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Creative Writing Tutor runs Solstice Shorts Festival

Just after Christmas 2013 I discovered that someone had designated the shortest day of the year (21st December) as Short Story Day. As a publisher and writer of short fiction I was annoyed to have missed it. Never mind, I thought, next year we’ll do something.

by Cherry Potts

That something became an all-day BSL interpreted, TIME-themed festival from sunrise to sunset, with a new short story every half hour and folk music in between, on the Greenwich meridian (where else?).

After consulting with various people – is this too ambitious? Will you help? Can we use your building? – we got Lottery funding via the Arts Council in September and raced to get the competition in place to choose the stories. 106 entries were whittled down to 32, and handed over to the judges Anita Sethi, Alison Moore, Imogen Robertson and Robert Shearman, who chose 12 winners. While they were choosing, we typeset all the shortlisted stories in case, because we had to get the book ready for the printers almost as soon as the winners were announced during Short Story Week.

At sunrise (8:04) on a cold Sunday morning, we had 20 eager audience members at the beautiful West Greenwich Library, and despite being on two different sites, everything ran smoothly and to time, with a capacity audience of 40 all afternoon at the Royal Observatory.

Live folk music was an important element of the day with the musicians choosing their sets to complement the stories and improvising for and in response to writers in one of the workshops.

The majority of the stories were read by actors, although three judges and a couple of the authors read their own. Star turns were Robert Shearman reading Simultaneous and Carrie Cohen reading David Mathews’ Wednesday Afternoon.

We announced the 5 Judges’ Favourite Stories, from Pippa Gladhill, Cindy George, David Mathews, Helen Morris and Dizz Tate, as the sun set at 15:53.

Videos of the festival are available at Arachnepress.

The anthology Solstice Shorts: Sixteen Stories about Time is available from Inpressbooks here and from all the best bookshops.

Cherry Potts teachers An Approach to Creative Writing at City, University of London.

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