Anniversary party plans and survey

Still thinking about our 10th Anniversary and how to celebrate…

We are planning a festival-come-party/celebration-come-conference type thing [FUNDING PERMITTING] which will include panel discussions, workshops and OF COURSE, readings from all our books. We’d like our authors, readers and collaborators to contribute ideas on this so there are a rash of surveys below, to help us choose the lineup. Vote for your favourite poem or story in each of the books. There is a prize draw of a selection of books (of your choice!) as well, if you give us an email address to communicate with you.

story/poem mix anthologies survey
Stories only survey
poems only survey

Solstice Shorts Festival survey This one is slightly different, as it will also lead to a ‘best of’ ebook to replace this year’s festival, so you get more than one vote. With the 10th Anniversary festival we can’t manage both, and our ambitious plan for the next Solstice Shorts required a weekend, so 2024 it is! There is also going to be a competition to choose one additional story and poem to add to the ebook.

We will deal with forthcoming books separately, and our YA books will get a separate showcase, probably in the morning.

Julian is disappointed that he does not get a vote.

 

 

 

Time and Tide- Clydebank- audio

In the tidying up of the website, it has come to our attention that some of the Time and Tide material from Solstice Shorts 2019 performances never got uploaded – I blame lockdown! Starting to edit the video from this year reminded me to search it out. Result!

Here are the Clydebank performances, in audio. Still looking for where I hid the Maryport recordings.

You can still buy the book (please do, it spent lock down in closed bookshops, and we sold almost none.)

Performers

Beth Frieden
Stefana Margarint
Seonaid Stevenson
Carla Woodburn
Jane Aldous

Arrival by Valerie Bence

Casting A Daughter Adrift by Emma Lee

Church Mary Sounds the Sea by Jenny Mitchell

Clearance by Christine Ritchie

Crossing the Black Water by Reshma Ruia

False Light by John Richardson

Fisherman’s Daughter by Claire Booker

Half A Dozen Oranges by Mandy Macdonald

How Women Came to Tristan Da Cunha by Claire Booker

Points of Interest by Olivia Dawson

Sea Lessons by Ness Owen

The Arctic Diaries Bird Wife by Melissa Davies

The Arctic Diaries Halibut by Melissa Davies

The Watchers by Elizabeth Parker

We dig the pig by Angel Warwick

Stories

The Fisherman’s Wife by Linda McMullen

Listen, Noah’s Wife by Roppotucha Greenberg

A Feast for Solstice

Our Solstice Shorts Festival is TOMORROW (21st Dec, 6.30PM GMT, Tickets via Eventbrite)

The festival spans the entire time any person might want to eat their evening meal, so we invite you to eat along with us. In reality I will be too busy to eat properly and will be picking at an excellent cheese board and pickles.

However, if I weren’t running a festival, I would be feasting, because that’s what you are meant to do at Solstice, alongside the lighting of fires (tick – in our house anyway!) and telling of stories (tick). The tradition is the feast before the famine of the coldest part of winter. In our Words From The Brink mode, it is  the feast before we run out of things to eat because we’ve killed all the bees and nothing will grow… but in the mean time eat drink and be merry.

I always think a mead hall would complete the midwinter feast, smoky, dark, full of song – but that always makes me think of Beowulf and the monster at the door. I made mead once (beer made with honey, rather than that sickly liquor that passes for mead), it was a success!

This year’s climate crisis theme has also had me thinking about the cost to the planet of my feast. If what follows sound confused, it is. I’m a concerned amateur, not a food miles specialist.

I’m never going to voluntarily become a vegan, but I’ve been a vegetarian for 42 years (18th birthday, ostentatious prawn cocktail, 30 dead things…) and I’ve had pretty much the same festive winter meal since around then.

So I thought I’d share the recipes (or ingredients list at least), and the how okay with the planet is this worries, because that’s the monster at the door, isn’t it – or, possibly, inside with us.

Starters

I don’t bother with starters except in restaurants where generally the veggie option are more fun than the mains.

But if it’s going to be a feast, doesn’t it have to have more than two courses? (Why?) So no, no starter.

Cost to the planet Nil!

Mains:

Nut roast. This is my older sister’s recipe, and my mum’s recipe for stuffing, so a family tradition.

