Writing prompt – glut

Snail and blackberryImagine finding yourself within reach, as this tiny snail has, of a feast of mouthwatering proportions which just happens to comprise your very favourite food.

How would you restrain yourself? Or wouldn’t you? At what point in your munching might your pause to consider this bounty origins?

What might the implications of such gluttony be?

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

The Turner Prize 2019 invites you to Margate NOW

Margate Festival 2018. Photography by Heather Tait (4)

Margate Festival 2018. Photography by Heather Tait

Margate NOW, an ambitious and dynamic festival of art, events and performances, will unfold across Margate from 28th September to celebrate the Turner Prize coming to Turner Contemporary for its 2019 exhibition.

Developed by a consortium of partners and artists, the town-wide programme will be bigger than ever before. Its goal is to spread a little magic throughout the town by placing artworks in unexpected places.

Margate Festival NOW 2018_Artists Moving Memory_photo by Heather Tait

As part of an open call, led by Margate Festival, artists were invited to respond to the theme ‘NOW’. 500 artists and performers will create 60 music, dance, exhibitions and installations as part of the programme guest-curated by Russell Tovey.

“I’ve always had a close relationship with art and began collecting art in my mid 20s whilst acting in The History Boys,” says guest curator Russell Tovey. “Initially, I was excited by the buzz of investing in art and buying something that would outlive me. As my collection has grown my interest has developed into supporting emerging and mid-career artists as well as becoming a patron for a number of not-for-profit public art institutions.”

Tovey adds: “Margate NOW is such an exciting programme. Art can be powerful and engaging and I am looking forward to seeing the town brought to life in unusual, surprising and entertaining ways. I’ve really enjoyed helping to curate and select artists for the festival. It’s great to be able to support and encourage the creation of new art and new ideas.”

Margate Festival NOW 2018. Artists Moving Memory photo by Heather Tait

In addition to the open call programme, of co-commissions include international sound artist and electronic musician Yuri Suzuki, who will to create a new work for Turner Contemporary’s South Terrace, in partnership with Kent Libraries, inspired by people from across the county. A new work, ‘Printed Whispers’, is being developed by Yemi Awosile in collaboration with Open School East. Awosile is collaborating with local groups and organisations to make use of natural resources and reconditioned objects, sourced from the local area.

Sands Hotel Margate 2019

Sands Hotel Margate (the second building from the right)

Running alongside the programme, Sands Hotel Margate is offering a special ‘Turner Seaside Snap’ package aimed at boosting your creativity. Costing from £175pp, the package includes two nights B&B, a cream tea, a bottle of wine and a three-hour lesson with a local professional photographer on how to capture the best seaside pictures. Find details here.

Margate NOW is on until 13th October 2019. Select events and exhibitions will continue until the Turner Prize 2019 exhibition leaves Margate on 12th January 2020.

The festival has been enabled by a successful bid to the Arts Council England for £219,000 of National Lottery funding as well as contributions from Kent County Council, Thanet District Council and Dreamland Margate.

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

Art review – Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life

In Real Life by Olafur EliassonI became aware of Olafur Eliasson thanks to ‘The Weather Project‘ at Tate Modern in 2003. It was one of my first encounters with the way art can influence viewers’ behaviour, so that they become active participants. As people sat, sprawled and sunbathed in the cold hall of the Turbine Hall, it was clear that through toying with our perception, Eliasson and his team prompted us to grow more playful.

The same can be said of every installation in his In Real Life retrospective, which spans more than twenty years of imaginative experimentation and creative absorption.

Stardust Particle by Olafur Eliasson

Stardust Particle by Olafur Eliasson

Like a magician revealing his tricks, Eliasson is keen to offer insights both into his idea-generation stage and how these initial thoughts become physical entities. The exhibition begins with a cabinet of curiosities crammed with models, and ends with a replica of his studio wall crammed with press cuttings, fragments from fiction and other intriguing elements. It neatly bookends the works of art, presenting us with an insight into the artist’s preoccupations. I love the way this induces a sense of being part of something, rather than simply looking on. Eliasson’s works are intrinsically collaborative, not only with the input from his team, but in the dialogues and even problem-solving discussions they seed and enable.

