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…


Small Stories presents Bristol Festival of Literature Launch Party!


Small Stories presents: The Bristol Festival of Literature Launch Party

Oct 17th, 8.00pm – late at Watershed Café Bar



Can you hear the truth?

The modern world is full of words. It’s hard to cut through the noise. From click bait articles to 140 character self-promotion to advertising masquerading as news to social media self-propaganda, it’s hard to tell what’s real and to get your voice heard.

Everyone has a story to tell, no matter who they are or how they choose to tell it. Often, the most memorable stories are honest – they share experiences, they teach you different points of view.

That’s what Small Stories is all about. We find the people with the most interesting truths, and we give them a stage.

You’ll hear from some of Bristol’s best Theatre Performers (Ellen Waddell), Performance Artists (Bella Fortune), Spoken Word Performers (Dean McCaffery) and from your slightly cynical, but ever honest, host (Natalie Burns).

There’ll also be a live DJ set and the chance to get involved and make your story heard – all for free. Donations welcome of course!

Most importantly, whether you like it or not, we only speak the truth.

Learn a little more about our truth tellers…

Ellen Waddell

Ellen Waddell is a writer, director, performance artist and musician.

She’s been featured on BBC Radio Bristol, and her one-woman show ‘Jean Luc Picard and Me,’ has just returned from the Edinburgh Fringe.

Ellen will be performing a piece of prose about the difficulty of being honest in a world where self-promotion is valued above all else.


Natalie Burns

Natalie Burns is a writer, reviewer and ex-copywriter. She is co-creator of Bristol writers group, Small Stories, and currently working on the board of organisers for Bristol festival of Literature.

Natalie will be hosting the event, and reading a short tale about why writing is the best way to make sure that being a ‘proper grown-up’ doesn’t ruin your dreams.


Bella Fortune

Bella Fortune is a writer, performer and performance maker. Her first two solo shows were performed as part of Mayfest at the Wardrobe and Solo Showcase, Solo Lab and her third is currently in development with support from Ferment, Bristol Old Vic.

Bella will be critiquing the critic by performing a poem about her own experience of the pro and cons of reviewing.


Dean McCaffrey 

Dean McCaffrey is a Bristol based writer & musician who has performed with the ‘Apples & Snakes’, a UK based spoken word organization, ‘Listen Softly’ in London and ‘Stemschot’ in Belgium. He performs spoken word & hip-hop around the city.

Dean will be telling some very real spoken word truths in his unique, creative and inimitable style.


Luke Sleven

From an early age, Mr. Sleven has been scribbling on every canvas or wall he can get his grubby, paint stained paws on. Each piece is produced with the thought and intention of giving the viewer an insight into his world and a piece of his soul. He can mainly be found dwelling around the colourful underbelly of Stokes Croft.

Luke will be illustrating one of the Small Stories live on stage, and we’ll be auctioning of his unique, original painting at the end of the event.


DJ BarrTheTruth

Usually found lurking in the more dark and dangerous corners of the city, DJ BarrTheTruth has decided to step into the light to play us some funky tunes when the performances are over.

He’ll be making sure you all feel relaxed and groovy, and that you stick around to meet some fun people, have a drink or two, and enjoy the party.



Bristol Literature Festival is hosting 16 events, right across the city.

View the events map

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 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.


Film Review – Breathing: A Karl Markoviks Film

A rather gloomy, but brilliant film – Click the link to read my review. Breathing Review

Film Review – Breathing: Showing at Bristol Watershed from April 20th

Karl Markovics directorial debut, bleak & touching. Review to follow!

Click here for preview

Coriolanus Review – Ralf Feinnes directorial debut is definitely worth a watch

Click Here for Review