Never a still moment

Dancer Flora 1 by Cody Choi

Dancer Flora 1 by Cody Choi

Capturing the essence of movement through the stillness of photography is no easy feat. Choreographer and teacher Cody Choi has a deep understanding of the way the human body’s capabilities, and has made it his goal to portray this dynamism through the split-second click of a camera’s shutter.

Dancer_Gama 2 by Cody Choi

Dancer Gama 2 by Cody Choi

Step one of gaining this knowledge was becoming a dancer himself. After graduating in Modern Dance from The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (where he twice received the Jackie Chan Scholarship), he received a full scholarship to join the Transitions Dance Company in London, and has since danced with Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, English National Opera, Royal National Theatre, and more, including being a feature dancer in the films 47 Ronin and Walking on Sunshine!

Above The Clouds 3 by Cody Choi

Above The Clouds 3 by Cody Choi

Yet, his early goals as a youngster were to be a pop star.

“I learnt my dance moves from music videos and I began to dream of becoming a dancer,” he admits. “I went to a full time performing arts school when I was 17.”

Self portrait in Riga, Latvia by Cody Choi

Self portrait in Riga, Latvia by Cody Choi

Cody began to experiment with dance photography when he was doing a three-year world tour with Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, “And loving every minute of it!”

Swan lake self portrait by Cody Choi

Swan lake self portrait by Cody Choi

He says: “There were many places I felt I would only get the chance to go to once, so I bought a Nikon D50 to capture different places and start to take dance photos of my colleagues. Years later I started doing exhibitions and art fairs.”

The 3rd Day 16 by Cody Choi

The 3rd Day 16 by Cody Choi

Cody’s aims are self-evident in the sizzling vitality of his work.

“I love energy, I love moving, I love jumping,” he says. “I always like to capture the highest point of a jump – the max point of any movement.”

Dancer Flora 13 by Cody Choi

Dancer Flora 13 by Cody Choi

At present, Cody manages to balance his time between dancing, choreography, teaching, modelling and dance photography, saying blithely that he devotes himself to: “Whatever comes. The things I love most about life are the freedom to seek inspiration and to grow.”

You can see more of Cody’s photography, and find out where he will be dancing next, at

Know an artist you’d like to see showcased on Give me a shout at judy(at)

Writing prompt – underwater

Underwater By Judy Darley This photo was taken at a seal sanctuary, but something about it reminds me of a low-budget, possibly amateur, horror film.

I love the idea of creating a story within a story – so write a tale about some people putting  on a performance of some kind, and all kinds of comic, tragic or terrifying calamities befalling them.

Or just use this image as a springboard and see where you end up.

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on

Writing between the lines with Heidi Heilig

The Girl From Everywhere coverIn reading Heidi Heilig’s luminescent The Girl From Everywhere, I encountered an elegantly written scene that shows (rather than tells) you everything you need to know about how to portray emotion through what is left unsaid.

In the 2016 edition from Hot Key Books, it occurs 63 pages in. Kashmir, our narrator Nix’s closest friend and crewmate, has just given her a stolen necklace. It’s one of many “trinkets” (his words) he has stolen for her in the time they’ve known each other.

When Nix tries to give him the necklace back, he demurs, saying he enjoys it too much to stop “‘Bringing you treasures you care nothing for.’” And here the author gets Nix involved: “He spoke lightly, but his words were too flippant and behind his eyes was something I recognised: loneliness.” Three extra words add an infinite level of tension to the scene: “The moment stretched.”

Nix has to find a way to respond to their intensity, and does so by telling him that she does care, and lifting her hair – that subtly sensual movement – so that he can clasp the necklace around her throat, “His breath smelled of cloves, and his fingers were warm.” The word ‘throat’ is Heilig’s choice: so much more loaded than ‘neck.’

The atmosphere heightens as Nix tries “to remember the Persian phrase I’d found in an Iranian guidebook and tucked away in my head for a moment like this, ‘Takashor.’”

The fact she has made a mistake and Kashmir corrects her: “Tashakor”, only adds to the intimacy of the scene, as Nix thanks him again, this time in her own language, and “we both smiled like it didn’t mean anything.”