The main ingredient is hazelnut. I have a pair of hazel trees in the garden which, if the squirrels ever left any, would mean this was pretty much the self-sufficiency gold star. But in principle, I could grow the ingredients myself.

I run two versions of this, one relies heavily on stale bread (tick, except it uses so much that you have to buy extra bread to let it go stale). The other uses chestnut puree and/or tofu (smoked) to replace the breadcrumb, and depending on the consistency can do away with the egg otherwise needed. Chestnuts can grow in this country, but in reality, are imported from France. Tofu, very bad on the air miles and the processing, but delicious in this recipe. Herbs actually picked from the garden (tick). Those eggs could be homegrown too, a neighbour keeps rescued battery hens. Our garden isn’t quite big enough to let them be free range, and the local foxes would be lined up with their napkins on, so no, no hens.

The Stuffing is lemon and celery, and makes the meal, in my opinion. More stale bread, celery, onions, lots of butter, lemon rind and juice. More garden herbs. In theory I could grow lemons and celery in the garden. In practice the lemon comes from Spain, the celery is local. Butter is the very devil though, isn’t it, and spoils the virtue of the meal singlehandedly. Oil doesn’t quite work, and I loathe all things coconut, so butter it is.

Sides: roasted veg Potatoes, parsnips, carrots -all seasonal and could be (and in some cases have been) grown in our garden. These can be cooked at the same time as the roast, which only takes an hour so doesn’t use too much power. Different recipes for each, involve parboiling, coating in olive oil and roasting at a high heat, but the carrots have a splash of wine and brown sugar and a handful of dried fruit added – a Persian recipe, and delicious, as well as being, unfortunately, a bit bad for the planet in terms of airmiles.

Red cabbage – either pickled, or Normandie style, cooked with apple and caraway seeds in a light tossing of oil. All could be homegrown; I have successfully grown a red cabbage (success rate was 1 in 5, mind you) we even have a couple of apple trees, though we’ve usually eaten them all long before solstice.

Pickled walnuts. One day I will try pickling my own, this is the food of the gods. No feast is complete without them. Walnuts can be grown in this country – but it’s a long wait from planting tree to first harvest!

Dessert:

We always have chocolate yule log, Delia Smith’s recipe, with some personal finessing. Of course, this is a gluten free recipe, so I make it alongside the Solstice Cake when we do the festival live. Essentially, 6 eggs, 6 oz of sugar, 1 oz cocoa (showing my age with my measurements). Yolks and sugar mixed til creamy, cocoa sifted and mixed ingradually, followed by beaten egg whites folded in very carefully. Bake on a big shallow baking tray, 20mins, roll up while still warm, then unroll, spread with chestnut puree sweetened to taste (icing sugar is best for this), and a spoonful or so of cream to get it to spreading consistency. Spread with whipped double cream, roll up, dust with icing sugar. Sugar processing not good for planet, although if beat sugar, can be grown locally. Cocoa airmiles, cream cruel to cows.

This is a light, flavoursome pudding-cake that you can face eating after stuffing yourself on mains. Otherwise skip dessert and have cake later.

We’d love you to share your favourite feasting recipes, and reflect on whether the planet can take you eating it.

Tomorrow: Solstice Cake.

 

 

 

 

Words From the Brink publication day!

Today is publication day for Words from the Brink our Climate Fiction and Poetry collection for Solstice Shorts 2021. We’ve been sending books out early to make sure they arrive in time for Christmas, and there is still time to do that, so feel free to place an order!

We will be launching the book at the (online) festival on 21st December at 6.30 with readings from actors of the whole book, plus original music, a quick hello for Komal Madar, the artist whose painting we used for our cover, and a couple of open mic sessions too.  Get your Tickets (there are some free ones…)

If you would like to take part in the open mic please contact us and let us know, you can do that from the ticket site.

Solstice Shorts Festival is Time-themed, and with its origins in the importance of marking the turn of the year, the shortest day.

In ancient times, this was a moment for holding of breath as the sun paused and seemed to wobble in the sky – will it ever get light again? What must we do to convince it to do so? And from this came the tradition of burning the yule log, and bringing evergreens into the house.

