Guest review: ‘Wordy Women’ at Bristol Festival of Literature
Written by Laura Hillier
On Sunday 21st October, the Café Corner Writers put on the ‘Wordy Women’ event at the Windmill Hill City Farm. The group are made up of nine women, who get together once a month to write and discuss their work. They used to meet in the corner of the Colston Hall Café (hence, the group’s name) but now meet at the Hatchet Public House. At ‘Wordy Women’, they read a selection of their work.
The works presented (including poetry, prose, and an extract from a play), were extremely varied in content and focus, giving the audience a taste of the different group members’ writing styles and interests. Imaginative poems regarding the sinister nature of a particular beer mat (Rebecca Bryce – ‘The Ominous Beer Mat’), a grandson’s scorn towards hats (Suzanne Stewart – ‘Thomas Hates Hats’ from ‘Family Album’), and suggestions about what one would quite like to do in the event of winning the lottery (Ruth Foster – ‘If I Won the Lottery’) certainly illustrated the diversity in the group’s humour and wit.
The event also showcased the group’s ability to tell stories from unique and unexpected perspectives. For example, the rooms in a house were anthropomorphised by Ruth Foster (mostly to discuss the occupier’s cleanliness, or lack thereof, between one another – ‘A Room With a View’), and a striking poem by Ange Tanner portrayed the communication between different body parts in someone with a painful disease (‘Gate Crashers’).
Despite the variety, there were a few common threads that ran though the different performances. For instance, I was struck by the frequency with which the connections that women have with one another arose as a theme of the pieces. Jane Allen’s prose about two different owners of a house that both faced difficult pregnancies (‘Country Cottage Bedroom’), and Gillian Turner’s piece about a young woman in London that (reluctantly, at first) supports her neighbour through childbirth showed the power of motherhood as a unifying experience between women. Helen Vegoda’s touching prose (‘Somebody I Used to Know’) about a woman visiting an elderly neighbour in her community also highlighted female companionship. Indeed, many of the pieces were extremely moving and thought-provoking. Sarah Nymanhall’s poems (‘Homeland’ and ‘Hostile Environment’) covered themes around migration, the divisive effects of putting up walls between us, and the importance of shared humanity.
It was fitting that nature featured as another key theme in much of the work, particularly a beautiful poem set against the falling leaves of autumn and written in remembrance (Jo Jenkin – ‘November’). Holding ‘Wordy Women’ in the outdoorsy setting of the City Farm unquestionably helped these elements of the pieces to shine through. The creativity, talent, and humour of the Café Corner Writers was both inspiring and infectious, and I hope to attend more of their readings in the future.