On this page, are some examples of writing from the two series of writing workshops which ran at Truro Cathedral from February to April and May to July, 2006.
Fifteen people took part in each series, meeting weekly for nine weeks and writing ‘in a cathedral context’. Context is related to the Latin word ‘to weave’ and the workshops aimed to weave in themes related to the cathedral into each individual’s writing. We read poems on spiritual and religious themes and extracts of fiction and memoir by contemporary and twentieth century writers and used these as ‘jumping off points’ for writing about the cathedral and spiritual life in general.
Participants were of all ages, a variety of backgrounds and with many different religious experiences and histories of contact with the church. Some had never been in the cathedral before. One of the participants, poet Bill Mycock commented, ‘The workshops were an example of a common interest bringing people of different beliefs and non-belief together. (It's tempting on a world scale to think of Daniel Barenboim's Arab-Israeli orchestra.) The setting itself made each of us face up to in discussion and poetry what our views on religion were.’ It strikes me that there are few fora in the world where religious (or moral or ethical) ideas can be explored freely without an eventual dogmatic ‘well, I believe this and you believe that.’ In contrast, in creative writing and especially poetry, it is possible to stay open to nuance and complexity, usually, paradoxically, by focusing closely and accurately on a subject, such as votive candles or a jewelled chalice. Stories (like the parables of Jesus) also open up different readings where essays, opinion or rules close them down. ‘Staying with the writing’ provided a safe space for honouring these different perspectives.
Some people were experienced writers and others newcomers and although it’s a truism, confronted by the blank page, we are all first-timers. In both workshops, there were a number of primarily visual artists. This mixture of backgrounds spiced the writing with the pleasure of the unexpected. The two series also contrasted – the first, meeting in the afternoon, had more men than women, felt more intellectual and technical; the second, meeting in the evening, was, by accident not design, all women and the writing seemed to come from a more personal and feeling space. Of course, the seasons too were different – Lent followed by Easter, winter by spring and after six months in the cathedral, I as the facilitator was no longer the same person.
Each workshop was celebrated by a reading in the cathedral, beneath the great height of the crossing. The poets’ voices were interspersed by cello music with T.J. Holmes playing Bach’s Cello Suites in May and Andrew Brown improvising in July, and for the second readings, Zoe Wilton of Shallal, dancing. Hearing the individual voices, expressing in their own words, their response to the cathedral was a moving experience for the readers and listeners alike.
Copyright of these pieces of writing remains with their individual authors. Please do not reproduce in any way without permission.
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