Glastonbury Festival seeks new theatrical shows

Harbour festival 2012 cr Judy DarleyFancy doing something really spectacular with your creative skills in 2015? Glastonbury Theatre and Circus Fields are looking to commission four new shows for next year’s Glastonbury Festival.

The deadline for proposals is Friday 7th November 2014.

They have four very different types of performance in mind, but all should provide “new experiences for our audiences that are spectacular and brave, and that work well with the creative atmosphere and scale of the festival.”

Do you have a show that fits one of the following criteria?

  • Outdoor Installation - An outdoor interactive installation to run throughout the four days of the festival. Budget: £7,000.
  • Large Scale Circus Show - A large scale circus show for the big top to be performed on three days of the festival. This show should have at least five performers, be at least 30 minutes long and contain a high skill level. Budget: £8,000.
  • Ground Based Circus Show - A ground based show for three days of the festival in the circus big top and then an appearance at the Bristol Circus Festival In October 2015. Budget: £3,500.
  • Street Theatre/ walkabout Show - A street theatre show to be performed for 3 days of the festival. Budget: £1,250.

Successful applicants will benefit from the massive infrastructure of the festival, working with and being mentored by Glastonbury Theatre and Circus Fields through planning and creation prior and during the festival. “We will also support them to bring the show to other audiences after the festival.”

It sounds like a fantastic opportunity!

To learn more, and to apply, please visit

Glastonbury Tor view cr Judy Darley

Soraya Schofield’s reclaimed home

come this way © Soraya SchofieldThere’s always something magical about encountering a ruin in the wilderness where nature is having its way with the walls and roof that once sheltered humans.

Soraya Schofield of The Drugstore Gallery took this idea to beautiful, fairytale-esque extremes with her project Mendip House – I looked back and you were gone. “This project came about after both my parents died within two years of one another,” she explains. “My childhood home was already very dilapidated by then, which is when I came up with the idea of the natural surrounding garden and woodlands creeping back to reclaim the house, which I tied in with mementos of my childhood and of my parents.”

Primrose wall © Soraya Schofield

She adds: “I wanted a strong sense of reality but with an aesthetic which alludes to dreams and memories. Although these images are personal to me I wanted the viewer to be drawn into the images and connect with them in their own personal way. It was a very cathartic experience.”

Rather than passively waiting to see what nature would do to the house, Soraya actively encouraged the plants to reclaim the rooms.

Peeping through © Soraya Schofield

“I filled an old wardrobe with soil and wild garlic, wild garlic being a distinctive smell from my youth. Also planting grass seed that ran out of the cupboard and over the floor of one of the bedrooms, these I tended to and encouraged them to grow inside for a time so they looked as if they had spread naturally into the rooms.”

It’s an immensely moving project, however much or little you know of the background story. I rather love that in a sense it brings Soraya’s artwork back home after several years of taking photographs in far distant lands.

“I had always like taking photos, but I spent four years out of England travelling through Asia and South America, and through this experience I really found a love of the photography,” she says. “When I returned I was milling around trying to find a creative direction and booked myself onto a City Guilds photography course.”

Golden doorway © Soraya SchofieldSoraya first started taking photos due to “a desire to capture people and places new to me.” She visited Cuba in 2002 with her artist boyfriend Barry Cawston with whom she runs The Drugstore Gallery. “This is where Golden Doorway (above) and End of the Passageway (below) were shot,” she says.

passageway © Soraya Schofield“My practice has developed over the last six years as I completed an Art foundation course and now am finishing a degree at UWE in Drawing and Applied Arts. I use the layering of photographs over an image to create landscapes in which nature meets manmade structures, and am now beginning to experiment in combining screen-print and lithography with this as well.”

Her current project, however, is something of an attempt at reversal, as she and Barry now live in the Mendips house she grew up in.

“We realised that we had to save the building!” she exclaims.

Work to evict the natural elements she’d invited in began in April 2013, and brought with it a series of curious adventures. “In June 2013 we moved into a tent in the garden for seven weeks – the weather was great but sleeping was a bit tricky, we would be woken at 4am by the resident hedgehog and our dog growling at it, at 5am the cockerel would call and at 6am the plasterer showed up for work. Decamping onto the top floor in August, while building work continued downstairs, was a huge relief! We are not totally done but very close and very happy to be here!”

Of all her photos, Soraya is most proud of the image I lost you (below).

I lost you © Soraya Schofield

“I took it after I’d completed the Mendip House series,” she says. “It referred to my parents and the grief I experienced, somehow the image holds a poetic quality that reflects the loss and turmoil I felt.”