What are you reading? Impressed by a particular scene? I’d love to know. I’m always happy to receive reviews and comments on books, art, theatre and film. Please send an email to Judy(at)

Flight Journal seeks writing inspired by cities

Bilbao Bridge cr Judy DarleyFlight Journal is calling for short story writers to submit their micro fiction up to up to 500 words in length. The chosen writers will receive £25 and have their work professionally published.

The theme for the issue is The City: Isolation and/or Togetherness.

We would like to read a range of voices and tones, particularly those which can move or amuse (or both!). Everything else is left completely open for you as a writer to interpret,” say editors Marianne Tatepo, Sara Jafari and Shreeta Shah. “In some instances we may choose works that we would like to develop with the author through one-to-one conversations and edits. Please bear this in mind when submitting your stories.”


  • Published and unpublished writers are both welcome. Any genre or style is welcome.
  • Your work must be no more than 500 words long (the emphasis for Issue 3 is on micro fiction), and should not have been published before – on your personal blog, other websites, or in print.
  • Flight Journal accepts submissions written in English from anywhere in the world (however, you must have a UK bank account for payment).
  • Only one story per submission.
  • Your work must be submitted as a Word document.
  • Submissions will be judged ‘blind’ so please do not include any biographical information or your name within the text, or with your submission.

To enter please submit your story via Submittable by clicking here

The deadline is 31st October, 11.59pm (as in the last minute of that day).

I spotted this opportunity on the excellent Short Stops.

Gazing upon serenity

Big Sky, Small Trees by Laura Boswell

Big Sky, Small Trees by Laura Boswell

Laura Boswell has a distinctly economical way of regarding a view. With a sharp eye for the most important and aesthetically pleasing or telling elements, she strips everything else away, until all that remains are a few colours, sweeping lines, and a sense of utter serenity.

For me there’s an impression of having struggled uphill or through a tangled forest, and then happened upon the most beautiful, breath-taking, equilibrium-restoring scene.

Persimmons And Rice by Laura Boswell

Persimmons And Rice by Laura Boswell

Laura studied printmaking at university, but then went into the photographic industry. “It was only in my forties with the loan of a printing press that I began work again as an artist, and I sort of fell into it as a career,” she says. “ My main drive was that my work should be good enough to sell to strangers, rather than amassing a drawer full of prints, so by that very ambition, rather than by planning, I became a fulltime artist.”

Mistletoe by Laura Boswell

Mistletoe by Laura Boswell

Likewise, Laura’s affinity for linocut and Japanese watercolour woodblock printing came about through practicality.

“I was the only student in my year to embrace printmaking and, from necessity, I found I could work on lino alone and still achieve good results,” she says. “Consequently it became the focus of my work. Japanese woodblock I admired, but knew nothing of the technique until I studied in Japan (again a chance comment from a friend led to that residency) where I found that Japanese woodblock’s subtle painterly quality was such a good counterpoint to linocut that the two techniques give me everything I need for a lifetime’s printmaking.”

Twelve Views Beacon Hill by Laura Boswell

Twelve Views Beacon Hill by Laura Boswell

Laura’s landscapes and shorelines have a wonderful lightness and elegance about them, which is due in part to her overarching aims for each piece.

“I think I try to give people space and room to escape through my work – a private escape for the viewer,” she says. “I also hope to catch something of the familiar for the viewer – the feel of a remembered walk or view. My main ambition is to allow my viewer a quiet moment of pleasure and peace.”

Mission accomplished most beautifully, in that case.

Barrow Beach After The Rainstorm by Laura BoswellBarrow Beach After The Rainstorm by Laura Boswell

Barrow Beach After The Rainstorm by Laura Boswell

“I get a lot of ideas from craft-made items, such as textiles, jewellery, and ceramics,” Laura says. “Since my work is chiefly about shape and colour, inspiration can come from anywhere. I do love a good transport poster and spend a lot of time simply looking at historical prints and engravings. Of course, mainly I work with landscape so do a lot of staring and sketching outside.”

