Posts Tagged ‘stories’

You should read this! Mixing The Colours: Women Speaking About Sectarianism anthology

Monday, April 6th, 2015

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited to Glasgow Women’s Library’s brilliant Mixing The Colours Conference 2015. Mixing The Colours: Women Speaking About Sectarianism is a groundbreaking project, which has been running for about two years now, funded by the Scottish Government and designed to get women talking about one of Scotland’s most taboo subjects. The conference was an amazing day of discussion, performance and ideas, but importantly, it was also the launch-day of the project’s amazing anthology of women’s writing.

I’ve also been working on a project designed to tackle sectarianism: until just a few days ago, when the project reached completion, I was the Project Co-Ordinator for Scottish Book Trust’s graphic novel project Walk The Walk. I worked reasonably closely with staff from Mixing The Colours throughout that project, and so came to see clearly the various ways in which women’s voices have traditionally been erased from discussions about sectarianism.

Think about it for a second. When you read a newspaper article about a story relating to sectarianism, what is the accompanying photo usually of? Chances are, a stand full of male football fans. Perhaps a line of police personnel in their yellow jackets. There might be the odd female face or two if you squint closely, but traditionally, sectarianism in Scotland is considered a “men’s issue,” and all too often, seen as synonymous with football. I’m sure you’ll agree that this hurts men as well as women.

Thankfully, we now have the truly amazing Mixing The Colours: Women Speaking About Sectarianism anthology to add to the conversation. It features poetry, memoir, fiction and drama, all exploring individual women’s responses to their experiences of sectarianism. My favourite story is ‘Paddy,’ written by Ethyl Smith — a bittersweet tale of a young girl who is unwittingly caught up in the sectarianism that exists between two of her adult neighbours, all because she wants to be friends with a wee dog. But every piece in the book is brilliant, and important, and merits reading, re-reading and sharing.

You can get a look at the book by heading over to Glasgow Women’s Library’s stunning new(ish) home in Bridgeton, Glasgow. GWL is located in what was once the Bridgeton Men’s Reading Room, which I find rather delicious. The Mixing The Colours team have also been steadily gathering a collection of other resources that examine women’s reactions to sectarianism, so while you’re there, you can browse the whole lot.

Finally, the Mixing The Colours film gives a taster of what’s inside the book, and as you can see from my conference notes above, gives plenty of food for thought! Here’s a trailer:


Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at] I reply as swiftly as I can!

Things I Love Thursday #98: Halloween Special

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

I did a particularly spooky tour of Cumbria, in honour of Halloween…

Autumn in Cumbria (3)

Autumn in Cumbria (13)

You remember I told you that Martyna is especially skilled at finding cool adventures for us to go on? Well, here’s another: we went to see Long Meg & Her Sisters, a Druidic stone circle in North Cumbria. It’s the third largest circle in the UK after Stonehenge and the Ring of Brodgar and has over fifty stones. It is also totally deserted — for some reason, barely anyone knows about it.

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Long Meg (she’s the taller stone that’s sort of the shape of a pointer on a sundial — or a witch’s hat — in the pic above and in the first one in this post) was supposedly the mother to over fifty daughters, all witches. One night they were out doing their witchy thing, dancing in the moonlight and casting spells, when Michael Scot, famous Scottish “wizard,” happened upon their gathering. Scot supposedly turned them all to stone for their evil deeds… which frankly I think was a major overreaction to a bit of midnight dancing.

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Legend now has it that the stones cannot be counted — that if you try to count them once, but then try again, you will get a different number each time. Another local story says that you should attempt to count the stones, then walk over to Meg and press your ear to her stone. She’ll tell you a secret — or possibly, if you’re really un/lucky, you’ll break the spell and the witches will all wake up.

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An even more spooky and mysterious circle is Mayburgh Henge, not too far from Long Meg, at Eamont Bridge. Mayburgh is unlike other circles: rather than being made of large stones, its outer ring is made from piles and piles and piles of smaller ones, which have largely now been grown over by grass. The big stones were originally dragged to the middle of the circle and erected next to one another… except sometime between the Druids building the Henge and now, all but one of them have been stolen. We’re talking massive stones here. Why they were taken, and by whom — or what — is a local mystery to this day.

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But for me the best thing about Mayburgh Henge is the trees: around the piled-up stone outer ring, ancient oaks and ashes are planted. In formation: oak, ash, oak, ash. Both trees have huge mythical significance and are considered very sacred by many. Check out the roots on this hundreds-of-years-old ash I perched on!

(Fun fact: Mayburgh is in spitting distance of the supposed site of King Arthur’s Round Table, also at Eamont Bridge.)

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It’s been one of the hottest and driest autumns on record, and you might have seen in the news that the weather has uncovered some spooky stuff. I’m talking specifically about Mardale, the famous “drowned village,” which recently re-appeared out of what is now Haweswater. In 1934, Mardale village was bought by the water board and evacuated, then “drowned” to create a massive reservoir. Although everyone was safely relocated, there’s still something a little creepy about the fact that every so often, the lakewater recedes enough that you can see the ghosts of the village’s former buildings.