Soraya’s photography is currently on show in an exhibition called Emergence which is in The Paperplane Gallery, Bristol. Find more of Soraya’s work at The Drugstore Gallery, Somerset,

Midweek writing prompt – street signs

Mardyke Ferry Road cr Judy DarleyHave you ever noticed how many street signs there are? All these indicators to inform us where we are, and in some cases, why. I took a stroll recently and snapped shots of a couple, the first because the place names are just so evocative – it’s almost like a found poem. The second caught my eye and made me smile because it prompted a vision of the poor disappointed person who’d mistakenly turned up with a tent and now had no idea what to do.

Sorry, no tents cr Judy Darley

I suggest that you pay attention to the signs you pass, and take note of any that provoke a response in you. Then imagine the place they lead to, and make that the setting for your tale. Alternatively, feel free to write something in response to either – or both – of the signs shown here.

Note: this definitely works best if you don’t know the street the sign leads to too well. A healthy quantity of ignorance can leave space for your imagination to unfurl!

If you write something prompted by this, please let me know by sending an email to Judy(at)socket With your permission, I’d love to share it on

Cox – a small poem

Cox apple cr Judy DarleyDid you know that today, October 21st 2014, is World Apple Day? Created to celebrate the riches and variety offered up by British orchards, it’s the perfect excuse to bite deep, crunch loudly and allow sweet juices to spill over your lips and run down your chin. Bliss!

To mark this day I’ve written a small, slightly sensual, somewhat sinister poem that tweeters on the brink of being a haiku.

With your knife I slice
it quite in half, revealing seeds
that resemble tears.

Flit to a spooky forest this Halloween

Wolf chases Red Riding HoodI do love a theatrical woodland spectacular, particularly one designed to chill and charm in equal measure. Over at Groombridge Place in Tunbridge Wells, The Human Zoo Theatre Company have created a creepy and magical immersive performance that will take place every day during October half term from Sunday 26 October to Sunday 2 November 2014.

It’s designed to enthrall all age groups from adults to kids, and includes some truly enticing features, such as a ghostly boat ride down the runaway river to the Pirate’s Lair, where you can visit Captain Timber’s Tavern and sup on scorching BBQ, tankards of mulled wine (possibly not for little ones) and a hearty, homemade pumpkin soup. Dodge fire-breathing, sword-fighting mutineers, take part in a devilish dance workshop led by a deranged Pirate Queen, and follow Little Red Riding Hood through the Enchanted Forest for a fantastical trick-or-treat experience.

Red Riding Hood1 cr The Human Zoo Theatre Company

An interactive Find-The-Missing-Bones treasure hunt will take you on a toe-curling journey around this magnificent forest, past a giant spider’s web, into the Tunnel of Terror and onwards to the Abandoned Gypsy Campsite, where the ghosts of a travelling circus have taken up residence. Have your palms read at ‘Esmeralda’s Unfortunate Fortunes’, as the spirits of the forgotten gather around the crackling campfire to tell their spine-tingling tales. And look out for the wayward clown seeking the circus in the woods.

Lost Clown cr The Human Zoo Theatre Company

By day the adventures promise to be mischievous, while after nightfall, shadows descend and the host of crooked characters who emerge will be far more menacing. Don’t forget, the best fairytales are the ones that are a bit frightening…

For further information visit

Red Riding Hood cr The Human Zoo Theatre Company

How to write a travel memoir

Sunset and sea cr Emma BamfordAuthor, journalist and adventurer Emma Bamford shares her experiences of writing a travel memoir, and offers her tips on turning your journeys into a book.

They say everyone has a novel in them somewhere. What I never expected, though, was that I would have a travel memoir in me.

I hadn’t lived a particularly interesting life up until recent years, so there wasn’t much worth committing to paper. I’d been to school, university, made friends, been in and out of love. Sure, my career – as a news editor on a national newspaper – sounded glamorous to outsiders, but really it was just a desk job and, chained to my computer for 12 hours a day, I rarely got anywhere near the kinds of stories that might be woven into an interesting autobiography.

But then I did something unusual – I answered an advert on the internet for ‘crew wanted’ and bought a one-way ticket to Borneo to live on a yacht with a man I’d never met.

