Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tea, love & murder in Crieff!

Last weekend (23-24 August) saw the second ever Crieff Arts Festival, which is why I have been doing very little blogging recently - I've been too busy!

Fellow author Susy McPhee and I teamed up once again to offer a writing masterclass under the alluring title of Tea, Love & Murder! Seemingly these three things are enough to pull the punters in - or perhaps it was just the tea they were after? At any rate, we had a good sized audience and lots of great questions to answer. We talked about plot development, setting and characters.

Master (or should that be Mistress?) of Ceremonies Helen Lewis-McPhee kept things moving at a brisk pace and also asked a very interesting question: did Susy and I think that we could have written each other's books? As a matter of fact, Susy's latest book Back to you features a woman whose partner has vanished whilst mountaineering, and I have in the past toyed with a very similar idea, although I've never got down to writing it. Susy's book is an absorbing mystery in which human relationships are very much to the fore; my story would have been peppered with nasty deaths, creepy remote locations and grisly local folklore. So I think it is fair to say that I couldn't have written Susy's book! It was an interesting question though - and do check out Back to you. It's my personal favourite of Susy's books.

As well as our literary event, this year's Crieff Arts Festival included live music, poetry, art workshops, street theatre and exhibitions in both the newly established Strathearn Artspace and many local shops. The festival is pretty much run on a shoestring and its success is down to the energy and enthusiasm of organisers June McEwan and Nigel Gatherer, and their team of volunteers, plus the participation of local businesses.

The festival will be back next year. In the meantime, if you'd like to help support this brilliant local initiative (and you don't need to live in Crieff to do this!) please do follow us on Twitter at @CrieffArtsFest, and be sure to retweet our news and photos! Thank you.

* Photograph by Catrina Petrie of Vivace Lichtman, who kindly donated the use of the venue. *

Casting the Runes: see it!

I've been very busy recently with the Crieff Arts Festival, so I am horrified to say that I very nearly missed an experience that no M.R.James fan should forgo: a new adaptation of Casting the Runes!

This production by Box Tale Soup was at the Edinburgh Fringe and nearing the end of its run (eek!) when a Facebook post about it by fellow author Roy Gill caught my eye. I dropped everything and went!

I'm not going to post a full review of the show here because I am going to write one for the M.R.James Ghosts and Scholars Newsletter, which is the go-to place for all things Jamesian. However, speaking as a lifelong fan of M.R.James, I think it is a really excellent production, and if you have a chance to see it, I urge you to go! It is genuinely creepy and I did actually jump in places!

I see from Box Tale Soup's calendar, which you can see by clicking on the linked version of their name above, that they have performances scheduled for October in Cheltenham. I hope very much that there will be others in due course.

In the meantime, the brilliant M.R.James-inspired Podcast to the Curious has a new podcast out, featuring a Jamesian double bill. The second part features an interview with Antonia and Noel from Box Tale Soup, so that is well worth listening to for all the background info about Casting the Runes. 
The first part of the show is all about MRJ's unfinished story The Game of Bear - it analyses the story fragment and examines the various endings created by myself and fellow authors Clive Ward and Jacqueline Simpson. All in all, a Jamesian treat!