Don’t let growing up ruin your dreams – Bristol Lit Fest Launch Logic



After Primary School, lets face it, the fun is over. High school means you have to work out how to act like a grown up, or at least learn the ability to pretend convincingly you’re a grown up.

You don’t play games, not imaginative games. You learn to play social games. You’re made to stand up and read in front of the class. You’re terrified, and you have no idea what the words mean, not really.

You don’t understand the story yet, because you haven’t experienced anything yet. You’re learning to fit in and fake the emotions though, so you blend in with the crowd.

But you know the words mean something, so you start to wonder about them, usually secretly. You wonder what you can learn from them. The stories you hear seem to have the answer to something you can’t quite grasp.


You have your set texts. GCSE’s are important. You need to hit the targets or the school looks bad, your parents will be disappointed, and you will feel bad.

If you don’t get your grades, how will you learn to tick all the other boxes ahead of you satisfactorily.

You’ll never get into college. You’ll never get a job. You won’t be a success.

Won’t I, you wonder? Really?


They are not on the designated sheet. They are out of the scope of the reading list. Those texts that catch your imagination are too modern, those artists that intrigue you are too vulgar. Your opinions are not shared by the class, and your answers don’t fit the marking criteria. You don’t make the grade.

So, now there are two obvious paths to tread; because your imagination is broad and varied, but what the majority of people count as ‘growing up’ and ‘being successful’ is not.

That’s when you meet and court those most limiting of characters;

Fuck ‘em, and compliance.

Fuck ‘em says: The hell with ‘literature’ and ‘aesthetics’ and, all that other bollocks.

They’re for rich wankers anyway. For people with too much time on their hands.

They’re for armchair philosophers and self indulgent bastards who like to sound clever in front of their smug peers down the pub. Literature is for people with too much money who don’t have to get a ‘real’ job. If you wrote anything honest down, they wouldn’t understand it anyway, because they don’t go out and experience things.They just read about them. They read Shakespeare and Tolstoy and they haven’t a clue about real life.

Fuck ‘em says; If I don’t know the right words, they’ll never take me seriously. If I don’t read the right books, and have the right grades, they’ll make me feel small.

So you stop daydreaming, stop asking questions, stop getting lost in stories or writing anything honest, you just get on with it.

Then you feel sad and you don’t know why. Because you can’t express yourself, and you feel like you shouldn’t. You just want to fit in.

Don’t worry, a disheartened, tired voice inside you says.

Just get home, put on Netflix and it will tell you what you’ll like, based on previous selections. No need to discover or explore. No need to think anymore.

Work in the morning.

Or you can listen to compliance.

Suddenly saying Stephen King or Nick Hornby are your favourite authors is embarrassing. You could safely upscale to Bukowski or Hunter S. Thomson because they’re pretty cool. But you have to know they’re cool because of the drugs and the drinking, not really think about the message behind what they’re saying.

You need bite size quotes. Bite size quotes impress.

Who cares if you didn’t read the whole story. You can only tweet 140 characters anyway. Or you can just put a selfie on Facebook of you in black rimmed glasses, drinking a latte with the book next to you, you don’t even need a quote for that.

Later, of course, you will have to know the more ‘literary’ writers. You’ll need to be familiar with canonical texts and learn to  pronounce authors like Dostoyevsky* correctly.

You’ll need to know at least a summary of Shakespeare’s plays. Was Hamlet the one where he holds out the skull, and Macbeth the one where he goes murderously mad, or the other way round?

Just learn to remember the facts, and when it comes up at the pub quiz, over a craft ale, you’ll sound very intelligent indeed.

You learn it all, and you know all the best lines. You can say all the right words in the right places. You fit right in. You’re successful. A real grown up.

But you feel sad and you don’t know why.

You can’t express yourself, and you feel like you shouldn’t. You’ve learned so many second hand opinions, you’re not even sure what you think anymore.

Don’t worry, put on Netflix and it will tell you what you’ll like, based on previous selections.

