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

Tim Murgatroyd to launch silent movie-era novel The Electric with readings, talk on York’s ghost cinemas and Phantom film

The book cover for Tim Murgatroyd’s novel The Electric. Illustration by South Bank architectural artist Elliot Harrison, alias @york.360, who says. “My first book cover, so I’m really pleased it worked out well and totally suited my illustrative style that also matches my other York cinema prints. It was great working with Tim and I wish him success launching this title”

YORK author Tim Murgatroyd is launching his latest novel, The Electric, in a series of events spread over October, starting this evening.

Published by York independent publishers Stairwell Books, this work of historical fiction depicts a young pilot returning from war. Can music, cinema, love – and a curious cat – heal his wounds?

“Each event is very different, with a special focus on the glamorous, lost world of silent cinema,” says Tim, whose writing spans historical novels, a dystopian trilogy and a poetry series, as well as being a former columnist for The Press, York.

Combining romance, tragedy and offbeat comedy, The Electric is set in 1919 when young pilot David Young returns from the First World War, scarred physically and mentally.

A gifted concert violinist, he drifts into a humble job accompanying silent movies at The Electric, a fleapit cinema in provincial York, joining a diverse cast of misfits, each with secrets and tragedies of their own.

A detail from Elliot Harrison’s cover illustration for Tim Murgatroyd’s historical novel The Electric

“These strangers, and a chance meeting, hold the key to regaining his lost hopes as the world of silent cinema meets the glamour of the Downton era in Britain’s most popular tourist city,” reads the publicity blurb.

As part of The Big City Read 2022 collection, Tim’s book will be the subject of an entertaining hour of readings, wine and discussions at York Explore Library and Archive, in Library Square, Museum Street, this evening from 6pm

Tim will explore bringing silent cinema back to life and love, with assistance from award-winning poet Ian Parks. Afterwards, Tim will be hosting drinks in the Eagle & Child on High Petergate.

Tickets are available on the door or by pre-booking at: eventbrite.com/e/book-launch-the-electric-with-tim-murgatroyd-tickets-403289819707?aff=odcleoeventsincollection&keep_tld=1. A Pay What You Can policy offers four options: £0, £2.50, £5 or £7.50.

Pianist Neil Brand: Improvising his piano accompaniment to The Phantom Of The Opera at City Screen Picturehouse on October 28. Picture: Julie Edwards.

On October 26, in An Evening With Tim Murgatroyd at 7pm at Waterstones, in Coney Street, the focus will be on Ghost Cinemas of York: Bringing silent cinemas back to life.

Prepare for surprising facts and stories about the characters and picture palaces of York that brought Hollywood glamour to a city recovering from war. Through images, music and film clips, Tim will show how the ghost cinemas of York haunt us still, and how silent cinema was never really silent at all, as he explores those lost cinemas and their legacy.

In addition, he will explain how he wrote The Electric in an evening led by Dr Rob O’Connor, from York St John University, in association with York Literature Festival.

Tickets are on sale at Waterstones, Coney Street, York or at waterstones.com/events/an-evening-with-tim-murgatroyd/york. The £5 admission qualifies buyers for a 20 per cent discount on the book price.

Lon Chaney and Mary Philbin in Rupert Julian’s 152-minute silent classic The Phantom Of The Opera, showing at City Screen Picturehouse later this month

The book launch trilogy will culminate in a night of romance, horror and suspense at a gala performance of the silent classic The Phantom Of The Opera (PG), with live improvised piano accompaniment from Neil Brand, at City Screen Picturehouse, Coney Street, on October 28 at 6pm.

Lon Chaney, “the man of a thousand faces”, gives his most famous performance in this first version of the oft-filmed tale, drawn from Gaston Leroux’s novel. Chaney’s Phantom haunts the catacombs beneath the Paris Opera, where he falls in love with the voice of a young opera singer (Mary Philbin). Infatuated, he kidnaps her, dragging her to the depths below, where she will sing only for him.

