- About the Author
- On Active Service
This week saw our local Arts Festival, The 10 Parishes Festival.
Started in September 2003, this is now a successful biennial event. We are lucky to have so many artists, craftspeople and performers who have chosen to live and work in this area, giving it a unique character and a widely acknowledged creative identity.
The Festival grew out of the Wiveliscombe Area Market Town Initiative, which focuses on developing local culture and creativity.
Artists and craftspeople from Wiveliscombe and the nine surrounding parishes open their doors to the public, and those who do not have suitable venues exhibit in local cafes, village halls, restaurants and schools. There are workshops and dance performances, drama and of course, poetry readings, which is where I came in!
The inaugural event was the Wiveliscombe Street Fair and what an even that was! The centre of Wiveliscombe was closed, the bunting hung above us, the stalls laid out, and the sun shone! The atmosphere was amazing. Crowds jostled through the busy streets. Everyone seemed to know everyone else, and even if they didn’t they had a smile and a welcome. We had music and dancing and a carnival atmosphere.
As a writer it was hard to know how to showcase my work, but I was keen to be involved so when I heard there were to be poetry readings I put myself forward. Almost immediately I had second thoughts. Poetry is very much a by-line. I’m a novelist not a poet. It’s a different way of expressing myself. More lyrical than prose, less structured than a novel. Words and phrases fly into my head. Getting them into some sort of order can be challenging, but it’s satisfying when it’s done. A bit like doing a crossword puzzle. I find I go through phases with poetry, sometimes writing a lot, sometimes very little. Because they can be any length from a few words to several pages, they take up less of a writer’s time than a short story or a full length novel and I find it’s a good way to free up my mind when I’m stuck for ideas on a longer project.
As the time grew nearer I grew more nervous. I’m not a performance poet, and although I did drama and elocution as a child, that was reading someone else’s work, not my own.
I needn’t have been nervous though. At both events I was well received. People enjoyed my work. They were enthusiastic and supportive, complimentary even.
There were some amazing poets, both fresh young talent and more mature voices. There were poems about life and places, feelings and atmospheres. It was a privilege to be able to share my work with so many talented artists.
Bethany Askew is the author of five novels:
The Time Before, The World Within, Out of Step, Counting the Days and Poppy’s Seed.
She has also written a short story, The Night of the Storm, and she writes poetry.
Future projects include a new short story, this one for the young adult market, and another full-length novel.
In her spare time she enjoys reading, music, theatre, walking, Pilates, dancing and voluntary work.
Bethany is married and lives in Somerset.