Jamaican rhythms

II Treez in a Forest by Ebony G Patterson

II Treez in a Forest by Ebony G Patterson

Fancy feeling the heat this summer? Until 11th September 2016, Bristol’s RWA Galleries will be awash with Jamaican art, culture and politics thanks to a special exhibition.

Jamaican Pulse: Art and Politics from Jamaica and the Diaspora will showcase the diversity present in Jamaican art today and yesterday, with contemporary works exhibited alongside more historic pieces.

Artists featured include Ebony G Patterson, Andrea Chung, Kimani Beckford and Di-Andre Caprice Davis. Expect vivid colours amid works simmering with energy and emotion.

“While exploring the roots of modern Jamaican art and suggesting new links between past and present, the exhibition also explores the artwork through a political lens and considers how global attitudes to body, gender, religion, class and sexuality have impacted this small island nation.”

Find out more about the exhibition and connected happenings at www.rwa.org.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/2016/06/jamaican-pulse.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com.

Writing prompt – butterfly

Butterfly cr Judy DarleyI spied this small butterfly while strolling in the beautiful wilderness of Arnos Vale Cemetery. I think it’s some kind of fritillary. As I paused to watch it bask in the sunlight, I thought about the stories it could inspire.

Symbolism works powerfully in fiction. Place a butterfly at the heart of your tale and let that image direct your themes. You could end up with an ecological futurist fable, a sweet story about a harried man or woman learning the value of stopping to effectively smell the roses, or even a piece about freedom, and the brevity of life.

It’s up to you. Where will your butterfly take you?

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

A day of flash fiction

Bristol Unicorn cr Judy DarleyLast Saturday, writers, readers and interested passersby got involved into the celebrations for National Flash Fiction Day 2016. I was part of the team organising events (led by Kevlin Henney and along with Freya Morris and Tino Prinzi) in my home city of Bristol, and had a blast!

The day kicked off at 10.30am outside Bristol Central Library for the first ever Bristol #FlashWalk. Writers from across the UK had submitted tales inspired by our harbour area, and some wonderful stories had been selected for actors Jo Butler and Tom Parker to perform.

We began with the spine-tingling The Harbour Festival by AA Abbott, read by Jo Butler under an ornate archway leading down to the waterfront. Tom followed this with Diane Tatlock’s Harbouring Friendship, and then we made our way to Millennium Square, where Jo performed Juliet Hagan’s Johnny Pencloud, a thought-provoking tale of the women left behind in the days of press-ganging.

Jo Butler reading Johnny Pencloud by Juliet Hagan pic cr Judy Darley

Jo Butler reading Johnny Pencloud by Juliet Hagan

My story Altitude followed, with both Tom and Jo taking a role to share the dizzying story of a lad encouraged to climb a crane by an adventurous and reckless lass, and then regretting his lust-driven choice!

Jo Butler and Tom Parker reading Altitude by Judy Darley

Jo Butler and Tom Parker reading Altitude by Judy Darley

On Pero’s Bridge by Holly Atkinson could take place nowhere other than actually on Pero’s Bridge, followed aptly by Ingrid Jendrzejewski’s emotive Your Name is Pero, telling the tale of the little slave boy the bridge is named for.

On the corner by the statue of John Cabot, Dolphins by Lucho Payne gave us a moment of light and hope.

Jo Butler reading A Thousand Words by Gemma Govier

Jo Butler reading A Thousand Words by Gemma Govier

Then came Gemma Govier’s intriguing A Thousand Words, followed by Lynn Love’s gorgeous Will There Be Pirates.

Tom Parker reading Will There Be Pirates by Lynn Love

Tom Parker reading Will There Be Pirates by Lynn Love

The morning wrapped up outside St Nick’s Market, with Mark Rutterford’s Singing Out Loud, leaving us with the satisfaction of a potential happy ending.

The sun shone throughout, the actors and writers were wonderful, and the audience well behaved – we even picked up a few more folks along the way!

Next came a free flash fiction writing workshop back at Bristol Central Library, where KM Elkes made us regard strawberries in a whole new light, and Alison Powell armed us to create extraordinary similes.

A Box of Stars Beneath the BedAt 7pm, events moved to At The Well for an evening of flash tales with the father of NFFD, Callum Kerr, and the launch of this year’s beautiful NFFD anthology, A Box of Stars Beneath The Bed.

Thirteen readers, masses of stories, and countless emotions! The orangutan story by KM Elkes still haunts me. A fabulously inspiring night to finish a truly splendid day.

