Thursday, 25 July 2013

Shipshape and Bristol Flashing by Kevlin Henney

[We asked Kevlin Henney to talk about the Bristol NFFD workshop and readings which served as the main events for this year's day. He said 'yes' and here it is...]

Isn't it odd, I thought, that there are no flash-related events in Bristol on National Flash-Fiction Day? This was 2012, the first National Flash-Fiction Day was happening and Bristol — a happening place in terms of flash fiction, judging by theKissing Frankenstein & Other Stories collection and the number of local authors flashing their short shorts — seemed to be marking the day with a curious lack of happening on the day. How come?

And what was I doing on NFFD 2012 instead? Driving from Bristol to Oxford to slam flash at the first flash slam, presided over by renowned flash author Tania Hershman, who also lives in Bristol. We were there because Oxford was one of the places where things were happening... but by being there, we weren't in Bristol.

The penny dropped. If I wanted something to happen in Bristol for NFFD 2013, then I might have to (1) suggest it and (2) help organise it. A group of us — me, Tania,Sarah HilaryPauline Masurel and Deborah Rickard — got together to make it so.

This year's NFFD was the day after the summer solstice, following the shortest night with a day of the shortest fiction, which conveniently placed it on a Saturday. Convenient until you realise that if you're planning an event on a Saturday in summer, you're also competing with weddings and the like for event space. We reckoned on a couple of events, an afternoon writing workshop and an evening reading event, and through trial and error and luck and generosity found venues for both. Bristol Central Library generously gave us the use of a meeting room for the afternoon and The Lansdown pub in Clifton has an upstairs space with great ambience and decent acoustics.

To really make sure we got NFFD to happen in Bristol, we managed to persuade Mr NFFD, Calum Kerr, to join us for the day. Tania and Calum took the afternoon workshop, leading twenty people — the room's stated capacity! — through discussion and critique, reading and writing, and tea and coffee. The evening brought rainshine, thirteen readers and a room of people ready for a goodnight story or two.

One of the best things about flash spoken-word events is the range and number of stories and readers you can pack in. After five minutes of most short stories you're often still in the foothills of the story; with flash, you've been taken to the peaks of one, two or three whole stories, and you're on to the next reader. Not sure if a story is to your liking? Like buses, wait a couple of minutes and another will be along. But there were no duff stories or readers. In addition to the motley organisers and Calum, we had readings from Anna BrittenKen ElkesPaul McVeighNick Parker,Jonathan PinnockClare Reddaway and Tim Stevenson. Calum also read a couple of stories by other authors from Scraps, the hot-off-the-press NFFD anthology.

Was it good? Was it fun? Do you wish you'd been there? See for yourself. Hope to see you in Bristol next year!

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