Sunday (9th July) saw the culmination of this year's fantastic Coleford Festival of Words. After a week of readings, talks, and performance in Coleford, the festival decamped for its final day to Hopewell Colliery Museum for a celebration marking 800yrs of the Forest Charter. The day included a historical 'street' theatre performance lead by festival instigator Roger Drury telling the story of the Forest of Dean from Roman times to the prsent day. There was music, exhibition, stands, and art as well as tours underground. Speeches came from people involved in the HOOF and FOOF campaigns, including one Peer, and one of Her Majesty's Verderers! The event was opened by no less than the one Lord Lieutenant. A stand out moment was the performance of Vorest Miner by Hawks class of Lydbrook Primary School.
Reading the Forest were very pleased to be asked to take part in the festival - as well as simply enjoying the many of the events!
Amongst many highlights of the previous week, the fantastic Hollie McNish performing to a full house at Coleford Baptist Church stood out. Another has to be the first Forest performance by the fabulous Project Adorno of their mixed media live show Dennis Potter in the Present Tense.
And the festival was not just established writers - it included a writing competition to spot new talent. Winner of the Reading the Forest sponsored youth category was 13 yr old Izzy for this fabulous piece in response to call for entires on the theme of 'reading'.
Read Izzy's entry here:
A browned envelope lay on the table. Part of me knew what it was, so I don’t really know why I looked. But part of me was longing, optimistically hopeful that I was mistaken in its purpose. I sat down in front of it, and neatly sliced it open with my letter opener. It just seemed the most respectful thing to do. Two other parts were now peeking out, crumpled at the edges but still formal. Gently, I pulled on the corners. Out flew a letter, neatly addressed to Mother and I; the remaining, a picture of him. Out that came too, and rested silently on the table. It was certain. No more pretending, hoping. An ocean-full of tears swam in my eyes, but only one fell; one in a hundred; him.
I didn’t read all of the letter. There was no point. I could see the first paragraph or so from its folded position on the table, enough to know. I pushed it to one side, unable to bear to look at it any longer, its black, heartless writing, and neatly pressed edges. Instead, I looked at the picture - a brilliant photograph of him and his steed. A beautiful chestnut mare - I knew from his letters. A worthy horse for him. His face was cheerful, his uniform smart and new. It was like he knew, but, like me, didn’t want to. Around him, other men were busying themselves with chores - cleaning stables, brushing horses and polishing guns - their moustached faces contrasting perfectly with his clean-shaven one. His face, round, smiling, loving.
I walked unsteadily to my room, the little box room on the side of his. Carefully I placed his photograph on top of a shelf beside my bed. Next, I tore off a sheet of my precious writing paper - it was worth it for him - I proceeded to, in my neatest writing, write seven words and fold the paper to stand next to his picture. His last words to me before he’d gone - ‘stay strong, and hope will find you’.
Then I unceremoniously collapsed onto my bed and wept. The reality had reached me. My father. Dead. He seemed to watch me from his perch, and comfort me. He would always be there for me.
My father. In heaven, guarding me.