Sunday, 10 September 2017

The Bustle of the Approaching Train

It has been a whirlwind of a few weeks, taking in the opening of the new Halifax Central Library, and the performance event Exploring the Brontes, devised and delivered by myself and actor and writer Caroline Lamb, which has enjoyed previous performances at Morley and Todmorden, and which we brought to the new library as the concluding part of its opening celebrations.  The piece consists of a first half of poetry and readings, by and about the Brontes, given by myself, before a second half featuring Caroline's brilliant monologue The Cold Plunge, which explores the Brontes' legacy through the imagined words of Mary Taylor, a correspondent of Charlotte Bronte, and shines a light on matters of identity, economics, gender and ambition - and the age-old plight of artists in a largely inartistic world. The monologue was described by Nick Holland, author of the recent book In Search of Anne Bronte, as excellent and moving, and discussed in one of his recent blog posts,

 Both of these activities - the opening of such a wonderful library, whose design represents a beautiful bend of the modern and historical, and whose shelves are almost overflowing with an abundance of books - and the delivery of Exploring the Brontes, its first outing in Halifax, have given me much to write about, and I intend to.
There is so much to say on each, not least because Caroline and I have plans to expand the this autumn to take Exploring the Brontes further on the road, and new library's poetry provisions have already plied me with an enormity of newly discovered talent.
For now, I will sign off with one of the poems of Branwell Bronte, subject of my film A Humble Station? Branwell Bronte's Calder Valley Years, in which Caroline also appears and which was premiered at the former Halifax Central Library, enjoyed successful screenings at the Bronte Parsonage  and Bronte birth town of Thornton, and is currently showing at various venues, before its dvd release later this autumn.  Branwell worked at the railway stations in Sowerby Bridge and Luddendenfoot, and his poem captures vividly the sense of a young, ambitious literary man, waiting in the wings of his own life while passing away the hours of the working day amid a railway station by turns peaceful and lonely, and full of bustling activity.  It is a poem which I can imagine being scribbled by Branwell in his notebook, while he waited between trains, and a perfect introduction to his work. 

Amid the world's wide din around
I hear from far a solemn sound
that says Remember Me

I when I heard it sat amid
The bustle of a town like room
Neath skies with smoke-stained vapours hid,
By windows made to show their gloom-
The desk that held my ledger book
Beneath the thundering rattle shook
Of engines passing by
The bustle of the approaching train
Was all I hoped to rouse the brain
Or startle apathy.

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