Friday, April 18, 2014

Newcastle Writers Festival - Part 5 - 500 Words, my experience at the Newcastle Writers Festival

How thrilled I was to be chosen as part of a small group of 500 Words Project contributors at the Newcastle Writer's Festival session, ABC Open Reading from the 500 Words Project!
Along with two of my fellow Swansea Library 500 Words Online Writing Group, Judy and Doug, we were to read a chosen piece out loud at the festival.
Some of us got to meet at ABC studios, the Thursday evening before, for a read through. What a diverse and interesting group we were and all so proud to be contributing.
With 14 of us reading, some taped, but mostly reading live, it was going to be a fabulous but tight session.
And so the day came, nerves were there, but I was collecting Doug, 97 and bringing him to the session, so my mind was full of getting him there on time. As we got to Charlestown from Swansea, the rain pelted down in a way that made driving difficult, but we got there and I drove right up the drive out the front of City Hall to drop him and a friend off. This was exciting for all involved, we felt like royalty. Then I set off to find a park, and get back to City Hall without getting completely soaked. I didn't do too badly, though my choice of suede shoes was probably a mistake!
One by one the group assembled, along with Bronwyn, our delightful acting leader and Anthony, our usual leader, who had been on holidays. The excitement was palpable, a heady mix of genuine excitement and flighty nerves. We took our places and went over the running order one last time.
It began with laughs and smiles, and I turned to look at the audience, and the room was packed. It made me catch my breathe, how fabulous!
And so Bronwyn continued to introduce us in small groups at a time, and then my time came, Doug and I  were joined on the stage by another lady, Diana. And I was up.

My story, In the wilds of Africa at night, was in fact my first contribution to the project over a year ago, the theme, A scary moment. I took a breath and began, taking time to look at all the smiling faces seemingly enjoying what I was saying. I speak fast and tried to slow it down, I have no idea if I succeeded, I didn't even look at the screen to my left to see what photos from Africa had been chosen to show. I remember thinking very briefly how wonderful I felt reading what is one of my favourite stories out loud to such an interested audience, despite my obvious nerves. People applauded and I sat back down.

After Diana, they played the video about Doug that had been filmed at Swansea Library. I love the video, despite it having an extreme close up of me in it, it shows how much Doug loves his library and writing experience and at 97 he has a lot to tell us! And then he was up to tell his haunting story of Captain Harry. Watching the audience watch and listen to Doug tell his story was one of the truly thrilling things I have participated in, in my life. The quietness in the room was telling, I could see love and concern and tears in people's eyes for such a wonderful man and such a chilling story. I was trying not to cry myself. It ended with applause, the special kind, that made me feel so proud and happy.

Then we were back in the audience for the final section, including Judy's fabulous story on An act of rebellion

And finally a Q and A, where Doug was indeed the star of the show, answering many questions and telling his tales. What a great mix of emotions the morning was and how proud was I to be included in such a grand array of people and stories.

And what an audience, standing room only, with many people turned away!


Thank goodness for the ABC, where would our cultural history be without them!?!

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