Writing and art, art and writing-China to Heptonstall
I was delighted to win runner up in the Bi'An Chinese Writer's awards. The was prize an Arvon Foundation writing retreat at their Lumb Bank house centre-the former residence of Ted Hughes. The question was: Should I take my paintbox as well as my computer, paper and pens? I have found that focus is key so i left my paintbox at home, and went equipped with my laptop, pad, a variety of pens, a good supply of warm clothes and a hot water bottle. I'd been to Lumb Bank before, and whilst not at the bottom of the valley, knew that it could be cold and possibly damp.
All of us on the course were of Chinese heritage including the two brilliant tutors: Yan Ge, Sichuan Writer now living in Britain and Jeremy Tiang, New York based writer, translator and playwright. Others on the course were also fiction writers, poets, playwrights and film makers. It was a real pleasure to be with everyone and as we workshopped our writing, walked, cooked, ate and washed up together. We learnt of the different journeys our ancestors had made first from China then to Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, U.S.A. and several from Malaysia like mine. Now we all live in various parts of Britain-London, Yorkshire, Scotland, East Anglia, Merseyside and Northumberland. It was fascinating to contemplate the series of events and stories that led us to all having climbed the steep cobbled street of Heptonstall to live together for a week in the old stone house of Lumb Bank.
The weather was fairly kind and allowed us to go out for walks up steep paths and over craggy rocks to visit places like the grave of writer Sylvia Plath.
Each afternoon we literally had 'a room of one's own' and could gaze down the valley as characters, plots and places were imagined and harnessed onto paper and screen. In my mind I see these stories like a film being played just as I visually imagine the paintings I paint. Both, in a sense, are like cooking an aromatic meal full of colour that after intermittent tastings I add more spice. Like conjuring up any good feast it comes to fruition the more you make it so now I am editing and adding spice to the story I started at Lumb Bank. I arrived home from the stimulating environment of living and breathing creative writing to install the visual story of journeying through the Cappadoccian Caves in the underground cities. These are the paintings now on show in Heeley art Club's exhibition in Sheffield Winter gardens. I'm now imagining the written story to go with them and the lives the people who lived in them had.