Escape to Port Eliot

Port Eliot Festival cr Michael Bowles

All photographs used in this post are taken by Michael Bowles

Describing itself rather eloquently as “an annual celebration of words, music, imagination, ideas, nature, food, fashion, flowers, laughter, exploration and fun”, Port Eliot Festival brings together some of the best creative talents around and plonks them in the middle of a magical sprawling garden party.

It all kicks off on 27th July, running till 30th July, at St Germans, West Cornwall.

This year’s speakers, performers, mixologists and events include poet Hollie McNish, Geoff Dyer, Three Cane Whale, Salena Godden, Tim Smit, Las Cafeteras, and Martha Tilston, “with a voice like spiderwebbed hollows.” And so many others

There are also exhibitions to be inspired by: In The Round Room, you’ll find Adrift, a combination of art and science, which throws light on the 27,000 individual pieces of debris currently orbiting above us.

Each of the stages have names that seem plucked straight from fairytales: Caught by the River, Walled Garden, Flower and Fodder, The Idler Academy and The Black Cow Saloon being just a few.

Port Eliot woodland cr Michael Bowles

It helps, of course, that the surroundings are some of the finest SW England has to offer, with historical attractions including the oldest church in Cornwall – St Germans Priory Norman church. Natural delights range from the Grade 1 listed park and garden, to the estuary – an irresistible spot for a dusk-glow lantern parade.

Port Eliot estuary cr Michael Bowles

That’s not all though, not by a long short. Look out for the Hush Starry Garden, Philosophy and Psychology Walks, life classes with owls, Survival Wisdom Masterclasses and much more. Once the grounds open, anything can happen – in the word’s of the organisers, “at Port Eliot, as twilight turns to darkness, you may still feel the menacing frisson of the unknown coming night…”

Now, that’s my kind of party.

Night at Port Eliot Festival cr Michael Bowles

Edinburgh Book Festival welcomes word-lovers

Edinburgh book festival gardensThis year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival is on from 12th-28th August 2017, bringing writers and thinkers from across the globe together with a lit-loving audience.

Speakers include Carnegie Medal-winner Frank Cottrell Boyce, who wrote the opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympics), Diana Hendry, The Girl on the Train author Paula Hawkins, Tariq Ali, Mao Dun Prize-winning author Liu Zheyun, and countless others. There’s a chance to have afternoon tea with Yemisi Aribisala, to find out children’s books can introduce philosophy with Alison Murray, Vivian French and Dr Claire Cassidy, plus the possibility of creating a pop up museum with V&A Dundee.
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Ledbury Poetry Festival 2017

Ledbury cr John EagerSome British towns seem better suited to literary festivals than others, and Ledbury in Herefordshire is ideal – with reams of streets and architecture that the word ‘picturesque’ could have been invented for. From 30 June till 9 July, 2017, Ledbury welcomes back its annual Poetry Festival, which promises ten days of written and spoken riches.

This year’s highlights include poetry and mediation day retreats with Maitreyabandhu, Fiona Sampson and Matthew Sweeney, plus workshops led by Sara-Jane Arbury, and salons featuring poet Yvonne Green, with short reading slots available.

Don’t forget to enter the LPF Poetry Competition. Poems must be received on or before Thursday 13th July 2017 at 5pm. Top prize is £1,000 plus the chance to attend a writing course at Ty Newydd (pictured below), the National Writers’ Centre for Wales.

All winners get to read at the Ledbury Poetry Festival 2018 – if abroad there is the possibility of Skyping at the winners’ event.

Ty Newydd

The image at the very top of this post was supplied by John Eager of www.visitledbury.info. The other image was supplied by the Ledbury Poetry Festival team. Many thanks!

Writers flock to Winchester

Stripe Image provided by The WInchester Writers' ConferenceWinchester Writers’ Conference returns next month, offering the opportunity to mingle with writers, hungry agents and lots of other interesting literary types.

Founded in 1980, the conference now encompasses a festival, book fair and  in-depth workshop schedule, as well as masses of opportunities to network with other aspiring and established authors.

Lemn Sissay MBE, poet, playwright and broadcaster, will give the Keynote Address at the 2017 Writers’ Festival on 17 June.

Promised highlights include the festival’s renowned One-to-One Appointments with literary agents, commissioning editors, authors, poets and industry experts. There will also be masterclasses, talks and open-mic readings, all devised to inspire and inform you so you can take the literary world by storm!!

The Winchester Writers’ Conference (writersfestival.co.uk) takes place June 16th-18th 2017.

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

A literary outing in Hong Kong

Mussel shells cr Judy Darley

I’m happy to announce that my short story Preservation has been selected for the Liars’ League Hong Kong night of literary performances on 29th May.

In case you weren’t aware, Liars League is an event that matches short fiction to actors, celebrating the spoken word while giving it some thespian panache! Their tagline is Writers Write. Actors Read. Audience Listens. Everybody Wins.

The evening my story has been chosen for focuses on the themes Prophecy & History. Splendid!

