The town with too many rats

The group has now decided that though Town with No Traffic Wardens will not go on to be developed but instead the group will again look to write a project about Aberystwyth. This does not mean that the plays, sketches and scenes from TWNTW are dead. These could be developed into individual plays, characters could be resurrected, settings could be transplanted. Maybe Chardonnay has gone on to find her perfect job, maybe the traffic warden and the angry restaurant supply man have got married, maybe the OCD supermarket manager has finally succeeded in getting a supermarket in town.

Over the next few months in the background whilst we work on Playpen and the radio project we’ll continue to explore how to write a project for Aberystwyth.

We’ve discussed the potential to create a set of characters collectively alongside an overall story but then each member of the group is then asked to take responsibility for part of the story which would inevitably mean that everyone writes for characters created by another writer which could be problematic. However it could also be an interesting challenge.

We have also discussed finding an existing story such as Dylan Thomas’s Under Milkwood or the Pied Piper to create a base on which to build a story about Aberystwyth.

Over the next few months I’ll be asking each member of the group to lead the group in exercises about developing the Rats project. Basically to approach  the development process in the way you feel would be the most productive and focusing on whichever area you feel would be the most effective maybe character, structure, adaptation, research, stories. These exercises will be aimed at finding the subject matter and the approach.

In thinking about what we can use as stimuli and starting points the group were asked to make suggestions in the following categories,
Settings – favourite and least favourite places in Aberystwyth
Characters – who are the characters you see out and about in Aberystwyth
Ideas – political changes, things that could impact Aberystwyth
Phrases – sentences, a line of dialogue, an overheard sentence
Visual Images – an image that might combine a setting and a character, or a character doing something,

These are what the group came up with. Can you think of anymore?
bridge in PwllCrwn woods, bridge next to Rummers, national library, footpath next to TA, corner in the Ship and Castle, look-out at the Castle, bench on top of the Castle, bench in the train station, folk music night at Coopers, under the Pier, the road leading to Welsh Books Council,
small world, secret places, you don’t do that in Aberystwyth, who wears heels in Aberystwyth, end of the road, does nobody tell them to use soap, who does she think she is?, where the mountains meet the sea, impossible to leave whichever way you try, nutters always drift West – it’s something to do with the leylines, the last resort, how young do they look?, six degrees? You must be joking it’s not even a U-grade or a GCSE in separation, I mean the sea just goes on and on and on, backwards, it’s like living in a bubble, hard to cry out for help, where did you go to school?
end of the world, the western end of the western world, settlers, an epidemic of rats,
Campus bingo players, spew boy, talkative porters, taxi driver, Rabbi, hells angels, hairdresser, 4 wet people from Birmingham, photographer who gets everywhere, old lady in a florescent bonnet, man who spouts nothing in particular, woman in mobility scooter with sheep, fat goth/thin goth lesbian couple, someone on crutches, scrawny looking people with dogs who look like pipe cleaners, well upholstered women of a certain age, Kimberley with big thighs & big knockers, pompous students, drowned boy,
driftwood, a man in a hedge,

As an exercise select two characters, a setting then either a phrase, an image or an idea. Give yourself five minutes. Create a scene from these elements. Give yourself 30 minutes. Create the scene before and the scene after. Re-write the whole thing.


Time to get writing

The next meeting of the Writing for Performance Group will be taking place on Tuesday 14th February. I’m hoping that you’re all either hardened cynic or romantics with understanding partners who won’t mind cooking you a romantic meal and creating a sea of rose petals through your house on another evening.

Me, I’m a romantic but I believe in romance 364 days a year – and that romance should not happen on 14th February because romance is about doing something for your partner altruistically.  I’ve also ended two long term relationships on Valentine’s Day but I promise it’s a weird co-incidence and not a sign of a hard hearted bitch, well okay so maybe it was vaguely connected to it being Valentine’s Day BUT that’s a story for another day. Or at the very least I’ll use it for a character back-story one day.

So now it’s time to get serious and get writing those plays. Well not that serious, comedy is allowed. We’ve shared our ideas for plays or shared the seeds of ideas so now it’s time to get something on paper and test those ideas out. Please bring along anything you have, completed plays or rough bits of dialogue that you want to test out. Remember there aren’t any rules this time, it can be as many characters as you like, it can be as short or long as you want. It’s up to you. If you’re feeling a little lost, over the next few days I’ll be reminding you of all the little writing exercises and games we’ve played in the last couple of months to shake-up those ideas and maybe even adding a few new ones. If you want a reminder of the stories that have been floating around in the news recently then here they are and if you want a reminder of how the idea began it’s all here.

And as always please feel free to bring any work that you would like to share or test out, it doesn’t have to be for Town with No Traffic Wardens.

What do a dead shark on double yellow lines and Jack the Ripper have in common?

Parking Page of shame from the cambrian news

Parking Page of shame from the cambrian news

For the second project of the Aberystwyth Arts Centre Writing for Performance Group I knew that I wanted to find a theme for the
that was very much about Aberystwyth to firmly locate our group within the community that it lives and writes, and also to find a subject
that might appeal to draw new people along to see the work of the group.

At the time the town was besieged by news reporters, which wasn’t an exaggeration. National Wales and UK news journalists and TV crews
were visiting the town that had no traffic wardens to witness the chaos.

It was entertaining story but also there was depth in observing human behaviour would be as a town be able to manage our own parking from
caring enough ourselves about where we stuck our cars.

Then another much bigger story hit the news; the UK riots. I don’t watch TV news very often now. I hate the bias that is no longer even subtle
but outrageously thrown in our faces. I watch news via my facebook and twitter feeds, if a news story is big enough then I might choose to sit
down and watch some footage – and just try not to get angry about the bias.

So that night as I sat to watch the news of the UK riots I waited for the Wales news to discover, not only no mention of the UK riots which was soon
to be renamed the England riots, but noticed that the lead story for West Wales news was how many dolphins there were in Cardigan Bay.

Then Hurricane Irene swept the eastern Seaboard of the US causing devastation , then it headed across the Atlantic until the edge of it hit Wales to create a slightly windy day in September.   It struck me that big news often hits us in Aberystwyth in exactly the same way. So that here in Aberystwyth we just get the vague remnants of news blowing over us with little effect on our daily lives.

I suggested the project to the group as a way to centre and challenge the next project. Allowing the group to learn how to address a subject that is given to them (a skill any writer needs if they want to be commissioned). I also suggested that we should use the project to explore how to make a bigger play. The first project had allowed everyone in the group to write a short play the next challenge was about making it bigger but we could do this as a group. Each writing our own short piece whilst also collaborating together to find a way to link the stories together and give the play an overall structure.

For the last two months the group has watched the news in Aberystwyth, looking at the stories in out local paper the Cambrian News whilst seeing what stories from Aberystwyth make it out to the bigger world and what bigger stories make it through to our isolated position.

And Aberystwyth has not let us down, the traffic warden story continues to flow, a dead shark was found on double yellow lines, DNA testing was used to track two young people who ran away from a £65 B&B bill,  further proof was found that Jack the Ripper was buried in Aberystwyth cemetery , a young mother who stays up late into the night pursuing trolls on the internet  a woman fighting against impending compulsory purchase order in the face of yet another Tesco battle.