Think about it for just one precious moment.
Wouldn’t it be an amazing idea to get 16 talented writers to write 16 delectable short stories that are all on the subject of TIME, put them in an anthology, and then read them out on the SHORTEST day of the year (which is also Short Story Day), and have all of this taking place bang on top of the Greenwich meridian?
That’s what the Solstice Shorts Festival pulled off on Sunday the 21st of December. The authors read out their stories (or actors read them out on their behalf) every half hour between sunrise and sunset. Twelve stories had been chosen from entries to a competition that was judged by Cherry Potts of Arachne Press, Alison Moore, Imogen Robertson, Robert Shearman and Anita Sethi. The judges each contributed a story to the anthology, making sixteen stories in all.
There was no way that this much synchronicity was ever going to create anything but a totally wonderful winter experience. And, indeed, it did! It was an engaging, stimulating, warm and wonderful way to celebrate the winter solstice.
Oh, and they threw in some great live music as well. I heard Pepper and Shepherd singing a charming lyric about Lerwick (one of this folk duo is from Shetland – a place which is most dear to my heart, and full of outstanding musicians like this one). Ian Kennedy and Sarah Lloyd not only sang and played in between the stories but also provided inspiring music for one of the free writing workshops. Cherry Potts (of Arachne Press) and Paul Sherreard (Programme Manager at Spread the Word) facilitated the workshop that I went to. It was a new experience for me, writing to live music, and one which I’d like to repeat. It unlocked a writing style that was less linear than that which is stimulated by the usual writing prompts, and the fragments that arose on the page were extremely powerful for each of us around the table. Paul said he might be able to set up some longer workshops using the technique, so watch out on the Spread the Word website if you fancy trying it.
There were other musicians as well, but I didn’t hear them all; there was a lot to do, including having a look around the Royal Observatory – and standing on the Greenwich meridian of course! Well, you’ve just got to, haven’t you?
The observatory sits on top of the hill in the middle of Greenwich Park, looking out over a skyline that includes the shining heft and glistening angles of Canary Wharf (see the photos that begin and end this post). The O2 Centre (or The Dome, as I prefer to call it, being one of the few people who enjoyed the exhibition that it was built to house, back at the turn of the millennium) looks like a UFO that has quietly settled down to the right of this futuristic landscape, as casually as a bus at a galactic bus stop.
So, huge applause for Arachne Press, and for the Royal Observatory, and for the talented authors, of course, and for ALL the other people who made this corker of an idea come to life.
Including me, actually! I was lucky enough to get to know each story in detail by standing in at the last moment for the usual Arachne proofreader, who was away at the time. Which was no hardship. The stories are charming, various, and well worth a read. Buy the book. Now.
There’s no time like the present.
Photographs all taken by Louise Swingler.
Festival Logo produced by Arachne Press. Please do not reuse or copy without their permission.