ZOOM and doom combine in Exploring And Creating Gothic Fiction, a Halloween masterclass with Dr Kevin Corstorphine, run by the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, on October 31 at 11.30am.
“This two-hour online session for adults will introduce participants to some of the main ways of thinking about horror in fiction and film, including sections on cutting-edge research in the field,” says the University of Hull lecturer in American Studies.
“It will also be an inclusive discussion, with all views welcome, as well as a chance to talk about your favourite examples of the spooky and macabre. Creative writers will find useful tips to get the most out of the genre in their writing.”
Dr Corstorphine, who has lectured in English at the University of Hull’s Scarborough campus too, teaches undergraduate modules including American Gothic and has supervised several PhDs on the subject.
He is a researcher in horror, gothic, and “weird” fiction and has published widely in the field, latterly editing the 2018 Palgrave Handbook to Horror Literature.
To book for this £10 masterclass, go to: https://www.sjt.uk.com/event/1105/exploring_and_creating_gothic_fiction
The SJT recommends: “It will help if you can find somewhere in your home with a good internet connection, and if you have some, use headphones, ideally with a built-in microphone, as this will help reduce feedback during the session.”
OCTOBER 1 is National Poetry Day and the word is: Explore York Libraries and Archives will mark it “in a very special way”.
Explore is launching a project to help everyone to make sense of this very strange year by asking you to send in poems and drawings that will create “a lasting record of what has happened in our lives”.
The project, World Turned Upside Down 2020 #haiflu edition, takes inspiration from spoken-word artist Liv Torc’s pandemic poetry initiative, Project Haiflu, and community artist Stephen Lee Hodgkins’ interest in York’s printing heritage.
Explore is asking you to send two haiku or #haiflu poems on the topic of No News and Strange News but with a flavour of lockdown. If you prefer to portray your thoughts and feelings visually, you can send in a doodle or cartoon instead.
Throughout October and November, Explore will be hosting free online haiku workshops with poets Janet Dean and Penny Boxall and doodle workshops with Stephen Lee Hodgkins.
The first two workshops will be on National Poetry Day itself. At the beginning of November, Project Haiflu originator Liv Torc will present an exclusive online talk and poetry show, Haiflu Ever After.
After the November 30 deadline for submissions, 20 pairs of #haiflu and 20 doodles that reflect York’s Coronavirus experience will be chosen for inclusion in a book. Hodgkins will create a 20-page limited-edition chapbook printed in the traditional way on handmade paper.
Each contributor to the final piece will receive a copy; every library in York will be given one too, and a copy will be lodged in the Explore York archive, alongside the original World Turned Upside Down Chapbook from 1820.
You can find full details and more information on how to take part in the project on Explore’s website, www.exploreyork.org.uk, and book the workshops on their Eventbrite page.
In addition, Explore has made a short film about the project, to be posted on their YouTube channel at 11am on National Poetry Day.
What is Project Haiflu?
AT the beginning of lockdown in March, spoken-word artist Liv Torc posted on Facebook to ask how her friends were feeling when life-as-they-knew-it stopped.
She wanted them to tell her what they had noticed, either in haiku form – a three-line poem with five, seven and five syllables and no rhyming – or by posting a photograph.
She brought words, pictures and music together in a weekly film and Project Haiflu came into being. Liv made 12 weekly films, one overall 45-minute project film and an extra film based on contributions for public libraries.
The films contain more than 600 contributions from 250 people. Around 30,000 people have watched them so far; you can do likewise and discover more about the project on Liv’s website: https://www.livtorc.co.uk/.
What is The World Turned Upside Down, or No News, and Strange News?
DURING lockdown, community artist Stephen Lee Hodgkins was experimenting with an old Adana 8×5 tabletop letterpress printing machine. When searching for old instruction manuals, he came across the work of York printer James Kendrew, of 23 Colliergate, who had produced a series of chapbooks in the 1800s.
These chapbooks, or “cheapbooks”, were small, roughly printed booklets adorned with intricate woodcut illustrations. Chapbooks kept alive folklore, nursery rhymes, fairy tales and school lessons and were sold by travelling merchants across town and country.
The World Turned Upside Down, or No News, and Strange News is an example of nonsense rhymes and riddles produced in 1820 that gives an insight, through a quirky lens, to life 200 years ago. Copies can be found in the archives at York Explore.
SPOKEN-WORD artist, published poet and producer who “plunges the vast caverns and dormant volcanoes of the human and planetary condition”.
This former Bard of Exeter and now co-host of the Hip Yak Poetry Shack runs the spoken-word stage at the WOMAD festival, Project Haiflu and the Hip Yak Poetry School.