More recently, teaching has become “an essential part” of Laura’s artistic life. “It challenges me and keeps me on my toes,” she comments. “It allows me to put my thoughts and methods into words and it always encourages me to rush home and work. I also get a genuine thrill out of coaxing a good print from my students and that happy feeling has to be good for my own work.”

Chiltern Seasons Winter by Laura Boswell

Chiltern Seasons Winter by Laura Boswell

The best part of Laura’s life as an artist is simple. “The fierce delight of beginning a new project. I can’t think of anything else as purely pleasurable as working on a set of design drawings and then working towards a finished project, whether that’s a commission or a personal project or even my annual Christmas card!”

Discover more of Laura’s work, plus a list of the galleries that stock Laura’s work along with full details of shows and events at

Know an artist you’d like to see showcased on Give me a shout at judy(at)

Writing prompt – billboard

Bilbao billboard cr Judy Darley.I spotted this billboard in Bilbao, and was charmed by the statement: More Poetry Is Needed. So helpful that they included Spanish and English translations from the Basque!

If you were presented with a billboard to fill with the statement of your choice, what would you choose? Alternatively, invent an intriguing declaration, then imagine the person who devised it, and what prompted them to invest in a billboard to share it with the masses.

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on

Bilbao – 10 Top Experiences

Bilbao by Judy DarleyWe were warned that Spain’s fourth largest city was far from being one of the most beautiful, but discovered a marvel of architecture, fountains and sculpture that had us enthralled at every turn. The presence of the Guggenheim Museum since 1997 has inevitably helped its metamorphosis from industrial hotspot to cultural centre, with notable museums dotted along with more cafes than you could count, and the twisting tidal Ría de Bilbao to confound you, while mountains make up an impressive backdrop.

Here are my top ten recommendations for Bilbao.

1 Eat up

Bilbao gastronomy_cr Judy Darley

The food in Bilbao is marvellously varied, reasonably priced, and made from fabulously fresh ingredients. Naturally, you need to try some pintxos, the Basque Country version of tapas, generally costing between €1 and €3 for a delicious morsel of meat, fish or cheese piled on a small slice of bread. The pastries are light and moorishly delicious, while the seafood is outstanding.

Things we ate during our days here include salmon tartare with cod roe, pickled quail legs with haricot beans, steak, churros (Paul Hollywood would have been impressed by the crisp exteriors and fluffy centres), rose ice cream and a large quantity of puff pastry, usually served with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. To wash it all down, the Rioja wine is delicious, and cheaper than water. If you want a coffee, don’t forget to ask for “un Americano” – otherwise you’ll end up with an espresso. If you take your coffee with milk, ask for it “con leche”, or they’ll assume you want it without.

2 Meander in Doña Casilda Iturrizar park

Doña Casilda Iturrizar park, Bilbao_cr Judy Darley.

This elegantly sprawling park comes to life around 6pm, when families flock to the winding paths, green lawns, and the duck pond, which gives the park its local name Parque de los Patos. With the evening meal not commencing till 9pm or later, this is the perfect time for a few drinks sitting outside at the park’s café, or simply to promenade and chat. Look out for impressive fountains, some spectacular tiling and albino peacocks.

3 Soak up fine art

Bilbao Fine Arts Museum_cr Judy Darley

The Museo Bellas Artes ( or Bilbao Fine Arts Museum is set on one corner of Doña Casilda Iturrizar park, and is full of the work of Spanish painters.

Docker of Bilbao by Quintin de Torre_cr Judy DarleyOur favourites were upstairs, where you can marvel at glowing canvasses of everyday life by Aurelio Arteta, Benito Barrueta, Joaquin Sorolla and others, as well as this bust of a Bilbao docker by Quintin de Torre Berastegui.

The building is itself a work of art, created by blending the Fine Arts Museum of 1908 and the Museum of Modern Art of 1924 into a classical building in 1954, was extended in 1970 and again in 2001. It’s open daily apart from Tuesdays and costs €7 apart from on Wednesday, when it is entirely free. Bargain!

