You could say that I'm from a mining town in Lancashire. Free from the children’s homes at eighteen years old I attended a local community theatre. I guess I was its bit of rough. I can’t remember how this came about except I enjoyed Drama at school and wrote poetry in my spare time. They took me to The Edinburgh Festival in 1986 where I performed my first play.
Leigh Drama Centre also took me to my first Arvon Writing Course tutored by playwright Chris Hawes and a director. it’s a week long residential in Heptonstall managed by Moira Dooley and David Hunter who both encouraged me to keep on writing. I had at that point published a little chapbook called perceptions of The Pen.
Arvon has four houses, one in Scotland, Devon, Yorkshire and Shropshire. Arvon is the number one residential writing experience in Britain. I have taught about eighteen courses some open and many private like the first I attended. This week I’ve been in Shropshire at the newest Arvon house. It was John Osborne’s home; a mansion tucked into the edge of a forest of Spruce. Each morning I look through my window from thetop of the house and watch clouds lifting from the forest. Fire.
Sixteen independent women came from around Britain. It’s been an extraordinary week for them and a blast to facilitate. My co-tutor Monique Roffey is extremely cool and fun and precise in her work which has been to the benefit of the course. Our styles though very different have complimented each other. I maintain that good clear communicationbetween the tutors is one key element to a successful course.
On the final day we presented Washing Lines. We blacked out the windows to The Ted Hughes Room. The poems and stories from the week were placed upon the walls and on washing lines that criss crossed the room. The lights were turned out and the music played; Samuel Barber’s Adagio for strings. Outside the room each guest was given a torch. The only instruction was that no one spoke. Slowly they entered. A surreal dance bytorch light where white pieces of paper lit up mid air and readers wept. Here is theultimate reading/performance for writer and audience. It has been a good week and I am on the train home.
Here is an endnote. I made a mistake. It should not have been Samuel Barbers Adagio for strings. You'd be right to think it too sentimental. I had forgotton. The last and first time I had done this was at Totleigh, the Arvon house in Sheepwash. The music I chose then was ' Symphony of Sorrowful Songs' By Henry Gorecki. The song included words etched by an eighteen year old girl on the walls of a Gestapo Jail.