No need to think anymore. Work in the morning.

So, readers, Small Stories is here to tell you you needn’t choose either.

Literature, in whichever way you choose to write it, read it, perform it, or listen to it, is cathartic.

It’s good for you.

It makes you question life, consider other points of view, and tell your own truth, however you wish to tell it.

Ask stupid questions, because that’s how you learn.

Tell your truths despite being a ‘proper grown up’, and never stop daydreaming and doodling at the back of class.

Thanks to everyone who came to the event, and thanks for getting involved and writing down your confessions. There’s a selection below and I’m sure there’ll be more from Small Stories soon… so keep in touch @smallstorybris

Confessions from the evening can be found below…

*My truth: Dos-toy-ev-sky. I had to do that in my mind when writing this. I also wiki searched the spelling. Just in case.


A selection of your confessions from the Literature Festival launch:

“Sometimes at poetry readings I switch off and just think about myself” – Er, thanks for coming Graham

“I am as soft as down & as frightened as a chicken” – Carol

“I love Jonny” – Well Sophie, if he’s reading this, can I count matchmaking as one of the services provided by Small Stories? Keep me posted eh.

“I should have known I was a lesbian when I fancied Mary Poppins as a child”. Cassie

“I’m going to be an English teacher and I still don’t fully understand how apostrophes work”. Hannah

“I own hundreds of DVDs, but don’t have a DVD player”. Josh

“I am over 30 & I still can’t tell my left from my right. Now I have developed a system where I have to clap in order to know which way is left. It’s weird”. Yer tis Christie, but whatever works!

Thanks so much to everyone who came along, and to our amazing readers, Dean McCaffrey, Ellen Waddell & Bella Fortune, and to DJ BarrTheTruth

Also a massive thanks to out designer Sam Green, and our illustrator Ben Philips. You guys make us look so pretty.

Hopefully see you all at the other amazing Bristol Festival of Literature events on around Bristol this week…


Review: The Paper Cinema (Puppet Fest)


Think back to when you were a small child, to a time when you could create exciting worlds of adventure and menace simply with your imagination. The earth was too big to contemplate, and so the tiny intricacies of your small corner of it were intriguing enough to command your undivided attention.

It’s usually impossible to feel that level of excitement and wonder as an adult. The big things get in the way.

That’s one of the many reasons that The Paper Cinema is so unique and wonderful. Last night’s Bristol Festival of Puppetry opener at Watershed (three short ‘films’ animated by paper puppeteers, and projected onto the big screen with incredible technical skill) made me feel like a child again, full of unbridled imagination.

Read more at Bristol 24/7…

Bristol Art Review – The Skeleton Frame by Katy-Jane Riches


Yesterday I went to the Philadelphia Street Gallery in Cabot Circus for the final day of up and coming Bristol photographer Katy-Jane Riches exhibition ‘The Skeleton Frame’.

The gallery was quiet, with more people thinking about January Sales shopping than buying Katy’s wonderful prints.

“I picked a bad time of year to exhibit I wanted to make any money!” admitted Katy, with an honest and cheerful optimism, despite clearly looking forward to a week off after a hectic couple of month touring Bristol with her beautifully shot portraits.

I had seen Katy’s work before, but until now had only seen her landscapes, which greatly appealed to me because of her wonderful ability to take raw industrial ugliness and juxtapose it with nature – the result made beautiful by her ability to shoot in a way that captures the scenes in vivid natural colours, giving the often broken down features of the compositions a whole new appeal, life and hew.

I had previously bought a print of an industrial plant outside Nottingham, pumping out billowing smoke over a motorway, which Katy had managed to catch in such a way that a passing lorry reflected the bright pink sunset as the smoke blended into to the cloud over head on the reflective, rain soaked tarmac.

However, ‘The Skeleton Frame’ was something different entirely.