4 Ride the metro

Norman Foster Metro entrance, Bilbao_cr Judy Darley

This elegant transportation system makes getting about really simple, and only costs €1.50 per ticket. Your first sightings of it may be the sci-fi slug-like eruptions designed by Norman Foster, emerging from sub-pavement level in a shimmer of glass and metal. If the sinuous shining curve seems familiar, it may be because Foster was also a key architect on The Gherkin in London.

5 Go to market


Teetering on the riverside in Bilbao’s Casco Vieja (Old Town), you’ll find La Ribera – a market hall that’s been thriving since 1929. An amble among the stalls will offer up everything from pigs’ trotters to artisan cheeses, and a copious amount of fish. Up one level you’ll find bars selling wine, beer and pintxos to enjoy on the terrace.

To absorb the beauty of the building, walk to the far end and admire the windows and glass tiled ceiling.

 6 Be boggled by the Guggenheim

The Guggenheim Bilbao cr Judy Darley

This Frank Gehry construcion of sweeping titanium and soaring curves is a true marvel on Bilbao’s riverside. Happily, the Gugenheim Bilbao ( one of the first things you see of the city as the airport bus drives over the bridge alongside, but its definitely worth a closer look. Like a dance of angles and planes, of jousting metallic butterflies and fogged up mirrors, the building is a sculptural masterpiece, and that’s before you reach the art within.

Erm, and no, I’m not sure who that is photobombing my pic above!

Andy Warhol Shadows installation at Guggenhaim Bilbao cr Judy Darley

When we visited there were some spectacular Anselm Kiefer artworks on display, including the artist’s The Renowned Orders of the Night. We also had the chance to visit the Andy Warhol: Shadows installation – a fun opportunity to be immersed in pop art, not least through the evocation to take photos and become part of the show.

 7 Meet Puppy and friends

Puppy by Jeff Koons cr Judy Darley

The gleaming exterior of the Gugenheim isn’t the only reason to stick around, with an array of art adding humour and happiness to this part of the riverside. At the museum’s fron entrance you can meet Jeff Koon’s Puppy, an impressively enduring comment on extravagance and sentimentality, with a West Highland gigantic terrier build from petunias, begonias and other flowers. Originally created for a German castle, it’s been guarding its present home since 1997.

Maman by Louise Bourgeois, Bilbao_cr Judy DarleyOn the other side (as you exit close to the gift shop) you’ll find Louise Bourgeois’ Maman, an immense bronze and stainless steel spider, complete with a sack of marble eggs. Her impressive legs frame the view perfectly.

Then there’s Anish Kapoor’s gravity defying Tall Tree & The Eye, featuring 73 reflective spheres arranged as a tower of mirrored ball bearings. And Jeff Koon’s gloriously balloon-like Tulips. Plus, in case you hadn’t realised, that red structure on the bridge is another installation, Arcos Rojos, by Daniel Buren.

Fujiko Nakaya fog installation at Guggenheim Bilbao_cr Judy Darley


Hang around a while and you’ll experience Fujiko Nakaya’s fog pouring across the water and walkway. Somehow, this installation on a hot day in Bilbao seemed far more magical that the one I encountered on Pero’s Bridge during a naturally damp day in Bristol.

 8 Look out for public art

Bilbao coffee cups sculpture_cr Judy Darley

Well, you can’t really miss it. Every corner seems to have something worth marvelling over, whether it’s drinking fountains adorned with bats, a statue or a pair of vast coffee mugs.

Sculpture by Vicente Larrea_cr Judy DarleyIn Plaza de San José, you’ll find three sculptures by Vicente Larrea, created in memory of the architects and engineers who helped to build a new Bilbao in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The bridges themselves resemble sculptures, and occasional works of street art will stop you in your tracks.

See if you can spot any pixellated aliens, said to have been scattered through the city by a group of anonymous French artists. The fountains, too, are worth a few moments of your time, upheld as they are by wondrous figures and beasts.

Bilbao alien cr Judy Darley.

