referee.
Eileen's poem on a 'Crime Story' took place in a library not dissimilar to the one in the Headingley Community Hub, where books on Climate Change were listed as being in the Crime section. But none were there. Adult denial of their crimes? Books on Climate Change could actually be tracked down in the Children's section, and a child found fearlessly reading a book 'This Earth is Our Sanctuary.' Indeed it is.
Liz wrote of a Photograph, with a mother-in-law whose memory is now fragile lace robbed by dementia, but showing shafts of sunlight in the darkness as she gazes at the beautiful woman and handsome man from 60 years ago with whom she will shortly be reunited.
Dru wrote of No Sanctuary here in Leeds for the homeless sleeper you and I encounter, huddled in a shop doorway as a refuge from the wind and rain. Human but unwanted, no hope of finding a sanctuary.
Barbara's tale of a Black Swan, featured on Look North even, recounted a rare visitor to the Leeds and Liverpool canal. Dark stranger, and escape or a choice? A sanctuary? How long will you bring your magic to the other ducks and geese? Five days, as it turned out.
Myrna's Time - “I wasted time, now time wastes me” explored a jigsaw of lifetime experiences. Photos, certificates, receipts, letters, house deeds, tablets, potions kept in a jumbled profusion that recall emotions from the past still here to support the need for meaning in a disordered house.
Jim spoke too of football, this time Leeds United based at Elland Road. Always a thrill to go there, observe the rituals and the action. A place to get away from the ordinariness of life, travel outside oneself.
Linda wrote a Postcard to Myself, where her dreaming self tells her waking self what the Land of Nod has to offer. Architecture and landscape to tempt, sensational and exotic foods – even if the postal service isn't always reliable and the card doesn't arrive. And why is the card plain black? Because you can't photograph your dreams.
Malcolm decided You Can't Judge a Book … exploring the parallel streets that have rich and poor residents. One rich in money, but with families cowering in fear from a bully in a house that is not a home. Another rich in love and neighbourliness; so much more a sanctuary.
Terry's memoir of his mother's kitchen, her domain where the family felt excluded. It was her dreaming place, her sanctuary from the unfulfilled life of cheap holidays, little intellectual stimulus and separate life she led outside.
Bill's first poem told us of Green Thoughts in a Green Garden, where lazy bees and floral scents were delights in a verdant world centred on his patio chair refuge for his diminishing days. His second poem, Memories, took us back to his childhood days: its smells, sounds, small kindnesses and parlour library.
Cate's Memento Mori to growing older, of a point in time where memories are a place of sanctuary, like walking through an old house full of distant voices caught in nooks and crannies and released by a dreamcatcher mind.
Howard wrote of drifting into submission in This Bed, where sleep and dreams take you to a refuge without stirring. The Sanctuary of Stars saw him fantasising as a small boy in his mother's jewellery box, along with the ballerina and the plush padding, the sparkling points of light from the pearls and diamonds creating a haven of peace and beauty.
So much imagination and careful wordcraft. How could you possibly top all that?! By repairing to the back of the hall for cups of tea and generous slices of homemade cakes that showed more careful crafting from our LitFest volunteers Mary and Rachel.
Particular thanks to Karen Hush, the new tutor (since January) for the Osmondthorpe creative writing group. An experienced teacher, but what a job she has done in such a short time to build trust and the writers' confidence in their abilities to recall and reveal. Thanks too, of course, to Liz McPherson who leads the Headingley creative writers' group. Once again, a cornucopia of ideas and genres reveal writing talent and honesty as well as vulnerability. That has to come from the group's faith in her thoughtful commitment.
Headingley LitFest is indebted once again to the sponsorship by the Workers' Education Association, as well as the support by Mike Bould, education co-ordinator based in Leeds, whose aim is to organise courses covering a broad curriculum for a wide range of students. And he was ace on getting the IT to work!