In 2019, her poem about climate change in the face of motherhood, The Human Emergency, went viral, being seen by 80,000 people. She performed at Glastonbury Festival on the Poetry and Words stage and represented Somerset for the BBC’s National Poetry Day celebrations.
In 2020, she was chosen as one of four Siren Poets by Cape Farewell for a commission on climate change in the time of Covid-19 and wrote and filmed a poem for the BBC’s Make A Difference campaign.
HER debut poetry collection, Ship Of The Line, won the 2016 Edwin Morgan Poetry Award. Second collection Who Goes There? was published in 2018.
Penny has won a Northern Writers’ Award and the Mslexia/PBS Poetry Competition. She is a Hawthornden Fellow and has held residencies at Gladstone’s Library and the Chateau de Lavigny.
She has taught poetry on the MA course at Oxford Brookes University and in 2019 was Visiting Research Fellow in the Creative Arts at Merton College, Oxford. She is Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of York.
HER poetry has been shortlisted in the Bridport Prize, commended in the Stanza Poetry Competition and featured in the Northern Poetry Library’s 50th anniversary Poem of the North.
Her work appears in anthologies and magazines published by Valley Press, Paper Swans, Templar and Strix. As Janet Dean Knight, her first novel The Peacemaker was published in 2019 and her second novel in progress was shortlisted for the New Writing North Sid Chaplin Award.
Stephen Lee Hodgkins
THIS “chronic doodler” and community printmaker has an interest in people’s voices, texts and their experiences of places and spaces.
He is a self-taught community artist and visual thinker with a positive attitude, people and research skills, creative energy and a commitment to inclusion and human rights. He has experience aplenty of working with community organisations, applying an arts-based approach.
He left school with no qualifications and later received the labels of dyslexia, dyspraxia and attention deficit. Reflecting on these tags now, his preference is for the term “neurodiverse”, and he has learnt to embrace and harness his diverse language use and organisational approach to the world.
Returning to university as a mature student, in 2008 he completed a PhD in Social Psychology. An abridged version of his thesis was published as a chapter in an international text in 2009, Disabilities: Insights From Across Fields and Around The World.
Let York author, singer, event organiser, conference speaker and dementia care campaigner Ian Donaghy take up the story. “Imagine if we had been told on New Year’s Eve, ‘enjoy the next 12 weeks because, come March 2020, schools will close the gates,” he posits.
“Pub and restaurant curtains will be drawn and live music venues and theatres will be told the show mustn’t go on… and on top of that, there will be no cuddles allowed’.”
Never has the world needed a bigger cuddle than in these uncharted waters, says Big Ian, whose response to lockdown inertia was to write a 229-page cuddle of a book entitled A Pocketful Of Kindness.
“During lockdown, many people were furloughed, uncertain of their futures,” says Big Ian, larger-than-life host of such York community events as A Night To Remember at York Barbican and Xmas Presence, former school teacher and now a “key voice in care”.
“As a conference speaker, I suddenly realised the venues I usually fill with delegates, whether ExCeL London or the Harrogate Convention Centre, were now Covid-19 Nightingale hospitals. Everything I did on my public-speaker travels had disappeared.”
At his home, not far from the York Barbican, where his band Huge played the first ever show, a restless Ian needed to keep himself busy.
Noting the acts of kindness that were proliferating in lockdown, he hit on the idea of writing a pocket-sized book on that very subject.
He already had two all-life-is-here books to his name, firstly Dear Dementia, published in June 2014 and now available in libraries home and abroad.
Next, in December 2017, came The Missing Peace, Creating A Life After Death, whose transfer to the stage by Gemma McDonald and the Rowntree Players should have been playing the Joseph Rowntree Theatre this weekend.
The Missing Peace had taken three years from first thought to printing, a longer gestation than an elephant birth. Come 2020, he had so many heart-warming stories bubbling away, waiting to be told, he felt compelled to put finger to keyboard once more, and lockdown’s quietitude allowed him a more concentrated focus, a much faster turnaround.
“Like many people, I like to work from a finish line backwards, so I needed to create a finish line. Not just a raison d’etre, but a raison d’aider, to help people in this difficult time,” says Big Ian, whose 50th birthday fell in those shutdown weeks.
“So, after transforming the garden and doing some pretty shoddy decorating, I reflected on what was important in this new simplified world.
“The world had stopped, giving us a rare period of clarity – an opportunity to reflect, to see who and what really matters in our lives and who and what doesn’t.”
He set about writing stories from his experiences in dementia care; teaching young people with learning difficulties; working in crime reduction for the Home Office and 30 years as a showman singer, fronting bands in his native North East, Yorkshire and Nottingham.
The book combines short stories, monologues and TED Talk-style chapters highlighting the virtues and power that kindness has had in transforming people’s lives.
