Saturday, 21 February 2015

A Night Out With The Stars...

Well, the stars of my world...
The Royal Literary Fund

The Royal Literary Fund has recently started a new venture. There are now two RLF centres, where events of various kinds are hosted, one in Bristol, and one in Birmingham.

There are two kinds of event. In the evening are the public events, where writing members of the RLF give readings, or take part in a panel discussion. The writers who make up the audience are welcome to bring along guests.

The other kind, held during the afternoon, are training days, where one or more writers pass on tips, tricks and wrinkles to other.The aim is to build a supportive community among writers - which already seems to be happening.

The Birmingham Midland Institure
So on Thursday last I went along to the first Birmingham one, held at the Birmingham Midland Institute in Margaret Street. It's a beautiful old Victorian building - in fact, my guest, my pubowrimo friend, came along as much for the chance to get inside this building, which he had often passed and wondered about, as for anything else.

Considering it was a cold, dark, wet, windy February evening, and that many people in the audience had travelled considerable distances, it was well attended. As one guest put it, 'I would crawl over broken glass if the RLF asked me to.' The RLF is a remarkable institution, which does inspire great affection and loyalty in its writers - but there was also a buzz of curiosity about this new scheme, and a feeling of priviledge at being in at the start.
The subject for the evening was 'Creating A Sense of Place.'
The three writers taking part were Jane Adams, Kerry Young and Helena Attlee.

I know Jane Adams a little, because when I started as an RLF Fellow at De Montfort University, I took over from her - and she was extremely kind, in leaving me sheets of very helpful notes on the ins and outs of the university. I hope that she'll visit this blog soon, to tell us about the miniature knights she and her husband have been working on.

The Greenway by Jane Adams
Jane read from her first novel - which obviously still means a lot to her. Called The Greenway, it's set in a place Jane remembered from her childhood, a place - The Greenway - which she found eerie and disturbing. She spoke of how much of our most vivid impressions are rooted in childhood memory.

Kerry Young was born in Jamaica, of Chinese descent, and she was eager for us to experience Jamaica through her words - determined that we should. She read extracts from two of her books, Pau and Gloria.  The first, to give us the tumultuous noise and smell of the city, Kingston. The second, from Gloria, was to give us the heat and stillness and harshness of life in the country, among the banana and cane plantations. She succeeded in her aim!
Pau by Kerry Young

Helena Attlee is best known for writing about gardens and has travelled widely, particuarly in Italy. Her favourite method of capturing a sense of place is simply to travel with a notebook and pen, and to write down her impressions on the spot. These notebooks - rather like the sketch-pads of a painter - are an invaluable resource once she's back at her desk. They are full of details and impressions which had faded from her mind, but are captured, written down in her own words.

The Land Where Lemons Grow by Helena Atlee
She made me want to take a notebook to some far-flung spot on the instant.

Instead, I joined the others in scoffing the sandwiches so thoughtfully provided by the RLF - and by Meg Sanders, the regional organiser. Also wine, red and white, and tiny delicious cakes. The RLF knows how to appeal to writers.

The next public RLF event is a poetry reading - I'm looking forward to it. I'm also booked in to deliver some events myself - to take part in a short-story reading, and a panel on research - and to present a training day on ebooks.

I'm hoping there'll be some more of those little eclairs...


Sue Purkiss said...

I'm going to the first Bristol event on Wednesday. As you say, the RLF is wonderful. I wish I'd heard Helena - think I'll go and look up her book...

Susan Price said...

All three writers were great to listen to. Let us know how the Bristol evening goes!

Jenny Alexander said...

Really interesting post - thanks Sue. I don't get to much up-country, but I do like to know what's going on!

Katherine Roberts said...

Interesting, Sue - sounds a good event! I have been invited to join Bristol, but it's a bit too far from me for day events. If I ever manage to move closer, though (5 months on the market and counting), then I might get involved.

madwippitt said...

Sounds fabulous ... never mind the eclairs, just make sure that the wood panelling and roaring log fire are in place for your readings ... oh, and the large decanter of port ...