e17 storywalk

As part of the Words Over Waltham Forest literary festival currently being held, there was an E17 Storywalk event yesterday.

Over two hours an audience visited six venues in Walthamstow and at each they heard a short story created especially to feature the place where they were standing, read out by the story’s author.  the walk was free, but voluntary donations of a suggested £5 were collected for Lloyd Park Children’s Centre.

A couple of weeks ago, one of the authors unfortunately dropped out, and I was aksed whether I’d be interested in taking their place. Rather nervously, I agreed – my reasons at the time purely being to help the group out (of which I only knew one) rather than for myself.

The venue that I was given was Lot One Ten – a curious little antique shop less than five minutes walk from my flat.  Due to current personal time constraints, I literally had about three to four hours to write my story, which I did last Saturday.  So, that was the main obstacle out of the way.

However, the thought of reading my own work out to a group of strangers absolutely terrified me. I tried it out on my lovely mate – but I know he would have said it was good even if he thought it was crap!  I didn’t get a wink of sleep the night before, and woke up a bit sniffly, which didn’t help at all.

It also didn’t help that the others reading their stories out were all ‘writers’ – unlike me!

Filled with trepidation, I wandered down to the library where the walk was due to start.

Reading my story, with the other writers, my venue and the poster

The authors and venues were:

Each group had about 20 in the audience – and it was especially cosy on my one – but we fit everyone in.

The other five stories were fantastic, and I think we all relaxed after the morning group as the readings felt even stronger the second time round.

Poor Ken gave himself the short straw as his was the only outdoors venue. The first time round we were ambushed by a drunk piss-drenched Polish guy who demanded a tenner off the group to make him leave us alone. Luckily he was convinced to leave us alone without getting a tenner!  I’d like to think that it enhanced the colourful atmosphere of Ken’s story.  The scond time round it started raining pretty heavily and the wind really picked up – literally JUST for the time that Ken was reading.

All other readings were pretty uneventful in comparison!

I hope that anyone who did come enjoyed it – unexpectedly, once I’d resigned myself to the fact that I was actally there and just had to get on with it, I really, really enjoyed myself. And I met a great bunch of people, which helps! I’d totally be up for something like that again.

Paekakariki Press are printing a booklet featuring all six stories in the next 2-3 weeks, which some of our audience have already ordered. I’m very excited about this as I see it as my first instance of being ‘published’.

I must say, although he originally got me into this, I couldnt have done it without Simon’s help. He waded in and helped edit my brain-dump first draft and was brilliant at it!

So, despite my fears, it was a brilliant experience – what next?!!?

e17 book clubs – more needed?

ImageYou might have noticed that I post quite a lot of book reviews.  I also post whether I have read the book as it was chosen as part of our E17 Book Club.  I think that this has provoked quite a lot of publicity for our book club as I have received many requests over the last year or so by people who would like to join.

We are obviously a rather literary lot in Walthamstow!

Turnover of members of our book club is rather low indeed – we ‘allowed’ a couple of newbies in when one member left in September, but the number of people asking to join and being turned away is growing weekly.

There are other Book Clubs that I know of in Walthamstow, one that meets at The Mill, the Reading Group that meets at Walthamstow Library and Forest Book Group who meet in Peking Chef.

I am sure that there are probably others, and if you know of them please do let me know.

However, my point for this post was to suggest that maybe someone sets up another Book Club (or two!) in Walthamstow – there are obviously enough people interested to fill them (we have found that about 10 people at any one meeting is kind of the upper limit…and about 14 on the list tends to get 8-10 each meeting).

I have quite a large number of people ‘in my archives’, so, if anyone wanted to set something up, I would be happy to get back in touch with peopel that had contacted me in the past and asked to be put on our waiting list to see if they would like to join.

So, come on, is someone going to stand up to the mark and say “YES! *I* will start organising a new book club in Walthamstow!”.

(PS – we now have no idea who ‘runs’ our book club…once you get a few meetings out the way, the members kind of look after it as one.)

***UPDATE*** Someone has kindly taken on the mantle of setting up a new book club, which will meet once a month at The Chequers.  Let me know if you would like more details.