Page after page of true stories, full of humour, revelation, wry observation and pathos too, recount the deeds of England and Newcastle United manager Sir Bobby Robson, Irish boxer Barry McGuigan, American blues guitarist Robert Cray and an army of selfless people you will “never have heard of but will want to meet”.
Big Ian’s celebration of kindness attracted award-winning Private Eye cartoonist Tony Husband, who provided a cartoon, such was his belief in the inspirational project.
“The idea behind the book is that you gift it to someone who has made a huge impact in your life with their acts of kindness who may not realise it,” says Big Ian. “This enables you to reflect on who has helped get you where you are today.”
Seventy stories in total, they will make you laugh, cry and think in equal measure, promises Big Ian, whose storytelling elan has prompted one reviewer to call him “an Alan Bennett for the 21st century, who finds tomorrow’s charm and nostalgia in today”.
A Pocketful Of Kindness is available only from bigian.co.uk and is proving popular already, selling 1,500 copies in its first week, based solely on word of mouth.
“Many companies have bought bespoke versions of the book with their company logos to show their employees how appreciated they are,” says Big Ian.
Summing up his philosophy in advocating a championing of kindness, he says:
“Look back on your life and think…
Who believed in you?
Who pushed you?
Who said, ‘If there’s anything you want, I’m here’….and actually backed it up.
Who asked you how you were and waited for an answer?
Who inspired you?
Who believed in you when even you didn’t?
Who gave you your standards?
Who made time for you despite being so busy?
Who was kind when the world was not?
Think who helped make you.
Who would you send the book to?”
Inevitably influenced by being written in lockdown, A Pocketful Of Kindness is “a book for our times”. “As its centre-piece, it even features a chapter called Stop The World I Want To Get Off about the chaos 2020 has dealt us all,” says Ian.
“But now I predict a new pandemic that I’ve already witnessed in communities and in care homes that I think won’t need a vaccine, as I expect the result to read: Covid 19 Kindness 20.”
AS an act of kindness in the lockdown lull, Ian Donaghy asked yours truly to edit some stories that he wanted to turn into a book.
As an act of kindness, CH said ‘Yes’…and so the to and fro and fro and to of 70 stories began.
As an act of cruelty, Ian subjected CH to his erratic punctuation, or “punktuation”, as his father has so aptly described it.
As an act of generosity, ex-Maths teacher Ian put up with being judged as if for a school report, story after story.
Now, however, the result can be yours, courtesy of Big Ian providing five copies to be awarded to recipients for the five best reasons to do so, honouring acts of kindness you want to showcase.
Send those brief stories of kind deeds to email@example.com, marked Kindness Acts, with your name, address and daytime phone number, by September 13.
ALL Explore libraries and cafes in York will be open from next week.
Larger Explore centres reopened in July, now to be joined by smaller libraries, enabling customers to drop-in to browse the books for the first time since March. Opening times will vary, with shorter than normal hours at some places and all libraries closing by 5pm.
The Reading Cafes at York Explore, Acomb and Tang Hall libraries will re-open too and books can be borrowed once more at the cafes in Rowntree Park and the new Hungate site.
The Local and Family History rooms at York Explore will be open, but anyone wanting to use them will need to book ahead, in order that safe social distancing can be maintained. The Archives reading room will re-open from October for pre-booked visits.
In-person events are not yet possible but Explore has planned a programme of virtual events for Autumn 2020, so look out for further announcements or follow Explore on social media for the latest information. In addition, thousands of newspapers and magazines are available online through the PressReader app.
Fiona Williams, Explore’s chief executive, says: “We are so happy to be able to welcome everyone back. I was heartbroken when we had to close our libraries in March because of the pandemic. Throughout the closure, we supported people through our online library and website and kept in touch with our users.
“We began to plan reopening as soon as it was possible and we were so pleased to reopen partially at the beginning of July. We received so many lovely comments from our users who missed us and we are still running the Missed My Library survey, so please do go to our website to complete it and let us know what you missed the most.”
Explore has planned carefully for the reopening, taking into account the safety of both staff and the public. “We have trained staff and risk assessed our buildings, designing in social distancing,” says Fiona.
“The first reopening stage has been very successful and we are now able to extend that from the beginning of September when all libraries will be open for browsing and borrowing, but with shorter than normal hours. Please see our website, exploreyork.org.uk, for full details of each library. We look forward to seeing you soon.”
Councillor Darryl Smalley, executive member for Culture, Leisure and Communities at City of York Council, says: “Explore have provided tremendous support to York’s communities throughout the pandemic and I’m delighted to see this next phase of carefully considered and safe reopening.
“Whether you’re a regular visitor or have never popped in, I urge everyone to take this wider reopening as an opportunity to enjoy and explore the brilliant range of services on offer at your local library.”
Did you know?
