25 May 2010

Carrion writing

So, Chorlton Arts Festival is really in the swing of things, with performance and visual arts jostling to share the limelight, and plenty of poetry and prose if you fancy something perhaps a little more sedate.

Tonight, south Manchester-based novelist, short story writer and fecund blogger Elizabeth Baines will be installed in the lovely bedomed surrounds of Chorlton Library, reading from her work and chatting about the charmed life of the published writer. Well, maybe I'm embellishing that last point slightly, but she will be treating the audience to an extract from her most recent novel, Too Many Magpies. This I'm looking forward to as it's set round our way (where there are indeed a lot of magpies, vying for airspace with quite an abundance of jackdaws) and has been described variously by critics as “moving and compelling”, “beautifully crafted”, “accomplished and thoughtful”. If we’re good, she may also read from her story anthology, Balancing On The Edge Of The World.

Not that I'm name-dropping or anything, but I've chatted to Elizabeth in the Twit-o-Sphere a few times and I recently got to meet her in real life at a Manchester Blogmeet. I thought it would be OK therefore to drop her a line to see what her plans are for later, and thankfully it was. She divulged (whisper): “I'll be reading a new story – which has just been longlisted for the Bristol Short Story Prize and is set in Manchester – and a snippet from Too Many Magpies. I'll also be opening things up for discussion – I love doing these readings, and look forward to what the audience has to say.”

I look forward to it myself! As well as Elizabeth’s appearance, the remainder of the Chorlton Arts Festival programme (which wraps up on Sunday) is packed with literary goings-on. Thursday, for example, sees two book launches in one with poets and University of Salford creative writing lecturer colleagues Judy Kendall and Ursula Hurley. Check out the Chorlton Arts Festival website for full details of all the events and exhibitions.

ADDENDUM 26/05/10: There's a bit of a review of Elizabeth's Chorlton Library appearance, and a wee round-up of other bookish shindigs at Chorlton Arts Festival, written by my own fair hand here on the wonderful Manchester Lit List blog, part of Manchester Libraries' online presence.

21 May 2010

Mode in England

So the annual Chorlton Arts Festival is now underway, having kicked off yesterday. I've been coordinating all the press and PR (no mean feat, I can tell you!), and there's quite a buzz about the event, which celebrates its tenth birthday this year by running for a record 11 days.

Tonight, darlings, the Eco Fashion Show hits the runway (7.30pm, St Clement's), and it's free so I expect to see you there in all your finery. Here are some images from the show's look book - I bobbed in to the recent photo shoot so I could put together a press release (part of which is reproduced below for your delectation). Despite being a totally voluntary affair, the show is all very professional, as you can tell from the pics, which were taken by one of my Chorlton buddies, Sam Fairbrother. At the shoot, I got to meet stylist Charlotte Workman and rub shoulders with star designer Sadia Bashir, who has created red-carpet outfits for Bafta winners and has turned some antique kimono fabric into an amazing corset that will feature on the catwalk as the "wedding dress finale".

Chorlton Arts Festival celebrates its tenth year in style with a fashion-forward show...

Fashion doesn’t have to be throwaway and the Eco Fashion Show aims to put sustainable style in the spotlight at Chorlton Arts Festival. Chorlton’s hippest residents clamoured to claim the covetable front-row seats at the festival’s first-ever catwalk show in St Clement’s Church in 2009, and this year’s will be even bigger and better for the tenth anniversary celebrations. The free event, at 7.30pm on Friday 21 May, is being organised by Charlotte Workman, who says that everyone involved is volunteering their time because of their belief in eco clothing.

Charlotte, 38, lives in Whalley Range and works in the fashion industry. She says: “Having styled the first Eco Fashion Show, I was really inspired by the eco message and the interest people obviously have in sustainable style. I’m putting this year’s event together in order to showcase designers and retailers working in sustainable fashion in Manchester, and to raise awareness of what is available on our doorstep. We have some very exciting collections using recycled clothing, vintage textiles and Fairtrade fabrics. I’m keen the people of Chorlton take away the message that fashion can be responsible as well as innovative and amazing, and I hope they go on to support the contributors involved by buying their unique designs!”

