Sunday 1 November 2015

The First Rule of Sanctum Club

The first rule of Sanctum Club is not that you don't talk about Sanctum Club — you're encouraged to promote and publicise as much as possible — but that you don't talk about the schedule.

Sanctum is an arts project that has landed in the heart of Bristol, in the grounds and structure of the bombed-out Temple Church. It kicked off on Thursday 29th October and continues for 24 days, 24 hours a day. At any time of day or night you can walk in and see someone performing — poetry, music and more. And, if you're (un)lucky, that someone might be me. Performers are asked not to reveal when they are on via social media, but can do so privately (so if you want to know when I'm on next, get in touch).

I was aware of Sanctum months ago, but so focused on other things, including the Bristol Festival of Literature (which is overdue a blog post...), that I didn't do anything about it. So, my thanks to Cheryl Morgan for suggesting me to the organisers.

What a great challenge! When I normally do readings, it is to people who have specifically come to an event to hear readings — and who may even specifically be interested in what I have to read. But to read to an audience of people (or an empty room) who have no idea who you are or that they're going to hear a fiction reading... if that doesn't give you a new perspective, what will?

My first slot was late morning on Friday 30th. The performances take place in a structure assembled from found materials, constructed especially for the event. The space is superb, atmospheric and, reflecting the shell it is nestled within, church-like. When we arrived (yup, whole family in tow), Marie France, a harpist, was playing — initially accompanying a cellist and then on her own — and most of the few seats available were taken.

For my slot, 15 minutes long, I chose to read four flash fictions, starting with a drabble ("Lost Love's Labours") and working up to ("A Higher Calling") something around the 1000-word mark ("Ashes to Ashes") before ending with something short ("Authenticity").

A photo posted by @stella277 on

Appearing in the first 24 hours of the event meant my readings received a mention in a write-up in Bristol 24/7:
Our cellist returns before making way for our first storyteller at 11.20am. I am very pleased Kevlin Henney popped in and introduced me to the genre of flash fiction. His stories, told in just 250 words, are short and sweet and very well delivered. By the time our cellist returns for the third time Sanctum is nearly full again.
Not only a favourable write-up, but a great tweet from the reporter as well:

I loved the experience and am looking forward to appearing at more unusual times of day. I'm scheduled to appear three more times on my own and once with the North Bristol Writers. My goal is to read something different at each reading, including a couple of my longer stories. See you there.