It seems that Re:Vision has started something that isn’t going to end. On 14th June 2017 all the workshop participants gathered together at Broadway Cinema for a public reading of their work and a celebration of all they had achieved during the series. The reading covered a wide range of contemporary issues, from immigration and nuclear power to faith, gender, sexuality – and more. It’s not easy to sum it up here, because its scope was so broad: it was, by turn, moving and funny and polemical, and it was performed with real conviction. The reading was introduced by Billy Ivory, the award-winning screen writer, who noted something remarkable: he said, ‘What I loved about the evening – and the project more generally – was the level of debate it engendered. From the outset Re:Vision seemed to be a project all about ‘launching’; launching ideas, voices and ultimately argument, so the fact that those reading and those listening, as soon as the event was done, immediately fell into heated debate about the issues raised across the course of the night, felt like a most apposite outcome to me.’
The Re:Vision writers (above) are continuing the debate. They’re creating new work, sending it out for publication, applying for more courses. Extracts from the work they developed during the workshops have already been featured online and in print in Nottingham magazine, LeftLion. Read it here. It seems that, for these writers, there is no end in sight.
Three of them agreed for samples of their work, and their reflections on the experience of participating in Re:Vision, to be published here: Julie Gardner, Meegan Worcester and John Fernandes. Their writing backgrounds are diverse – Julie is about to begin an MA in Creative Writing at NTU, Meegan is currently doing her A-Levels and John is kick-starting his passion for writing again.
I moved to Nottingham in October 2016. It felt like an adventure – I’d sold my house, found a new home for my cat and swapped a five minute drive to work for a sixty minute commute on two buses (too scared to drive around the big roundabout that leads from West Bridgford to Ruddington!). It didn’t all go exactly to plan. The boiler in my new flat was definitely unhappy and by the end of January it had packed up altogether. Fortunately it was a relatively mild winter and it gave me an excuse to go to the cinema a lot. So when I saw that there was an opportunity to attend a series of writing workshops at the Broadway cinema, I jumped at the chance – free writing classes and a free film thrown in. And we got tea and biscuits too! For eight Wednesday afternoons, a group of us worked together – talking, sometimes about difficult, painful, frightening topics, writing, sharing what we’d written, laughing, encouraging, arguing, learning. We were young, we were old, we were confident, we were timid, we were angry, we were sad, we were joyous.
It started something. It’s too early to say where it will go from here, or how long it will last, but I believe that every one of us changed during that eight weeks. For me, it confirmed that my move to Nottingham had been the right thing to do. I made some new friends, wrote my first ever science-fiction story, decided that it was time to retire after forty plus years of teaching and enrolled on a university course. The Re:Vision group of people are part of my Nottingham life – I see them at poetry readings, in books shops, randomly on buses or trams or sitting on a bench in the city centre. We’ve travelled together.
(A short story written in response to the Re:Vision workshop on The Uncanny)
Let me make something clear before I begin. I’m not superstitious and I don’t believe in ghosts. To my mind, there’s a rational explanation for just about everything and it’s important to look at the facts.
So here are the facts.
I’m a middle-aged, middle -incomed, middle-minded (in terms of politics) man. I’m happily married to Lou – we’ve been together for twenty-one years now. We’ve got two teenage boys and they’re good kids , as far as I can tell. They go to school, do their homework, play football at every opportunity and spend the rest of their waking lives looking at their phones.
Our days are mostly predictable – we have our routines. Lou is first up and first out. She a deputy head in a big primary school just outside Nottingham. She works bloody hard – people who think teachers have an easy life don’t know the half of it. I make sure the boys are up and breakfasted, feed the cat, load the dishwasher and then the boys and I leave the house at the same time every morning – 7.45am. As soon as ‘thought for the day’ comes on the radio, we turn it off and leave the house.
At the end of the drive the boys turn left for their bus stop and I turn right for the station.
Being so close to the station was one of the reasons we bought the house. It meant we could manage with just the one car. My office is five minutes walk from Leicester station and our house is five minutes walk from Barrow station (that’s Barrow-upon-Soar – not as well known as some of the other Barrows, but a great place to live, and that’s a fact, since I’m sticking to facts).
The Leicester train leaves Barrow at 7.58am and to be fair it’s usually more or less on time. Sometimes it even leaves the station a minute or two early so I make sure I’m there soon after ten to.
