This time last year I had never even read at an open mic event. Just last week, on 16th June, I was hosting one – and I had the time of my life!
When my friend and fellow writer, Alycia Smith-Howard, asked if I’d collaborate with her on the Shakespeare 400 project for St Mary’s Church, Warwick, I was more than a little bit daunted. But having worked with Alycia previously on a National Poetry Day event at Charlecote Park, I was delighted at the prospect of working with her again. I was also very excited to see myself listed in a programme of events that included some very illustrious names from the world of Shakespeare and the theatre – including Dame Judi Dench!
The brief for Words! Words! Words! was deceptively simple: an open mic event, linked into the exhibition of the Shakespeare First Folio and King James Bible at St Mary’s, featuring local writers and poets reading work inspired by Shakespeare and/or The Bible. I started off by trying to write something myself:
‘Cry no more, babies. Cry no more…’
Way too silly, but perhaps I could do something on the theme of The Seven Ages of Man – or Woman. So next I thought about the school boy, or school girl:
‘By the pricking of my thumbs, Year 4’s sewing this way comes…’
Hm. It wasn’t looking good and things went from bad to worse with my next effort:
‘Shall I compare thee to an easy lay…’
I decided I needed to take a more considered approach and started work on Monty and Jules, a story inspired by Romeo and Juliet.
In the meantime, I contacted some of the talented people I’ve met over the past couple of years at festivals and workshops and challenged my fellow StoryVine writers to create something for a more mature audience. With the help of the Warwick Words Festival, the word spread to poets in local writers’ groups. Then leaflets and social media did the rest.
And what a night we had. In Warwick, The Globe’s Helen Jones couldn’t have been more welcoming (more about The Globe here). We were provided with a beautiful venue, a lovely panelled room with a magnificent period fireplace. All the writers involved came up trumps with a really diverse range of offerings: poetry, short stories, an extract from a novel, a short dramatic sketch, creative non-fiction (that was a new one for me, but I loved it), and a song. We were even joined by local potter, Carey Moon, who brought a selection of Shakespeare inspired mini-bowls to add to our offerings – see more of Carey’s work here.
The weather outside really was frightful (there was torrential rain, thunder and lightning, hailstones – you name it), but the readings were delightful and the room was packed, despite the weather. OK, it was rather humid and we all got a bit warm and sticky (well, I certainly did), but it was a great night – as you can tell by the smiles on our faces.
Jenefer Heap, Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn and Jacci Gooding
All the contributors provided a few words of introduction for me to use on the night, some have websites and there were a few cameras in the room. With apologies for the varied quality of the photographs, and with everybody’s permission, this was the running order:
Terri Daneshyar writes and performs stories for children and is a member of StoryVine writers group (read more about StoryVine here). She is currently working on a young adult novel. By day she teaches English at a local secondary school, which may become apparent as you listen to her offering.
In recent years Dinah Smith has been writing poetry from the experiences of a long life. In 2011 – 2012 she was named Warwick Words Poet Laureate. Read more about Dinah here.
Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn writes novels, short stories and flash fiction. Her third novel, ‘The Broken Road’, was published in 2015. ‘Unravelling’, published in 2010, has won several awards. ‘The Piano Player’s Son’ was published by Cinnamon Press in 2013, after winning their novel writing award. Lindsay has an MA in creative writing from Bath Spa University. Read more about Lindsay here.
Liz Jolly lives and works in Warwick and regularly reads her words at open mics in the Midlands.
Pam Wray is a member of Stratford-upon-Avon Writers Circle. Down the years she’s dabbled in all sorts of writing, including short stories, poems and song lyrics, and she’s hoping that one day soon, she’ll become an overnight success. Currently, her work is published in anthologies, and in women’s magazines.
Jane Scott wrote her first book, ‘Jane’s Book of Poems’ at the age of nine. While her children were young, she wrote pantomimes to raise money for the PTA and has since written many humorous poems and monologues for village events. These days, Jane writes, acts and directs for the Barford Drama Group.
Nick Le Mesurier is a playwright, occasional poet, short story writer, researcher, and blogger about birds and culture. He has had monologues professionally performed. He writes for a Coventry based charity that helps musical and other developing artists nurture their skills through performance.
Alycia Smith-Howard discovered Shakespeare when she was six and never looked back. Currently training to be a priest, she is also a writer, scholar and lecturer. Her greatest joy (husband and son excluded) is combining these roles as curator for Shakespeare 400. Alycia has written two books about the Bard, including a cookbook! Read more about Alycia here.
Having learnt to type on an old Olympia typewriter, Jacci Gooding is now celebrating all that modern technology has to offer and will be e-publishing her first collection of short stories in October. She too has won a competition and would like to win some more! Read more about Jacci Gooding here.
Nigel Hutchinson trained as a fine artist, spent his working life as a teacher and always loved juggling with words. Georgia O’Keeffe said she painted to say things she had no words for, writing poetry is the opposite.
Sue Newgas works Front of House at the RSC which provides plenty of material to write about the Bard. “When you see each production at least 30 times, you get to know the plot!” she says. Sue’s also a part of StoryVine children’s writing group (read more about StoryVine here).
Gwyneth Box’s writing explores the borderlands between translation and creation, and between memoir and invention. Although personal experience often provides the raw material for her writing, she believes that real life only serves as a stepping-stone to the poetic: facts can – and should – be sacrificed if they get in the way. Read more about Gwyneth here.
Vivien Heim has always loved reading but it was only after a bruising love affair, and on the advice from some friends to write as a kind of therapy, that she decided to write in earnest. Once she’d started on her first novel, she just couldn’t stop. She’s now well into the sequel and plans to complete this plus an accompanying cookbook by the end of the year. Read more about Vivien here.