Thursday, April 05, 2007

Tales of the Decongested

I was pleasantly surprised when I went into Foyles on the last Friday in March. It was much less chaotic, altogether more roomy and tidy-looking than on my last visit. That was probably a few years ago, as I'd more or less given up trying to buy anything there what with the unhelpful assistants and cumbersome paying procedures. Besides, I've been using the library a lot.

I was there in the evening to listen to short story readings. These take place, apparently on the last Friday of every month at 7.00pm in The Gallery. When I tried to get to The Gallery on the second floor all was as I remembered from the old times. I turned left out of the lift, went as far as I could and when I reached an enquiry desk I was told to go to the opposite end of the building. There I saw four rows of chairs with bright red upholstery ranged in a a shallow arc in front of a platform.

The reading event is called 'Tales of the Decongested' and I'd encouraged one of my Goldsmiths class members to submit a short piece, having obtained the website address from my online writing group, . He was really surprised to have his piece chosen but hadn't wanted to read it, so persuaded a friend to do so.

The event was well-attended by more than 100 people who filled up all the chairs. There was no wine because, said one of the young organisers, they were still negotiating the alcohol licence. Another sign that the old traditions have not changed too much. The standard of composition and reading was really high so I'll definitely go to the next one, on April 27th. My colleague said later he enjoyed the occasion and would submit again. It remains to be seen whether or not he'll read himself next time.

What I didn't like was that one thoughtless woman had two junior-aged children with her. Why? It wasn't billed as a childrens' event. Maybe the 'tales' of the title misled her - there are lots of library readings for children these days. The subject matter and language of the stories were very unsuitable and the organisers should have warned her.

I thought 'Tales of The Decongested' might be some kind of ironic reference to the traffic congestion charge, but more likely it's a reference to writers' block . I don't really know. The website address is You can click to see stories in the archive. My colleague's story is titled 'Penalty Shoot-out', a really funny read.

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