York writer Anna Rose James to be Ghost of Festival Present at UK Ghost Story Festival

Anna Rose James: Workshops and open mic shows at UK Ghost Story Festival. Picture: Nicolas Laborie

YORK actor-writer Anna Rose James will be the Ghost Of Festival Present at this week’s UK Ghost Story Festival at the Museum of Making, Derby Silk Mill, Derby.

“I’ll be running two workshops on Friday, hosting an open mic on Sunday, live-tweeting the rest and sharing a creative response to the whole thing at the end,” she says, ahead of attending the event from tomorrow until Sunday.

Anna will lead Friday’s Ghosts and Comedy workshop in the River Room from 2pm to 3pm, followed by the Ghostly Origins session in the Studio Space from 5pm to 6pm. Sunday’s open mics will be at 10.30am and 12 noon in the River Room.

Anna, or AR James as she is profiled in the festival speakers’ biographies, is a queer, bisexual actor-writer of unsettling entrances and exits in the form of poetry, flash fiction, auto-fiction, screenplays and scripts.

She co-founded Sonnet Sisters, Six Lips Theatre and The Podvangelist and is the voice of 3CC0 in Tin Can. Her works include Unknown (York publisher Stairwell Books), Little Irritants (Analog Submission Press) and 100 Friggin’ Poems.

Full festival details can be found at ukghoststoryfestival.co.uk. Festival tickets:  https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/ukghoststoryfestival. Anna has shared four weekly readings of ghost stories in the run-up to the festival at https://instagram.com/annaonthepage?igshid=ZDdkNTZiNTM=.

Here Anna Rose James answers five questions on the ukghoststoryfestival.co.uk blog

What was the first ghost story you read, Anna?

“The first ones I remember encountering were actually told to me, and they were poems: Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven, which remains a favourite, and The Listeners by Walter de la Mare – another narrative lyric that portrays a traveller who knocks upon a ‘moonlit door’ only to wait in the silence of the ‘listeners’, the phantoms who inhabit the house.

“Unlike the thoroughly conclusive The Raven, The Listeners is a swift draft of pure anticipation – silence and waiting and the unknown.”

Do you have a favourite ghost story, be it on the page or on the screen?

“The ones I’m writing will always be my favourites, but I can’t share those yet. I also won’t rank any single tale above the rest, but one of my favourites is The Signal-Man by Charles Dickens. I’ve only read and heard it so far, but I imagine it would also make a great short film in the right hands.

“I am fascinated by the cyclical impression of the titular character’s dreadful premonitions – the repetition of the haunting refrain, ‘Hallao, below there!’ and the tragic futility of his being trapped with the knowledge of impending doom and the inability to do anything to prevent it.

“There’s a real sense of ‘so close!’ – the narrator takes an interest in his strange case, the visions must surely be warning him for a reason, but…ultimately, fate strikes again. The real-world parallels with Dickens’s own life (and death) are a perfectly eerie cherry on the cake.”

What was the first ghost story you wrote?

“I wish I could find it to share pictures because it was a riot. The Time Machine was, I suspect, inspired equally by Jurassic Park and Sister, Sister! Penned at the tender age of seven, I used poster paints, masking tape and glitter glue to weave a (literally) incredible story about some friends who travelled back in time, saw some dinosaurs and got eaten.

Meanwhile in the present day (or future, presumably), someone had given birth to twins who then suddenly faded away (presumably the people who’d been eaten). It was non-stop until it stopped abruptly before seven-year-old me came up with an ending.”

What is the enduring appeal of the ghost story form?

“The social aspect of telling and being told, sharing the creeps and relishing the feeling of doling out some ghoulish experience. Watching a friend’s face as you lay out the reveal. The thrill of the unearthly clues, the surprising explanations.

“We love to be scared. We love it when stories can still surprise us, even with all we know. And until we know what’s beyond the veil of death, we’ll have this eternal playground of ideas to explore, whether we’re tugging at a thread we feel we shouldn’t or attempting to make peace with something completely out of our control and understanding.”

What are you particularly looking forward to at the festival?

“I’m a sucker for psychogeography so I can’t wait for Ally Wilkes’ workshop on Landscape and Location in Horror on Sunday. I’m an old lovey too so all the performances are top of my list.

“I’m also super excited to get stuck into my own workshops on comedy and origins in ghost stories, and to hear what the attendees have cooking in their own cauldrons at the open mic slots!”

Q&A courtesy of ukghoststoryfestival.co.uk/blog

REVIEW: A Christmas Carol, Be Amazing Arts, promenading around Malton Market Place, until December 24 ****

Quinn Richards leading the promenade route as Charles Dickens/Ebenezer Scrooge in Be Amazing Arts’ A Christmas Carol

MALTON market knows how to market itself. The title of Yorkshire’s Food Capital may be self-anointed, under the bold visions of the Fitzwilliam Malton Estate, but it can pack a punch as much as a lunch in any culinary quest.

