BLOG Jacob Oliver

NWR Issue 105

Welsh Short Story Network, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, 15 October

Tucked in the Aberystwyth Arts Centre’s bar and lounge upstairs is a fairly small space some readers may recognize as the Talks and Spoken Word Performance Theatre (or to theatre buffs, the Round Studio). The theatre is an uncomplicated entity, essentially a few tables clustered in front of a lectern, ringed by a pair of be–pillowed benches stretching the length of the rear wall. Adornment is kept to a minimum, and yet there is a palpable sense of intimacy, owing to the lighting and set–up. At the latest iteration of the Welsh Short Story Network, these things, combined with an unpretentious air, helped the audience address sometimes difficult and personal subject matter, though the evening was not without humour. One of the featured readers, Patrick Kavanagh, in particular, has a magnetic charm. This je ne sais quoi makes it easy to predict he's at the beginning of an extremely promising literary career.

Aided by the bar’s proximity and lubricated (for some) by its wares, the readings, befitting the relaxed manner of its environs, not so much commenced as started up. It was not like an event circled on the calendar with shouted fanfare so much as a reacquiantance with some old friends, even if you didn’t happen to know anyone in the room. This Network, then, proved to be less some kind of sinister organization (unless you find Doc Martens and sweaters sinister) as the performance’s title might imply, and more a loose collection of singular talents. Introduced by the deeply respected Matthew Francis, four individuals, three of whom currently dot the post–grad roster at Aberystwyth University, did not disappoint.

Patrick Kavanagh was indeed electric. Though the reading centred on short prose selections, he is already garnering attention elsewhere with his cross–genre work and mixed medium collaborations. Carly Holmes is probably the most accomplished of the four to date, possessing a considerable printed footprint with her short fiction in addition to having recently had her novel The Scrapbook published by Parthian.

Emma Musty read two selections, one about a young pregnant woman wrestling with fading dreams and a relationship that, despite her partner’s best intentions, is ultimately suffocating. The other was a beautifully moving piece with an autobiographical component about the metaphorical search for a father lost at sea. Neither selection was up–beat but Musty does have a personable demeanor that pulls the audience in. The heart of her stories gelled around landscape's role in delivering the promise of freedom. George Sandifer–Smith, a craftsman of gripping narrative has, like Kavanagh, already attracted attention in several genres. He read a longer piece about the shaky first steps of young love, affording the exploration of a complex father–son relationship. Sandifer–Smith’s performance was light and relatable.

The night was tremendously enjoyable and a great showcase for these emerging talents.


previous blog: For the Birds, RSPB Ynys-hir Reserve 2–5 October 2014
next blog: James Dickson Innes at MOMA, Y Tabernacl, Machynlleth, until 8 November


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