Directed by Rupert Julian, this lavish 1925 production launched the Hollywood Gothic style, one that can be appreciated all the more in the British Film Institute (BFI) Photoplay restoration that carefully reinstates the film’s dramatic colour techniques.

The screening will be preceded by a short Q & A with pianist and broadcaster Neil Brand and author Tim Murgatroyd about music in the silent cinema and its impact on audiences. Please note, a British Sign Language signer will be on hand at the Q & A; the BSL accessible viewing seating will be on the left-hand side of the auditorium.

Tickets can be booked at: picturehouses.com/movie-details/000/HO00012085/the-phantom-of-the-opera-1925-with-neil-brand?date=2022-10-28&cinema=018

Tim Murgatroyd: Author of The Electric

The author

TIM Murgatroyd was brought up in Yorkshire. He read English at Hertford College, Oxford University, and now lives with his family in York. He is the author of several novels of historical fiction, a poetry series and a trilogy of dystopian novels.

The verdict on The Electric

“AN evocative, almost poetic, love letter to 1920s’ York and the silent movie era. Poignant, charming and wryly funny, with a cast of beautifully drawn and unforgettable characters. Not to be missed.” Emma Haughton, author of The Dark.

“Fascinating…the ending was a lovely surprise – romantic but in a completely unexpected way.” Clare Chambers, author of Small Pleasures.

Did you know?

THE Electric Theatre, on the north-east side of Fossgate, was the first purpose-built cinema in York, opening in 1911 and later being renamed the Scala, closing in 1957. Converted into a furnishings store, Macdonalds, that shut in early 2016. Since 2017, it has housed the Cosy Club York bar and restaurant.

York poets Anna Rose James and Elizabeth Chadwick Pywell launch collaboration on “Unknown” women of myth and history

Anna Rose James and Elizabeth Chadwick Pywell’s new poetry collection, Unknown, addresses the theme of women of myth and history “whose names should be on your lips”. Picture: Ceres

YORK poets, teachers and actor-directors Anna Rose James and Elizabeth Chadwick Pywell launch Unknown, a joint collection inspired by forgotten women from myth and history, online tonight (26/8/2021) at 7.30pm.

To “attend” the livestreaming, head to: eventbrite.co.uk/e/unknown-the-book-launch-tickets-166073970717?aff=eand

“Our publishers, Stairwell Books, have booked an online launch for us, as the in-person venue options weren’t entirely Covid-comfortable, so we’re potentially putting that off now until next year,” says Anna, a queer, bisexual writer, performer, translator and theatre critic of mixed British and Asian heritage, who writes flash fiction, auto-fiction, memoir and scripts for stage and screen, as well as poetry.

“I’ve been pretty much hibernating since March last year, but I co-wrote this collection with Liz last summer and it’s something we’ve created that we’re very proud of.”

Among those impressed already by Anna and Liz’s 27 poems on “women whose names should be on your lips” is Yorkshire poet and comedian Kate Fox, whose endorsement on the back cover reads: “Unknown introduces and re-introduces us to women who might otherwise slip through history and culture’s ever-widening female-shaped holes.

“These are brisk and beautiful poems. Works of reclamation like this are ongoingly necessary – which is frustrating – but when they’re done so well, they are a pleasure and a joy.”

“Works of reclamation like this are ongoingly necessary,” says poet Kate Fox of Anna Rose James and Elizabeth Chadwick Pywell’s Unknown poetry

Professor Emeritus Graham Mort enthuses: “Linguistically charged, rhythmically and technically assured, theatrically daring, this collection restores mythical and historical female figures to the human imagination.

“The poems are robust, playful, tender and compassionate and the work as a whole forms an unsentimental and richly detailed testament to women’s resistance.”

Unknown is a coming-together between two York women over a “shared love of women, inspired by those from history and legend who have touched our lives, or the world, and left us changed”.