Nine businesses are featured, including Chorlton-based Wowie Zowie and local corsetmaker Sadia Bashir. The other designers are Clothing With A Conscience, Vanisha's Design Boutique, Junk Shop, Love Me Again, Between Threads, Lilly Lewis and Mononoko Couture.

Photography by Sam Fairbrother (www.samfairbrother.com). Styling: Charlotte Workman. Model: Alice from Industry People. Hair and make-up: Sam Parker, Jemma Mcguire and Amy Uzell.

18 May 2010

A moment of fiction #2

Just over a month ago, I collated various information that had been gathering in my dusty brain and treated you to a round-up of all the writing groups, creative zines and general literary wotnot going on in the Rainy City. Since then, I've found out about even more and also have a few wee updates.

Firstly, tonight sees writing group Bad Language gather for their monthly meeting at Nexus from 6pm. Dan and the gang were mentioned in the aforementioned April post, but apart from drawing your attention to their shiny new website, I also need to amend a slight error in the information about submissions: as well as accepting poetry of 40 lines max, BL take short stories, but they should be 2,000 words max, not 200. That would just be silly.

However, not silly at all is a short story of 330 words. See that makes sense. Just ask the lovely Tom Mason, who is behind new venture 330 Words (previous collaborative exploits set up by Tom have included November In Manchester). Everything you need to know about how to contribute is explained here, but, in a nutshell, you take a snap of something that grabs your fancy, use it to inspire a 330-word work of flash fiction then send both words and picture to 330words@gmail.com. Not surprisingly, Words & Fixtures was instantly attracted by the concept of words and pictures, and rustled up a contribution. ("Humour" and "romance" wouldn't have been my choice for tags for the piece, but this has intrigued me, so I'd be pleased to hear other people's thoughts.)

Back to AMOF#1 a minute, and you may remember we were wondering why the Unsung peeps had been so quiet and, er, unsung. Turns out they've been really busy squirrelling away at making a festival! The big day is Saturday 29 May and is hosted by the Contact Theatre. Just like the free bi-monthly magazine it takes its name from, the Unsung Festival celebrates the best local artistic talent in unprejudiced poetry, prose and non-fiction, and includes spoken word, exhibitions and live music. Tickets are £12 (£10 concs).

Also at the Contact Theatre, but this weekend (22 May) not next, is a free workshop for theatremakers called Pen-ultimate, from 2pm to 4pm. Meanwhile, every Monday (except bank hols), the Contact holds free Scriptworks workshops from 5.45pm-8pm with actors helping potential playwrights see how their work would translate to the stage. Email scriptworks@heaven.co.uk for more.

Not to be outdone, the Royal Exchange Theatre holds Writers Exchange, a free monthly group for local scriptwriters to discuss their work, hear from guest speakers and provide each other with support, encouragement, advice and maybe sherry (I don't know - I just made that bit up). All writers are welcome, experienced or otherwise, and you won't be turned away if you haven't quite got around to writing that play yet. If you’d like to join Writers Exchange, email jo.combes@royalexchange.co.uk to find out the date and time of the next get-together.

Now, if you're more of a prose writer, but you're feeling a bit left out as you're coming in somewhat from the leftfield, maybe the Speculative Fiction Writing Group is for you. After a successful inaugural discussion, a regular event has been fixed in the Madlab diary, and the next meeting is chalked up for 2 June between 7pm and 9pm. Between them, the group will be working along the lines of science fiction, weird fiction, slipstream, horror and fantasy.

Finally, If P Then Q are looking for experimental poetry submissions for upcoming books and projects. They are also prolific at arranging readings, mainly at the Old Abbey Inn (which, upon further investigation, appears not to be the Kro in the Computer Centre building as originally thought but this one), but also occasionally elsewhere. The next elsewhere date is Wednesday 23 June from 6.30pm at Odder on Oxford Road, and it's free to get in.

