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A Poetics Of Fragility: Autumn And Winter At Settle Stories
Steve Whitaker, Literary Correspondent
Lata Mani
It is as hard to dispute, as to come to terms with, the probability of Alasdair Gray’s depressing aside in his novel Lanark that ‘the modern secular imagination is more capable of debasement than exaltation’. The contrast is an echo of our earlier adherence to ideas of heaven and hell which, Gray might argue, continue to condition the darkest recesses of our thinking even in broadly irreligious times.

Debasement makes good copy. A 360 degree panorama of the literary world – a useful marker of our tastes – yields a cornucopia of ‘sex and drugs and rock ‘n roll’, as Ian Dury paraphrased our tastes. Together with violence, conspiracy-theory, economic collapse, and conflicts domestic, internecine and international, they are grist to the media mill, and they encourage, and reflect, a tendency to that unloveliest of human excesses, Schadenfreude.

We are an impulsively gruesome animal on the whole. Which is why Settle Stories’ upcoming series of events through autumn and winter 2018, and their take on the Arts generally, is a vigorous antidote to the ideas of the destructive and the dysfunctional.

Sita Brand
The Arts organisation’s showing of the contemplative film by renowned Indian director Lata Mani, Poetics of Fragility, on 11th November – a day, coincidentally, of commemorative re-balancing, of a coming together – promises to be a timely reminder of human vulnerability in the face of catastrophically transformative social and ecological changes. The film’s banner – ‘We are so much more aware of destruction. So asleep to creation’ – would dovetail with Alasdair Gray’s own diagnosis: featuring activist Angela Davis and American playwright Cherrie Moraga, the film will explore the boundaries of human brittleness in a brutal world, and will conclude with a livestream Q & A with Ms Mani.

It is nearly possible to locate a unitary purpose in Settle Stories’ forthcoming programme. Making constructive sense of the world, making the incoherent coherent, testing the borders of convention by shattering taboos, moving forward by the relating of personal stories, is no less than their own raison d’etre.

Jin-Theng Craven’s cutting edge examination of Muslim cultural experience in her film Edge of Obedience, showing on the 20th September, will test the boundaries of free-expression and question the issue of religious freedom in Malaysia, as it explores painter Ahmad Zakii Anwar’s painting of nudes in an otherwise deeply proscriptive cultural climate.

The story of one woman’s descent into dementia is signalled in her own words in a profoundly moving single-hander, I Don’t Know What I’m Supposed to be Doing by performer Emma Decent, which describes her relationship with her mother against a backdrop of gradual mental fragmentation and loss.

It is significant that the performance, airing on the 12th October, should foreground the story of love in the wider context of a world of books, whose importance to Emma’s mother – she was a librarian – continued to give meaning to her existence even in terminal decline, like the diminishing throb of a pulse.

Also by Steve Whitaker...
Poem Of The Week: ‘Risk’ By Anaïs Nin (1903-1977)
Newport Talking: Gen By Jonathan Edwards
Poem Of The Week: Approaching Those ‘Ruddy’ Belisha Beacons Near The Post Office Again By Ian Mcmillan
Review: The Great Book Of Yorkshire Pudding - Elaine Lemm
The Siege Of Bethlehem: Adventus – Sue Vickerman At Skipton Library
Fitting, perhaps, that Settle Stories’ winter season should culminate in February, with an exploration into the quest for wisdom through Buddhism. In an event entitled The Turning Point, actor and storyteller Sita Brand will encourage a re-evaluation of existence through the portals of meditation and contemplation.

A respecter of no geographical borders or divisive impulses, Buddhism represents a bringing together, an oceanic foregathering of spirit whose redemptive urge is best summed in Settle Stories’ own recommendation that ‘we need to fall before we can rise’.

Just so. Exaltation could not exist without its opposite.


For more information: http://settlestories.org.uk/sites/default/files/30076_events_guide_aw_18-web.pdf

A Poetics Of Fragility: Autumn And Winter At Settle Stories, 5th August 2018, 11:54 AM