Saturday, October 17, 2009

"Behind The Scenes At The Queens School Chester..."

It's not often I fall back into the arms of my Alma Mater. But I did yesterday.

I nestled in my A.M's arms whilst Kate Atkinson ( ) talked with us about her writing. The event was sponsored for LitFest ( ) by LitFest Friends.

Kate's prizewinning 1st novel " Behind the scenes at the Museum" has long been a favourite of mine. And yesterday we learned about Kate's work: her inspirations, how she tackles her craft, and about the delight her writing clearly gives her.

BUT for reasons that'll become clear, I sometimes think I should go back to my A.M in disguise....a friendly nun perhaps.... a tweed-clad octogenarian leaning on an elegant walking-stick.... or maybe I should back-comb my hair in a beehive, stick on Bet Lynch earrings, totter in on strappy white stilettos...but then a Bag Lady would be best option....because I can do Bag Lady perfectly, no prob.
HOWEVER I DIDN'T disguise myself yesterday. I sat on the balcony in my old School Hall in my normal clothes ( well, a few steps up from my jeans) and I remembered.

I remembered a morning decades ago, when I got to school early.... and as a Dare, I hid under the floorboards during Assembly....while the whole school trilled/boomed " Praise My Soul The King Of Heaven"....while The Headmistress ( with her long grey platt coiled around her head, like an ancient version of Heidi) extolled The Prefects, extolled The Caretaker, extolled The Lacrosse team, extolled The Orchestra...AND particularly extolled The Newly Donated School Benches on which one could only perch in one's sandals ....and I hid under the floorboards while a stuttering Remove ( with its skirt caught up in its knickers) read a Bible Story....AND then the Senior Choir descanted/fluted their way through "The Magnificat" and a haunting rendition of " Nunc Dimitus" ...

BUT it WAS good to be back yesterday .
It was good to be back, me a grandmother of 3... sitting sedately above floorboards.

PS: T'was cobwebs (fluttering in my hair) that eventually got me in trouble by breaktime...

Friday, October 16, 2009

"Alison Leonard Meets Hoole-igans"

This week,The Hoole-igans had a visit from local writer Alison Leonard.
The Hoole-igans are members of my writing workshop, who meet in a place called Hoole...hence their affectionate name!
We have a bustling class of 21; it's lively and hopefully FUN...and it includes both experienced writers and those starting out. It's very MUCH a workshop... with lots of off the cuff writing, often stimulated by a piece of modern fiction or poetry, based on looking at character, dialogue, monologue, settings, etc etc. All this results in a wide variety of styles, comments, discussion, enjoyment...
AND we were delighted to welcome Alison this week. She's enthusiastic and informative and we listened to her intently and questioned her eagerly. Alison's 's published a mass of work, including stories, books, plays and poetry. She writes for children, teenagers and adults. Her website is at: / The Hoole-igans hope she keeps in touch!
* See Alison in centre of photo, in blue, below the mantlepiece.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

" Scrumptious Snacks At Oddfellows"

Several lunchtimes (1pm) Chester LitFest ( ) hosts new writers who will talk about their work at Oddfellows**.
Still to come are: Caroline Rance ( Mon 12th) John Sam Jones ( Tues 12th) Caroline Smailes ( Tues 13th. See my post Fri Feb 20th: Caroline paid a lively visit to my writing group ) and Jayne Joso ( Fri 16th)
Also at Oddfellows is Dr Graham Atkin ( Chester University) who reads poems re God, the Devil, Heaven and Hell (Thurs 15th.)

** ODDFELLOWS is a great place.....whether listening to writers OR out on the town. Great that LitFest are using it. See
also The Guardian ( 10:05:08)

PS: I'm constantly drawn to paintings, photographs, pictures in general of people (walking, sitting, working, chilling out, just "being") on city streets ....characters who deserve a story woven around them, people who provoke questions when glimpsed WHO are they?... WHERE do they go/where've they been? ...HOW do they feel?... WHY are their clothes SO yummy/scruffy/stylish .....and WHAT has made their faces all those things faces utterly beautiful, so sad, so tranquil, so world-weary, so vivid with life...?
I've recently discovered . Brilliant! ( Look beyond the Chanel Scenes of New York life etc...and some wonderful Parisian snaps)

Thursday, October 08, 2009

"David Whitley At Chester Cathedral"