Just so you know, A Moment Of Fiction may well become a regular feature and will be back soon with an edition on zines and another with details of a few writing groups I've heard about outside Manchester. If you have anything you'd like mentioned, just drop me a line at sarahclareconlon@gmail.com

13 May 2010

Warning: flash photography used in this post

Being partial to a bit of art is something for which Words & Fixtures has been known far and wide over many centuries, but how aware are you that the good scribe is also something of a flashmob connoisseur? Yes, it's one of W's myriad secret interests generally kept hidden from public view, like a light under a bushell.

(Ah, how we look back fondly on the flashmob bingo in Piccadilly Gardens, after which we rampaged through the Noble Amusement Arcade taking banned photographs, then swayed our way up Oxford Street atop a sea of cheap cocktails.)

Well, the new flashmob in town is brought to you by the power of an art collective, and a watch battery. Art, flashmob. Flashmob, art. We're sold. We're there. Where? Near Beech Road, that's where. When? Saturday 22 May at 9pm, part of Chorlton Arts Festival, which kicks off next Thursday. All we have to do now is get hold of one of the 10,000 flyers explaining how to make a lantern for the big finale.

Click on the picture, make it big. I like the house in the background. You could be anywhere. Anywhere in Manchester. I like that. Makes me feel at home. Just thought I'd share that little thought.

11 May 2010

Spec savers

Launching tomorrow night is the Speculative Fiction Writing Group. I'm still not sure if it's "speculative" because attendees will merely be discussing the possibility of setting up a monthly writers' group (ie the Fiction Writing Group is speculative) or because the Writing Group will be a launchpad for works of speculative fiction. I'm guessing it's both. Nice ambiguity.

Anyway, if you fancy turning your hand to creative writing with a sci-fi, horror or fantasy slant, hotfoot it down to Northern Quarter hack space Madlab for 7pm to lodge your interest and get your name in the unstoppable Kate "Manchizzle" Feld's little black book. Beginners or experienced writers are welcome.

(Jelly dinosaur by The Natural Confectionery Co. Roooooar. Yum.)

10 May 2010

Setting the zine

I'm being a bit slow at the moment. I admit it freely. I keep getting invited to all these great events and exhibitions, bumble on over to them and have a swell ole time, then just shirk my duties and don't get round to sharing my thoughts with you until days, sometimes weeks, later. It's a bloody disgrace. I'm failing you as readers; I'm letting myself down.

You have two and a bit days to get down to Islington Mill for Stomach Pump, a show which officially gets the Salford Zine Library under starters' orders. Part of the Islington Mill Reference Library initative, the downstairs gallery is open 12-5. Unfortunately the last day is this Wednesday, which cuts things a bit fine, but please don't blame me as it only opened on Friday evening so it's all a bit fly by the seat of your pants which aint got nothing to do with me, honey.

Anyway, it's definitely worth crossing the river for, with loads of zines past and present displaying what a diverse creative underbelly this country has been grooming for many years. All the details are on the blog and if you're unlucky enough to miss the event itself, you can still email salfordzinelibrary@gmail.com to make appointment to go in and see if the lovely Matthew and Craig will show you their wares in their own sweet time.

06 May 2010

Deeds not words

I'm not normally one for deep political discussion (well, not in public, anyway), but the likes of Emmeline Pankhurst didn't go through what she went through as leader of the suffragette movement so apathetic good-for-nothings could sit around whingeing out lame excuses that their vote doesn't count, that it makes no difference, that all politicians are the same... We in the UK are lucky to have a chance to be a part of the democratic process and we shouldn't forget that other people round the globe lose their lives and freedom fighting for such a privilege. Deeds not words, kids; today it's all about deeds not words.

By the by, Manchester born and bred Emmeline is being celebrated until Sunday at Manchester Art Gallery, with a montage of photos of inspiring women. It's good; you should check it out.