Also, as per Jenny’s comment below, there is a book club set up that meets in The Castle once a month!

We really, really are a well-read bunch in E17!

e17 art trail (part 2)

Further to my very brief forray onto the E17 Art Trail on Friday, on Saturday I decided to go down to the library to hear some of the artists talking about the works that they have on display there.

We started off with the Knit A Year project, and saw Jay actually finish her last stitches.

The final stitches are cast

You can see her blog here, capturing a year in her life with lots of photos of the yarn she’s used and where she did her knitting. We all wondered what she was going to do next. “Sit down and have a cup of tea”.

Next we moved on to Peter Kyte’s display of photos of Walthamstow Market as he explained the world he sees through his camera lens and gave a talk about how he frames and structures his photos.

Peter Kyte shows his thought on producing an interesting photo

Next we went out into the foyer where Ron Bowman is exhibiting his latest watercolours showcasing “London: It’s places and people”. I stupidly didn’t take any photos of the woork he has on display – but do go and have a look!

Ron gives us a quick demonstration

Even better, he gave us some tips and a quick demonstration, saying “Absolutely anyone can do watercolours – you should give it a try!”.  I beg to differ, I have no creative ability at all!

Next we went to the stairs where Mark Burton and Katherine Green are showing photos of local voluntary and community organisations “Voluntary Action in Waltham Forest“.  I have to admit, this was the exhibition I had mainly wanted to hear the talk for.  I had seen some of Mark’s work before and was once again looking forward to hearing his thoughts and experiences as hearing him talk adds SO much to the actual photos.

Katherine Green talks us through her photos

I had already seen some of Katherine’s work hanging in the Waltham Forest Credit Union and she really manages to get in amongst her subjects and capture some amazing very ‘personal’ shots.

Mark Burton tells the story behind his photos

What I found particularly interesting was that Mark’s photos were about a special day arranged by the Women’s Interfaith Network where women of different faiths spent a day visiting each other’s places of worship.  This was an amazing story, and people kept pointing out how unusual it was to have so many people of different faiths and backgrounds together in that way – and yet as I looked at everyone sitting on the stairs listening, there was such a wide range of races, colours and (obviously) faiths sitting together praising the work!

After that, we went upstairs to where Amanda Doidge was showing some of her experimental ceramic work – this was a piece about Socrates – and it was fantastic hearing her thinking behind the piece, and the process that she went through to create it.

Amanda Doidge explaining her Socrates piece

It really brought the whole thing to life – and even sparked a discussion about Socrates!

Then we were back downstairs to hear from Eliana Parra Rodriguez and her love of colour which has moved her to create some gorgeous colourful abstract pieces.

Eliana and a couple of her pieces

It was great to hear her explain so enthusiastically about how colour moves her, and how the colours she uses are dictated by her moods.

We ended at the bottom of the stairs where we saw the works of Tayyaba (I hope I have spelled her name correctly!  I will have to check today), and her mix of paintings from her home and from the UK – showing great contrasts.

Tabbyah explains her processes and feelings behind her work

It was a great way to spend more than 2 hours, and I think it added so much to our appreciation of the work and experience.  This is one of the greatest things about the Art Trail – it isn’t just about goign around and looking at a few pictures and things, it’s a chance to actually meet the creative people in our community. Loving it!  Now that The Girl is back home, we will be goign around a few places today!

fasting, feasting – anita desai

Fasting, Feasting

I read this as part of my Reading Group with Walthamstow Library.  It was very definitely a book of two halves – or more like a book of two-thirds and then one third, LOL.

The first part of the story centres around Uma, a (now) middle-aged spinster, living in India with ‘MamaPapa’, her parents who never leave each other’s side, thus seemingly one entity.  Uma is the oldest of three children.  Her thick glasses, plain looks, below-average intelligence and lack of knowledge of how to attract the opp0site sex has meant that she has lived almost her whole life in the family home.

The second part of the story follows her little brother Arun, who has gone to study in America.

To be honest, I wish that the story had never split.  I was loving Uma’s story.  The writing was so colourful, so well-crafted, the scenes drawn so vividly that it kind of disguised a lot of how totally depressing Uma’s life was.

