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