Tuesday, 22nd January 2013.
This was the first time we had been to the Arts at the Old Fire Station to listen to Short Stories Aloud. The room - which was called 'the Loft' - was the ideal size, warm, cosy and inviting - especially on a cold winter's night. There were about 35-40 people and the atmosphere felt good. The three short stories were read out very well and I found myself completely lost within them. Jason Hewitt read two short stories from George Saunders and Gaye Poole read a longer story from Sarah Butler - gripping and quite emotional (especially to do with the blackbirds). The question and answer time with the debut novelist Sarah Butler was excellent. She spoke of how she loved to write from a very young age and the feeling of getting her first book published - she was exciting and bubbly, with a lovely personality. I can hardly wait to read her book 10 Things I Know About Love. Sarah Franklin who founded Short Stories Aloud must feel proud of these literary evenings, and I am sure the next 12 months will be even more successful. Hopefully it will encourage new authors and actors to Oxford. We will definitely go again, and it was nice to have drinks and cake in the interval. Not to be missed - an evening of relaxation and new experiences.
Justjean (Unverified), 29/01/13
23rd January 2013 I love reading stories, but there's something about having a story read to you that inspires the imagination and draws you closely into the narrative. This evening, I enjoyed listening to three short stories at the Old Fire Station in a relaxed, friendly environment.
The authors whose work we heard were George Saunders (performed by Jason Hewitt) and Sarah Butler (performed by Gaye Poole). The evening was adeptly introduced and concluded by Sarah Franklin.The first and last stories, by George Saunders, were about dysfunctional American families and relationships. The actor, Jason Hewitt, had a very impressive American accent and set the scenes within the stories well. Saunders writes thought provoking, somewhat dark pieces surrounding lower class American families. These stories, also, concerned different ways of loving someone. Although amusing at times, they were really quite poignant.
Sarah Butler's story was very well read by Gaye Poole. It considered the ending of a relationship, moving on from the past and contained some particularly effective imagery. I enjoyed the particular style of her writing and the story's conclusion.The evening ended with a Question and Answer session with Sarah Butler as her debut novel 10 Things I Know About Love is published next week. She gave a short outline of the plot and explained how she became a writer. Sarah was personable and friendly, inspiring others to also write. Her new novel certainly sounded very interesting and after listening to her short story tonight, I would be intrigued to read it.
Short Stories at the Old Fire Station runs every month, is only £5 for a ticket and was a lovely way to spend a cold January evening. In addition to the excellent entertainment, it is also possible to drink wine, enjoy cookies and buy the books of the authors attending. I would like to attend again and would thoroughly recommend the experience overall.
Jane Shields (DI Reviewer), 24/01/13
Short Stories Aloud at the Old Fire Station presents short stories by published authors, read out by professional actors. Enthusiastically presented by Sarah Franklin and fuelled by complementary and complimentary cake, this evening's stories were performed by Sue Cook, a writer and broadcaster alongside an actor called Alex. Both Sue and Alex or just Alex, I know not, worked with a director. Sadly, writer Stuart Evers couldn't join us due to the cancellation of trains out of Paddington.
The night was split into three parts, the first two consisting of two flash stories and a longer story each, and the third being a Q&A session. The first two parts began with (somewhat mediocre) stories about superheroes. I don't know who they were by.
Does this all sound a bit vague? Well, a number of things were unclear. Who there was an actor and who was a writer? Who wrote half the stories? Who is Sue Cook? - she had a meta-introduction, being introduced only as someone BBC Oxford had recently introduced as 'a legend'. Why didn't she read a story of her own? - or did she? Why would a professional actor need a theatre director to tell him how to read a short story aloud? And perhaps most confusingly, who were the panel we were coming up with questions for, and on what topic? It turned out to be Sue Cook (who didn't appear to have read any of her own writing so we couldn't discuss that), and, bewilderingly, a man who works at Blackwell bookshop who was a fan of Evers' book and was roped in to talk about it.
Some of these questions I could answer by my prior research, some I'm still pondering. In either case a lot more context to the proceedings is desperately needed for newcomers.
Despite such ambiguities (alongside uncomfortable chairs and harsh strip lighting), there was much that made for an enjoyable night. The two longer stories were of a writing quality that transcended any quibbles and they were both absorbing and ably delivered; Rose Tremain's tale of a downtrodden family man seething with quiet desperation, and Evers' gripping tale of an uncomfortable family reunion. It's a real shame Evers couldn't make it - this would have transformed the night and it's no-one's fault he couldn't be there.
As for the Q&A, to everyone's credit it was an interesting discussion despite the potential pointlessness of it all - turns out a bookseller enthusing about a book he had read still makes for fairly stimulating discussion.
All in all then, this is a night with potential that needs some wrinkles ironing out, and the loft at the Fire Station is a bad combination of stark and small that lends itself more to meetings than relaxing evening entertainment. But absorbing moments of storytelling shone through. They always do.
David Glass (DI Reviewer), 26/06/12
29th May 2012
It is a hot evening and we're right at the top of The Old Fire Station. Not the most comfortable setting to listen to 'Stories Aloud'. It is a measure of just how well these programmes are put together that disbelief is immediately suspended and a capacity audience is transported away on the literary power of the spoken word. Choosing the selection and hosting it is clearly a lot to do with its success. Sarah Franklin was hosting her third meeting. She had a chosen for us a menu of startlingly fresh and original stories read by two accomplished actors, Steve Hay and Julie Mayhew.
Caroline Smailes' book, 'Freaks' was the source for 'Magic Beans' and 'Before I lost You' - touching and humorous with much to consider. Ben Johncock's short stories include 'The Rocket Man' a hauntingly futuristic adventure told from a child's perspective. Steve Hay controlled the piece perfectly and used his rich vocal range to excellent effect.
After a short interval, we heard 'Soup' and 'She Sees Two', culminating in a longer story from Rebecca Makkai. Rebecca is a hugely talented American writer who has had stories regularly chosen for the 'Best American Short Stories' anthology. Julie Mayhew's flawless reading of this masterpiece of concise analysis of contemporary American life was a splendid climax to the readings.
The format is deceptively simple - six short stories, refreshments and afterwards a chance to ask questions of the writers. In an era of iPods, iPads and electronic entertainment of all kinds, it is fair to wonder why it should work at all. It reaches us all, because it is delivered with professional skills and with a social ambience that is universally involving. It simply could not be more accessible or engaging. If you enjoyed being read to as a child, you'll enjoy it even more now. Many of the people present had been to previous meetings. Many hadn't, but I suspect most will not wish to miss the next offering of literary delights on June 26th 2012. (Also at The Old Fire Station at 7.30pm).
Gwilly (Unverified), 28/05/12
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