On a rainy Friday I put on my best coat, straightened my hair and trotted off to a short story reading at Selfridges. I was hoping to look like a glamorous, swishy-haired professional, using my lunch break to feed my brain and not my upper thighs, instead of a late, lazy student.
Three authors, Emma Jane Unsworth, Richard Hirst and Marli Roode each read a short story as part of Selfridges Festival of Imagination. There are events running in Selfridges nation-wide, including Manchester Exchange Square, until 20th February. They include talks and workshops, covering imagination, science, crafting, dinosaurs, music and art. The Whitworth Art Gallery has curated an exhibition in the store.
At a reading the story becomes more than just words on a page; the story becomes transformed by the room you’re sitting in and the person sitting next to you. An amusing sentence becomes much funnier when you’re laughing with a group of people. Characters are brought to life by a comedy French accent. The slight shake of the authors hand on their papers betrays their nerves and is a reminder that they are putting their lovingly crafted words out into the world to be judged.
The stories were excellent; funny, entertaining, thought provoking. ‘I Arrive First’ by Unsworth was a tale of love, where the protagonists communicated entirely through the titles on book covers, until the closure of their library forced them to speak. Hirst’s ‘Bait’ was a darkly comic narrative, as a man used a Snickers bar and a lobster soup to kill his first and second wives by their respective peanut and shellfish allergies. Roode finished with ‘Animal Sentinel’, a melancholic portrait of the end of a marriage. I left the reading feeling inspired and entertained, an excellent way to fill a rainy lunchtime hour.
Selfridges Festival of Imagination runs until February 20th. For a list of events, click here.