Ooh, and throughout the day there was the #FlashFlood to enjoy. You can still drop by to read the tales at flashfloodjournal.blogspot.co.uk.


Penzance Literary Festival 2016

Penzance views cr Judy DarleyPenzance Literary Festival runs from 6th-9th July 2016. It’s the perfect excuse to enjoy Cornish views and sea air while revelling in the written and spoken word!

Look forward to a guest appearance by best-selling author Gavin Knight, whose new book, The Swordfish and the Star, a gritty portrayal of life in the fishing communities of Newlyn and The Lizard.

I love how inclusive and friendly this festival is – in 2013 I had the chance to read my short story The Scent of Summer at a Telltales literary event in the Admiral Benbow and loved the experience.

Headliners for this year’s festival include Rachel Joyce, author of best-selling The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry, and writer of BBC Radio’s dramatised version of Jane Eyre, part of this year’s 200th anniversary celebration of Charlotte Brontë’s birth.

Other folks set to tingle your literary tastebuds include Costa award-winning novelist Andrew Miller, Guardian journalist Patrick Barkham, whose book Coastlines: The Story of Our Shore celebrates many of Cornwall’s coastal National Trust properties, and poets Bert Biscoe, Pol Hodge, Gray Lightfoot and Colin Stringer. And don’t miss the Bookshop Band, with a brand new selection of bookish songs!

There will also be writing workshops, theatre, and literary tours of Penzance run by local tour guide Anna McClary. It’s a great way to get to know the heritage of this Cornish town, and be inspired! Find full details at www.pzlitfest.co.uk.

For details of where to stay in Penzance, go to www.visitcornwall.com.

Got an event, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send me an email at Judy(at)socket creative(dot)com.

Flying Ant Day, Savages and Dawn Thread

Ant by Judy Darley

Disclaimer: This is not a flying ant.

Happy to say that my flash fiction tale Flying Ant Day has been published in A Box of Stars Beneath the Bed: 2016 National Flash-Fiction Day Anthology. Wonderful!

A Box of Stars Beneath the BedEven better, my tale is one of just 50 chosen from 500 entries. Woohoo! There are so many excellent writers on the list of those included. Definitely looking forward to reading the contributions from Jude Higgins, Diane Simmons, Jonathan Pinnock, KM Elkes and Jane Roberts.

I’ll be reading my tale as part of the National Flash Fiction Day celebrations in Bristol on Saturday, at At The Well on Cheltenham Road.

To get your copy, go to the Amazon page or visit the NFFD website, where you can also discover all kinds of events happening this National Flash Fiction Day (June 25th, in case you were wondering!).

My short tale Savages has been published in issue three of Ink In Thirds magazine.

This beautiful publication describes itself as ‘a magazine of poised prose, precarious poetry, and photography that makes us want to pilot our own realms again.’

Inspired by the wilderness of childhood, including glimpses from my own, I’m glad my tale has found a home here.

Read issue three of Ink in Thirds magazine here.

The opening line of Savages is:

The field has been scalped; sharp spikes are all that remain of the wheat that whispered here, green stems that leaned with the wind and hissed tickling promises as we drifted by on our way to school.

Happy Summer Solstice! Today began when most of us were still sleeping (at 4.06am, rumour has it) and the air was green and fragrant. Gorgeous.

Nicholas Oakwell red feather dressMy poem Dawn Thread has been selected for a special Midsummer issue of Enchanted Conversations: A Fairy Tale Magazine. In case you don’t know, Enchanted Conversations is a beautiful online journal of original fairytales, which has regular calls for submissions.

My poem came in a flurry after seeing an exquisite dress embellished by students and tutors at the Royal School of Needlework for designer Nicholas Oakwell (pictured left). The gown was hand sewn all over with more than 200,000 feathers, dyed in 18 shades of red, and made me think of the kind of tasks traditionally given to maidens in fairytales. The profusion of red made me think of the transition from girl to woman, and the feathers drew to mind several fairytales about men turned into swans, and their sister sewing them shirts to return them to their human forms.

My poetic tale offers a rather different ending, culminating at dawn on the longest day.

Read it here.

Writing prompt – rooftops

Rooftop Unicorns cr Judy DarleyI’ve been reading rather a lot of Neil Gaiman short fiction recently, and he’s reminded me of how worlds can nestle within worlds, with magic hidden in plain sight.

