Tuesday 29 May 2012

Literary Salon at Time for Tea, Prestwich

This was hugely successful and I’m going to do it again in the autumn. Time for Tea did us proud – the £7.00 a head is really good value. Endless cups of tea / coffee. A choice of quiches, sandwiches and open rolls, scones with butter and jam and really scrumptious  cakes. And all out of and off proper china.
The tables were set out in such a way that we could all see each other and this aided the general conversation, the book swap, the readings and the Q & A sessions.
We had two readings: one from Jo Langton, one of my MA students who also did her BA at Salford University. She read from her recently published chap book fill the silence, published by Erbacce Press. Jo has done well to be published whilst still at university. She talked to us about her work. She also brought along one of her MA projects – a set of beautifully crafted “tea-bags” that contained words so that readers can create their own texts. Most appropriate in a tea-shop!
We also had readings by members of the Phoenix Writers Group who meet in Horwich. They read extracts from their recently published book, Fleeting Moments.
Both reading were delightful and led to some lively discussions.
The book exchange was exciting too. People had the chance to say why they liked the book they were offering and it was good to receive books from the readers.
Naturally, as there were two of my students present, the conversation turned from time to time to Salford University and the whole idea of studying creative writing at university. Another participant, who has an MA in Creative Writing but from another university, astounded us all by reporting that in his day – some time ago now – there was a cap of seven on the MA course! Useful information indeed.        
One disappointment was that four people who said they would come did not show up. Naturally we had to pay for their food anyway. We couldn’t expect the café to cover those sorts of costs.  But if they had come, I’m not sure we would have got through everything. And would the informality be the same?
So, there are lessons to be learnt.
I’m intending to make the next event free as well, but I will make clear to people that we have to pay even if they don’t turn up.  I will, however, ask for donations towards the Creative Café Project at the end of the evening.   
Having two sets of readings is about right. It would however take quite a lot of time for readers all to talk about the books they have brought along. We need to limit this to a couple of sentences each.
The informal discussion is great and we really want to keep that.                            

Sunday 13 May 2012

Putting the Creative into the Creative Café

I was at a conference yesterday and we talked a little about what is being creative. One suggestion is that it is about using what is there, reordering it and bringing forth something different and perhaps surprising. Finding solutions to problems is as much a creative act as writing a poem, painting a picture or composing a piece of music.  Baking glorious cakes, providing an appropriate atmosphere for creative practitioner networking, and offering a comfortable space where audiences can enjoy the arts are perhaps surprising – and delightful  - solutions  to some of the problems that the arts are currently facing: the Arts Council can award fewer  grants, the universities are having to cut back on humanities provision and as we go into austerity measures, fewer can afford to support the arts directly by going to the theatre and to concerts or by buying books and music.
Somehow, though, we still manage to eat and drink and occasionally that might be in a café.  Can we reorder that and make it an opportunity also for enjoying the arts?
We’ve reordered thus so far by creating in cafés:
Writers in residence
Book launches
Gallery spaces
Literary salons
Book swaps
Open mic
Jazz evenings
Poetry readings
Reading groups
Writers’ critique groups
What else could we do? Can you help us to reorder yet again?