David Whitley is a bright and engaging Cestrian. He has a generous smile, a shock of titian coloured hair and he's passionate about his writing. We'll hear much of David in future. Of this I'm sure.
LitFest welcomes writers/celebrities from many places. But it's very special to welcome someone born and schooled.... and STILL living in, and writing in Chester. David is just such a writer. And on Tuesday, he talked with us about his much-lauded children's novel " The Midnight Charter".
We met in the Cathedral Chapter House. This was a perfect place to learn about David's enigmatic book. The evening outside darkened as lights within the cathedral flickered against stained glass and thick sandstone walls, and we sat enjoying the magic of such a place.
David was born in1984. He attended King's School, then Oxford, gaining a Double 1st. In 2005, he appeared in the winning Corpus Christie team on University Challenge. Folk, he says, STILL accost him in the street offering Starters for 10!
At 17, David was shortlisted for a Kathleen Fidler Award and at 20, won Cheshire Prize for Literature, for a children's story. He took a Gap Year after Uni, to write fulltime. BUT Fate guise of a literary agent called Charlie Viney...and David's plans were suddenly changed.

IT HAPPENED FAST! In a flash, rights to " The Midnight Charter" were simultaneously auctioned worldwide. Puffin secured UK/Commonwealth rights and the book was published in 20 countries, 5 continents and translated into 13 languages.

David's work is gripping, beautifully written and immaculately planned. It's also a learning experience but best of all, it's highly enjoyable... He's created the city state of Agora, where ANYTHING ( be it goods, people, thoughts, EVEN emotions) can be bought and sold. And the book opens when this incredible city reaches its Golden Age, when secret prophecies of The Midnight Charter are about to be revealed...
Clive James says: " The Art of the writer is to turn a phrase till it catches the light"
David does this. " The Midnight Charter" catches the light superbly...

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

"Carol Ann Duffy At University Of Chester"

On Monday, Carol Ann Duffy, Poet Laureate, read her poetry at the University of Chester, as part of LitFest.
A large audience shared Duffy's words, feelings, ideas and her memories. They found comfort and pleasure. They probably found many things.
A large audience empathised with and lauded the skill of Duffy....her powers as wordsmith...then, ( I imagine!) they went home and ransacked their bookshelves and sat up in bed till after Duffy's words, before falling asleep with those words dangling and ringing and singing in their ears.

Duffy read from her anthologies, incl " The World's Wife" ( poetry monologues, spoken by women gracing history, legend, the Bible. ) She read poems chronicling a love affair ...from start to finish, from her collection: "Rapture".

BUT my favourite is the simply-named : " Prayer" . Duffy read this as her penultimate poem on Monday.
Every time I read it, I'm in my 1st week as a student. Its dusk in a town I don't know and lectures are over and I walk with friends I don't know (who are not yet my friends)....and we wander along a tree-lined drive to a place I don't know.....and on Monday, like then, I was in that drive again....picturing my mother at home ( without me).... sipping tea in a tea-time kitchen( without me)... and she's missing me and I'm certainly missing her.. ...
Lines in that poem stab with their beauty, their recognition....

Sunday, October 04, 2009

" Jonathan Pryce At Liverpool Everyman"

This is a picture hanging in the foyer of Liverpool's Everyman Theatre.
This year the Theatre celebrates its 45th Birthday and the photo features many actors who were there at the beginning. Stare into these faces. You'll recognise many.
Jonathan Pryce ( fresh from RADA) joined Everyman Company in 1972. And I've long been interested in his career . I knew him years back, when he was John Price from Holywell in Wales...a tall, dark student in Liverpool......when even then, he'd revealed the charisma the world of theatre now knows so well.
Yesterday I visited The Everyman and saw Pryce as Davies the tramp in Harold Pinter's " The Caretaker".
And Pryce (in 1980, he played Mick to Kenneth Cranham's Aston and Warren Mitchell's Davies with the National Theatre) made the part of Davies his very own.
Pryce's Davies was old and Welsh. And he was many other things too...... Pryce's Davies was sly but gentle, witty but sad, forthright but complex....he was resigned and grateful, fiercely angry..... And Pryce's Davies was both bewildered AND bewildering.
Pinter ( before he died last Christmas) knew this production was planned. He'd hoped to see it. Had he done so, he'd have seen how very much this Liverpool audience celebrated Jonathan Pryce's return to his roots... but also how they thrilled to a superb production of one of the most important plays in British theatre.
"The Caretaker" runs at L'pool EverymanTheatre until Saturday October 31st. See
And P.S: Blog was 3 years old on Oct 1st. Time's flown.