Moss wall 1994 by Olafur Eliasson

Moss wall by Olafur Eliasson

Not all the works are as interactive here as they’ve been elsewhere. Here, ‘Moss wall’, originally created in 1994, is a sight to marvel at rather than dig your fists into, while in ‘Beauty’, the rainbow is out of reach behind a barrier, like an exotic creature in a zoo.

Beauty_Olafur Eliasson

Beauty by Olafur Eliasson

Other experiences are fully there for the grabbing. For me the ‘Your blind passenger’ was eerily enchanting. The space brims with colour-shifting fog so dense I had to trust the ground to remain safe and reassure myself that no dangers lurked in the inches beyond the scope of my vision. The sensation was akin to how I imagine it feeling to be lost at sea.

Interactive highlights include the kaleidoscopic walk-through ‘Your spiral view’ and the extraordinarily vivid ‘Your uncertain shadow (colour)’, in which prisms cast spectators’ shadows in a glorious array of colours – perhaps the perfect modern-day family portrait.

Your uncertain shadow (colour) by Olafur Eliasson

Your uncertain shadow (colour) by Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson’s interests lie in changing as well as reflecting the world. ‘The glacier series’ is step one of a photography project, with the second currently in progress, tracking melt patterns and climate change over the past twenty years. His work raises awareness of our impact on our home planet, as well as inventing practical solutions in some cases, such as with his ‘little suns’ – solar lights created to illuminate off-grid African villages at night.

Eliasson has been described as a renaissance man for his breadth of works covering everything from sculpture to architecture. Perhaps more widely he is an instigator, reminding us of the volume of influences we can harness in seeking solutions, and that even in these alarming times, human ingenuity could hold the answers.

Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life is at Tate Modern until 5th January 2020. Find details and book tickets here.

Writing prompt – scrap

A scrap of paper on a thirsty public lawn caught my eye. It turned out to be a page torn from a book by Terry Pratchett.

But who would have torn it out and left it to flutter helplessly? What could their purpose have been? Is the page itself significant, or only the act?

Make that the inspiration for wonderfully weird work of fiction.

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

 

London Literature Festival 2019

RWD15_I Believe in Unicorns_a show based on Michael Morpurgo tale

London Literature Festival hosted by the South Bank Centre invites us to consider whether we’re sitting comfortably (or, conversely, too comfortably), with an unfurling array of fairy tales “for our times with today’s leading writers, thinkers and cultural observers.”

Returning for its 13th year, the festival takes place from 17th-27th October 2019.

The festival opens with opens with Poetry International, founded by Ted Hughes in 1967, which this year embraces the theme of disruption.

Lemn Sissay © Hamish Brown, Elizabeth Day © Jenny Smith, Sharlene Teo © fatiimaa, Brett Anderson © Brett Anderson

Look forward to eerie, magical, unsettling and though-provoking moments from Lemn Sissay, Daisy Johnson, Bernadine Evaristo, Jay Bernard, Elizabeth Day, Armistead Maupin, Brett Anderson, Heather Morris, Louise Doughty, Neil Gaiman, Jung Chang and many more.

Jung Chang author

Author Jung Chang

They say: “The theme Once Upon Our Times runs throughout the festival, with a series of events looking at contemporary retellings of folk and fairy tales, spanning from Harry Potter and Game of Thrones to The Handmaid’s Tale and Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber.  The series explores and celebrates the global and democratic nature of this storytelling tradition through live readings, new commissions and discussions. The latter strand includes Charlene Teo, Daisy Johnson and Rebecca Tamas on the contemporary relevance an democratic value of fairytales, and nordic authors Linda Bostrom Knausgard, Vigdis Hjorth and Mazen Maarouf discussing the thin line between fiction and reality.”

On Saturday 26th October, London Literature Festival presents its inaugural Writers’ Day. Established in partnership with Creative Future, the day welcomes aspiring writers to attend free short talks from authors, editors and publishers, as well as special 1:1 Agent Advice sessions and a day-long writers’ exhibition space. The festival also hosts more masterclasses and workshops than ever before.

alchemymay23. Credit Belinda Lawley

Credit Belinda Lawley

There are also an abundance of family-friendly literary treats, including free events, exploring fairy tales and folklore from a variety of cultures, and Young Adult Literature Day, featuring authors of YA fiction, including Louise O’Neill, Dean Atta, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Muhammad Khan and Laura Bates.