Emma Bamford at helm

Do something different

That’s when things got interesting – and when I became interesting. A colleague in the newsroom put me in touch with a literary agent. I emailed him, mentioning what I was about to do, and he was straight on the phone, asking questions. “Sounds like it could be the new Castaway,” he said, referring to Lucy Irvine’s 1983 best-seller that was made into a film starring Oliver Reed and Amanda Donohoe. “Keep in touch and let me know how you get on – but it all depends on your writing, of course.”

Emma Bamford and pygmy elephant

I didn’t think much of it after that. I was out in the beautiful wilds of Borneo, chasing wild pygmy elephants up jungle rivers and swimming with turtles. I was making friends with Buddhists up in Sri Lankan tea plantations, hiding from Somali pirates and hobnobbing with billionaires on the Amalfi coast. I was having too much fun to think about writing.

I kept a diary, though, and eventually, when the itch to do some work finally came back, I started to write it up, fast and quick, my notebook on my parents’ sofa next to me, my small laptop on my knees. I didn’t think much about what I was doing.

Andamans beach cr Emma Bamford

Speak to the right people

A friend of a friend, Brendan Hall, had published a sailing-related book, Team Spirit, and I managed to get an invite to the launch party in London. I felt overawed as I stepped over the townhouse threshold into the centre of Bloomsbury Publishing’s HQ. After building up some Dutch courage on the complimentary white wine, I wandered up to Brendan’s editor at Adlard Coles Nautical, Liz Multon.

“Borneo! …Journalist! …Stranger!” I slurred at her. Luckily, she finally worked out that I was trying to pitch a book to her and gave me her business card.

She asked for two chapters, ‘showing different styles’, a synopsis and sent me a detailed form to fill in, for which I had to research other similar books in the market (there weren’t any close matches).

I sent the same material to that agent I’d spoken to two years earlier. His response: ‘This is a mess, too much of a mix of style and genre. You’ll never get a publisher interested.’ Ah.

The publisher’s response: ‘Send me everything you’ve got’.

Excited, I did. Her feedback was disheartening, to say the least: ‘I’m afraid it doesn’t quite work. There’s not enough of a narrative arc.’

Henry goes head to wind cr Emma Bamford

She was right. What makes a good memoir, first and foremost, is a good story. You need to have something to tell. Then it needs meaning, a message – you need to have something to say. Finally, it needs good writing.


Find the narrative in your story

While Liz said she liked my writing style, it was clear to her – and to me, now I had her feedback – that what I’d written was a 100,000-word-long ‘What I did on my summer holiday’ essay of the kind that nine-year-olds write each September.

Kindly, she promised to re-read it if I wanted to re-write it – and who turns down an offer like that?

So I set to work.

I worked on drawing out a stronger story line. Like a novel, I needed a beginning (deciding to quit my job and answering that advert), a middle (the adventures I had and how they affected me) and an end (a Hollywood-style happy romance ending). I decided that what I wanted to say, my theme, was ‘learning to let go’.

Gillaroo and damaged coral cr Emma Bamford

I went through the MS with a fresh pair of eyes and I looked for gaps where I could add inner thoughts, explanations for my actions and more detail about the romance sub-plot. I described the other characters more clearly, moved chapters to help the flow of the story and removed entire sections if I thought they weren’t adding to the flow of the story. I furiously pencilled notes in the margin and plastered the printed pages with Post-it notes.

Don’t be shy

Then I re-submitted

It took Liz an age to get back to me, but eventually she did. ‘I don’t know how you’ve done it, but it really works,’ she emailed.

She had to get it through two sales and marketing board meetings before she could offer me a contract, and then it was a case of two more drafts, proofs to go through and legal changes to make before Casting Off was published in July, to coincide with the summer holiday market.

Casting Off coverLaunch week was intense – I had two launch parties, spoke to a standing-room-only hall at Lowdham Book Festival, appeared on the radio three times and saw my face on the cover of my old newspaper, i.

Casting Off went straight to #1 in the Amazon chart for sailing books on its first day of release and reached #632 overall, out of 6million books. I started to receive kind reviews, both in magazines and newspapers and on Amazon and Goodreads. I was sent my first piece of fan email, and it made me cry to think I had touched someone that deeply.

And then people started demanding to know what happened next. I hadn’t thought about a sequel but now, due to popular demand, I have started to write it.

So that novel will have to stay unwritten inside me for a little while longer.