Katy said she worked on the concept behind the exhibition for three months before putting lens to subject. The main subject being vintage beauty that takes us on a classically rose tinted journey through what Katy describes as the ‘Skeleton Frame of life on which we build, adding necessary tasks that make up every-day life”.

The pictures exhibited are all limited editions, (Katy made just five of each) shot in black and white, and split into two parts, ‘The Skeleton Frame’ and ‘The Meaning’.

The first part looks at the necessities that we require in order to exist before we add anything to the life we live. The interesting thing about this exhibition is that rather than concentrate on the absence of these things, the portraits bask in the beauty of having – or enjoying these simple necessities in a style that is both retrospective and softly beautiful.

They show the enjoyment of the subject in the smallest of pleasures, from shots entitled ‘Drink –because water sustains all life’ to ‘Age – The inevitable process that faces us all’.

It would have been easy to focus on the melancholy side these two themes, on the absence of, or the restrictions that, these things can place on our lives. And in a post-modern world, focusing on these absences is a popular thing to do.

However, having met Katy, what shines through in both her work and her personality is her uniquely optimistic take on the subjects she portrays. In the skeleton frame, the meanings  and themes she builds upon are viewed positively, and focus on the happiness and pleasant nostalgia life has to offer, however fleeting.

She explains this saying “I have chosen a vintage theme for most of the images within my work, this is to show the timeless nature of the skeleton frame and the relevance of it through generations”.

She was also very deliberate in her choice of model and subject. As well as enjoyment, the pictures portray the mundane nature of everyday existence, and using the fifties inspired vintage theme, Katy also aims to comment on traditional ideas of femininity. Pieces like ‘Housework 1’ and ‘Housework 2’ inspire the feeling of a fifties billboard advertisement, yet the look on the subjects face belies a disinterest, and a determination. Katy says through these pictures she aimed to ‘draw a contrast between the mundane nature of routine and the beauty of a woman empowered’.

Her title piece, ‘The Skeleton Frame’ was shot in an empty swimming pool in Bishopsworth, Bristol. The artist said “The shot portrays the idea of an empty space that needs to be filled to enable purpose”.

And that, overall is the theme of the exhibition. A beautiful look at the life we are given, with Part Two, ‘The Meaning’, looking at the small but equally important things we do in order to build on that frame of necessity – little things that culminate to build a fulfilling life.

One of the most moving pieces ‘Lasting Love’ is a simple shot of two aged hands resting on one another. Katy took this shot of her grandparents shortly before her grandfather died. The caption below simply reads ‘Since the age of 12 and 13, my grandparents shared their lives and love with each other; true love that lasts a lifetime’.

It is this simplicity, made beautiful by honesty and a touch of the kind of glamour we unintentionally add through memory and fondly looking back that makes Riches work so unique, and so uncomplicatedly striking.

You can find Katy on Facebook, or visit her website for more information on upcoming exhibitions.


Bristol News – Take a look at the weird and wonderful shortlist for Watershed’s £30,000 ‘Playable City’ Award!

Taken from ‘Hello Lamp post’ one of the projects shortlisted for the Playable City Award.

If you have an interest in interactive art and a playful side, then take a look at the shortlisted artists in Watershed’s Playable city award.

Having launched the £30,000 Playable City award in October, Watershed received 94 entries from 24 countries – a testament to the growing global recognition and international appeal of one of Bristol’s most pioneering cultural spaces.

The artists shortlisted each provide wonderfully varied and imaginative ideas on ways to make Bristol a playable space – ranging from 3D printing, to robots, to talking lamp posts!

All the suggestions are designed to really capture the imagination of Bristol’s residents and visitors, and to encourage them to get involved with and immerse themselves in the creativity and sense of fun that the project is designed to inspire.

Visitors are invited to explore, rearrange and interact with the proposed projects, and to look differently at city spaces they may see every day. The project is geared toward sparking involvement and interest from Bristol residents, and that is why Watershed is asking for your comments.

They would like to know which of the ideas and suggestions appeals to you and why.

What is it you would like to see happening in Bristol?

