Monday, 18 October 2010

Random Acts of Literature: Flax Day

It was always going to be a risky affair - although I don't think I fully appreciated the depth of uncertainty until the day itself.

Having asked all the Flax writers way back in January, or sometime last millennia, what they fancied doing for the annual Flax picnic I sifted through the various replies and came up with what I thought responded to virtually everything people said (even the translation suggestion if you consider a response to Storey Gallery's current exhibition as 'translation' - I know I know, Ian, that wasn't exactly what you meant...)

And then I went back to the writers and asked who would like to take part in scattered readings around The Storey, followed by lunch, followed by a collaborative writing hour, followed by a performance of whatever they'd just written. To my surprise 13 out of the 60 odd writers said they'd love to. The 2010 Flax Day was born.

Random Acts of Literature was advertised and we had a 'greeter' at the main entrance to The Storey to let visitors know what was happening in the building for the hour the (now eleven) writers were doing their stuff:

There were not so many visitors between noon and 1pm, but those that were innocently eating lunch or visiting the gallery seemed to enjoy what they heard. Bursts of appaluse bounced up the satirwell and down corridors.

And the writers did a brilliant job of supporting each other in what was a daunting prospect of guerilla readings, and a real sense of solidarity grew throughout the hour - or at least from where I was standing (or scuttling, organising lunch). Which I hadn't bargained for, but was a great foundation for the next stage of the day - writing something to read together at 3pm.

Another big deal. But again. They rose to it. And some told me afterwards - somewhat surprised - that they even enjoyed it. They'd selected words to all work from, including, moths (continuing the theme of pets, pests and prey of the exhibition), shabby and errr errr... well, I wasn't there.

So at 3pm I collected them from the writing and we trooped up to Storey gallery, where the artists of the exhibition, Uncertainty in the City (apt title for the day) were holding a symposium. We were due to slot into their afternoon teabreak, but had a few minutes to wait for this, so some took advantage to listen to more of the exhibition.

They slotted like moths slotted. Frittered and flickered between the eleven voices that read their pieces overlapping, then individually, and finally flutteringly, overlapping again. Tremendously moving, strangely. Or perhaps I was knackered. But the audience clearly enjoyed the performance (which unbeknownst to us was webbed worldwide live so lordy only knows who else heard it and what they thought).

For me, while this final performance was the natural culmination of three hours hard work, what was the real joy of those three hours was seeing writers who have all been published by Flax (and therefore very very diverse writers) come together, enjoy each other's company and collaborate on a small improvised project that was particular to that day, that place and those people.

Thank you, Elizabeth Burns, Mark Carson, Annie Clarkson, Kate Davis, Brindley Hallam Dennis (sorry you managed to completely avoid the camera), Rosie Garland, Cath Nichols, Gill Nicholson, Claire Massey, Carla Scarano and Ian Seed for being so game and positive and up for it.

And thank you, Simon Baker, for taking all these great pics of the day. And Sandie and Jan for being such superstar help to ensure everything ran smoothly.

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