When I saw a creative writing event described as a treasure memory writing workshop at the beautiful Portico Library in Manchester, I jumped at the chance to go. It connected with the project I am working on with Rachel, looking at the stories behind the treasures we keep and hold special.
The workshop was created and run by Emma Decent, a writer and performance artist.
I felt it would be good to experience for myself, how it was for people to be asked to share their stories and for me to try and write my own story down.
It was a very engaging workshop, everyone seemed keen to hear and share stories about the treasures we keep.
There were similarities behind some treasures we had brought with us, and interesting stories that came out of special moments, whether about growing up, or a particular phase in our life, or the treasure belonging to a special person, or it representing an important concept or value.
They seem to hold elements of ourselves, links to our past, our histories and our own identities based in the treasures we chose to keep.
It was rather unusual for me to attend such a workshop, as being dyslexic writing can be tough and in the company of a group daunting. I felt that two and a half hours would be OK to bare, and that I was old enough and big enough to deal with whatever it brought.
I ended up enjoying the workshop on many levels;
Choosing a treasure to share and talk about. (my grandmother engagement ring, has an interesting story of being lost and found)
Hearing everyone’s stories, I could have stayed for hours listening.
The creative writing warm-up, which I found quite similar to visual creative warm-ups for drawing or when I run a creative workshop.
The cathartic process of remembering and the sense of feeling part of something quite fundamental to being human, community, built through the process of sharing stories
What a treat to participate in a workshop and not be running one, and the freedom to just play and relish in my chosen memoires.
I went to see Emma Decent’s latest performance piece ‘I Don’t Know What I’m Supposed To Be Doing’ a week after the workshop, which I attended with Sam Orton who has been working with us storytelling writer on the project.
It was very good, having a rare quality of making us laugh and feel moved by the story at the same time.
Details of her performance here: http://emmadecent.co.uk/i-dont-know/
Here are two ‘histories’ that myself and Rachel re-discovered due to using an old soldering Iron and an old sewing machine to make some of the art work.
Rachel’s Soldering Iron – Belonged to her Uncle Charlie who died as a youngish man in a car crash.
He worked with much younger and troubled men from the now abolished borstals: “Borstals were run by HM Prison Service and were intended to reform seriously delinquent young people. The Criminal Justice Act 1982 abolished the borstal system in the UK, introducing youth custody centres instead.”
From all accounts it sounded like the young men he worked with were tough. His job was to teach them how to make Jewellery and polish semi-precious stones to use in their creations. He had the respect of these young men, and sounded like a natural at working with young offenders, supporting them in making more positive life choices that would benefit them in the long run. What had been unexpected was the amount of the young men he had worked with who came to his funeral to pay their respects and say goodbye.
The soldering Iron was used during these teaching sessions, and needing to solder up some tiny joints on a circuit, Rachel had dug it out, along with the history it holds.
Sharon’s Sewing Machine. I have the last Singer Sewing machine my Grandmothers used. She was a seamstress, probably from necessity as well as a desire to create. She had made herself trousers when women could not buy them, so she could ride on the back on Grandads motorbike when they were first dating. I hadn’t realised until recently how much she had enjoyed and lived for teaching other women to make their own clothes and clothes for their families. All my mother’s clothes were handmade including her wedding dress and going away outfit. All my clothes as a child were handmade by either my mother or my grandmother. In the end due to my Grandmothers asthma (caused by dust from a bomb exploding near her during the blitz) she had had to temper how much sewing and machining she did as she grew older. The noise of the machine running and watching my mother and grandmother sewing away is very much part of my memories and identity. I laugh that I never took it up as a hobby or as a necessity, but indirectly it has come out, I trained early as a stained glass artist, creating patterns and cutting glass, also I teach people in differnet creative skills.
Whilst I was sewing and hemming the salmon pink velvet, for displaying the Maquette art pieces we have made late one night, all this went through my mind. I realised how easily I used a sewing machine, as I whizzed through the velvet, and continued a shared theme with the generations’ of women in my family.