Clare Reddington, Director of the Watershed’s Pervasive Media Studio and Chair of the Playable City Judging Panel says;

“I see this desire to reclaim public spaces in action in Watershed’s Café/bar, in the way that people make themselves at home here. How comfortable they are moving the chairs around, reconfiguring the space to fit their needs, playing with the infrastructure. This and brilliant examples of playfulness from around the world, have inspired us to launch the international Playable City Award.”

The judges will meet on Monday 14th January to decide the winner, who will receive £30,000 plus support in order to make their playful ideas a wonderful interactive reality on the streets of Bristol.

If you would like to learn more about the artists who have been shortlisted and their plans for the city, visit the site and leave Watershed your comments.

I’m really excited to see what will be chosen, and with interesting and innovative projects like the Playable City Award and Gromit Unleashed well underway, 2013 looks set to be a great year for Bristol in terms of art, interaction and cultural engagement – and of course, above all, fun!


Watershed & the British Film Institute encourage young film makers

Image taken from the Watershed website

Bristol’s Watershed has done it again – flexing its artistic muscle and encouraging emerging talent and artistic flair in young people, this time in partnership with the British Film Institute (BFI).

The BFI have announced today that Watershed is one of twenty-four film academy partners who will, from March 2013, run intensive masterclasses, practical workshops and live projects aimed at talented 16 – 19 year olds. Other partners include Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.

The project will provide valuable experience to help them in their first steps toward working in the film industry. It aims to mentor and develop local creative talent by teaching them the skills necessary to become the next generation of local film industry professionals.

The screenings, workshops and projects will give budding film makers a complete and holistic knowledge of the world of film, from production to exhibition.

Always an organisation that can be counted on to strike while the iron is hot, Watershed have already confirmed an impressive line-up of industry leaders for involvement with the project including Bristol’s well-loved Aardman Animations, director and critic Mark Cousins and local-BAFTA winning filmmaker, Emma Lazenby.

They also have a great deal of support from distinguished and critically acclaimed industry fans including Bristol born Oscar® winner Iain Canning , producer of the King’s Speech and Shame who said;

“Watershed was central to my understanding of the history and possibilities of cinema and without it I wouldn’t have been inspired to produce the films that I have made.”

What better reference could they ask for!

Applications open on Fri December 7th, and the Watershed encourages any ‘talented, committed 16 – 19 year olds with a passion for film’ to apply.

Places are free, but are no doubt going to be in high demand.

Watershed’s Engagement Projects Producer, Hannah Higgson said;

“The Film Academy builds upon Watershed’s strong history of identifying, empowering and supporting local young talent. I’m looking forward to working in collaboration with Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, who will also be running an Academy, to help give the next generation of Iain Cannings the skills and experience they need to maybe one day collect an Oscar® themselves.”

So once again, congratulations to Bristol for continuing to prove itself as a hub of artistic and creative talent – a city that encourages emerging talent and repeatedly and open mindedly provides opportunities for young people.


Bristol News – Gromit Unleashed! (And he’s going to be all over Bristol)

Who doesn’t love Wallace and Gromit? I’m going to say no one. What’s not to love!

From July 1st – Sept 7th 2013, that most lovable of mutts, Gromit will be unleashed all over Bristol. And from today, companies can get involved in this exciting and unique project by sponsoring a Gromit.

The wonderfully creative and charitable folks at Aardman Animations and  The Grand Appeal have been in cahoots again to raise money for treatment of sick children at Bristol Children’s Hospital.

From today, companies have the opportunity to ‘sponsor a Gromit’ – a 5 foot fiberglass sculpture of the nations favorite canine, which will be uniquely decorated by artists from around Bristol and further afield.

The Aardman team intend Gromit Unleashed to be an interactive art trail, complete with a phone app designed by Bristol web design agency Element 78 Solutions which means you can check in whenever you discover a Gromit in one of the many exciting and high profile Bristol locations.

Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park with some of the 60 Gromits that will be appearing around Bristol

Previous art trails in Bristol (for example the WOW! Gorillas trail last year) have attracted over one million visitors to the city, and have secured print media coverage with a value of around £3.5 Million.

The money raised from sponsorship of Gromit Unleashed will go towards supporting Bristol Children’s Hospital to provide life saving surgery and specialist paediatric healthcare for children all over the world.

Element78 have been charitably lending their creative design expertise and working with The Grand Appeal over the last year. Following the successful redevelopment and launch of the Grand Appeal site, and redesign of the Cots for Tots website they have taken on and supported the Gromit Unleashed project, designing two bespoke websites for the artists and corporate sponsors.

They will also be doing their bit and sponsoring a Gromit obviously – so keep a look out!

As well as the opportunity to raise brand profile, exposure, and to be affiliated with a well loved character that has 90% brand recognition in the UK, companies taking part will be doing something really amazing – helping save the lives of sick children.

Each Gromit will be positioned on a plinth with the company’s brand logo displayed prominently, as well as inclusion in the Trail Map, Appeal Auction Guide and Gromit Unleashed Website.

This is a great opportunity for companies wishing to get involved with the appeal, and yet another wonderful example of Bristol’s playful and charitable side.

As well as previous art trails, Bristol has also recently won involvement in artistic support projects such as Watershed’s launch of the £30,00 Playable City Award – it’s all going on in Bristol!

The city has a history of attracting attention for it’s creative pursuits and support of artistic experimentation, and Gromit will be a perfectly placed and welcome addition to a city with a great sense of fun and humour.

To get involved and to learn more about Gromit Unleashed, visit the site.

Also, please take the time to know more about The Grand Appeal and Cots for Tots Appeal and make a donation or get involved with fundraising events.

Cots for Tots, The Grand Appeal and Gromit Unleashed sites kindly designed by Element78 for The Grand Appeal.

I am certainly looking forward to seeing what the artists have in store. Let the hunt for Gromit commence!


Art Review – Google’s wonderful tribute to Winsor McCay

Excerpt from Google’s ‘Little Nemo in Slumberland’ doodle

If, as is most likely, you use the Google search engine today, you’re in for  digital art treat. The Google doodle today celebrates the wonderful cartoonist Winsor McCay’s ‘Little Nemo in Slumberland’ – a cartoon strip first published in the 1900’s in the New York Herald.

The strip told the tale of a young boy, Little Nemo, as he tried to reach the Princess of Slumberland, travelling through strange and beautiful scenes in his surreal dreams.

This Google doodle is one of the best and most elaborate ones I have seen, and mimic’s brilliantly the original style and magic of McCay’s cartoon strip.

The interactive doodle allows you to tug at the corner of a curtain drape, and follow Little Nemo as he falls through a magical land, past the letters G-O-O-G-L-E, and concludes, as McCay often did, with Nemo being woken from his Slumberland adventure by falling from his bed.

McCay worked on many other cartoons, including animated films until his death in 1934. His art set the standard for the animated art of the era, inspiring, amongst many others, Walt Disney.

If you haven’t had the chance to check out Little Nemo, I would really recommend you do. The cartons are both complex and innocently simplistic, and are something really unique and wonderful, whether you’re a child or a grown up.

It’s really great the Google have chosen the 107th anniversary of Little Nemo as the inspiration for this doodle, and have put it together with such obvious care, understanding and respect for the artists work.

It is well worth taking a moment to take a look at it, and I hope it leads people to investigate further into the work of such a great artist.

The Original ‘Little Nemo’

Art Review – Paulo Cirio’s ‘Street Ghosts’: A fleeting glimpse at the world.

I came across Paulo Cirio’s ‘Street Ghosts’ on Creative Review’s blog  and they intrigued me at once. My very initial reaction was that they were eerie. The aptly named street art project initially confuses the eye, and there is something of an odd combination between the lasting nature of the digital image and the fading and ephemeral appearance of Cirio’s reincarnation of those images that feels slightly uneasy.