Three of us get on at Barrow most days – me and two women who seem to know each other well. Of course, there’s often other random passengers too, but we three are the regulars.
So that’s my morning routine – Monday to Friday most weeks of the year. But there was one day last year that was different.
It was March – a Thursday. It started off just like normal. Lou left the house soon after seven. The boys and I ate cereal and toast, talked about Leicester City’s chances in the Champion’s League, left the house on time. Walking to the station was just normal. I don’t know what I was thinking about – but that is normal isn’t it – I mean you just think random thoughts and then forget them.
It had been raining so the steps down to the station were a flight of puddles. There’s something not right about the way the water drains from those steps – they’ve always been like that.
I went down the steps and checked my watch – even though I know it will be some time between 7.49 and 7.51 – it always is. I was the first person on the platform – that’s usually the case.
I stood for a few minutes and then the two women came – picking their way down the puddly steps in their high heels. They said their usual good morning and then carried on with their conversation. I try not to listen but, to be honest, they make no effort to lower their voices. I actually know quite a lot about them both thanks to their early morning discussions.
The train was expected on time. The rain had stopped, it looked like it could be a nice day – one of those days when you know spring’s on the way. There was nothing to explain what happened – nothing at all.
Like I said, I’m a rational being. I don’t suffer from nerves or panic attacks. I’m not fanciful – I don’t read poetry or listen to opera. I don’t drink – apart from the odd pint at the weekend – or take drugs. I’m not particularly religious and I don’t even read my horoscope in the Metro.
But, on that Thursday morning, as the train slid into the station at Barrow, I knew, just knew, that I mustn’t get on it. The feeling was so strong that I didn’t ever doubt it. I watched the two women get on, watched as a young man in jeans and an anorak splashed down the steps and leapt on the train seconds before the doors shut, watched as the train slowly moved away, gathering speed as it went under the bridge, watched as it disappeared around the bend.
I stood on the empty platform. I thought about what had just happened. It didn’t make any sense. Already I was feeling pretty silly. I thought about the work I had to do that day and knew that calling in sick wouldn’t be a good idea. I phoned the office and left a message saying I’d been delayed but that I’d be there as soon after nine as I could make it. I climbed the wet steps and checked the bus timetable. The next bus was due in twenty minutes but by the time it had wound its way around all the villages it would be nearly ten before I got to work. I went back down the steps and resigned myself to waiting for the 8.58 – as long as it was on time I could be at my desk by 9.30.
There was nothing else I could do – I sat on the wooden bench and waited. After about twenty minutes passengers for the Nottingham train started to cross the bridge and go down to the opposite platform. I was relieved that there was no-one I knew. Their train arrived on time and I was on my own again. I thought again about my strange behaviour that morning. Perhaps I was having some sort of mental health crisis. And yet, I felt quite normal – slightly anxious about being late for work, understandably puzzled and bemused by my earlier actions, embarrassed in fact. I hoped the same thing wasn’t going to happen again when the next train arrived. I toyed with the possibility that I had developed some sort of phobia about train travel.
A woman and a little boy came down the steps, followed closely by an elderly couple. None of them took any notice of me. I looked at my watch and hoped the train would arrive on time. I decided that the best thing to do was to go to work and say as little as possible about the reason for my lateness.
The loudspeaker announced that the next train to arrive at platform one would be the 8.58 to Leicester. An ambulance siren sounded in the distance. The woman with the little boy smoothed his hair down, smiled at him. The elderly couple moved further down the platform so that they could get on the second of the two carriages. The train appeared, slow already, slowed more, stopped.
I stood back to let the little boy and his mum get on in front of me. The boy smiled up at me, his eyes bright. I followed them onto the train, sat at a table facing the way we were travelling. It felt fine.
The train moved away from the station but soon slowed again, stopping at Sileby then Syston before arriving, on time, at Leicester. I got out, walked briskly to work and arrived at the office just before 9.30. I needn’t have worried about what to say about my lateness – nobody seemed in the slightest bit interested in my arrival. I went to my desk, sorted through the latest emails and everything continued as normal. Even so, I kept thinking back to what had happened, trying to make sense of it. I didn’t say anything to anyone. But, to be honest, I still had this feeling that I was right not to get on the train. I can’t explain it – not that I’ve ever needed to. The day just continued as normal. I bought a local paper on the way home and read it on the train – and when I got in I watched the local news, but there was nothing unusual.