IN 2019, Explore York Libraries and Archives had more than one million visitors, held 1,466 events, told 1,734 stories to children and loaned more than 2,000 books every day.
Holding more than 850 years of civic records, the City Archives are the most complete outside London.
Explore was born in 2014 as a community benefit society with charitable status, owned by its staff and community members, and recognised nationally for its innovative approach. In 2019, Explore won a 15-year contract to deliver libraries and archives for City of York Council.
UBER driver and barman turned last-chance best-selling novelist Adrian McKinty has won the 2020 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year for his “life-changing” thriller The Chain.
His success in the coveted Harrogate trophy represents Lucky 13 for 52-year-old Irishman McKinty, who, two years earlier, had called time on his writing career after 12 books when faced by financial hardship.
McKinty’s win was announced last night in a virtual awards ceremony held to launch the HIF Weekender, this summer’s free virtual festival run by Harrogate International Festivals, which manages the novel award.
Born in Carrickfergus near Belfast, McKinty now lives in New York, where he was forced to give up his writing career two years ago when, earning less than the minimum wage and struggling to make ends meet, McKinty and his family were evicted from their home.
He began working as an Uber driver and bar tender, but a late-night phone call from agent Shane Salerno – who had read McKinty’s blog about his situation – persuaded him to give his writing one last shot.
Inspired to write something completely new, McKinty penned The Chain, a thriller that became an overnight success: an international bestseller published in 36 countries, now set for the big screen after Universal snapped up the film rights in a seven-figure deal.
“I am gobsmacked and delighted to win this award,” said McKinty, after winning Britain’s premier crime-writing prize from his fourth such nomination. “Two years ago, I had given up on writing altogether and was working in a bar and driving an Uber, and so to go from that to this is just amazing.
“People think that you write a book and it will be an immediate bestseller. For 12 books, my experience was quite the opposite, but then I started this one. It was deliberately high concept, deliberately different to everything else I had written – and I was still convinced it wouldn’t go anywhere… but now look at this. It has been completely life changing.”
The Chain’s chilling tale of parents being forced to abduct children to save the lives of their own was chosen by public vote and the prize judges, triumphing against a shortlist also featuring Oyinkan Braithwaite, Helen Fitzgerald, Jane Harper, Mick Herron and Abir Mukherjee.
McKinty’s win comes at a time when Britain is experiencing a boom in crime fiction, first seeing an explosion in popularity during lockdown and now soaring sales since bookshops have re-opened.
McKinty was nominated previously for the Theakston award in 2011, 2014 and 2016 for his Sean Duffy series. Victorious at last in 2020, he now receives £3,000 and an engraved oak beer cask, hand-carved by one of Britain’s last coopers from the T & R Theakston brewery in Masham.
Theakston executive director Simon Theakston said: “Looking at the titles in contention for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2020, it is clear to see why crime fiction remains the UK’s genre of choice.
“Adrian McKinty is a writer of astonishing talent and tenacity, and we could not be more grateful that he was persuaded to give his literary career one last shot because The Chain is a truly deserving winner.
“While we might be awarding this year’s trophy in slightly different, digital circumstances, we raise a virtual glass of Theakston Old Peculier to Adrian’s success – with the hope that we can do so in person before too long and welcome everyone back to Harrogate next year for a crime-writing celebration like no other.”
Last night would have been the opening chapter of Harrogate’s crime-writing festival, cancelled alas by the Coronavirus pandemic. Instead, Harrogate International Festivals is running the HIF Weekender from July 23 to 26: a free virtual festival of 40-plus free events “bringing world-class culture to everyone at home, featuring performances and interviews with internationally acclaimed musicians, best-selling authors and innovative thinkers”.
EXPLORE York is taking its events programme online, hosting the launch of York poet Robert Powell’s new pamphlet on Zoom on July 20 at 7pm.
Notes From A Border River was created as part of Voicing The Bridge, a collaborative arts project on the theme of freedom of movement that focused on the Northern Irish border during Brexit negotiations in 2019.
The project took place on the River Finn that forms part of the border and, in particular, the remarkable 17th century bridge that crosses the river at the village of Clady.
Robert will read from his pamphlet, with its creative mix of poetry, diary, research and photography, and will discuss how half-planned and accidental meetings, encounters, discoveries, walks and musings eventually assumed the form of finished poems.
In addition, there will be a question-and-answer session and a showing of Voicing The Bridge, the film made as part of the border project by Jan-Erik Andersson.
The event is free, but you need to book online on York Explore’s Eventbrite page to receive a link to attend. To buy a copy of Notes From A Border River for £7.50, go to rjpowell.org/?page_id=303.
This pamphlet launch is the first in a series of online events planned by Explore York Libraries and Archives over the summer and into autumn and winter.