 9 Take a riverside stroll

Bilbao riverside_cr Judy Darley

This is one to enjoy slowly, during the siesta time that unfurl between 1 and 4pm, as that’s when you’ll see the locals jogging, roller blading and rowing – a reminder of why the people here are so friendly and laidback (unless you go to a post office, where you’ll find the folks are just as stressed out and pressed for time as they are in every post office in the world). What could be better than a culture that shoehorns a few hours of weekend pleasure into every working day? If you can get out on the water yourself, splendid. If not, satisfy yourself with a leisurely amble, pausing to sit and admire the views at every other bench you encounter.

10 Get out of town

Playa de San Antolin cr Judy Darley.

The city is stunning, but the countryside is equally entrancing, especially the beaches of buttery soft sand. Watch the surfers do battle with the Atlantic waves, paddle in the icy shallows and see the Basque country that nature created.

Where to stay
Hotel Zenit Bilbao
Petit Palace Arana Bilbao

Discover more about Bilbao at

Discover Brescia.
Discover Budapest.
Discover Bath.
Discover Barcelona.
Discover Laugharne.

Literary Bristol

Judy Darley in Redcliffe CavesBristol Festival of Literature returns from 21- 29th October 2016, with curious, intriguing, inspiring events popping up all over the city. I wrote a feature about it for The Bristol Magazine, and was wowed by the options on offer. Events are already selling out, so get your tickets fast!

Literary Stirrings feature in The Bristol Magazine

You can pick up copies of The Bristol Magazine all over the city, in cafes, hairdressers, estate agents and other businesses.

I’m taking part in a least two events. The first is Writers in the Caves, taking place in Redcliffe Caves from 8-9.30pm on Tuesday 25th Oct. Going Underground: Subterranean Tales is a Bristol Writers and friends event – I’m one of the friends, and very excited to be invited back! Reading in the caves is a really magical event – it’s a wonderfully spooky environment, and I’ve written a ghost story especially for the occasion. The pic at the top of this post (photo taken by Sally Hare) shows me at last year’s event.

The second is A Hint of Crime, the launch of Bristol Fiction Writers’ Group’s section anthology (which I have three tales in). At Foyles Bookshop Bristol (3-5pm, Friday 28th October, free), we’ll be reading stories with “a dark or dishonest undertone” and answering questions about writing and the imagination. I’ll be reading my story The Longhouse, inspired by my travels in Borneo.

There are so many other fabulous literary happenings to choose from too. Want to hear spooky stories in a cemetery? North Bristol Writers have that covered with Tales from the Crypts, (7-9pm, Thurs 20th Oct, £8). Fancy hearing some Egyptian storytelling surrounded by ancient artefacts? Head to Bristol Museum & Art Gallery (3-4pm, Saturday 22nd Oct, free). Keen to celebrate women in writing? Bristol Women’s Literature Festival are hosting a salon where you can share writing by women you admire, or your own at Spike Island’s reading room (6.30-8.30pm, Monday 24 October, free). Up for learning how to source fiction prompts from newspapers? Join journalist and author Emily Koch  at Paper Arts on Thurs October 20th, 10am-12pm (£5). And these are just a few of the rich literary pickings on offer!

Find the full programme and ticketing details at Hope to see you at an event or few!

A calligraphic journey

The Darkling Thrush by Simon SonsinoI encountered Simon Sonsino’s beautiful textual art at Art In Action this summer, and was instantly captivated. His use of lettering as a abstract form of patterning is utterly entrancing – it’s the shapes that matter, so that the angle of a serif font, the curl, tilt or crossbar, makes up part of a whole composed of abstract marks and enticing colours.

That isn’t to say the meaning of the words themselves have no weight (the artwork at the top takes its title, The Darkling Thrush, from a Thomas Hardy poem), only that whether or not you can read them is less important than you might expect.

“I came to calligraphy late,” says Simon. “I was 30 before I picked up a dip pen, and although I now have my OU design degree, various certificates and calligraphy diplomas, I feel the richness of learning comes from watching and working with people who inspire me.”

These days, he comments, his calligraphy “tends toward the abstract and most applications of my work are for artistic calligraphy rather than practical lettering.”

