Poetry in motion

Track Record_Severn Beach_Photo by Judy DarleyOn Saturday 13th July 2019, a very special train departed from Bristol Temple Meads station. Passengers collected their tickets and headphones from conductors escaped from an earlier era and made their way to Platform 1 (and three quarters, presumably), where poet Elizabeth Parker ushered into the central carriage.

This was the beginning of Track Record, an event harnessing the poetry of The Spoke – Paul Deaton, Elizabeth Parker, Robert Walton and Claire Williamson, simultaneously elevated and grounded by Eyebrow musicians Pete Judge and Paul Widens.

Track Record_train journey_Photo by Judy Darley

Poetry and trains make perfect sense as a pairing – something about the transient scenery and the rhythm means that they feed into each other as a form of literary symbiosis.

In the half hour journey between Bristol Temple Meads and Severn Beach, we listened to atmospheric recordings of the poets sharing verses inspired by the stations we were passing through, the people and wildlife who pass through, and memories from their own lives. Between or behind the words, Eyebrow’s sonorous trumpet and drums duo painted textures against the poets’ words and wove beneath our skins.

And all the while, the views: city streets giving way to wastelands, fields, industry’s sculptural effigies and the glorious sweep of the tidal Severn.

From Temple Meads to Lawrence Hill, memories of Stapleton Road, a chance encounter at Montpelier, from Redland to Clifton Down, Sea Mills, where we were joined by a Poplar Grey moth, to Shirehampton, where the moth disembarked, and onto Avonmouth’s metallic giants, St Andrew’s Road and the estuary’s feathered ebb and flow,
to Severn Beach.

Track Record_train journey_Avonmouth7_Photo by Judy Darley

Avonmouth seen from Severn Beach train line

Favourites for me included the conversational poem read almost as a list of observations by Robert and Elizabeth near the journey’s start, Paul’s Chicaning and Sweeps of Time between Sea Mills and Shirehampton, and Claire’s Migrations as the estuary stretched before us, shining.

The limited edition CD and booklet of Track Record published by Mulfran Press will be launched at St George’s Bristol in the Glass Studio on Saturday 7th September 2019. Buy tickets.

Escape to Port Eliot

Port Eliot Festival cr Michael Bowles

All photographs used in this post are taken by Michael Bowles

Port Eliot Festival brings together some of the best creative talents around and plonks them in the midst of a magical sprawling garden party. Irresistible.

Enticingly, they say: “Our home is your playground for one magical weekend and nothing makes us happier than seeing you explore the Estate. Whether you’re swimming in the estuary, catching a literary star on the Bowling Green, rocking out at the Park Stage, canoeing on the river, catching an intimate gig in the church, watching a cooking demo on the Flower & Fodder Stage, a fashion show or dancing ‘till the wee hours in the Boogie Round – our home is yours for the weekend.”

It all kicks off on 25th July, running till 28th July, at St Germans, west Cornwall.

This year’s speakers, performers, mixologists and visionaries include Simon Armitage, Lily Allen, JoJo Mehta, Ben Okri, poet Iona Lee, Stephanie Theobald, Hafsah Aneela Bashir, Sir Tim Smit of the Eden Project, and so many others.

Don’t miss Frisbee Tree Golf, a new show by Ben Moor.Port Eliot woodland cr Michael BowlesFind full details of all the mysterious and mind-boggling goings-on.

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Heading to the Flash Fiction Festival?

Bee sheltering from April shower. Photo by Judy DarleyThis Friday marks the start of one of the hottest UK-based events for fans of intense, bite-sized fiction – the Flash Fiction Festival.

Taking place at Trinity College, Bristol, it promises a high calibre assortment of workshops, readings and talks from the field’s finest literary luminaries.

Stellar attendees are too many to mention, but include Vanessa Gebbie, Kathy Fish, David Gaffney, Meg Pokrass, Jude Higgins, Ingrid Jendrzejewski, K M Elkes, Santino Prinzi, Carrie Etter, David Swann, Michelle Elvy, Nod Ghosh and Nuala O’Connor.

I’ll be attending as a volunteer, which means I get to relish as much of the festival as I can fit around bar shifts and so on. I’ll also be reading my flash Skip Diving at the Friday night launch of the National Flash Fiction Day anthology 2019, And We Pass Through.

Hope to see you there.

Preservation resurfaces at Liars’ League Hong Kong

Mussel shells cr Judy DarleyWay back in 2017, I was happy to announce that my short story Preservation had been picked to feature at a Liars’ League Hong Kong night of literary performances.

I’m pleased to say that this story has now resurfaced for a special ‘Best & Brightest’ event, to take place on Thursday 30th May. The evening is part of the Hong Kong Spoken Word Festival, and will showcase “a selection of some of the best pieces performed at Liars’ League HK.”

How lovely! My story is one of eight pieces selected for the evening.

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.

Susan LavenderPreservation will again be performed by actor Susan Lavender (pictured left)The story was inspired by the fact various words about nature have been excised from children’s dictionaries 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 at The Jockey Club Studio Theatre, Hong Kong on 30th May 2019.

Find details and book your tickets here.

Guernsey Literary Festival 2019

Guernsey Literary FestivalFancy flitting over to the Channel islands for a long weekend? The Guernsey Literary Festival, which takes place from 1st-6th May 2019, offers the perfect excuse for a peaceful retreat. Over the four days there’ll be creative talks, workshops, film screenings and family story sessions.

GuernseyThe line-up includes an array of expert wordsmiths, including Terry Waite, journalist Lucy Siegle, poet Lemn Sissay, and author Patrick Gale. Libby Purves will talk about her writing and her long career in radio, and award-winning poet, writer and editor Joelle Taylor will shine a light on the art of the poetry slam along with Andrew Hislop and Lawrence Stubbings.