“We first met at the Queer Book Club in York,” says Liz, a Welsh-born poet and writer of short stories and flash fiction, who provides private tuition in English, drama, and creative writing, runs creative writing groups for children and performs occasionally at open-mic nights in York during non-lockdown times.

“When I had Covid, Anna put some of her zines through my door, which was lovely as I was very bored and very ill, and though I’d always written, I’d never published my work, but that was the starting point for Unknown.”

Anna recalls: “I was furloughed from work at Macmillan Cancer Support and was palming off these zines on people who couldn’t escape from their homes! I got a call from Liz within ten minutes.”

York poets Anna Rose James, left, and Elizabeth Chadwick Pywell. Picture: Elizabeth Chadwick Pywell

They settled quickly on a theme for their collaboration. “Just women to begin with, but then it became women who are under-represented in myth and history,” says Liz.

“We set ourselves the challenge of researching these women and then writing about poems about them.”

Anna, co-founder of Sonnet Sisters, Six Lips Theatre and The Podvangelist, says: “Some of the women are a lot more unknown than others, so that’s why the research expanded into taking in both misrepresented and under-represented women…

… “And we also considered how these stories might have been told if they’d not been told by men,” says Liz. “These are her-stories, not his-story.”

Helpfully, the collection includes an index of the subjects to facilitate readers reading more about the featured women, among them Medusa; Persephone; Ceridwen the witch; pirate captain Ching Shih; Gentleman Jack (Anne Lister); revolutionary pilots Bessie Colman and Major Marina Raskova; tennis champion Althea Gibson and characters from Norwegian folklore, Shakespeare and Tarot.

“The room where it happened”: Anna Rose James’s writing space. Picture: Anna Rose James

“We bashed out the first body of poems really early on, each writing a poem in a day, for an immediate response and then editing them later,” says Anna “Getting an instant reaction was lovely as normally writing poetry is solitary.”

Anna was drawn more to history, Liz more to myth. “I would always call myself a dreamer, but I think Liz pulls out all the vagaries of myths, whereas I respond to pulling out all the details of historical figures,” says Anna. “Liz responds to the lack of detail or basic plot lines when she engages with myths.”

Liz observes: “I think we write in really different ways but that works really well together, and the project has been really collaborative. It’s been great to have someone to bounce ideas off, whereas often I write with total autonomy.”

Happy to be a “figure of mystery” when performing at open-mic nights, Liz has a pamphlet on its way called Breaking (Out), published by Selcouth Station. “It’s about coming out as a lesbian when you’re married to a man, which is not a typical life journey but had to be done,” she says.

Meanwhile, tonight she and Anna will read poems at the 7.30pm livestreamed launch, as will fellow writers Hannah Davies and Kali Richmond.

Pile-up: Copies of Anna Rose James and Elizabeth Chadwick Pywell’s poetry collection, available from stairwellbooks.co.uk. Picture: Elizabeth Chadwick Pywell

Who are Stairwell Books?

This York small press, based in Lowther Street, publishes the works of Yorkshire poets and writers, plus the international literary and arts journal, Dream Catcher.

Unknown can be bought at stairwellbooks.co.uk for £8 plus postage and packing.

The original black/acid green/harlot red cover design with an “historical-political context” for Unknown, later jettisoned in favour of the pink edition

CharlesHutchPress loves this “acid” alternative cover and ponders whether Stairwell Books would consider doing a print run, should Anna and Liz plan to do any readings at summer festivals.

“That’s absolutely something Liz and I had floated with Stairwell too,” says Anna. “We love the idea of limited-edition variants; we actually found it a bit difficult to choose our favourite from the options artist Lisa Findlay Shaw sent through.”

You are very welcome to send your support for such a variant to founder Rose Drew at rose@stairwellbooks.com.

Lisa Findlay Shaw can be found on Instagram at @thiscronecreates.