Wordsmiths, Mindshifts and Moving Pictures

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Wordsmiths, Mind Sets and Moving Pictures

Friday at BLF

In a packed session at Holy Trinity Parish Centre, Mary Manley the founder of a treasured wordsmith sanctuary in Alnwick, aka Barter Books, gave a witty and informative account of the development of her second hand bookshop based in the old railway station. Mary talked about how the germ of an idea of a bookshop took hold and wouldn’t rest. She mooted this over with husband Stuart who thought about it for a while. A space was cleared, some books were bought, the doors were opened and an idea unfolded into a creative enterprise that sprang from their partnership, determination, wisdom and sheer gut instinct. Barter Books is now a worldwide attraction, a wonderful resource, a home for browsers but best of all a place to park one’s body in front of a roaring fire and let the wordsmiths of the world delight your mind.

On Friday afternoon in St Pauls Church Spittal, Torben Betts gave his wordsmith gifts full welly by a lengthy, speedy dramatic monologue on his development from a child in a normal dysfunctional family to a renowned playwright. He talked about childhood conflict in play. Great material for a playwright. Generating the conflict between characters. The transition between making scenarios up and writing them down. His first entrance into the world of theatre was through acting. However, he found that life to be brutal and choosing freedom over security he left the world of acting and wrote plays instead. There were no takers and he decided to travel the world. And, as final preparations were almost complete for the journey, a letter arrived from Alan Ayckbourn with an invitation. The travelling plans were cancelled and a playwright was established. Torben Betts has written many plays. Toured and performed north, south east and west, they maybe social discourses on conflict, or a script written for homeless teenagers in Nottingham or an adaptation of other plays. He told the audience that his plays are about things that go wrong, the dark side, the conflict between tragedy and humour. Not depressing but sad. He felt there was a difference. He also felt his writing was not escapist but political. Torben showed clips from some of his work, Invincible, Guillemot, The Unconquered, Incarcerated, Muswell Hill, The National Joke, What Falls Apart. A small sample of the massive contribution he has made to playwriting,. Torben Betts is dismissive of London life and has chosen to live in Spittal. That shows  the quality of his integrity which came across in bucket loads during the session. A gem, a joy. I loved it. How wonderful that Spittal has such a wordsmith on its shores.

At his session in the Guild Hall on Friday afternoon, Tony Husband used words to describe his father’s development of dementia. Words that we know. That we read about almost on a daily basis these days. However, Tony Husband is also an award winning cartoonist who has a regular strip in Private Eye. Rather than just write about his experience with his father he decided to illustrate his father’s mental decline. The closeness of family is captured in the illustrations and his father always takes centre stage. From diagnosis to banning from driving, the involvement of the social services to visions of space ships, each picture tells a story. A story of crisis that many are now familiar with. Tony talked about his illustrations to his friend Stephen Fry who tweeted it out on his twitter account. The response was huge. The illustrations were made into a book and now the book Take Care Son, the Story of My Dad and his Dementia, is to be made into a film with a voice over by Christopher Eccleston. Tony talked about travelling around the country with his book, talking to carers and care homes, listening to the stories of others. Moving pictures of a mind shift that can be so hard to understand. Moving pictures that help to increase understanding. Moving pictures that probably say more than words. An emotional and gratifying session that many in the room were thankful for. Myself included.

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