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^ This sign, by the far end of Haweswater, just adds to the spook factor.

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Lastly, we visited the Lowther Castle Park chapel and graveyard, where a good few of my relatives — who were in service to the Lowthers — are buried. The Lonsdale Family mausoleum is a creepy gothic palace, complete with gargoyles and scary, staring faces. Sitting high up on a man-made defensive escarpment, we found that the cemetery is also a pretty cool place to watch an autumn sunset…

Have a deliciously spooky Halloween, whatever you get up to!


Like shiny things? Check out Edinburgh Vintage, a totally unrelated ’sister site’ full of jewels, treasures and trinkets. If you want to get in touch you can follow OneNightStanzas on Twitter, or email claire[at] I reply as swiftly as I can!

Making Scotland Home: submit your story to Scotland’s Stories of Home!

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014


Making It Home brought together many nationalities and cultures: the women hailed from places like Algeria, Kosovo, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Iraq and Ghana, as well as Scotland, England and Ireland. What could all these very different women possibly have in common? The answer soon became clear: they all wanted to tell their stories of home.

Last week I wrote a blogpost for my lovely employers, Scottish Book Trust, about the Making It Home project. Why? Well partly because — as you probably know if you read this blog — I think MiH is an incredibly exciting project and everyone ought to know about it. But also because MiH was all about telling stories about home, and specifically, what it means to call Scotland home. And that’s exactly what SBT’s public participation campaign for 2014 is all about.

It’s called Scotland’s Stories of Home, and we want to hear the story of YOUR home in Scotland, whether you’re originally from here or you just moved here recently. You can write about anything, from the four walls you live in to the food smells that automatically make you think “Scotland”; from a distant childhood memory to a funny story you just heard last week. If it means “home” to you, we want to hear it. You don’t have to be a professional writer — the complete opposite, in fact! You just have to have a cool tale to tell. If you think this sounds like you, submit your story of home here, and you could be featured in the newspaper, on our website, or even in our Stories of Home book!

The deadline for SSoH submissions is 30th June. But wait… before you run off and submit, go and read the rest of my blogpost!


Procrastination Station #103

Friday, April 6th, 2012


Links I’ve read and liked.

Jonathan Franzen, who is already a millionaire, can make more money for saying Edith Wharton was ugly than I will make working fifty hours a week for the next six months. I am trying to make sense of all of that at once and you know what, it doesn’t fucking work. Every writer I care about, every writer I know, is better and more important and more ambitious than Jonathan Franzen.

If you read nothing else this week, read The Rejectionist on Jonathan Franzen, anger, and why Lionel Shriver should shut the hell up already.

A tiny poem by Mr Harry Giles over at a handful of stones.

“The shots girl walked around in a dress that contorted like a short question.” A great story up at ThoughtCatalog.

“Try not to sound like such a special snowflake, it’s very offputting!”
Constructive creative writing criticism: U R DOIN IT WRONG.

I really liked Michael D Conley’s poem up at Words Dance this week.

ONS favourite Stephen Nelson (who I recently mistook for a chocolate badger — it’s true!) has a new blog devoted to tiny, three-word poems. It’s awesome.

The City Lights Bookstore blog did some fab stuff to celebrate Women’s History Month (March). Just a selection of their posts included introductions to the work of Diane Di Prima, Adrienne Rich and Audre Lorde.

I love Caustic Cover Critic, and in particular their “outing” of lazy publishers who use the same old, same old stock images. Check out bendy neck girl, lady in the rain and, weirdest, naked woman in the road.

Leonardo shows up at fancy dinner even though he is a stinky poor and Kate Winslet’s mom hates him: “My mother looked at him like an insect—a dangerous insect that must be squished quickly.” After dinner, Leonardo says, “Time for me to go row with the other slaves!” Again with the slave thing. YOU GUYS ARE HELLA NOT SLAVES. PLEASE READ A BOOK.

Funniest review of Titanic ever at Jezebel.

The story of a woman who had to have four babies before she could accept feminism. This is fascinating, honest and lovely.

One of the best posts I’ve read so far on the whole Samantha Brick débacle.

You might see a scone at a trendy, locally-owned coffee shop and wonder about whether or not the sugar in the scone was harvested primarily by men or women. And that if it was harvested by women, whether or not that should be considered a triumph for gender equality because women should be breadwinners, too, damnit, or that it’s evidence that women are always being exploited? Or if by questioning the importance of the identity of the farmer, you’re just reenforcing society’s obsession with the gender binary.

Also from ThoughtCatalog: five reasons why you shouldn’t major in Women’s Studies. Oh, and five reasons why you should.

A pretty cool Robert Frost tattoo.

Obligatory happy Friday KITTEN GIF!

…oh alright, go on then. Have another.

I don’t necessarily agree with everything in the poem, but I could listen to her voice for hours.

I know I’ve posted this before, but again — it never gets old. THE SNARK. Love it.

Any fellow hoopers out there? I am just-starting-out and utterly crap, but this makes me feel better.

And speaking of which: best song to hoop to ever? Probably.

Have a great weekend!


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