The Thin Wall by Simon Sonsino

The Thin Wall by Simon Sonsino

Simon’s calligraphic journey began in 1994 when he joined an evening class for beginners with the aim of equipping himself to design stationery for his wedding to his wife Yvonne. “After learning the formal rules and with continued practise, I felt I was ready for more input,” he says. “I joined a calligraphy society, primarily to learn more than the books were giving me (the internet was still in its infancy at this point) but I soon became disillusioned with calligraphy as an art form and, although I appreciate the skills and hard work needed to create calligraphic works, it seemed to me that people were happy to gently nudge the boundaries rather than push them.”

The Golden Oriole by Simon Sonsino

The Golden Oriole by Simon Sonsino

Simon’s view of this was challenged when he attended a workshop with Satwinder Sehmi. “His style and attitude open my eyes and in his book Calligraphy: The Rhythm Of Writing I discovered a world of influences, especially the abstract calligraphic works by Thomas Ingmire. I knew this was the direction I wanted to take my lettering – at last I’d found calligraphers using letterform for its aesthetic rather than just a means to an end.”

It was a moment of awakening for Simon. “Learning how others create their art has been pivotal to my artistic direction and love of letterform; from their techniques and styles I have gleaned elements that have motivated and enhanced my own art and helped my style evolve and grow.”

The Thinner Wall by Simon Sonsino

The Thinner Wall by Simon Sonsino

In Simon’s artwork, the words serve an aesthetic purpose, rather than being the end aim in themselves.

“I believe that it’s acceptable for modern calligraphy to be illegible as a literal message, and so strive to challenge the viewer’s perceptions of calligraphic work,” he says. “My compositions show that words and letters can become abstract images that convey visual cadence, humour, atmosphere and expression. Letterform can evoke feelings in the viewer that verse alone is not always able to.”

Wrong by Simon Sonsino

Wrong by Simon Sonsino

He adds: “I’ve never been solely interested in the well-trodden path of interpretation that preoccupies calligraphy at its most traditional; I prefer my work to imply the emotion and ‘feel’ of the chosen text. In my opinion, any art form need only have two attributes: impact and intrigue – impact to grab the viewer’s attention and intrigue to hold it.”

Sharing techniques and ideas “with other likeminded people at workshops and demonstrations” is among the greatest pleasures for Simon. “For me, the joy comes in the activity,” he says. “Sometimes watching the paint dry is more enjoyable than the final result!”

Simon’s first book Textual Art is already on its 3rd reprint, and he is currently working to complete a DVD in time for Christmas, and starting work on his second book. Find more of his work at the gallery on his website

Know an artist you’d like to see showcased on Give me a shout at judy(at)

Writing prompt – elevator

Lift at ABode by Judy DarleyElevator, or lift? The American–English is more elegant this once! Two things prompted this writing prompt. I once read an interview with author PD James in which she mentioned a lift she’d seen with a notice beside it stating: Do Not Use on Friday Afternoons.

Wise but alarming advice…

The second is that recently I was working with a magazine publisher in a very tall building (by British standards) that only had two working lifts, and then one was taken out of action be refurbished. One day after lunch, I pushed the call button, and a few moments heard the doors to my left swish open. This was the apparently out-of-action lift, twinkling and calling to me, so I stepped aboard, and whizzed up to the 11th floor where I emerged feeling rather smug.

The next morning, I pushed the call button, and when the new, shiny lift arrived, I stepped in confidently, followed by four other trusting colleagues. We zoomed up a few storeys, then the lift faltered, and dropped, then came to an abrupt halt.

We weren’t in there long before someone prised the doors open and we were able to climb out (we were between two floors). It was a weird fifteen minutes or so – watching people’s responses and thinking how long we might be trapped for, especially as the woman we answered when we pushed the emergency button seemed totally bewildered. Perhaps she was just walking past a desk when the phone rang!

Set your story in a lift, or an elevator (your choice!), then trap someone inside or have it send them somewhere unexpected. Alternatively, focus on the woman who took that phone call and seemed so nonplussed by our request for help. What’s her story?

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on