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Storybout – Chester Writers at the Chester Literature Festival

October 28, 2015

Last week saw the final week of the Chester Literature Festival 2015 and I was lucky enough to be part of it. Chester Writers, now chaired by Suzanne Iuppa (who is as talented at event organisation as she is at prose and poetry) staged an event titled Storybout as part of the festival fringe. This saw several authors reading out work over several varied and interesting locations.

The first of these locations was very special indeed – on Thursday 22 August, me and my musician friend Nala Rollo were privileged to become the first people to perform to a small group in the current building site that is the brand new Chester RE:NEW Arts Centre. This event was jointly organised by Suzanne Iuppa, Paul Lavin of Chester Performs, and in association with Chester Fringe (and thank you very much to Site Manager Dan for guiding us). This makes us the first people to ever perform in this wonderful new complex, and that’s an honour indeed. It was a bit of an adventure, the whole group having to wear safety boots, goggles, hi-vis and hard hats to enter the working site. We took our place in the space that is destined to form part of the new library. Nala played a few of his own songs (‘Rose in cellophane’ is a particular favourite of mine) and a couple of covers, one ‘Not going back to the harbour’ fitted in particularly well with the story I read, ‘Things the sea brings us’ (which is due to be published very soon in the Autumn 2015 edition of the brilliant Firewords Quarterly).

We then got a private tour around the theatre site, seeing the stalls and stage taking shape.

Next up was Saturday 24 for the full Storybout experience – a whole day of various atmospheric Chester locations, with music and stories from lots of talented individuals (and me again!) The day kicked off early at Becknick’s Wonder Emporium with some wonderful acoustic guitar from a guy whose name I sadly didn’t get, then a charming children’s story of ghosts and griffons from Eva Nienkirchen and a brilliant tale of much less charming children from David Hill (who contributed an equally excellent story to ReVamp).

Then it was on to Artichoke by the canal, a session I sadly missed due to a prior commitment, but I’m assured that Luned DeSimon and Ravi Raizada read wonderfully.

I again met up with the group in The Albion to listen to some original songs and a cracking cover of Peter Greenwood’s ‘Oh well’ by the guitarist from excellent local band Fire Door. Then came some nostalgic readings by Ian Edmonds – sparking a lot of discussion about eleven plus exams! Finally, I read my almost-a-zombie-story ‘This is the life’.

Then there was a break for dinner (during which time I nipped over to Soul Kitchen and did a very credible impression of a Chuckle Brother helping to put up a gazebo – I’d very much recommend people in Chester check out the kitchen and pop down at some point if you can spare some food). After that, it was time for the after-hours section of the night, with an acoustic set from another insanely talented singer/guitarist (whose name I have also forgotten, argh). Luned DeSimon read a surprising tale of holiday love and leaving, I read my latest publication ‘Whole Wide World’ (which is out now to buy in the ever-excellent The Fiction Desk’s latest issue ‘Long grey beard and glittering eye’) and the event ended with a bangin’ full band blues set from Fire Door.

Thanks to everyone who organised, participated in and came to listen to Storybout, and also special thanks to the guys who were taking photos throughout the event (again, my terrible memory fails me for names, but you were superstars).

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