Stories shared on the #FlashWalk

Cormorant cr Judy DarleyDuring the #FlashWalk on National Flash Fiction Day, ten fantastic flash fictions were shared, all inspired by Bristol Harbour and the surrounding area.

Several have already been published elsewhere, but here is an exclusive opportunity to read four thought-provoking and wonderful tales.

Harbouring Friendship by Diane Tatlock 

I walk with Mother along the harbour side. Calm. Quiet. Galleons stand tall above us.

I see him then. The boy. Men standing round him. Holding him.

I walk with Mother. Slowly. Her skirts swish the cobbles. Her bonnet nods. Her parasol shields us from the bright sun.

I watch. Sloshing water slops over him. Showers his dark skin. He stands. Still. They plunge the bucket again. And again. Chuck the water. Hard. He stands. Still.

Mother clutches my hand and I walk on. She still nods to friends. Smiling. I look back.

They drag his dripping body across the wooden deck. Towards that gaping square. They tip him. Trip him. Let him go. His wet, brown body disappears into the black hole.

Mother pulls me on. Shows me a shiny penny for a bun.

I wonder who he is. What he has done. Where he will go. If he will be raised from that darkness in another harbour. If he will see the sun again.

He could have been my friend.

Johnny Pencloud by Juliet Hagan, read by Jo Butler

Johnny Pencloud by Juliet Hagan, read by Jo Butler

Johnny Pencloud by Juliet Hagan

You, young man! You look strong, and capable enough of hauling a rope or scrubbing a deck. Best keep an eye on who’s behind you, or you may not see home again. The ‘press men are about, you understand. To beat the tyrant Bonaparte, they have the power to seize any man, any man at all, and press him on to the King’s ships.

They took my husband, Johnny Pencloud, fifteen years ago. A fine man he was, eyes as blue as a summer evening, broad shouldered, and hair as black as the coal he used to mine. Mind you, it’s prob’ly grey now.

The morning after our wedding, it were. We lay in our warm bed as the sun shone through the window, and listened to the sounds of the people in the street below.

‘Hot coffee! Fresh rolls!’ shouted a hawker. Johnny’s stomach rumbled. ‘I need some of that,’ he said, grinning. ‘Stay there and don’t move ‘til I gets back.’ He kissed me, put on his trousers and shirt, grabbed a pewter jug, and left. I waited till noon, and sunset, and all through the night, but he never came back. The press men were out on the street, you see.

How could I go back home without him? So I stayed, doing what I could to pay my way, and I comes down here whenever I can, asking for news about him. I come even on the day our babe was born. And on the day she died, too. So, have you heard of Johnny Pencloud?

Your Name is Pero Jones by Ingrid Jendrzejewski, read by Tom Parker

Your Name is Pero Jones by Ingrid Jendrzejewski, read by Tom Parker

Your Name is Pero Jones by Ingrid Jendrzejewski

Nothing is known of you until your twelfth year, when you were purchased by a sugar merchant. You worked on John Pinney’s plantation in the West Indies for 19 years, then accompanied him to Bristol as his personal servant. You had two sisters. You were trained as a barber. You knew how to pull teeth. You visited the West Indies twice after settling in England; after the second visit, it is said you took to drink. You served the Pinney family for 32 years in all, then died around age 45.

Then, you slept.  Nothing is known of you for the next 201 years.  We don’t know where you went, what you dreamt, what has wakened you, but we do know that when you came back to Bristol, something had changed.

Now, you are larger than life. You span the floating harbour. You are raised and lowered by a hydraulic piston. You have grown horns.

And we wonder: for what have you returned? How long will you suffer the footfall of living men? Are you still bound by the grasp of the River Frome, or will you someday free yourself from the line of the river still known today as St Augustine’s reach?

Jo Butler reading A Thousand Words by Gemma Govier

Jo Butler reading A Thousand Words by Gemma Govier

A Thousand Words by Gemma Govier

With her stiletto jammed in the cobbles, she tried to perfect the laidback office worker look, munching on her panini whilst leaning against the stone pillar.  Nobody had warned her about the cobbles and she was wishing she had trusted her instinct to wear flats on her first day.

At the business park, lunch used to be powdery soup in the corner of the canteen, trying to look interested in a magazine while avoiding eye contact with everyone, especially the creepy Mr Summers. Now she had fresh air, seagulls, cheerful crowds and pavement artists. Polishing off her lunch she gave one final twist of the heel and her shoe was freed. Dignity intact, she moved from the shadows into the sunlight and looked over the shoulder of the guy chalking.

It looked just like her hometown. It was her hometown. It was unmistakable with the castle in the background and the church spire just in front. She was about to ask him if he was from there too when she noticed he was working from a small photo.

It was of herself walking through the high street. Not herself now but herself ten years before, holding hands with her old flame, Matthew. It was next to another photo. She was at her local park on a swing as a child, laughing as her sister pushed. In the next, she was at her graduation.

The bass beat from the waterfront bar seemed to be pumping right through her body as she moved round to get a better look at the artist, frantically searching for some kind of familiarity. She must have gone to school with him, lived near him or something, she thought. He was at least twenty years older than herself with small dark eyes, unshaven and had receding hair. She had never seen him before.

As she tried to form the right words he turned to look directly at her and placed a finger on her lips. “A picture’s worth a thousand of them don’t you think?” he said.

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.

Jo Butler and Tom Parker performing On Pero's Bridge by Holly Atkinson

Jo Butler and Tom Parker performing On Pero’s Bridge by Holly Atkinson

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.

 

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!

Write for a Flash Walk

Bristol Harbour cr Judy DarleyFar less seedy than it sounds (depending on the tales submitted), Bristol Flash Walk will be part of National Flash-Fiction Day on 25th June 2016, celebrating fiction in its short and powerful form.

The Flash Walk will take place in the centre of Bristol, and take in the harbour area – a location brimming with stories and inspiration. And your words can be part of it.

To be in with a chance of being included, all you need to do is send us a piece of flash fiction, prompted by some aspect of Bristol’s harbourside area. You can take this idea in any direction you choose, using any theme and any genre, providing your tale is between 40 and 400 words in length.

The selected stories will be shared by trained actors during the walk, so if yours is chosen, all you need to do is come along and enjoy the performance!

The walk begins at 10.30am on 25th June, just outside the main entrance to the Bristol Central Library. It will finish at Corn Street close to St Nick’s Market, between an hour and an hour and a half later.

To be part of National Flash-Fiction Day‘s first ever #FlashWalk, submit your entries to bristolflash@gmail.com before 9th June 2016. There’s no charge to enter, so why not give it a go?