After so many weeks of discussion, planning and preparation, it was with some excitement that we arrived at The Case Restaurant in Leicester’s pretty and historical St Martins to set up for our inaugural event.
The Private Room looked lovely, and the pigeon’s-eye view through the misty rain, over rooftops, turrets and starbursts of street lights, provided a stunning backdrop to the tables set out and dressed up in their white linen finery.
I was relieved when people began to arrive and soon the room was buzzing and humming with animated conversation between writers and readers – a great mix of guests, both familiar faces and new – causing my excitement levels to rise even further.
I was more than relieved to see Cathy Galvin, founder of The Word Factory, and our brilliant film-maker Peter Clarke of Tangent Films, arrive just in time after having railed against British Rail for making them cross our blessed country, extending their usual journey time from London to Leicester by a hair-raising three hours! Likewise it was great to meet Alexa Radcliffe-Hart – Word Factory associate editor – and her partner, who had to tangle for far too long with Leicester’s one-way system, and likewise arrive just in time, if slightly damp and frayed at the edges, but with smiles on their faces.
Cathy introduced the evening, explaining a little about what she and our associates do, alongside some of our plans for the future. We do intend to hold more events, starting up again in the New Year, and we will be announcing details very soon. We also hope to set up a mentoring programme for emerging writers in the Midlands, placing them with some of the extraordinarily talented and generous writers and tutors that we are fortunate enough to have on our doorstep.
Our first reader was Rod Duncan. Rod’s published work to date has been concentrated within the ‘crime’ genre. This evening he read to us something quite different; a very lyrical and moving piece that was, in many ways, a love story. We journeyed with him, totally caught up by his beautifully drawn characters, and as he brought us to closure on the word ‘grief’ I spotted (through a bit of a blur) many a non-dry eye. I found the story powerful, earthy and sexy and the sense of emotion and place evoked in less than 2,000 words a powerful reminder of the urgent poignancy that can be achieved by the form when utilised to its full potential. I could have dropped a box of pins and no-one would have heard a thing.
Our second reader was Jonathan Taylor. He read to us from his short story collection ‘Kontakte,’ newly published by Roman Books. One thing that Jonathan manages, and always with such a deft touch, is to inject a fine energy and humour into his writing. I first noticed this in his poetry, and later in his novel, ‘Entertaining Strangers’ and it was great to see it emerge in many of the stories in this collection. Do not, however, expect slap stick or a barrel of laughs. No… Expect a slow release of wit and wry observation and a large dollop of empathy and understanding. His world is often dark, sometimes odd, perhaps at times uncomfortable, and it’s always very, very human. Jonathan read us two stories – Kontakte and Classical Selection – and led us ably into the break.
Our third reader was Jacob Ross. Jacob read to us from his second short story collection ‘A Way to Catch the Dust,’ and treated us to an extract from the eponymous story. Jacob’s ability to take you straight to the heart of the place, the heart of his characters, the heart of the matter, was perfectly realised in this piece. His writing is at once musical yet matter of fact, ethereal yet grounded, mythical yet wordly, and we were all mesmerised by his superb reading of this delicate and tender tale of a woman washed up in the wave of a storm only to be returned, in sadness, to the peace of the world from where she so magically appeared, and to where she ultimately belonged.
Our final reader was Alison Moore. Alison read us three stories; two from her collection ‘The Pre-War House’ and one from the anthology ‘Red Room – Stories inspired by the Brontes.’ We heard ‘Humming and Pinging,’ her first prize winning story, ‘The Egg,’ the last to be written for this collection, and ‘Stonecrop.’ Alison is an expert on giving the reader just as much as he or she requires in order to fathom out the hidden truths and depths of her character’s dilemmas. I had read the first two stories off the page, and during this reading was able to really enjoy the subtle twists of these very nuanced tales. I do hope the listeners were able to glean the same, while hearing these stories for the first time. I recommend both collections to you.
In fact I recommend all and anything by all and any of our authors. They were/are all utterly brilliant. For a full biography and bibliography please click on our ‘about’ page here.
Jonathan and Alison sold fifteen books between them, which I think admirably illustrates the standard and content of the readings. If Jacob and Rod had brought along some books too I’m sure we’d have easily doubled that total.
I would like to thank David Hartshorn of The Case for his splendidly stylish venue and looking after us all so faultlessly.
I really enjoyed myself and I do hope that everyone else did too.
I would love to hear comments from any of our audience, either here, or on our face book page, or by email. We welcome your feedback, your suggestions, your criticism and of course, your praise.
If you would like to be informed of future events, our mentoring programme, our courses, our master classes and any future collaborations, please leave your contact details in the comments box and we will add you to our mailing list.
I hope to see you all again, very soon,
Love Lindsay x
(P.S. I apologise for there being no photos of Alison Moore reading… Jacob Ross was the snapper and must be given all credit for the pics above – other than the one that I took of him – and I was still in charge of the photographic equipment when Alison took the stage. I do declare that I was so caught up by her reading I simply forgot my duties. You will have to believe me when I say that she looked poised and elegant throughout…)