In contrast, we are suddenly thrown into Arun’s life where he is staying with an american family during the summer break.  he is quiet and not exactly likeable.  the family are dysfunctional and he doesn’t really enjoy being there.  everything is based around food – the father who BBQs everything, the mother who decides to be a vegetarian with Arun, the health freak son and the bulimic daughter.  It was all very odd.

I couldn’t care less what happened to Arun, there was hardly any reference to his family back in India and there was absolutely no resolution to Uma’s story which had been far more enjoyable and which I had really bought into!

I would really recommend reading the first part of this book, but would suggest people didn’t bother with the second!

Why it was shortlisted for the 1999 Booker Prize is beyond me.

book group whore

Typical book group? There's no beardy-weirdies at the library one!

I’m feeling slightly slutty.

Tonight, I will be seeing another Book Club for the first time – behind my Reading Group’s back.

I am a little nervous, as this is ‘stranger danger’ as I will be meeting new people, and although according to Twitalyzer I am a ‘Social Butterfly’, meeting new people does always give me a case of the bowel cramps, so to speak.

I am really enjoying being part of the Walthamstow Library Reading Group – and I went along to our meeting on Tuesday and we had a brilliant discussion about That Old Ace In The Hole and I picked up my copy of our next book, which is Fasting, Feasting by Anita Desai (which I had never heard of).

However, before I had gone along to my first Reading Group meeting, I had in fact contacted someone from a group that meet at The Nags head in Walthamstow Village – but they break for the summer, and tonight was the first meeting they have had since.

So, I have convinced my friend to come along with me, and we have both read the book (luckily it was a very thin book – but also a very weird one…Andrew Kaufman’s ‘All My Friends Are Superheroes’ – I will review it later).  I am just crossing my fingers that a) other people actually turn up and b) that they’re lovely.

Is it wrong to belong to two groups?

talking in the library 2

The Famished Road

On Tuesday, I went back tot he Reading Group at Walthamstow Library.  I felt a bit bad as I hadn’t managed to finish the book – The Famished Road by Ben Okri.

I don’t often give up on books, but I had got through 40% of it and i’d been pushing myself to read it for about half of that.

I wasn’t the only one to not finish reading it – in fact only one person had read it all the way through and she’d rerally enjoyed it.  I think I was the only one who was so negative about it.  There was too much about the book thast I just didn’t ‘get’.

It won the Booker prize in 1991, and definitely comes in the category of most ‘prize-winning’ books I’ve read, which is that they feel all a bit too ‘worthy’.  A bit like any film that Steven Spielberg has made in the past 12 years – it feels all style over substance and only made with winning in mind.

It is set in Nigeria and based around Azaro who is a ‘spirit-child’.  He was a spirit before he was born, and during the story, I think he was about 7-9, and he sees beings from the spirit world in this world.  He lives in a shack in a compound with his parents.  His mother goes to the market to peddle her wares from a basket she carries on her head, and his father breaks his back long hours every day working in the city as a loader.

There are many political rumblings, with the Party for the Rich and the Party for the Poor both being as corrupt as each other and trying to bribe the people of the compound.

There is also a LOT of violence, drunkenness and poverty, as you would expect in the setting.

But what lost the power of the story for m was the fact that I could never tell when his experiences were real, or when they were in the spirit world.  There were customers at Madam Koto’s bar where he spent a lot fo time, who were all spirits, but then they kidnapped him, and he was bundled in a sack and dumped int he river, and he really did have to walk home with his feet getting all cut as he had no shoes, thus getting a beating from his father.  If the spirits weren’t of this world, then how did they bundle him in the sack?   That wasn’t the only time that I got confused as to who could see what etc etc – Madam Koto seemed to have an agenda of her own, and often hinted that she knew of the spirits, but (apparently) this is never really explored within the book.

I found it very frustrating.  Nothing much happened either, and I finally realised that I hadn’t bought in to the characters at all when his mother was very ill and on the verge of death, and I couldn’t care less what happened to her.  That was really when I decided I should give up and just put the book away.

I wouldn’t recommend this book at all – but I did find it interesting how all of us found it so different.

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