Likewise, Malton knows how to maximise – let’s resist the foodie word ‘milk’ here – its links with Charles Dickens, who would perform at the old theatre on his reading tours.

A plaque in Chancery Lane is all that remains of the now closed Scrooge and Marley Counting House/Dickens Museum, long said to be the inspiration for Scrooge’s office in A Christmas Carol, no less.

Those premises were the offices of Dickens’s great friend, lawyer, Charles Smithson, whose wife received an 1844 signed copy of Dickens’s novel on Smithson’s untimely death at 39. What’s more, various characters in Dickens’s stories were based on Malton residents, apparently.

The Ghost of Christmas Past takes to the Malton streets with Ebenezer Scrooge

The Malton Dickensian Festival has delighted audiences, especially with Miriam Margolyes’s hugely enthusiastic celebrated readings. Now comes Be Amazing Arts’ Dickensian enterprise, part of the Malton company’s mission to “tell stories, provide creative opportunities and inspire the next generation of performers”.

Produced by James Aconley, overseen by operations director Natalie Aconley, and adapted by Roxanna Klimaszewska – a name familiar to York audiences from her work with Six Lips Theatre – this immersive promenade production of A Christmas Carol enjoyed its sold-out debut run on Malton’s streets last winter.

If at first you succeed, then of course you should bring it back, with the enticement of “an adapted script, more unexpected stops and Be Amazing’s unearthing of more and more connections between Dickens and the town”.

Sure enough, ticket demand has been just as high this season, the freezing temperatures adding to the atmosphere generated by the story’s ghostly chill, but coupled ultimately with a warmth inside as reviving as the (non-alcoholic) mulled wine served part-way round.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come towers over Scrooge

Aptly, the promenade performance starts at Kemps Books, where Quinn Richards’s elegantly dressed Charles Dickens engages in a conversation with fellow professional actor James Rotchell’s Charles Smithson, excitedly informing him of his latest writing venture, A Christmas Carol.

Whereupon he begins to tell the story, subsequently shifting between upright, engaging narrator/promenade guide Dickens and the stooped, winter-bitter Ebenezer Scrooge.

Rotchell, in turn, switches from ever-supportive Smithson to put-upon office clerk Bob Cratchit and a chain-clad Jacob Marley in the first of the empty Market Place premises taken over for the production run, as children’s fingers tap spookily on the windows.

Rotchell adds generous host Fezziwig to his repertoire, his multi-role playing matched by third professional cast member Kirsty Wolff’s Ghost of Christmas Present, Mrs Cratchit and Clara.

They are joined by members of Be Amazing’s Young Company, who add so much to the scenes both on the streets and inside, from serving the drinks to playing a multitude of characters with such relish, led by Kelly Appleby’s Belle, Erin Warren’s lit-up Ghost of Christmas Past and Torin Pope’s Fred on the night attended by CharlesHutchPress.

Quinn Richards’ Scrooge leans out of an upstairs window to ask a passing boy to buy the biggest turkey in the butcher’s shop

The promenade takes in an empty shop, festive nibbles in the company of the Cratchits at The Cook’s Place cookery school in Market Street and a scene outside St Michael’s Church, where Tiny Tim Cratchit and Scrooge’s forewarning gravestones are placed.

James Aconley promisedsomething a bit different but also very festive and magical”. Tick, tick and tick, how right he is. Tick tock too, as the loud sound of a clock in the street accompanies Scrooge’s race against time to change from dark to enlightened by Christmas Day morning.

Played out against the backdrop of a winter of discontent, distress, division and dissent, this imaginative, bracing, haunting yet uplifting production is a winning combination of A Christmas Carol and Malton as you have never seen them before (unless you were there last year of course!). A return next year must be on the cards.

Be Amazing Arts in A Christmas Carol, Malton Market Place, December 21, 23 and 24, 7pm. Box office to check ticket availability: 01653 917271 or beamazingarts.co.uk.

Quinn Richards: Lighting up Malton in A Christmas Carol

Cast list for the night CharlesHutchPress attended:

Quinn Richards: Charles Dickens/Ebenezer Scrooge

James Rotchell: Charles Smithson/Jacob Marley/Fezziwig/Bob Cratchit

Kirsty Wolff: Ghost of Christmas Present/Mrs Cratchit/Clara

Kelly Appleby: Belle/Various roles

Erin Warren: Ghost of Christmas Past/Various roles

Dominic Walker: Young Cratchit/Boy/Beggar/Carol Singer

Flynn Coultous: Young Scrooge/Husband

Beth Wright: Woman 1/Belinda Cratchit/Gent 1

Lucy Kerr: Woman 2/Martha Cratchit

Jessica Middlewood: Fanny/Young Lady/Young Cratchit/Laundress

Torin Pope: Fred/Suit 1

Charlie Kerr: Gentleman 1/Topper/Suit 2

Celia Brass: Young Cratchit

Noah Samuel: Young Cratchit

Elliot Samuel: Young Cratchit

Jeremy Walker: Tiny Tim