Louise Tondeur went along to Rattle Tales’ Brighton Prize awards night and wrote about it for us:
On 14th May I went along to Rattle Tales, at the Brunswick. It was a special performance as part of the Brighton Fringe, to celebrate the Brighton Prize. Rattle Tales describes itself as ‘interactive live literature’ so I wasn’t sure what to expect. This was my first time at Rattle Tales, my first time at the Brighton Fringe, and my first time at the Brunswick – almost exactly a year after we first moved to Hove. I am newly converted to twitter, and I’ve found it’s an absolutely brilliant way to find out about small presses, short story events and festivals, calls for submissions and competitions, and that’s how I found out about Rattle Tales. (Try it, it’s fun. Especially if you’re an introvert like me!)
Brighton’s premier Fringe venue
The Brunswick (as most people familiar with Brighton and Hove will know) is a friendly pub, on the road down from Audrey’s chocolates, and next to the sea: what more could you want! Rattle Tales turned out to be a performance of short stories, with added zing from the audience and via multimedia. There were rattles on the tables for audience members to make noise with – mainly to show appreciation and to ask a question.
The space was cosy and intimate and the storytelling authentic and direct. I got a real sense of community from the participants and from the audience. I enjoyed hearing flash fiction read aloud particularly because some pieces felt like they had been written for the page and were being brought alive in a new way, whereas others felt as if they had been written with direct contact with the audience in mind. The addition of photographs and music made the readings not only participatory but also multi-sensory, and a real experience – like mini pieces of theatre – rather than a reading. The rattles added to the celebratory atmosphere – which actually wasn’t as subversive as I thought it was going to be.
The event made writing feel much more democratic than it can at some readings; there was the sense that we’re all in it together and that audience members could just as well get up and read – in fact the readers did emerge from the audience. We were all writers together. At times, because of questions from the floor it even took on the quality of a writing workshop, to the extent that the whole thing felt like an expression of what it can mean – at least sometimes – to be a writer. I get a similar feeling from a book I’ve just got around to reading: Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird – I am really enjoying her sense of humour and useful advice on the writing life. Both Rattle Tales and Bird by Bird give me a similar warm glow: a reminder that there are other people out there trying to write, for whom life also gets in the way, who also stare blankly at the screen sometimes.
I’ve already admitted rather sheepishly on my own blog that I wrote a piece of flash fiction in the audience of Rattle Tales instead of making notes for this review. That sense of democratisation inspired me. The subtext of the story I wrote on 14th May – though you probably wouldn’t know from reading it – is to do with the writer’s (sometimes uncertain) journey.
The event was hosted brilliantly, and thoughtfully, by Jo Warburton and kicked off with Mike Liardet, who gave us a multilayered story called ‘Two Timing’, which seemed to me to be about storytelling and narratorial voices, and whether the storyteller is ultimately reliable. This was followed by ‘The Bus’ by Amanda Welby-Everard – a haunting story about a woman who loses – and then rediscovers – her identity after joining a traveling community. Then we heard ‘Duet’ by Erinna Mettler, which beautifully evoked both everyday life and Ella Fitzgerald. They are all regular Rattle Tales writers so you can find out more about them on the website.
The judges of the Brighton Prize were Bethan Roberts and Laura H. Lockington. I was disappointed not to be able to stay to hear all of the stories – I was called away – including a story called ‘Ms Featherstone and the Beast’ read by Bethan Roberts.
The winners of the Brighton Prize read at the very end of the evening. The overall winner was Linda McVeigh’s Ordinary Man in Suit. The runners up were Allie Rogers‘ Not Coming in Again, and Melanie Whipman‘s The Real Thing. These writers all read their stories on the night. You can see a list of all the winners on the Brighton Prize website, and read the winning stories in the upcoming anthology.
There was a sense at Rattle Tales that it is writing that’s important, not publication or prizes, and that sense – along with the celebratory atmosphere – is quite hard to find, let alone engender.