WTC_Baba Yaga_Christine Johnston_Credit_Sia Duff

Christine Johnston stars in Baba Yaga. Credit Sia Duff

Look out for a special one-off dramatic live reading of contemporary retellings of tales from around the world, including works by Salman Rushdie, Marlon James and Angela Carter and newly commissioned works by Daisy Johnson and Charlene Teo,performed by actors and musicians, plus a brand new take on an old Russian folktale Baba Yaga by Windmill Theatre Company and a show based on Michael Morpurgo’s I Believe in Unicorns (pictured top).

In short, have your imagination thoroughly stirred.

For the full programme, visit www.southbankcentre.co.uk.

All images supplied by the South Bank Centre.

A short story – How To Milk An Alpaca

Milk by Judy Darley

I’m so pleased my small, strange, hopeful story How To Milk An Alpaca (a step-by-step guide), has taken up residence with Lunate Fiction.

This gorgeous publication has been publishing some stunning fiction recently, so it’s lovely to know my alpaca-milker has found a home with plenty of lovely neighbours!

You can read the story here.

How writing connects us across cultures and borders

Sydney Harbour Bridge by Annee LawrenceIn today’s guest post, Annee Lawrence, the author of The Colour of Things Unseen, examines the power of fiction to transcend borders and offer insights into communities and landscapes other than our own, with positive outcomes.

Map for Pakdhe Daliman and Uncle John 2012 acrylic on canvas 150x180cm by Ida Lawrence

Map for Pakdhe Daliman and Uncle John by Ida Lawrence

In this painting, the Australian-Indonesian artist Ida Lawrence uses maps and constructed letters to two uncles, one in Australia and the other in Indonesia. One letter is inviting her Uncle John to travel from his village in south-western New South Wales to meet and visit her Indonesian family in their village in Central Java. The other is addressed in Indonesian to her Javanese uncle, Pakde Daliman, inviting him to visit her Uncle John.

Different forms of address are used in the letters which give directions in Indonesian or English on how to get from their respective villages, onto the plane, through customs, what to expect to see along the way, how to get to the other’s village when they arrive at the airport. The tone of the letter to Uncle John is colloquial and even cheeky, while the letter to Pakde Daliman begins with enquiries about her uncle’s health, her aunt, the rice crops, and other family members.

A further painting will offer cross-cultural tips to her uncles and, in a corner of this painting, there is a story about a time in 1921 when the female ancestors on both sides of her family met up in Broome with their respective women’s groups for afternoon tea and swapped recipes and handicrafts made in their respective villages. Ida Lawrence is my daughter.

Volcanoes above the clouds over Java. By Annee Lawrence

Volcanoes above the clouds over Java by Annee Lawrence

Use fiction to encourage understanding

Prior to writing the novel The Colour of Things Unseen (Aurora Metro Books, UK 2019), I wondered why Australians in particular have such little knowledge or even curiosity about Indonesia – the largest of its close neighbours –– and its remarkable history, peoples, cultures, and art; or about the ways in which their respective histories overlap and interconnect.

There are not many Australian novels set in Indonesia, and some poetry, but when I began looking at the novels I found that, even in those that were well written, the Indonesian characters were often portrayed as devious, unknowable and shadowy. They had little or no agency.

The plots seemed to always involve an Australian journalist, tourist or business person arriving in Indonesia and, by degrees, being damaged in some way. They rarely spoke Indonesian, or any of the other local languages, and their cross-cultural understanding remained limited as they were plunged into culture shock.

This led me to consider the way literature – like the media, and perhaps also like the way histories are presented and studied – contributes to and reinforces the demonisation of certain others. Could a different kind of literature contribute to a more respectful engagement between people and countries, and within countries?

View from Borobodur by Annee Lawrence

View from Borobodur by Annee Lawrence

Contribute to ideas of engagement

In my case this questioning is certainly linked to my daughter’s father and his extended family being Javanese, and to having family and friends in Indonesia and in the Australian-Indonesian community in Sydney.

THE COLOUR OF THINGS UNSEEN coverIn The Colour of Things Unseen, my protagonist Adi leaves his family and small village in Central Java to travel to Australia to study art at a Sydney art school. He arrives in early 1997 and later that year Indonesia is hit by economic crisis and collapse. Then, in May 1998, the seemingly entrenched thirty-two year old Suharto dictatorship, in whose shadow he has grown up, collapses and is replaced by a democracy.

