Seeking shelter

St John in the Wall by Judy DarleyOn Thursday 9th June from 7pm I am hosting a literary event at St John on the Wall, an ancient church filled with atmosphere and forgotten histories.

The evening will involve poetry, tales and music inspired by the themes love, life and mortality. Just the big human topics, then. Tickets cost £4 on the door, and all proceeds will be split between The Churches Conservation Trust, who look after this magnificent space, and St Mungo’s, a charity dedicated to helping homeless people back into a life of security and self-worth.

The latter is a cause close to my heart. I believe, as St Mungo’s do, that everyone has the right to a home where they feel safe.

Homelessness is increasing in Bristol. St Mungo’s aim is sustainable recovery – supporting people via hostels and supportive housing projects, advice, physical health and mental health services.

“Outreach workers go out in the early morning and late at night to check on people sleeping rough,” says Jo Lenny at St Mungo’s. “It takes time to build up trust and a relationship. Once people agree to engage, they’re assessed so their individual needs can be supported, such as housing, or more complex needs around mental health, addiction or both.”

Aside from providing beds, St Mungo’s run a recovery college, where people can learn a new skill, or share a skill, and so be helped to feel part of the community and to engage. “A horticultural project called ‘Putting Down Roots’, supports clients to work in public parks, hostel gardens, and in the Recovery College garden, developing gardening skills, growing wildflowers and carrying out hard landscaping and building projects,” says Jo. “Current projects are in Castle Park and at New Street Centre, with plans for more. Through this, people gain skills, qualifications, paid and voluntary work.”

The number of people sleeping rough doubled between 2011 and 2013, and doubled again between 2013 and 2015.

You can help by going to where you can sign an open letter to David Cameron to Stop the Scandal.

If you’re concerned about a person sleeping rough, you can make a street referral by visiting

Find out more about the Love, Life and Mortality literary event and buy tickets at

Flash Fiction Day celebrations in Bristol

Pero's Bridge cr Judy DarleyNational Flash Fiction Day happens on Saturday 25th June 2016, celebrating literature in its briefest forms from dribbles to drabbles and beyond. There will be events erupting across the UK, but the hotspot is in Bristol, with three fab events to mark the fourth official day of Bristol Flash.

In the morning from 10.30am until midday, you can take part in a Flash Walk around Bristol’s harbour area, with site-specific flashes being read by trained actors along the route. Until 9th June, you’re invited to submit stories between 40 and 400 words for the chance to hear your words included on the trail. Find details here and here.

In the afternoon from 13-30-16:30), there will be a flash fiction workshop at Bristol Central Library led by award-winning writers Alison Powell and Ken Elkes. Find details here.

From 7pm that evening at At the Well on Cheltenham Road, Bristol, you can settle in for a mass of flash readings from local and not-so-local writers, including Alison Powell, Calum Kerr, Diane Simmons, Freya Morris, Jude Higgins, Ken Elkes, Kevlin Henney, Pete Sutton, Tim Stevenson, Tino Prinzi, Tom Parker, and me! Find details here. Find details here.

Every event is free to attend, and designed to inspire, amuse, disquiet and enthral you, all in the name of flash fiction!

Theatre review – The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk

Marc Antolin as Marc Chagall and Audrey Brisson as Bella Chagall in The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk_credit Steve TannerEvery love affair has the potential for greatness, but only a select few achieve this, and fewer still have the spirit of their passions captured on canvas for all the world to see for eternity.

Many of Marc Chagall’s exuberant paintings featured himself and his first wife, Bella, often with Bella taking flight as though in joy. In Kneehigh and Bristol Old Vic’s vivacious production, written by Daniel Jamieson, the couple’s love affair and life is displayed in wondrous technicolour, with lighting, sound, an inventive set, dance and song all playing a role. As director Emma Rice says in the teaser video on the Bristol Old Vic website: “I’m finding the whole piece is like painting a picture. It’s like we’ve got a palette of things and we’re mixing our colours and mixing our ideas, and making a new art form.”

Performed with boundless energy by Marc Antolin and Audrey Brisson, we witness the pair’s first meeting and follow them through the years that follow, as they explore their love, face some of the darkest times in recent Russian and European history, and eventually make it to the United States.

Music director and composer Ian Ross
 and musician James Gow ensure the stage always feels full, even when populated by a lone actor. The wedding is a particular comic joy, beginning with Bella strolling the stage greeting guests we cannot see and admitting time and again, “Yes, yes he is a Jewish painter,” and enduring the uninvited sympathy of her relatives on one of the happiest days of her life.

Ian Ross has mined the traditional, classical and “the Rusco Romany element of folk music in Russia” to imbue scenes with atmosphere, while lighting designer Malcolm Rippeth shifts moods with an injection of colour entirely in keeping with Chagall’s paintings. The screen at the back of the stage that captures these colours also serves to show the shadowy figures of anyone standing and dancing behind it, adding another enticing layer to the texture of the show.

The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk_credit Steve Tanner

There are countless moments of laugh aloud humour, thanks largely to the physicality of the two actors, but also heart-breakingly tender scenes, as when Chagall is battling depression and Bella does her best to draw him out of it, and later, when Bella is taken ill.

Marc Antolin as Marc Chagall and Audrey Brisson as Bella Chagall in The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk - Photo by Steve TannerSome of their darkest moments are barely touched upon however, such as their arrest and escape during World War II, when the Jewish population of their hometown, Vitebsk, has already been eradicated. At times, details like these are mentioned by a character, almost in passing, but with so much beauty and interest present on stage, the emphasis is on enjoyment – dwelling too much on the bleakness would create an entirely different play. As Audrey Brisson says: “You don’t get to see the whole thing, but you get this beautiful arch through the story.”

I fell for the art of Chagall when I visited the Marc Chagall/Dario Fo exhibition in Brescia last year, and now feel I have fallen in love all over again. Emma Rice and her team have more than done his extraordinary talent justice and brought to exquisite life one of the artworld’s greatest duos.

The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk is on at Bristol Old Vic until 11 June 2016. Find details and buy tickets here.

All images by Steve Tanner.

Writer Daniel Jamieson
Emma Rice Assistant Director Matt Harrison
Composer and Music Director 
Ian Ross Musician James Gow
Designer Sophia Clist Lighting Designer Malcolm Rippeth
Sound Designer Simon Baker
Choreographer Etta Murfitt
Marc Chagall Marc Antolin Bella Chagall Audrey Brisson

I’m always happy to receive reviews of books, art, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at)

Writing prompt – savages

Feather tree cr Judy DarleyI recently meandered down a little used track, and discovered this scene. It made me recall how when seen through a child’s imaginative eyes, every old tree, fallen feather, discarded leaf and found stone has potential to become part of a savage land populated by pirates, vampires, dragons and more.

Make this the basis of your story, remembering to recast the ordinary as fearsome and the commonplace as potentially magical. Anything is possible.

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