Dr Lucy Christopher, internationally acclaimed academic, teacher and writer of YA fiction, will lead a workshop on developing an authentic teenage voice and offer the chance  indulge in serious creative play.

Other highlights include Lionel Shriver reading from her first ever short story collection, Property.

The festival will mainly be based in Guernsey’s capital St. Peter Port. Venues include hotels, the inflatable Literary Festival Hub and, especially intriguing, Hauteville House, where Victor Hugo wrote Les Misérables. Event tickets are bookable at www.guernseyliteraryfestival.com where you can also find the growing diary of events.

Enter the NFFD Micro Fiction Competition

Sweets by Judy DarleyI’m excited to be one of the judges of the National Flash Fiction Day micro fiction competition 2019, along with the marvellous Diane Simmons, Angela Readman and Kevlin Henney.

We’re hungry for your most finely crafted, resonant unpublished words. Disturb us, discombobulate us, turn our expectations upside down and make us regard the world anew, or draw us into a life and move us, all in only 100 words or fewer.

The deadline is Friday 15th March 2019, 23:59pm GMT. You’re invited to submit up to three flash fictions on any theme.

Titles aren’t included in the word count.

First prize is £75.

Second prize is £50.

Third prize is £25.

The winning and shortlisted authors will be published in the National Flash Fiction Day 2019 anthology. Winning and shortlisted authors will also receive a free print copy of this anthology.

Find full competition rules and entry fees here.

You can read my interview with Diane Simmons, in which I talk about what I’m hoping to see in submissions, here.

I can’t wait to read your submissions. Good luck!

Imaginative city

Waterstones Bristol. Photo by Judy DarleyBristol Festival of Literature begins on Friday 19th October and runs until Sunday 28th October, with a variety of imagination-stirring events taking place across the city. I’ve written about it for The Bristol Magazine, and can’t wait to dig into the riches promising to well up.

You can read my feature in the October print edition, or online here: https://thebristolmag.co.uk/word-on-the-street-bristol-festival-of-literature/

Jari Moate. Photo by Paul Bullivant

Jari Moate. Photo by Paul Bullivant

I’ve already got my tickets for two of the highlights I mention in the piece The first of these is Festival founder Jari Moate’s launch of his novel Dragonfly, taking place on Saturday 20th October at Waterstones, the Galleries. It starts at 7.30pm. Tickets are free but need to be booked here: www.bristolliteraturefestival.org

The second is the very last event of the festival – Finding the Positive –Dystopias and Utopias in a Changing Climate.

This CliFi (aka Climate Fiction) workshop is from 2-5pm on Sunday 28th October at Bristol’s YHA, and promises to offer insights into how we can share stories of our changing climate and inspire action in a positive way. I’m looking forward to soaking up plenty of inspiration!

Bristol Writers Group in Redcliffe Caves1. Photo by Paul Bullivant

Bristol Writers Group in Redcliffe Caves1. Photo by Paul Bullivant

Lots of other intriguing happenings are unfolding throughout the days of the festival, including Dark Confessions with Bristol Writers Group and friends. I’m one of the friends and looking forward to sharing my story Tunnelled in the setting that prompted it – Redcliffe Caves. Find out more and book tickets here.

And if you make it to anything on the Festival calendar, let me know how you get on!

Got an inspiring event, venue, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send an email to judydarley(at)iCloud(dot)com.

Blenheim Festival of Literature, Film and Music

Blenheim PalaceTaking place mainly in the grand surroundings of Blenheim Palace and nearby Woodstock, Oxfordshire, from  11th-14th October 2018, Blenheim Palace Festival of Literature, Film and Music offers up an eclectic mix of notable talents.

Authors and speakers to look forward to include novelist Esi Edugyan, entrepreneur Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, biographer Judith Mackrell, and noted jumper-wearer Giles Brandreth.

The exquisite setting is as much a part of the attraction as the famous names. Enter The Orangery to see actors Caroline Langrishe and Adrian Lukis perform some of Jane Austen’s most beloved characters, while vocalists and musicians, including harpist Camilla Pay and soprano Rosie Lomas, bring the era to life.

Step into The Indian Room at Blenheim Palace with curator Nino Strachey for an insight into the Bloomsbury Group homes of Virginia Woolf, of her lover Vita Sackville-West, and of Vita’s cousin Eddy Sackville-West, and how their design choices “reflected changing social and moral attitudes towards sexuality and gender in the 1920s and 30s.”

And encounter weird and scandalous flora-behaviour with Author, artist and botanist Dr Chris Thorogood in The Malborough Room.

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.

Micro-Fiction competition invites entries

Buttons cr Judy DarleyI’m a fan of flash fiction that packs an emotional wallop ­– such a challenge to achieve in only a handful of words!

National Flash-Fiction Day returns on 16th June 2018, and celebrates this short-short form in all its glory.

As part of the build up, their annual Micro-Fiction competition is open for entries of 100 words or fewer. There is no minimum word count.

The deadline is 23:59 (UK time) on 17th March 2018, so you just have time to string a few powerful, carefully selected words together. No problem, right?!

This year, entries are free. You’re invited to submit up to three flash fictions on any theme.

Find competition rules, terms and conditions, and the full list of prizes at nationalflashfictionday.co.uk/comp.html

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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 eleven years old in 2018, and takes place from 25-28th 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.

Speakers and performers taking part include Amy Tan, Anthony Horowitz, Helen Fielding, Julia Donaldson, Kathy Reichs, musician Zakir Hussain, and countless others.

Keen to take part yourself next year? Contact the organisers through the website to find out more.

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.

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