I didn’t say anything to Lou either. She got home late that night – some meeting at school, so there wasn’t much time to chat about stuff. And the next morning – well it was back to the usual routine. And that’s pretty much how it’s been ever since. I don’t think much about it now. After all – nothing happened. Maybe if I’d got on that train nothing would have happened anyway. I guess I’ll never know.
(A poem written in response to the Re:Vision workshop on empathy)
EXTINCTION has gulfed a new war between continents.
X-COMMUNICATED communities avenge capitalist crime with nuclear tendencies, evolving mega cities to shanty landslides.
TOTAL destruction of biome safe heavens turn hazardous upon Humanity’s greedy green thumb, poison hiding corrupt benevolence.
INTERRUPTED family life frozen by missiles, droning clouds with skeletal grey tracks, becoming televised static news coverage.
NOWHERE can we hide from contaminated skies, as governments force pollution masks onto our muffled screams and hope for the best.
CHILDREN now have lunch prepared at food banks, and go back ‘home’ within a country that does not want them there.
TERRFIED billionaires worry more about bank statement figures, than the population of people that need endorsement the most.
INTER-CONNECTED resources now plague the world with fear, as oil prices rise, clean water shrivelling to dust.
OMITTED refugees lose their rights, no matter which constituted land they place their feet under.
NEVERMIND, we will continue to walk blind, and let the big guys figure it out.
The subject areas and contemporary issues raised were interesting and of existential importance; they generated stimulating discussions and personally inspired me to write, particularly about themes I had never considered previously. The writing I have produced have been very personal in its nature and deals with subject matters relating to the human condition which I found profoundly thought provoking – philosophically, psychologically and politically.
The sessions encouraged us consciously to take a creative-critical approach. Instinctively, I am very critical of my writing; I try to be objective about the creative process and my creative output and generally revisit my work after a period of contemplation, as this gives me time to digest and to view the work through another lens, enabling me to see it in a new light and judge it dispassionately.
Prior to attending these workshops, I had not written anything of substance for about a period of nine months, mainly because of time and laziness. These workshops have helped kick-start my interest in writing again. I feel that I have lost my writing voice and style through not having written anything for some time. This I hope will return as I endeavour to continue to write more and more and also to challenge myself to tackle different themes and genres both in poetic and in prose form.
In the past I have written purely as an exercise for relaxation and pleasure. However, more recently, and now from attending Re:Vision, I will investigate the idea of getting my work published and treat writing a bit more seriously. I enjoyed the sessions, they were entertaining, educational and most importantly they were fun.
Älä mene sisaän*: a meditation on Onkalo and the Chauvet Caves
*Finnish for ‘Do Not Enter’
(A poem written in response to the screenings of Into Eternity: A Film for the Future and Cave of Forgotten Dreams)
Stroboscopic flashes of Munch’s ‘Scream’
cringes the cochlea and punches the retina.
through granite bedrock;
stale and heavy,
fighting crazed cobwebs
spun by spiders in psychosis.
An omen and ominous.
will only lead
surface alien; an electron-microscopic image
pitted, veined, crusted like a cancerous organ.
This labyrinth of the subterranean
chiselled by nitro sculptors;
prophesied by esoteric poets.
Their premonitions come alive
as sorry souls descend down
some profound dull tunnel
for a strange meeting;
they listen for distanced
echoes of lost memories
down some passage
they dare not take.
tick tock, tick tock of atomic clocks;
need time to think;
introspection and retrospection;
subconscious silent screams
and deafening screeching from the Geiger.
in this threadbare cavity,
they count their footfalls
and feel and fear the fission,
radiating from the Uranium
Hiding deep within this crypt;
Deep time is time lost;
in deep history is time recovered
and in time future are buried
time past and time present.
deep within limestone cliffs
the Chauvet Caves,
by impenetrable doors.
On the other side
adorned by Picassoesque drawings
like bleached pumice stone,
scratched and coated,
with diaphanous dust of dreams.
Sketches of mythological
creatures, caress the contours
giving the illusion of movement.
Lone image of a vulva,
and an abstraction.
cast by soft artificial lights;
sleep walking spectrals
in monastic silence,
their presence haunts the alcoves;
a chilling brush on the skin;
scent and taste
a scintilla of their essence.
The floor strewn with skull
and bone fragments;
that we should