The email popped into my inbox out of the blue. It was from an artist called Adrian Brooks, based in Dorchester-on-Thames, and he was asking if any of my creative writing students would like to write a short story to accompany his latest project. The whole thing sounded so appealing that I replied straight away saying that I, personally, would love to work with him.
Adrian explained that he would be making a wall mounted ‘theatre’ featuring six characters within a specific setting and my role was to write a short story about them. We met up and we clicked immediately, we were both like-minded and keen to work together in collaboration. I love creating ‘something out of nothing’ and Adrian’s previous ‘travel theatres’ were all true works of art and very inspiring.
Adrian walked me around the Hempcroft Allotment, telling me about the history and the ‘mystery’ of this special place. Overlooked by the Wittenham Clumps and cheek by jowl with an archaeological dig, I found the whole place intriguing. Adrian gave me a hint here and there about the characters who appear on the allotment from week to week and then I was off, the creative juices were already flowing as I drove away. I produced six vignettes which link subtly together to create what Adrian described as ‘a satisfying whole.’
Meanwhile, as the characters emerged Adrian was sketching them out and then working them into his diminutive but exquisite hand-painted theatre. We had another meeting to discuss progress and after lunch my husband and I walked our dog up to The Clumps and took in the outstanding views from the top. I could feel the whispers of the past amongst the trees, it is a truly enigmatic place seeped in a rich and colourful history.
The ‘big night’ was planned for April 26 and actors were found to read the short stories, but in the meantime Adrian was producing a second theatre in support of the charity SANDS, which supports anyone affected by the death of an infant. He asked me if I would write a seventh short story and I was happy to oblige.
The big day arrived and a warm and friendly audience gathered at The Guest House, a fourteenth century building dwarfed by the mighty Dorchester Abbey. The old beams, leaded windows and hand-lettered inscriptions surrounding us provided a perfect backdrop. Talented actors, Mark Williams and Sue Kitson read the six stories to an engrossed audience who had been told that they ‘repaid careful listening.’ The reception the stories received was truly heart-warming.
Then Ann Winslet read the seventh story, ‘Searching for the Sun,’ and as she finished the last powerful sentence the room fell silent. Two hundred pounds was raised for SANDS on the night and every guest went home with a packet of sunflower seeds and were able to purchase copies of the book ‘Allotment’ which contains my six short stories and the accompanying booklet; ‘Searching for the Sun.’
Only a very few events in a person’s lifetime will leave them totally fulfilled, but I can say with complete honesty that this was one of those nights for me. To hear my stories read by performers who brought out the very best in them and to see the look on the faces of the audience as they heard them for the first time is something very special and it will stay with me forever.
Together we had created ‘something out of nothing,’ a coming together of artistry and authorship and an event that brought a whole gamut of emotions to the audience. That felt good. Gratifying comments followed such as: ‘The evening was magical;’ ‘It was the most beautiful and incredibly special event’ and ‘It was inspiring.’ It was a very fine collaboration and a most magical thing. Above everything else, in Adrian I have a new friend and between us we share a feeling of achievement that would be hard to equal.
To buy the book ‘Allotment’ featuring the six short stories email Adrian Brooks at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
To find out more about the SANDS charity go to https://www.sands.org.uk To find out more about my work go to www.janharveyauthor.com
To buy my novel The Seven Letters click here.