Time and Tide – Solstice Shorts Festival, Greenwich

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A little slow in writing about this, owing to the disruption that is Christmas and the New Year!

December 21st, the Winter Solstice, the shortest day, the longest night of the year… It can be the darkest time; or the busiest time, with Christmas – the commercial version of it – just a few days away. But, thanks to Arachne Press, several places throughout the United Kingdom and beyond were lit up by a different kind of celebration – their Solstice Shorts Festival, held annually on this special date. 

The Festival is based around a different subject each year, and story writers, poets, film and music makers are asked to send in their work relating to the chosen topic, in the hope of it being picked for inclusion in the live performance, to be followed by publication in an anthology.

The theme this year was ‘Time and Tide’ – the remit being for work about those who make a living by or on the water, or make new lives across the water, preferably historically based. In keeping with this, the performances would be taking place in seven towns situated on coasts or tidal rivers, with the Greenwich event aptly covering the ‘Time’ aspect of the theme, as well. The other locations were Clydebank, Hastings, Holyhead, Oerias (Lisbon) – yes, Portugal!, Maryport and Peterhead.

Cutty Sark, Greenwich

I was lucky enough to have two of my stories selected for the Festival, with ‘Ballast’ being read at Greenwich, Holyhead, Lisbon and Maryport and ‘Ballast’ and ‘Sea Change’ at Holyhead and Greenwich. And I was particularly lucky to be able to attend the Greenwich Festival, which took place in the Stephen Lawrence Gallery, with very few empty seats! Here, ‘Ballast’ was read by actor Grace Cookey-Gam, while I read ‘Sea Change’ myself. 

Below is a short video of the beginning and end of that reading, to give a taste of the story. I was the only author to be performing their own work at Greenwich, which was quite daunting in view of the fact that all the other pieces were by professional actors, but I was happy enough with my rendition, although I would say it was more of a ‘reading’, rather than a ‘staging’.

Click here to see the video

The whole event was live-streamed, and can be found here (opens in new tab):

The second half of the evening included appearances by the London Sea Shanty Collective, who, at times, had the whole audience joining with their enjoyable – and, indeed, rousing – songs.

This is the second time in the past year I have had one of my stories read by a professional actor, the first being during the awards ceremony of the Chipping Norton Festival short story prize (see earlier post). It’s an interesting experience – almost as if a writer is given the opportunity to see inside the head of their reader, and how that reader interprets the story. This raises the whole topic of how, once a story is sent out into the world, it becomes the ‘property’ of the reader, who ‘owns’ it in their own way. Grace Cookey-Gam read my story beautifully, and, I would say, with more energy than how it plays in my own head. Perhaps that is a reflection of our different natures!

The other locations were also live-streamed (with the exception of Lisbon, which has been videoed), and links to those, along with further details about the entire event can be found on the Arachne Press website (opens in new tab).

And the anthology ‘Time and Tide’, featuring all the chosen pieces, will be published in March, this year.

A big ‘thank you’ to Arachne Press (mainly Cherry Potts, but also her helpers), for all the organization and hard work put in to the entire Festival, and in particular ‘on the ground’ in Greenwich. And thank you to all the event organizers of the other venues, the actors for their performances, and to all the other writers, musicians, for their excellent work.