Last month, ten writers took it in turns to be writers in residence for each of the ten days of the Bloomsbury Festival – taking the time to mull over the events of the day and make their own writing leaps. Now, Irene Lofthouse shares her experience of being day nine’s writer.
Bloomsbury. A mythical location in my
teenage head exploring ‘A’-level texts. A place of experimentation, of ideas,
of being and becoming who you were or wanted to be. A space where men and women
conjured words, images; published pamphlets, poetry, prose. An exotic
environment of leaping minds that travelled across time, space, nature, where
nothing was unimaginable and writing was the norm, not the unnatural or
19 October 2019 My opportunity to be
one of the ten 26 Writers at the Bloomsbury Festival, whose responses each day
were so evocative, atmospheric, revealing.
To be one of them was a privilege, and
the fulfilment of a dream. To be good enough to time-slip into ghostly streets
where the writers I’d studied once walked, conversed, created, worked, loved,
separated, observed. To hear new words and worlds, to explore how ideas from
the past affect today, to participate in activities that may help shape the
future of research into health and well-being. To uncover how many links there
are, how many leaps forward in technology from the science of space have become
part of our everyday lives. The juxtaposition of the Extinction Rebellion
climate change protest on the same day as I listened to talks on dark skies and
watched ‘The Tourist’ collecting rubbish to re-purpose brought space
exploration even more to the fore, as I mused on our legacy of dead satellites
circling our stratosphere.
My day took me to parts of London I’d
never been before; back streets that still had an essence of the Bloomsbury of
old; buildings that held the smell of working horses, long gone;
dementia-friendly concerts – shared spaces that brought smiles to everyone, and
a simple idea I could take away with me to discuss with groups I work with.
Buildings Talking with writers, scientists, researchers, other audience members
about where they had been, what they had seen, done, explored, learnt,
discovered was a joy in itself. It was certainly different to other festivals I’ve
been to: using the concept of ‘Small steps, giant leaps’ meant that diverse
topics could be linked in much more creative ways that at a science festival or
literature festival. Lots of ideas to take away and share.
Throughout the day, my younger self
was with me. Remembering my primary school teacher Miss Moore, nodding her head
as we told our tales of the landing, and our stories – moon-men, magic dust,
galaxies of glass, women scientists inventing inter-galactic travel, colossus
stepping across planets with one stride – our imaginations ran wild. My reality
was somewhat different.
21 July, 1969, 7am. Black and white TV
in the corner of the living room crowded round by brothers getting ready for
school and work, Dad brilcreeming his hair. I stare at the telly from the
kitchen doorway mesmerised by the sounds and images, taking my eye off the
bottle of feed warming for my sister’s breakfast – until the pan boils over and
I miss the crucial moments of Armstrong and Aldrin taking their first steps.
– Irene Lofthouse
In case you missed it, you can read
Irene’s response along with those of the other nine writers in residence, here.