The Story Engine, held over two days at Darlington Arts Centre back in late February, was a tremendously enjoyable and worthwhile event. While smaller than the awesome Screenwriters’ Festival, it nevertheless makes an absolute virtue of its more modest scale, with relatively intimate workshop sessions, fine Q&As, speed-pitching sessions and an excellent line-up of writer-guests including Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, in picture to the left of organiser Ian Fenton, below), Lisa Holdsworth (Waterloo Road, New Tricks), James Moran (Doctor Who, Torchwood), David Lemon (Faintheart, Doctors), James Harris (self-starting comedy writer – see website), playwright David Edgar and film-maker Tina Gharavi (Ali In Wonderland, also a film-maker) plus the Writersroom North’s project manager Katherine Beacon, splendidly-named development consultant Ludo Smolski and many more.
Like the best writers’ events, The Story Engine offered plenty of opportunity to network, mingle and meet new people, as well as catch up with familiar faces (like Gavin Williams, Lara Greenway and Chris Parr). The Arts Centre is a really nice venue for an event like this, with plenty of rooms of differing sizes and, of course, the all-important bar. While being a tremendous laugh, of course, it also delivered a whole host of information. An info-buffet, if you will. Particularly evident throughout was organizer Ian’s passion and drive – as a writer himself, Ian has a lot to say, and an event for writers assembled by a writer can only be a good thing. You could tell that Ian was determined not to rest until each and every attendee had value-for-money spewing out of their ears.
TV's James Moran gave a splendid live audio commentary for his Torchwood episode Sleeper (see him in the midst of doing it, right, while engaging in a good old chin-stroke), as well as taking part in a whole slew of other sessions, including Working With An Agent, which also featured Curtis Brown's Amanda Davis, New Writing North director Claire Malcolm and Lisa Holdsworth). The Moranster ended up with vocal cords torn to shreds in a manner which only booze could rescue. During this event, our hotel bar saw the birth of the "unlaugh", which is a terrible intake of ghastly air, inspired by something deeply unamusing. Here's a delightful picture of me, Uncle Jimbo, the gorgeous Dan Turner and a bowl of salad on a shelf, which was vigorously tossed in three different ways, shortly after this snap was captured:
And for those of you understandably craving a look at that salad from a different angle, with bonus grinning bell-ends in the foreground:
Here's a simply divine photograph of David Lemon, who also got stuck into the event, appearing on various panels like New Horizons ("How is the internet changing the way we consume drama?") and My First Feature Film (about writing Faintheart, which was screened during the event, along with Slumdog Millionaire).
The Story Engine, then: a right royal blast. I fully suggest you attend the next one: I'll certainly be there. The next post, up soon, will be my one full report of a Story Engine workshop: Lisa Holdsworth's session on pitch documents. Tremendous!