7 Aug 2012

Storyslingers First Story Slam

After a rainy month of preparations and organisation, the sun finally shone on Shaftesbury for Storyslingers’ first ever Story Slam. Writers from all over Dorset came to Shaftesbury Arts Centre, some to compete, others to listen and network. The Rutter room was packed out, over spilling and babbling with excitement. We’d jazzed the room up with drapes of colourful fabric, projected Dan Morison’s mecha cowboys on a wall and set up our handmade bookstall, spread with the finest of local book art and writing.

We had Daniel Frisby as compere who slickly guided is through the evening. Our first reader was James Broomfield who read a quirky story set in rural Devon following a man seeking a brotherhood. He thinks he’s found it when he discovers a society of beard-trimming smokers. Yes, you read that right; beard smokers. James’ story was wonderfully crafted, sharply observed, original, funny and thought-provoking. The evening was most certainly off to a good start. The following readers didn’t let the quality drop. Each story was different, but all at an impressive professional standard.

I’m glad I didn’t have to judge these stories, they were all so unique and brilliant. Fortunately we had two exceptional judges, award-winning novelist Allie Spencer (four novels published with Arrow. http://www.alliespencer.com/) and flash fiction expert and columnist at What the Dickens Magazine, Gail Aldwin. (http://gailaldwin.wordpress.com) We enjoyed some amazing live music from the Wrongo Bongo Band while the judges got busy conferring. This four-piece band play an extraordinary variety of instruments, from a berimbau to a didgeridoo; “The Wrongo Bongo Band has to be the most entertaining group of whacky musicians we’ve ever heard” –Andy Hamilton. Mike’s didgeridoo solo comprised of him holding up signs with Australian animals inscribed upon them, and then ingeniously imitating their sounds through the didgeridoo. 

(this is a photo of the band taken from their facebook page, click here. 

While the band built an exotic vibe, we continued to sell our handmade books, met new writing friends and discussed all the amazing stories we’d heard so far. Then the judges returned and Gail Aldwin got up on stage to read her story Dusting Off the Memories (published in Dorset Voices anthology, Roving Press) , beautifully written and read. Next up was Jennifer K Oliver’s richly described Steampunk story, then my own reading of a story I’d read the week before at London’s Southbank Centre. Dan Frisby told a beautiful allegorical Hare and Tortoise style tale set in the foothills of a Japanese mountain. Mountains seemed to be the unofficial theme, with my story entitled Mount Analogue, and a quote from Rene Daumal’s novel of the same title featured in the programme. Finally, Hamish Sinclair was drawn from the Lucky Dip and read a beautifully lyrical story making wonderful use of language.

With the evening drawing in and all the stories told, the judges came up on stage and gave their feedback to the six competitors.  Both judges were impressed by the quality of writing and the diversity of subject matter. “Allie was a great person to deliberate with in finding the winner and runner-up, particularly as the standard of all the stories was very high. We finally agreed that James Broomfield’s story should win due to its extraordinary content (about a man trying to find his brotherhood in North Devon by experimenting with smoking beard trimmings).  Technically the writing was superb with a strong and unique voice.  Runner up came Andy Hamilton’s ‘Stage Fright’ a classic ugly duckling scenario told in a fresh way.” -  Gail Aldwin.

James won a beautiful set of correspondence cards printed by Bath-based fine stationers, Meticulous Ink. “Each card has been lovingly letterpress printed on an 1870 Model No.4 press using only the finest oil based inks. We use cotton papers from local paper mills here in Somerset and our hand lined deckle edge envelopes give these cards that extra special touch.” – Meticulous Ink. This prize was kindly donated by Meticulous Ink. You can buy their correspondence cards via etsy: http://www.etsy.com/shop/MeticulousInk

Everyone was awarded with some amazing bookmarklets, made by our very own Jennifer K Oliver. The evening wrapped up with more music from the Wrongo Bongo Band, some networking and book buying.

Watch this space for the second slam, probably sometime in early 2013. 

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