Emma BamfordAuthor bio

Emma Bamford is an author, journalist and sailor who has worked at The Independent and the Daily Express. Tropical settings and the seas inspire much of her writing, although she lives in land-locked Derbyshire. She teaches Life Writing at Nottingham University and is working on a sequel to Casting Off and a novel set on a paradise island in the Indian Ocean. Find Emma at

Gothic Frights at the British Library

Newly discovered Ann Radcliffe letter, 31 August, London, p2. Photography (c) British Library Board

© British Library Board

With Halloween just a couple of weeks away, this feels like the perfect time to tell you about a special exhibition currently creeping out visitors to the British Library.

Terror and Wonder – The Gothic Imagination is on until 20 January 2014, celebrating all aspects of the unnerving genre. Astonishing to think now that it was all launched by one sensational piece of literature – Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto – which was published 250 years ago.

The exhibition will showcase rare manuscripts on display including Gothic classics such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde alongside the work of contemporary writers influenced by the genre, including Angela Carter and Sarah Waters.

Fuseli's suitably Gothicized image of the ghost of Hamlet's father in Boydell’s Shakespeare. Photograph courtesy of the British Library

Fuseli’s Gothicized image of the ghost of Hamlet’s father in Boydell’s Shakespeare. Photo courtesy of the British Library

The eerie imaginings of the earlier spawned a whole artistic genre, encompassing every medium from painting to photography, fashion to film, and you’ll be able to see artwork by Henry Fuseli, William Blake and Philip James de Loutherbourg, contrasted against modern art and photography – including the brilliant brand new artwork created by  artist Dave McKean especially for the exhibition, shown below.

Artist Dave McKean's artwork for Terror and Wonder

The overall question will be: “Why are we so fascinated by the dark and the monstrous?”

Look out for literary, film and music events accompanying the exhibition, with input from the likes of Susan Hill, Sarah Waters, actor Reece Shearsmith, comedian Stewart Lee and musician Brian May. Find more details on the library’s What’s On pages.

Midweek writing prompt – writing from art

Stargazer by Robert Llimos photo by Judy DarleyIn around a month’s time I’ll be leading a creative writing workshop at Carol Peace’s sculpture studio on writing from art, and I thought I’d give you a sneak preview.

The pictured sculpture is actually Stargazer by Robert Llimós, snapped in Barcelona when I visited in June. I chose it for this post because I know Carol retreats to the Catalan city at every opportunity to draw inspiration for her own art.

I also particularly love the contemplative quality of this piece – it makes me think of beautiful fantastical children’s books involving journeys across oceans and into the stars.

Consider what might be going through the mind of the boy, what his fears and hopes might be. Throw in a detail from a child you know or knew (yourself as a child, perhaps) – a passion such as playing football or eating popcorn – then turn your impressions into a prose poem. Discard any bits that seem trite or clichéd, and explore further the sections that ring particularly true. You might be surprised by what takes hold.

If you write something prompted by this, please let me know by sending an email to Judy(at)socket With your permission, I’d love to share it on

Poetry review – Beautiful Girls by Melissa Lee-Houghton

beautiful girls coverHalf truth, half dare, Melissa Lee-Houghton’s second collection, Beautiful Girls, carries you through a landscape of secure hospitals, red light districts and bedrooms where little sleep seems to happen, through adolescent yearnings, childhood dread and adult regrets piled together in a disconcerting, fragile heap that seems likely to topple over at the slightest pressure.

Sinister undertones give way to outright panic, and Lee-Houghton unflinchingly casts grenades in our midst, strewn with lines so tightly wound they may well explode.

In Jade, the opening lines can refer to nothing good: “They called me at three o’clock in the afternoon to tell me/ you’d no longer be able to call me at three o’clock in the morning”.

Couplets like these bound from poem to poem, each so original I want to copy them down, savour their sly promises. (In Sundown by the Abattoir, “Nobody trusts a blue sky./ I am too good to be true and you are too good to be true.” Irresistibly damning.)

Continue reading

Ariadne’s Thread poetry competition

Maze cr Judy DarleyAriadne’s Thread literary magazine are inviting entries for their poetry competition, with a closing date of midnight on Friday 31 October 2014 (GMT).

Your entry may be on any subject and in any style or form. You can submit up to five poems per entry but are allowed to submit any number of separate entries.

Each poem must be no more than 120 lines long, but can be as short as you like, and the title is not included in the word count. Lines between text and stanzas are not counted either.

The top prize is a hefty £600 – up from £300 in 2013!

The fee is £4 per entry (just £3 for subscribers).

Find full details of this writing competition here.

In case you were wondering, in Greek mythology Ariadne was the daughter of King Minos, and her thread helped Theseus to find his way out of the Minotaur’s labyrinth. Just saying…