On the second Wednesday of the month, the folks from Beeston Tales gather in the upstairs space of The White Lion for an evening of storytelling, and this month they’ve got an extra special guest for a remarkable (and very local) tale…
Tomorrow, Beeston Tales will be presenting their audience with Roman de Silence, which has local significance as the manuscript was originally discovered at Wollaton Hall in 1911, where it had been waiting for around 700 years.
These days it’s kept at the University of Nottingham, but its discovery came at the height of suffrage protests, and due to the story containing themes of female emancipation, the story was silenced.
But, thanks to the hosts Tim Ralphs, Mike Payton, and the internationally renowned storyteller Rachel Rose Reid, the story will have life breathed back into its dusty pages, to reveal a tale that is very relevant to issues being raised in society today.
“Themes of gender identity make this an interesting story for modern audiences, and gives the tale a prescient quality.”
The main character, a twelve-year-old named Silence has been brought up as a boy, despite being an incredibly beautiful girl. Being the young age she is, and the upbringing she’s had, she can’t decide whether it would be better for her to be a boy or a girl. This simple-sounding concept is packed with societal questions, gender politics and the question of nature vs. nurture, where Nature is a character in the story.
It’s an adventure in identity, an exploration of what the roles were for boys and girls, and an ultimate dilemma for Silence and the society she’s living in. These themes of gender identity make this an interesting story for modern audiences, and gives the tale a prescient quality.
Rachel storytelling takes her all over the country, and she’s currently touring, but is stopping off in Nottingham (and Beeston) especially to visit and research the manuscript.
The event will take place tomorrow, Wednesday 11th July, at 7:30 pm at The White Lion.
Until I got asked to review it, I didn’t know that this monthly poetry event even existed. It was set up by The Beestonian’s very own Darren Kirkbride, as a replacement for the Flying Goose event which ended a year ago. He mentioned the idea to Alan Baker when he interviewed him for the January issue, and, with the additional support of Sarah Jackson and John Lucas (the man behind the Flying Goose events) he was able to set it up. There have only been three events so far, including the one I attended, and guests for each have been Alan Baker, Rory Waterman (coincidentally my former dissertation tutor) and Graham Caveney. The event is held at The White Lion, and commences at 7pm.
The event was slow to start, with only a few attendees present at the start time. However, eventually people started to filter in, and there was a good turnout for when Graham Caveney, the guest speaker, began his talk. Graham is a biographer of Alan Ginsberg and William Burroughs, and when listening to him, I found the English Literature student in me was satisfied. It was almost like being in an especially interesting lecture. I admit I’ve never read any Ginsberg or Burroughs, but I have had Burroughs’ Naked Lunch on my bookshelf for a couple of years, waiting until I get round to reading it. And why was this month’s subject on The Beats? It is 60 years since Ginsberg’s poetry collection HOWL was published.
Anyone who finds themselves in a pub on a wet Wednesday in Beeston probably owes that presence to this bunch of psychiatric casualties, self-styled outlaws, and, occasionally, brilliant, inspiring poets.
The talk lasted just under half an hour but covered lots of ground, and many different areas of the Beats and Beat poets. I found out that their influence was far greater than I initially thought, and collided with other well-known figures from modernists to musicians. Graham mentioned that ‘Burroughs coined the term Heavy Metal’, and ended his talk with an apt observation. He said ‘that anyone who finds themselves in a pub on a wet Wednesday in Beeston probably owes that presence to this bunch of psychiatric casualties, self-styled outlaws, and, occasionally, brilliant, inspiring poets.’ This set the tone perfectly for opening the floor to questions.
I’m used to these moments being filled with silence and awkwardness, from my experience in lectures at uni, but here, there were plenty of questions to be asked. Since I felt I was learning about the Beats, I decided to listen to the questions and answers rather than contribute one myself. After the Q&A there were a series of clips from Youtube lined up for us to watch. These included a visual interpretation of Ginsberg’s poem ‘A Supermarket in California’, video footage of Burroughs giving a speech (I really liked this one; there’s something strangely satisfying from having heard about someone, and then actually seeing what they look like. He didn’t disappoint).
At this point, we took a break. I heard many Beat-related conversations going on around me, and I took in the ever-cosy atmosphere and looked forward to the next part of the night: Poetry Readings. The brief was to ‘bring along your favourite Beats inspired poem as well as read your own work’. The readings began with a reading from Tony Challis of one of Ginsberg’s poems, and then a poem he’d written in the fashion of Ginsberg’s. Next, Russell Christie read out another Beat poem, followed by an extract from his novel The Queer Diary of Mordred Vienna. More reading’s ensued, ranging from poems inspired by travelling, to humorous haiku, Primark, and the love of cheese.
All the money raised from the evening was donated to helping the migrant crisis in Calais. All in all, it was worth going. Unfortunately, the event won’t be running over the summer, but I have it on good authority that the next one will take place on September 27.