Telltales: Artists Afloat at the Falmouth Art Gallery

Telltales host a crew of adventurous writers to take us to sea with nautical-themed stories and poetry.

Telltales is a bi-monthly storytelling event held usually at Dolly’s Bar in Falmouth, where writers are encouraged to submit stories or poems on a specific theme to perform on the night.

Run by a group of volunteers, independent of the university, Telltales has been running for over eight years, and continues to showcase and celebrate the best of Falmouth’s writing talent. In unison with this month’s theme, Artists Afloat, the readings were held at the Falmouth Art Gallery, where a sea-voyaging exhibition of Henry Scott Tuke and Charles Napier Henry was also on display, enriching the feeling of transportation offered by each performance.

Local poet Megan Chapman (also known as MCMC Spoken) was first to perform on the night, situating us on the Falmouth docks with a sensitive and reflective poem recalling the sense of peace and freedom inspired by the coast.

Falmouth, though heavily featured on the night, was soon left as Jenny Scolding took us next on a voyage made by Franz Boas, the ‘Father of Modern Anthropology,’ on an expedition he made to the North Canadian coast at the end of the nineteenth century. Part of a bigger work of historical fiction, Scolding shared with us a letter she’d imagined him composing back to his wife, detailing his feelings and experiences of his trip in a fascinating and touching missive.

Henry Purbrick then invited us onto his ‘Ice Island’ in a hilarious and thought-provoking piece of speculative fiction, which worked as a simulation exercise as much as a short story. He considered all things mundane, existential, quizzing and inconsequential, in an ever-expanding project of his that seemed to question, in a witty and original way, the very nature of our restless and endless personal striving.

Continuing to explore different storytelling modes, Ian Stevens followed with a short story called ‘Piss Artists Afloat’, a sinister and compelling tale about two old friends off the coast of Falmouth armed with beer cans and fishing rods.

During the interval we had a chance to look closer at the Tuke & Nemy paintings on display, and before the second half of performances commenced, Falmouth Art Gallery Director Henriette Boex gave the audience some context for the painters. Both artists had frequently painted on the Falmouth harbour and spent much of their lives on this part of the coast, and had also been keen writers as well as painters.

George Mackay, reading her work in public for the first time, had the crowd in hysterics as she told the story of an awkward and troubled Art professor being confronted with a forgotten past, in a well-balanced tone that allowed the heartfelt pathos of the tale to ring through. David Mason was next with a mesmeric and fluid rendition of his poetry, performed confidently and entirely from memory.

Falmouth Poetry Group member Dominic Power performed next a poem on the subject of a Tuke watercolour, and finished with a sea-voyaging trip across the Atlantic with his brother and father.

The final piece for the evening was a short story by Amy Frances Matthews, which retold the beginnings of the Chintz Symposium in Falmouth, in a remarkable and sensitive piece, using the inclusive pronoun ‘we’ to involve the audience as participants in her highly spirited tale.

The next Telltales event will be held on the 28th of May at Dolly’s bar and the theme will be souterrain. If you would like to submit a piece to be considered for the night, you can follow the guidelines and upload writing on their website. You can also follow their Facebook page here for any further news.

This month’s Telltales was hosted and compared by Felicity Notley, who is also the co-editor of Cornish Short Stories: A Collection of Contemporary Cornish Writing, set to be released in 2018. Submissions are currently open to any writers from or living in Cornwall, open to any genre or style as long as it falls between 2000-6000 words, and the deadline will be on 7th July 2017.

by Dominic Smyth