Cirio, in his own words, describes the exhibition as ‘a performance on a battlefield, playing out a war between public and private interests for winning control on our intimacy and habits, which can change permanently depending on the victor’.

He describes the spectral figures as ‘casualties of the info-war in the city’.

The purpose of the exhibition in the artists mind is to make a point. Google appropriated these images without public consent and has since copyrighted the content which Cirio has claimed back, he says, in the public interest. It’s a war on advertising, on the ‘exploitation by a giant social parasite that resells us what was collectively created by people’s activity and money’. (You can read the full artist statement here).

The idea behind the exhibition is a noble, and an interesting one. There has been much criticism and global concern over the issues Street View raises with regard to privacy.

However, there is also something more interesting and unsettling at play here. My immediate reaction to seeing the pictures was one of unease, but a similar unease to that which I felt when seeing some of the images in their original form.

For example, some pictures have appeared in the media that inspired in me the same reaction, simply due to their unexplained nature, and the feeling of their being the just the tip of an iceberg, a tiny part of some larger story, which we will never get to hear. For example, pictures like the ‘horse boy’ are most likely to have a very dull back story in reality, but an unknown quantity is always more interesting than one that we know.

However, more than the ‘strange’ figures captured on street view, there have been others; from prostitutes, to drug gangs to corpses. And via Street View, these otherwise unseen, macabre, melancholy and hidden everyday occurrences have been ‘reported’ in a way that is both totally unbiased, but also totally unfeeling.

Although Google has algorithms that can blank out the identities of the people it records, it cannot monitor what it sees. The best it can hope to do is to remove the images as they are reported - but given the immediate response and share rate of internet culture, those pictures are still available to anyone at the touch of a button.

And that is why Cirio’s exhibition is so interesting.

Whatever your views on the morality or privacy issues surrounding the images Google collate, they are a window, a tiny glimpse, into the lives of others that make you aware of just what a minute piece of humanity you are.

And to my mind that is not a negative thing.

We are all creatures who inhabit such a small fragment of a greater surrounding, and there is some merit to having the ability to venture into areas; neighborhoods, countries and lives, if only for a fleeting second, that you would never normally encounter. It is the beginning to a larger understanding – an awakening of an intrigue that goes further than voyeurism.

It is the same feeling I got as a child when I first travelled on an aeroplane.

I remember vividly looking down at the houses getting smaller, and the roads stretching out further than my little head had ever imagined, looking like a toy landscape, and for the first time seeing how big the country was. I remember realizing that no matter how important my life was to me, there were so many other people, who felt their lives were just as important as mine, who would never know I existed, and who would struggle on, each with interesting stories, to tell, stories I would never hear.

We would both live and die, none the wiser of each other’s existence. And there was comfort, tolerance and intrigue in that fact.

That is what I find so interesting about Cirio’s exhibition. It’s not the privacy issue, but the fact that, like anyone captured in any photo to which the context has been lost, there’s just that hint of a story. Of tragedy, struggle, and of the commonality of living.

The difference here is that technology has eliminated the possibility of a context. It is the unfeeling chartering of a land, a moment captured, a brief moment in time frozen and now available forever. A moment full of people living, dying and muddling through in a million different ways.

We can’t ever know them all, but the ghostly apparitions trapped in that one second of un-posed, unplanned recording proves that we are all here. It makes us wonder about the stories behind the blurred faces. Whether it’s a man waiting to cross the road, a hooker hustling for business, or a man shot dead in the street, the intimate knowledge that the whole world is not so distant after all, and that it’s just full of people trying to exist makes me feel for all those people.

And that makes me aware that my selfish needs are just a tiny part of many.

One day, I, like everyone in Cirio’s exhibition, and Googles comprehensive archive of fleeting souls, will be nothing more than a shadow on the wall, with a story that people can only, (if they even have the inkling) guess at.

Bristol Painter Tom White – a beautiful exhibition

Read My Review Here