Picture this: a small group of Thoughttree writers, braving the chill breeze of an early February morning, gather under a giant single wind turbine rotor blade. Out-of-place yet strangely beautiful, it cuts a swathe across Queen Victoria Square in the centre of Hull. We gaze up and along the gentle curve of the sleek, silver white structure – carefully positioned so that we can touch it at one end, whilst double decker buses pass under it at the other.
It’s a sociable experience. A City of Culture volunteer with clipboard seeks feedback, a lady with sketchbook chats about her artistic response and a gaggle of small schoolchildren, microphone in hand, interviews us. What is our favourite thing about Hull, they ask? It’s obvious, we agree, looking around us: it’s the people.
Following the length of the Blade, we cross the road to the newly refurbished Ferens Art Gallery. We wander through the collections of English, Dutch, classical, modern, religious and secular art – from the tiny gold and tempera painting of Christ by the C14 Italian, Lorezetti, to a whole wall of Francis Bacon popes’ heads, mouths agape.
Now a brisk walk, blasted by the wind off the docks, to Thieving Harry’s Café, as characterful as its name. We head upstairs (for a great view of the Marina!) to enjoy coffee and lemon drizzle cake, baked especially for us. We discuss the Blade and the dramatic imposition of the extraordinary onto the mundane; and in literature, the giants in Gulliver’s Travels, Moby Dick and Ballard’s The Drowned Giant. Then we write, planning a story and focussing particularly on the importance of the opening line. We are full of ideas but short of time – so much inspiration needs a full day’s workshop, we agree. Next time, perhaps.
The next day, another group gathers at The Village Paintpot Café, for a writing workshop focussing on the City of Culture’s aspirations and the wider concept of transformation. We talk and write about the transformative power of clothes; we discuss sea monsters, the Blade and symbolism in Alice in Wonderland and Kafka’s Metamorphosis. We write some more – and read out our tentative first drafts. It’s fun. We share ideas, eat cake and part company with plenty of food for thought – and for writing.
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