GALLERY: Shoreham Wordfest ends with an exciting flourish

SHOREHAM’S literary festival ended with an exciting flourish after three weeks of events at various venues.

Next stop for Shoreham Wordfest is Littlehampton’s East Beach Café, as owner Jane Wood was so impressed, she has asked the team to run some literary events there, starting with author Max Egremont on November 28.

The spirited drama performance by students of The Sir Robert Woodard Academy in Lancing in Shoreham Library

The spirited drama performance by students of The Sir Robert Woodard Academy in Lancing in Shoreham Library

Around 2,000 people attended the 43 Wordfest events, which this year had the theme Invisible Threads.

Organisers declared it a great success, full of energy and variety, packing a punch both locally and across the region, with people coming from far and wide.

Programme director Rosalind Turner said: “We like to organise our events in different local venues and settings, to give people a taste of Shoreham and our lovely surroundings.”

The whole day of book talks at Sussex Yacht Club had a fantastic reaction, events on Houseboat Verda proved popular and there was plenty to see at Ropetackle Arts Centre.

Performers came from London and across the country, such as author John Harvey, actors Sara Kestleman and Julian Wadham, the Worcester touring theatre for Second Best Bed and comic poet John Hegley, who gave a lively session for old and young which will feature as part of a Radio Sussex series of conversations across the generations in the week beginning November 10.

Free events included a literary river walk, poetry pub crawl, talks and workshops for children and the Words in Song concert at Shoreham Methodist Concert, where more than 100 people were entertained by Shoreham Singers-by-Sea, the Bothy Singers and Music Box, led by legendary bass player Herbie Flowers.

One new feature this year was the graphic novel weekend on Houseboat Fische, with writing and drawing workshops, Judge Dredd revivals, legendary comic author Robert Rankinand a screening of the award-winning film, The Search for Simon, featuring Wordfest patron Carol Cleveland in a moving dramatic role.

Mrs Turner said alongside visiting authors, Wordfest aimed to celebrate and encourage local talent.

“Making a Drama Out of Nothing had 90 people watching five new plays, directed by Janet Behan in the Shoreham Centre, which is still very much in business during their building work.”

Attila the Stockbroker and Murray Lachlan Young, star of the Write Stuff on Radio 4 and his own show on Radio 6, received enthusiastic acclaim from the packed audience at West Street Loft.

Mrs Turner said: “Murray performed comic poems with satirical observations of modern life and two saucy folk songs with audience participation.

“Attila was on fire with his poems and songs about everything from meddling relatives and football to politics and the international situation. Guaranteed to shake the audience out of any complacency!”

Marilyn Stafford’s talk, Stories in Pictures, at Tomfoolery café, had people desperate for tickets to hear her describe how she came to photograph Albert Einstein, Edith Piaf, everyday life in a 1950s Paris slum and refugees from the Algerian war of independence.

The event was sold out but Marilyn’s photographs are on display at the café for the rest of the month, and her book of memoirs and photographs is on sale from Wordfest.

There were talks and workshops for all ages, including a spirited drama performance by students of The Sir Robert Woodard Woodard Academy in Lancing, The Buckfastleigh Adventure, as an extra entertainment for children in Shoreham Library before two author talks by Helen Dennis and Ed Hogan.

Max Egremont, Lord Egremont of Petworth, discussed his new book, Some Desperate Glory, which tells the story of the First World War through the lives and writings of its most celebrated poets.

Julian Wadham, gave stirring readings of some of the poetry and St Mary de Haura Church was a fine setting for this special event.

Leo Aylen and Sara Kestleman performed in An Assortment of Sybils, Leo’s specially created show of poems, humour and anecdote. Leo’s poems are miniature plays in a variety of settings, such as a Brixton police station, Neanderthal Europe, the Cumbrian Fells and a fairy-tale garden.

There was a whole day of author talks at Sussex Yacht Club, featuring new ‘domestic chillers’ in the morning, a lunchtime talk on shipwrecks with international expert Nigel Pickford, supported by the Brighton Sub-Aqua Club, and an afternoon session featuring women of history, one fictional and one based on fact.

The Toast to Brendan Behan on Houseboat Verda was a moving and lively tribute to the Irish writer, led by his neice Janet Behan, with musical accompaniment by her cousin’s Pig and Whistle band.

Shoreham Wordfest ended last Sunday, with the annual short story and poetry slam competition at Ropetackle, hosted by author Tom Cutler.

Simon Brett, Wordfest patron, chaired the judging panel and there was a packed audience to hear original short stories and poems.

“Writers enter on the evening, and names get picked out of a bucket, so they don’t know in advance if they will get to read, and when they do it is a very strict five minutes maximum,” Mrs Turner explained.

“We had 18 readers, with some names not picked, all of a very high standard.”

Winners were Ricky Purnell with his poem, Passage, and Adam Bridge, for his short story.

The Wordfest team will now be taking stock of what worked well and what could be even better, before starting to plan activities for 2015.

Mrs Turner said the key to its success was the support of organisers, partners, the many performers who give their time freely and volunteers.

“We also appreciate the support of people who come to our many events, particularly our Wordfest groupies, as we call them,” she added. “We are always keen to have feedback and suggestions for the future, so do please get in touch.”

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