Susan Lavender will be reading my story, which is great news as she previously read my tales Geese Among The Trees and Night Flights in Hong Kong.

The story was inspired by the fact various words about nature really have been excised from children’s dictionary to make room for more about technology. Sad but true. Mussel was just one of the words removed.

I can’t attend, but hope to catch up on the podcast or videos afterwards. It starts at 8pm on 29th of May at Social Room, a loft style multi functional Hong Kong event venue “ideally located next to the Central Escalator.” If by some chance you happen to be in that part of the world that night, do swing by. It should be a fabulous evening!

An insight into Indie Publishing

Novel nights at The Square ClubI’m a big fan of independent presses. Often small but perfectly formed, they often have the courage to publish authors without a proven track record, and discover exceptional writing talent.

Richard Jones, Tangent BooksThis month, Bristol’s premier literary salon Novel Nights welcomes Richard Jones from Tangent Books, to offer an overview of the Indie Publishing world.

Topics Richard will touch on include

  • Current trends in publishing
  • Opportunities for authors
  • Empowering writers

Sounds promising, doesn’t it? I’m happy to say I’ll be co-hosting for the evening, along with Novel Nights founder Grace Palmer.

As always, the night will open with quality readings from local up and coming authors. It takes place on Wednesday 26th April 2017 from 8pm till 10pm at The Square Club, 15 Berkeley Square, Clifton, Bristol BS8 1HB.

Find full details and book your tickets.

Find out how to submit your writing for upcoming Novel Nights.

Reading at Novel Nights

Green Glass by Judy DarleyThis Wednesday from 8pm I’ll be reading my short story Green Glass as part of Novel Night’s romance themed evening. My tale is a bit less hearts and flowers than wavering principles and recycled glass, but at the core of it is a protagonist with a desire to be a better person, and that has to count for something.

Along with our gracious Grace-ious host Grace Palmer, I’ll be accompanied by local writers Amy Morse, Chloe Turner and Kate Dunn, with Rosemary Dun, author of The Trouble with Love, headlining. Can’t wait to discover their interpretations of love!

It takes place at The Square Club, 15 Berkeley Square, BS8 1HB Bristol, United Kingdom. You can buy tickets here: http://buytickets.at/novelnights/78222. Hope to see you there!

Jaipur Literary Festival

Jaipur Literary Elephant

Image © Steppes Travel www.steppestravel.co.uk

What better way to begin 2017 than with a trip to one of the world’s hottest literary festivals?

Founded by William Dalrymple and Namita Gokhale, Jaipur Literature Festival is celebrating its ten-year anniversary in 2017, and takes place from 19-23rd January. From Nobel Laureates to local language writers, Man Booker prize winners to debut novelists, the annual event brings together over 250 authors, thinkers, politicians, journalists and popular culture icons from India and from around the globe, and expects audience numbers to surpass last year’s figure of 330,000.

Writers announced so far include the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Color Purple Alice Walker, 2016 Emerging Voices Award winner Eka Kurniawan, 2015 Man Booker Prize winner Richard Flanagan, award winning lyricist Swanand Kirkire, cultural critic Margo Jefferson, The New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, British-Bangladeshi author Tahmima Anam, NoViolet Bulawayo, the first black African woman to be nominated for the Man Booker Prize and Hyeonseo Lee a North Korean defector living in Seoul, among many other writers from all cultures and creeds. Oh, and Jeremy Paxman.

Bespoke holiday specialists Steppes Travel offer tailor-made visits to Jaipur Literature Festival. Find full details here: www.steppestravel.co.uk/india-group-tour-jaipur-literature-festival/overview

Find full details of Jaipur Literature Festival here. It could be a fabulous start to your literary year.

Blenheim Festival of Literature, Film and Music

Blenheim PalaceI’m always on the look out for quirky festivals to tell you about and this one caught my eye for two reasons – a) the extraordinary opulent surroundings and b) a grand mash-up of the arts, food and politics.

Taking place mainly in the grand surroundings of Blenheim Palace and nearby Woodstock, Oxfordshire, from Thursday 13th to Sunday 16th October 2016, Blenheim Palace Festival of Literature, Film and Music will feature a curious mix of notable talents.

Events to look forward to include an audience with Darcey Bussell, comedy with Maureen Lipman, garden designers Isabel and Julian Bannerman in discussion with Richard E Grant, leading prose and poetry performer Ruth Rosen reading  Keats’s love letters – and that’s just a selection from the first two days!

There are also an abundance of special literary dinners, including one celebrating the 90th birthday of Her Majesty hosted by the editor of fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar, novelist and biographer Justine Picardie, with a menu designed and overseen by  Royal Chef to The Queen, Mark Flanagan, MVO.

And those are just a few of the options on offer. It may only be four days, but they’re set to be jam-packed with inspiration, opinions, intrigue and entertainment.

Visit blenheimpalaceliteraryfestival.com for full details.

Find out more about Oxfordshire, including places to stay, at www.visitoxfordandoxfordshire.com.

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.