This week has been a pretty incredible one for me, even by my standards! On Tuesday night, the culmination of several months’ work came to fruition, when I took to the stage of London’s Southbank Centre in the shadows of the Houses of Parliament and London Eye, to read my short story, entitled “12.42” at Polari, “London’s peerless literary salon”.
I have been a regular attendee of Polari for some 3 years now, so much so, that there’s a group of us who are now known colloquially as the “Children of Polari”. Last October, it was Polari’s 5th anniversary and I organised for some special goodies and treats to be put together by the aforementioned group of friends, for Polari’s curator and founder, Paul Burston, including a specially illustrated card signed by everyone, a photo book from the last 5 years, choccies, champers, amongst other treats. I was asked by the others to take to the stage and say a few words. As the presentation to Paul was to be a surprise, I literally had to storm the stage, with the help of DJ Connell and VG Lee! Paul was quite literally gobsmacked and was quite taken with it all….
My short story is a fictional work, inspired by something which happened in my past, but with very different outcomes. I had practised and practised and practised my story, cutting it down from the original 4.5k words to 2.5k words to ensure that it fit into the 15 minute slot that was to be allocated to me, for reading it. My good friends Samantha, and Wayne, were each brilliant in listening to my story, suggesting edits, and re-reading it back to me. I’m very lucky to have such skilled Editorial Assistants. 😉 After several edits I was more than happy with the concise format the story now took.
The day had arrived and all that day I tried to keep myself busy, ensuring all my “stuff” was packed up and ready to go. Checking and re-checking in case I had forgotten something. I had already selected my outfit, a black and white spotty dress, with red suede shoes. The pre-printed professional fliers were all ready to go, and I printed out a final version of my story. The “live” version was on my Kindle, which I was planning to use for the actual reading.
The tube journey from Epping on the Central Line ran like clockwork (thankfully) and before long, after changing for the Northern line, we were soon at Waterloo and making our way to the Royal Festival Hall. I arrived at the Southbank Centre at 6.45pm with my hubby, and had arranged to meet my guest, ex- colleague and friend, Rosina, in the bar. After a brief chat, I made my way to the 5th floor venue which is the regular haunt for Polari events. En route I bumped into my good friends Tony and Jayne, who boosted my confidence. Alone in the lift it was all becoming an real adventure. I stepped out and made my way to the entrance doors of the room, telling the security people, “I’m performing here tonight”. Walking into the green room, I was introduced by Paul to Stevie Hendon, and Denise Marshall who were to be fellow performers . Neil Alexander was already there, and I already know Neil through Facebook and Twitter. Headliner Marco Marcassola was the last to arrive and we all chatted briefly about ourselves; a bond had formed between us already, we were all in this together.
I was up on stage first, so I stood at the sidelines whilst Paul introduced me, talking briefly about me being a Polari regular, and my poetry collection. Applause from the audience, signalled my cue to walk up on stage. “Well that was a much more dignified entry than my last time on this stage!” I quipped. I thanked Paul for the privileged opportunity to read my story and launched into it, curtailing any nerves I had; “It’s funny what pops into your mind when you least expect it…..”
I had to keep on reminding myself to read slowly, add intonation and interest to the dialogue, and breathe! Inside my heart was racing but afterwards, my friends all told me that I seemed nerve-free, which was good to hear! The story is quite an intense and emotional one, capturing raw passion at a particular point in the main character’s life. As I approached the end of the story, I remember looking up and seeing that the entire 130-strong audience was captivated. They were all intently listening to me and only me… I felt the nerves pound within, even more intensely, but ploughed on towards the final conclusion of the story with its epic ending. I delivered the final phrases with aplomb before uttering the words “The End”. The audience resumed their applause as I left the stage and went back into the green room, to congratulations from Paul and my fellow readers. I felt great that I’d done myself proud!
Stevie was up next with an excerpt from his latest book, then Neil with his clever and witty poetry. During the break I had lots of praise from both close friends Tony, Jon, John-John, Paul, Wayne, Gabriel, Toby, Emma and my hubby as well as from other Polari attendees. I was delighted that I had seemingly exceeded their expectations of what I would deliver. The break went by in a bit of a blur, to be honest!
After the break came VG Lee, who announced the long list for this year’s Polari First Book Prize. There are some excellent titles in there, some of which I’ve read and enjoyed and some of which are new, but soon to be discovered titles.
Then came Denise and her story of a lover’s betrayal and subsequent fall-out, and finally Marco with his recently translated into English-from-Italian story about the Secret Lives of Superheroes. I felt honoured to be placed with such literary talent. The final curtain call of all the performers came at the end of the evening to rapturous applause from the appreciative audience, and one final photo by “official” photographer Krys before my Polari debut was over. More congratulations from friends before hubby and I headed for home, and to get some sleep before we headed up the M1 and M6 motorways to the North West to collect my son who’d been staying with his Grandma, and for us to stay a few days. We’re now (Sunday) finally home after the surrealism of my week on a London stage.
My friend Jon Clarke’s blog of the evening http://t.co/0sfiDa1TTT