In just ten sessions, Stroud Short Stories (SSS) has become a Stroud institution. I’d never submitted a piece before, but when the organiser, John Holland, mentioned that the November session was going to be an Eerie Evening, and with Gloucestershire Ghost Tales recently off to the publisher, I knew I had to apply with a tale from the book. SSS often gets a huge number of submissions, so it was a great privilege to be selected – thank you John and Nimue Brown, the two selectors!
It was such a fun evening. These events sell out early; the last time Anthony and I tried to go we didn’t realise that, and were turned away! Doing a story seemed a good way of getting a guaranteed seat… I was on first (thanks John!) with The Woman’s Wraith, and wanted to set a spooky tone. I hope I did! Reading is very different from storytelling – I confess I prefer the freedom and intimacy of the latter, but there was a certain satisfying pleasure in reading what I wrote, rather than the usual extempore rendering of the tale.
I won’t mention all of the tales told that night, just to say that the quality of both tales and reading was very high, but I hope you will indulge me while I mention a few. My absolute favourite was Steven Connolly’s A Winter Wedding, capturing the delusion, the mind’s tricks of a dying man on the unhappy Franklin expedition. My Fire Springs colleague, David Metcalfe, sings a song about Franklin, so I felt a real leap of delight when I realised what the tale was about, and this tale was a sensitive and delicate account of what we know happened, and what might have occupied one man’s mind as the cold bit deeper and deeper…
Simon Piney’s The Ghastly Rolling was excellently performed in rich round tones – a classic ghost tale, in which the protagonist has a horrible tale to tell … and is a warning to the curious. Not liking crowds much, the cheese rolling on Cooper’s Hill has never had a huge amount of appeal to me, and now I am even more wary! I would love to know, but didn’t get a chance to ask, if the tale had any actual folklore in it.
And Tony Stowell’s The Spirit is Willing was very funny – I can only hope that a ghostly afterlife doesn’t include such meetings, though the solution to the problems that ghosts face was ingenious!
Of course, for me, one of the best things was chatting to the other writers and the audience, and also performing under the artwork of the superb Tom Brown – featured here – whose poster reminds me of a ghost tale I heard in York Cemetery, and even experienced … but that’s another story!
And to find out about The Woman’s Wraith, come back to the blog as the next post tells the story of that tale, an ill-fated canal, and of one of Gloucestershire’s worst poets… And of course, if you weren’t lucky enough to be there on the 15th, you can read the story itself in Gloucestershire Ghost Tales!
Image © Tom Brown