If you take a moment to glance upwards at the rooftops you walk beneath, there’s always a chance you may glimpse something uncommonly beautiful, such as these unicorns dancing over Bristol’s City Hall. According to Bristol Post, the architect Mr E Vincent Harris who came up with these reputedly added them without informing the council, choosing art over bureaucracy. Brilliant!

This week, I urge you to look up, then write a tale or create something inspired by a detail that catches your imagination there.

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

Collected – 10,000 Trees

Hollow by Katie PatersonFunny how big things sometimes seems small, and sprawling things can feel contained. Nestled in a corner of the University of Bristol’s elegant Royal Fort Gardens, you’ll find a neat gathering comprised of ten thousand trees, stretching quietly skywards.

This is not how forests behave. Forests breathe and whisper, they spread and grown, they exhale fragrances of leaf mould, animal matter, the evidence of countless tiny lives.

Hollow by artist Katie Paterson.

This is not a forest, or even a copse, but a grotto, built from slim rectangular shards cut and smoothed from 10,000 species of tree. The colours waver from straw yellow to a rich henna hue. The wood here is organised, arranged, collected. Step inside, close your eyes and inhale the subtle sunlit woody smells, surrounded by straight-edged shapes arranged in an orderly fashion entirely at odds with any living wood you’ve ever entered. But perhaps that’s the point.

This is the creation of Katie Paterson, who spent three years collecting the samples from forests, arboretums and private collections across the world. She’s an artist of extraordinary scope, having previous created a candle that recreates the smell of travelling through space, and a library in the form of a seedling forest that will be eventually be transformed into books no one currently alive will ever read.

In Hollow, Katie says she has tried to mimic the impression of being in a forest with light falling through trees – with carefully placed apertures allowing sunlight to stream inwards.

Hollow by Katie Paterson 2016

Except, in a forest, the light moves, as branches quiver and shift with the wind. A forest is never still, never silent, while in Hollow everything is frozen and soundless.

For me, that was a profound and moving difference. There is a moment of wonder as you enter and encounter so many pieces of so many trees, but you need to remind yourself that this is what they are – that over here may be a a sample from the Japanese Ginkgo tree in Hiroshima, and over here a piece from the tallest fir tree in Britain, the mightiest conifer in Europe – trees from different continents and eras.

Hollow detail by Katie Paterson

Hollow is not a forest, and nor does it claim to be. It is a human appropriation of the concept of the world’s trees – an orderliness imposed on something that should, by nature, be disorderly. It represents, I think, the tendency of humans to seek structure where none should be. Do visit it and step inside, take a moment to inhale and think, marvel that so many trees can make up such a small space, then remerge into the gardens where living trees move and breathe.

Hollow is a beautiful accomplishment, and an incredible collection, but in truth, its name tells you everything you need to know.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on SkyLightRain.com? Get in touch at judydarley (at) iCloud.com. I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at) iCloud.com.

Writing prompt – ephemera


Photograph of James-Joyce

Old photos, letters and notes are always deeply evocative, but what if the ephemera you uncovered, say, in a box at a car boot sale or at your local charity shop, were the leftovers from authors’ lives?

The British Library has just made over 300 literary treasures online for the first time – and it’s all entirely free to access. Every item relates to 20th century writers, including literary drafts, rare first editions, notebooks, letters, diaries, newspapers and photographs from the archives of  Virginia Woolf, Ted Hughes, James Joyce and Angela Carter, among others.

Intrigued? Take a look for yourself on the Discovering Literature website, and then allow the creative ideas begin to emerge.

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

Reading at Novel Nights

Mussel shells cr Judy DarleyOn Thursday 16th June, Novel Nights is on at Bristol’s Belgian beer bar (got that?) Strawberry Thief. I’ll be there, reading my short tale Preservation.

It looks set to be an excellent evening, with readings from a number of local writers in the first half, and then a discussion with author Babs Horton about the risks and riches of  mining your own life for your writing inspiration.

Do come along if you can. Tickets are £5 on the door, and there will be opportunities to ask questions and find out things to further your own writing. Plus, the night’s talented organisers Grace and Helen will let you know how to submit your own writing for the chance to read at future Novel Nights’ events.

Writing prompt – mortality

Arnos Vale and cranes cr Judy DarleyThis view at Arnos Vale Cemetery always stops me in my tracks. It seems like a visual representation of the saying “Time waits for no man.”

How much of a life can you fit in a single tale? This week I urge you to write a story that attempts just that, thinking about how the end of a life echoes with all the greatest moments in it, every triumph and loss, love and regret. What, or who, have been the linchpins in that life?

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