Story hunting at Port Eliot Festival

Six new writing talents take the challenge of creating freshly squeezed stories at Port Eliot Festival...

By: Clare Howdle,   2 minutes


Festivals are always fertile soil for stories. From sunset revelry and midnight mischief to sunrise epiphanies the moments you have with the people you meet can be extraordinary. It was this reality that formed the basis for the Telltales set at Port Eliot Festival this year – encouraging six writing talents to squeeze every last drop of inspiration out of their surroundings and create original work, on site, during the festival itself.

Part performance, part experiment, the Freshly Squeezed set was a challenge for everyone involved. I just didn’t realise how much of a challenge until I tried to do it myself.

The sheer volume of things to write about made it almost impossible to start. From mud-slicked children singing songs on the river bank, to quirky bohemian aristocrats telling tales of the good old days, inspiration was all around. In the face of a blank page and a crackling microphone I had no choice but to buckle down. I remembered a Feed I’d done last year, about creativity with constraints. Setting myself constraints could act as a valuable filter in these circumstances.

“Once the constraints were set everything became easier. They gave me focus, purpose and perspective. They helped me hone in on the gold dust…”

I decided I could only create stories from what I heard. The real conversations that were whizzing around me all the time told a tale of Port Eliot Festival and its temporary inhabitants more fascinating than fiction. And once the constraints were set everything became easier. They gave me focus, purpose and perspective. They helped me hone in on the gold dust and pull together a collection of mini stories that painted a vivid picture of a decadent weekend in the sun-saturated grounds of a stately home.

So here they are, in all their glory. And here’s to the power of setting limits. It’s easy to forget how useful rules can be.

Only at Port Eliot

Dusty pink shorts. Furrow brow. Knee bent, booted foot resting on his push bike pedal. Red. Hot. Neck. One fist grips the handle bar, the other clutches a walkie talkie. “Rafi… No. Rafi…Wait. Don’t. Rafi…I’m coming down now young man. Stay where you are and I’ll come and get you. Over.”


Crisp white linen, tied tight at the waist. Ray Bans. Real. Top Knot. Wrap around skirt with a pattern made of memories, 1970s spirit in a 20-teens body. She screws up her nose and grimaces at the boy next to her. Creased. Stained. Festival-wrinkled. “Esmond. Really. You simply must shave.”


He’s getting away. Fast. Flapping. Feet. Fly. His shorts are starting to fall down. He’s so quick he’s making clouds. She’ll never catch him with one on her hand and one in her arms. She pulls the emergency stop. “Gabriel. Gabriel. Lie down!” He drops to the dust.


The pedestrian gate. 9am. Steaming coffee. Sore head. Three women gather. Alone. Mid 50s. Warm faces. Walking calves. A plan is hatched. “Anthropologie first, then back up here to book in for the foraging. Anthropologie. You know. From last year. Where we made those lovely silk scarves. Jackie’s was better than mine of course. Mine was that awful insipid blue colour. Right. Come on children.”


And a closing thought, overheard in the darkness of the Park Stage just before Public Service Broadcasting turned the tent upside down. Something as a nation we have duty to take onboard. One 20-something woman looked around, turned to another and cut to the quick of it all, with these simple, wise words:

“This beard situation is getting out of control.”

Enough said.

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