‘Writing is a shared experience’ asserts Sussex novelist Peter Jones on the Rottingdean Writers Group website, a notion that contrasts with what is perhaps most people’s sense of the writing process: the romantic ideal of the solitary writer, sequestered in the attic, armed with inkpot and quill. Writers Allowed Too! takes this idea of the shared writing experience and extends it to a workshop setting, combining a showcase of members’ work with a creative writing exercise designed to inspire and foster the creativity of attendees, who in turn, become the performers.
Writers Allowed Too! takes this idea of the shared writing experience and extends it to a workshop setting, combining a showcase of members’ work with a creative writing exercise designed to inspire and foster the creativity of attendees, who in turn, become the performers.
In a marvellous ‘two for the price of one’ treat, the venue for the evening is a room in the Grade II listed 33 Palmeira Mansions (in an appropriate twist, commissioned by the late Victorian owner of a prosperous ink company), the subject of a Brighton Fringe tour. This opulent room is a spectacularly ornate example of ‘the most extreme Victorian theatrical taste’ and as such an imaginative feast for the eye.
Sadly, despite good ticket sales, there is a disappointing turnout for the evening and the Rottingdean Writers Group members far outnumber the Fringe-going attendees. An initially daunting prospect, our host, Vicki Lywood Last, sweeps aside our concerns asserting that ‘small is beautiful’ and as the evening progresses her warmth and enthusiasm gradually dispel our fears.
The first half of the evening is composed of readings given by five RWG members: a diverse selection of poetry, prose, satire and memoirs by both amateur and published writers. Encouraged by what can be achieved, any nerves were banished by a glass of wine and a friendly chat with fellow aspiring writers, and once suitably ‘fortified’ we were ready to embark on our own writing for the evening. We were shown an assortment of objects, from the mundane to the bizarre, and played a selection of sounds. Having absorbed these imaginative prompts, we were given ten minutes to create a piece in any chosen style - as unformed or fully-realised as our spontaneity allowed. With the throw of brightly coloured dice, and with absolutely no pressure, we were randomly selected to read from our work. It is always fascinating how work derived from a common starting point can produce such fantastically diverse results; wildly differing in style, tone and genre, a simple, battered hairbrush can be interpreted as restorative or brutal, wedding bells can invoke tragedy or joy.
On the downside, the equilibrium of the evening was upset by the imbalance between RWG members and would-be writers, and it would be nice to see a greater emphasis placed on the workshop element of the evening. As our muse for the evening, Rottingdean Writers Group fostered a safe atmosphere for the nervous writer and a platform for the more confident, allowing the ink and inspiration to flow.