This month, 26 board member Sue Evans tells us about her background in design, her involvement in 26 projects, and a musical twist to her 26 Weeks conversations (plus a chance to hear some of it).
Tell us a bit about yourself – where are you from and what do you do?
I’m from Lancashire and studied surface pattern design which took me to Spain for a year after college designing household furnishings. I live in London and am a freelance writer.
Where did your love of words come from?
I was always an avid reader. I guess most writers are. Funnily enough, when I was working in textiles and wallpaper, I was fascinated by the more traditional types of pattern, such as the tree of life, paisleys and chintzes because it seemed to be me they were drawn out of narrative and symbolism, if you cared to look.
What made you join 26? And how long have you been a member?
My friend Hester Thomas first told me about 26. I joined about ten years ago and shortly afterwards was involved with a project with Pen International, called 26:50, to mark the 50th anniversary of their Writers in Prison Committee.
Have you been involved in any 26 projects?
Recently and during lockdown, I’ve been involved in five projects. This sounds a lot and I’m not entirely sure how it happened. There’s been burgeoning of writerly activity, I guess, to get us through this strange, uncertain period. I’m not a writer on all five projects and was co-editor on the 26 Wild book – ‘The Story’s not over’. I’m also on the core team leading 26’s collaboration with Fine Cell Work to produce a book for the charity’s 25th anniversary in 2022, to celebrate their work in helping to rehabilitate prisoners by training them in high quality creative needlework.
What’s your ideal scenario for writing? (A coffee shop? Quiet retreat? With or without music? What do you do to get yourself in the right frame of mind?)
Being at my desk and being able to get on with writing instead of dealing with admin. I go for a walk most days which is good for focusing my thoughts on anything I might be working on.
What are you working on at the moment?
A mix of stuff, mainly covered by non-disclosure agreements. I’ve been lucky that work has kept ticking over during lockdown.
Could you tell us about a piece of writing you’re particularly proud of?
My 26 Weeks conversations with opera singer Vivien Conacher culminated with us collaborating on a musical piece. I wrote a villanelle which was set to music by composer Tom Floyd. This resulted in a song, which Vivien sang accompanied by James Long on piano. The experience has been extraordinarily uplifting, as was the willingness of the others involved to make the music happen. A musical outcome was not something I envisaged when I embarked on the project six months’ ago. I opted for a villanelle because I like its formal structure and strict rhyming scheme. Tom’s avant-garde, contemporary music contrasts well with this cusping archaic fixed poetic form. Villanelles tend to be associated with obsession, suggesting a certain tenseness, and the repetitive rhymes redolent of something perpetually unresolved, rather apposite for life under a pandemic.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I always carry a notebook and keep an eye out for the unexpected, which is often embedded in the everyday.
– Sue Evans, interviewed by Sophie Gordon
Listen to an excerpt from a working recording of Villanelle for an empty stage. A fully mastered studio recording will follow shortly for us to share with you.
We’ll be meeting a new 26 member each month. If you’d like to feature, or nominate another member, drop me a line email@example.com. Don’t be shy.