“Just remember, we’re writers, not event organisers,” pleads Helen, addressing a 150-strong crowd, gathered beneath the soot-belching steam of an enormous engine. We’re perched upon a platform. It’s bedecked with unapologetically huge golden bunting. A venison feast is in preparation. Glasses tinkle, bottles are popped; measures set out and oranges peeled. You can smell coffee, and cake, and a palpable sense of anticipation. The whistle blows. Microphones have been checked, clipboards clipped, tickets punched, guest list ticked. Pens are in pockets and game faces are on.
We can see why people may have been confused.
In a bid to foster chance encounters, connect a creative community and raise funds and awareness for Children in Crisis, we (who don’t organise events), on Friday 3 November hosted ‘Strangers on a Train’ or, ‘the realisation of all our desk-based daydreams’.
Maybe it was when Annie Atkins handed around a velvety, hand-printed Mendl’s box from The Grand Budapest Hotel. Or when Simon Cohen offered a pause amongst the mayhem. Was it the moment we supped the bitter cool sip of a perfect Tarquin’s Martinez? When we snatched a handful of Portlebay popcorn and turned our ears to the future of analogue? Or when we were slipped a hand-printed note from the back of a bike? Was it when night fell, The Mighty Sceptres played, and our guests alighted – silhouettes against the steam on the platform? A period-perfect dinner, slow-cooking in a blackened filing cabinet? Or perhaps it was the apparitions that appeared within carriages and spun us tales? Was it the glistening wisdom of Gypsy Jenner? The scribbles and stories left by passengers? A slick of lipstick and the tip of a hat? The sparklers? The smoke?
Whenever and whatever it was; at some point we looked around and thought, ‘we did it’.
But here’s the trick – a train without passengers is just cargo. Strangers on a Train without strangers, is just…a train. There’s no way that this could have been anything without the generous, forgiving and open-minded ticket holders. Thank you for exploring every inch of every carriage, for arriving hungry and thirsty and ready to listen and talk (and dance in small cramped spaces).
Thank you to all our sponsors – Tarquin’s and Sharp’s for teaming up to keep glasses brimming; to Portlebay for journey snacks, and Cornish Orchards for refreshment.
And finally thank you to Bodmin and Wenford Railway, and to their long-suffering and good-humoured train drivers and engineers, who quite literally kept us fired up and on track. We’re sorry for running on the platform.
It may be time to admit that Stranger Collective do do events after all.
So, I guess you should keep your eyes peeled for Strangers on Plane 2020. And Strangers in Lunar Orbit 2024. (Elon, if you’re reading this. Give us a bell.)
All pictures from @pathadventure – look out for our upcoming publication and new web stories for more…