To get you in the mood, here is a piece of music, May the Long-Time Sun, from poet Robert René Galván, who gives a new meaning to the word multi-talented with this three part performance. Robert René recorded this for last Solstice, so very appropriate!

And there was also the question, What can we do while we wait? 

Tell stories! Make music! Recite poetry! Make art!

We will have been doing that for eight years come this Solstice; and when we meet in real life we do the other essential Solstice thing – we feast.

Solstice Cake

Of course we can’t quite manage that online. So we thought we’d make serving suggestions and let you create your own feast to eat while you watch and listen! (you can get the recipe for Solstice Cake as part of your ticket if you want.)

Watch out on social media for recipe suggestions and imaginary cookery book titles. Follow #SolsticeFeast, and join in with your own favourites.

Of course, this year we have our minds on the brink – the danger our planet is in. There is a bit of me thinking that feasting is a wildly inappropriate bit of fiddling while Rome burns. But that is another thing about the Solstice Feast – we acknowledge the hard times coming; it is the feast before the famine, the last blow out before the tightening of the belt (how many more clichés can I get into this paragraph??) So we will feast, but we will also mark the cost with our stories and poems.

 

 

Favourite memories of Solstice Shorts

Solstice Shorts – our annual celebration of original poetry, stories and music for the shortest day – is rapidly approaching. We asked Solstice regular, poet and writer Rob Walton to share some memories of the festival, and accompanying anthologies, from years gone by. This year’s theme is Words from the Brink – writing and music in response to the climate crisis.

Rob Walton: I count myself lucky to have been included in more than one of the Solstice Shorts books, and fortunate indeed to have had my work performed/read by others. It was a great thrill to hear ‘Words on Paper’, a story of which I’m very fond, read aloud in Carlisle. It’s a story that’s close to my heart, and I’m chuffed it was recorded for posterity and also appeared in print.

Ben Brinicombe reads Words on Paper by Rob Walton, BSL translation by Karen Edmondson

I’ve definitely enjoyed seeing some of my more, er interesting pieces reach a range of audiences – I wonder what the crowds (I’m guessing) in Lisbon and Maryport made of ‘The Dowager Duchess of Berwick-upon-Tweed May or May Be Bottling It’? I’ve written micro-fictions shorter than that title!

This year’s offering, ‘Mr King Has Decided to Pursue Other Avenues’, is inspired by a long-standing commitment to environmental change and, possibly, that time I had to leave my primary school class behind on the beach trip when I was stung by a weaver fish. These things stay lodged somewhere and appear, transformed, years later…

Read an extract from ‘Mr King Has Decided to Pursue Other Avenues’:

It was a liberal and progressive school – some would say slack and lackadaisical – and when Mr King said he wanted to stay at the beach at the end of the trip, they wished him well and happily set off without him. It was almost time for the long holiday, and when he wasn’t there to take registration the following morning they arranged temporary cover, and later replaced him with somebody younger with a similar name and the same tattooist. (Mr Prince would be pleased to get the job because Hokusai’s expertly inked The Great Wave off Kanagawa, which covered all of his back, had been very expensive. And quite painful. Also, he knew it would be a star turn on a staff night out.

Words from the Brink is available to pre-order from our online shop.

Buy your tickets for Solstice Shorts 2021 on Eventbrite.

 

Mapping the path to safety

To begin our Where We Find Ourselves blog tour, Arachne Press Director, Cherry Potts shares her thoughts on the theme of ‘Maps and Mapping’:

Maps are objects of pleasure and anticipation for me, promises of holidays and beautiful in their own right, but they used to be safety blankets – I went through a long period of agoraphobia and the only way I could take a ‘stroll’ in the countryside (or anywhere else, really) was if I knew exactly where I was going, what obstacles were along the way and how long it would take – getting lost was something I literally had nightmares about. I’m better at it now, but it’s always me with the map in my pocket, if no longer clutched in an anxious grip.

So when Laila Sumpton suggested ‘Maps and Mapping’ as the focus for our global majority anthology, Where We Find Ourselves, I said yes almost by reflex. As we settled into thinking about why, exactly, we thought this a good idea, there was a lot to cover. Arachne has a history with what is apparently called Psychogeography – not planned, but one of our books is on the reading list at a university, so I’m told – these were geographically rooted (routed?) books of stories set in London, and along the east London Overground. I like that sort of thing. But this was different. We didn’t want to over-dictate what our authors wrote about, and wanted to see what would come up. We were hoping  for stories of home, belonging, leaving, journeys, identity, borders, invasion, exile … not of a particular place, but any place that the author or poet felt strongly about. And we got them, especially the search for places of safety – and we got a story about getting lost on a country walk, so that was my personal nightmare ticked off too.