Adi comes of age in Australia. As a student he has a foot in both places, but when he marries and becomes a permanent resident his ties to family and village seem to loosen. Fifteen years later he returns, and he finds the place both familiar and strange, but also connected in diverse and surprising ways with art and artists of the region and the world.

The question that arises is what difference this will have on him as an artist living in the present time. And what of his relationship to place as he begins to respond to the shadows and concerns of what was hidden from view in the nation’s history that was fabricated and taught to him at school.

Sydney Harbour Bridge2 by Annee Lawrence

Sydney Harbour Bridge by Annee Lawrence

Make the strange familiar, and the familiar strange

When I came to write this novel I had in mind readers who were Indonesian and non-Indonesian and my aim was to make what was strange familiar and what was familiar strange (to the reader). Above all, though, I was interested in the questions: What is an artist? What can art do? Why does it matter? Can it expose us to new ways of connecting with the unfamiliar and the strange, and with the parts of our respective histories that remain hidden or disguise our links to the histories of others?

I also wondered whether there is a role for all kinds of artists including writers – in a world of disruption, displacement, and the politics of borders, wall building, exclusion and suspicion – to shed light on an imaginative blurring of national borders and boundaries that can show us a plurality of being and cross-cultural connectedness that we have yet to learn to fully recognise and peaceably live alongside.

Annee Lawrence, authorAbout the author

Annee Lawrence’s debut novel, The Colour of Things Unseen, is published by Aurora Metro Books (UK, 2019). Annee has worked as a tutor, writer, editor and community development worker in women’s health, disability rights and a range of social justice issues. Her research interests include the way identity shape-shifts in an unfamiliar place and culture; ethics, aesthetics, alterity and form in the cross-cultural novel; and Australian-Indonesian cross-cultural connection. She completed a PhD in creative writing in 2015 at the Writing and Society Research Centre, Western Sydney.

Annee lives in Sydney and has published in Griffith Review, New Writing, Hecate and Cultural Studies Review. In 2018 Annee was awarded the inaugural Asialink Tulis Australian-Indonesian Writing Exchange which was funded by the Australia-Indonesia Institute and hosted by Komunitas Salihara in Jakarta and Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Ubud.

All photography in this post is by Annee Lawrence.

Read other writing masterclasses in the SkyLightRain Writing Tools series.

Writing prompt – nature

Tree roots by Judy DarleyHowever much we try to force nature to fit into our urban structures, it’s clear that nature has its own plan. These tree roots quietly dislodging bricks in a Chicago city park are a great example of this.

Use this as a starting point for a tale. What happens when humans stop fighting back – how does nature reassert its dominance? Alternatively, consider your own roots. Where, for your family, did the nature vs humans battle begin?

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

Sky Light Rain – collection launch and literary night

Sky Liight Rain launch picI’m excited to share the news that my short story collection Sky Light Rain will be published by Valley Press on 2nd November. To celebrate, I’m hosting an atmospheric evening of readings and music on the themes of sky, light, and rain.

The collection draws on my enduring fascination with the fallibility of the human mind, and examines aspects of human existence, including our relationship to nature and to each other.

The event will take place at Waterstones Bristol Galleries, from 7pm on Saturday 2nd November 2019. I’ll be joined by writers Paul Deaton, Kevlin Henney and Grace Palmer, and indie art-pop musician Hidden Tide.

This is a Bristol Festival of Literature 2019 fringe event.

Tickets are free but limited, so don’t forget to book yours.

Date And Time: Saturday 2nd November 2019, 7pm-9pm.

Location: Waterstones, 11A, Union Galleries, Broadmead, Bristol BS1 3XD

Book your free tickets here.

Writing prompt – sunset

Bristol Docks sunset by Judy Darley

Sunset and sunrise can be pivotal moments in a work of fiction, marking the end or start of an adventure.

Why not place your story’s start at the end of the day, just as the sky transforms with fuchsia clouds? Choose your location with care – this would be a very different experience inside a home compared to on the harbour’s edge, for instance.

Who or what might emerge as the light ebbs away?

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