Somehow this map idea morphed into an almost series. Not quite enough of one to say book one of… (although if pushed I will!) but four (so far) conceptually linked books.

Next up, in November, is What Meets the Eye? The Deaf Perspective, an anthology of  poems and stories from Deaf, deaf and Hard of Hearing writers.

About twelve years ago I studied Neurolinguistic Programming (one of the things that helped overcome my agoraphobia). One of the basic tenets of NLP is that people have a linguistic preference that reveals how they experience the world, showing itself in use of words to do with one specific sense. Most people are visual or kinaesthetic (touch, motion, emotion), far fewer auditory, etc; although the transmit preference may not be the same as the receive preference. I spent some time wondering if I dare stick my hand up and say what about people who don’t have access to all those things? I never did, I found the large group intimidating, but I spent a lot of time thinking about it. When I started learning BSL, my doubts were confirmed, and confounded as well. So when I was discussing the title of a book with movement as its theme (very loose connection to maps!) with editors Lisa Kelly and Sophie Stone, I was on about the language of movement or the movement of language, and Sophie entirely disagreed and said that BSL is a language of sight. In my kinaesthetically orientated way I had been thinking about transmitting communication and Sophie was thinking about receiving it. Which is how we ended up with the title What Meets the Eye? The Deaf Perspective.

Alongside these two anthologies I had been talking to Ness Owen and Sian Northey about a bilingual Welsh-English poetry anthology for March next year. Sian came up with the brilliant idea of poems about/inspired by the iconic north-south route, the A470. Disclosure – my Welsh is limited to what can generally be found on a road sign, and saying hello and thank you, so an appropriate theme for me! Out came my maps – of course – and yes, I had driven bits of that road.

We won’t have to translate the title, Sian said. Wrong – because we’ve ended up with a subtitle, Poems for the Road/Cerrdi’r Ffordd.

Nothing screams maps more than a book about a road, and I spent a lot of time looking up places referenced in the poems, and getting to understand the topography of both road and poems. I can’t wait to drive it again, boring my wife silly as I point out places and say oh that’s in so-and-so’s poem. We have a fantasy about hiring a bus to do a book tour along the length of the road from Cardiff to Llandudno. The irony of this, in light of the next book, is not lost on me.

Before we get to the A470, we have another book – the Solstice Shorts Festival anthology, Words from the Brink out in December in time for the festival. Our initial call out had the loose concept of time is running out, and we wanted work that addressed the climate crisis.

At risk of sounding like a spare part from Dr Who, Solstice Shorts is always about time, and the festival has travelled around most of the UK, and even got to Portugal one year, so I thought we ought to be able to get a map theme into our overarching time concept. This year’s festival itself is still very much up in the air at the moment. Venues are difficult, and should we really be trying to have an in-real-life event at all?

Perhaps the link to maps is tenuous, except, actually, it isn’t. This book encompasses the whole Earth – viewed from space by acquisitive or curious aliens, in her personification as Gaia and in the microcosm of a single plant or butterfly. Our authors map their way through climate crisis to disaster, or renewal.

We are on the brink. A gnat’s wink in either direction can make the difference. Which direction  will we take?

You can follow the blog tour for Where We Find Ourselves until 30 October.

Solstice Shorts 2020 Tymes Goe by Turnes Part Four

The final section of the festival, in pre-recorded video. The live versions will be available later in the week.

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Solstice Shorts 2020 Tymes Goe by Turnes Part Three

The third section of the festival, in pre-recorded video. The live versions will be available later in the week.

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Solstice Shorts 2020 Tymes Goe by Turnes Part Two

The second section of the festival, in pre-recorded video. The live versions will be available later in the week.

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Solstice Shorts 2020 Tymes Goe by Turnes Part One

The Lopped Tree In Time will Grow Again

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The first hour of the festival, in pre-recorded video.