Grave Robbing, Slutty Girls and Baking – A Monday Night in Bristol

Small Stories Big Talent

Small Stories Chapter 7 set list for writers participating in reading event including David J Rodger


Some of Bristol’s freshest writing talent came out of their caves to perform in front of real people last night. There was horror and tales of human darkness, but also some very observational ones. Louise Gethin with SIGNS, an eerie tale of love. Lindsey Turner with a very thought-provoking story WORDS (and the injuries they might cause) about male violence towards female characters in fiction. And Natalie Burns, who wrote SOMETIMES I WONDER, and accurately summed up the state of being a writer when nothing seems real or make sense.

I love the smallBAR. It serves great beer. Has excellent coffee if you’re in the mood for staying focused. And upstairs is a room with wooden floors and an eclectic collection of leather wing-back chairs. It’s an erudite den. Something that could exist on the fringes of George Orwell’s 1984 where dissidents meet to wax lyrical… not about revolution but about scifi, horror and tough-truth observations.

I woke up this morning with many of last nights stories in my mind. They got to me. They got into me. Not just because they are good stories but because the writer’s themselves delivered their work. Word of mouth. Work by mouth. It’s not easy. Transitioning from sitting in front of a computer screen where you (writer) are in control; you (writer) are GOD, from that situation to then standing up in front of a room full of strangers, handling your nerves, your voice, the microphone (??near/far – short /high – too soft – too loud ??) and reading words that may sound great for the internal narrator but sound utterly different with a real human voice.

Small Stories is exceptionally well organised. Great platform for local writers to test their mettle and promote their work, new and established – so get yourself along to the next one. As is BristolCon Fringe (Science Fiction & Fantasy) and Let Me Tell You a Story Jack (open mic night for story-tellers),  two other platforms that have sprung up to showcase Bristol’s hothouse of creative talent.

Natalie Burns and Sian Wadsworth who run and organise Small Stories a monthly event for Bristol writers

Natalie Burns and Sian Wadsworth – great minds behind Small Stories


Here’s a list of the authors who participated last night, along with links and some photos where I was able to get them.

Thomas D Parker performed start and end at Small Stories Bristol - Nov 2014 - photo by David J Rodger

Thomas D Parker performed a bookend slot at the start and finish

AA-Abbott author  who had her short story A Birthday Present read out by a man with a Geordie accent

AA-Abbott who fittingly had A Birthday Present read out by a Geordie

Matthew J Hall reading Fire and the Fox at Small Stories Bristol Nov 2014 - photo by David J Rodger

Matthew J Hall reading Fire and the Fox – voice steady as a rock

Rosie Sharratt - Bristol writer and participant of Small Stories

Rosie Sharratt planning salacious Confessions of a Cherie Bakewell at Small Stories Bristol

Author L  E Turner  reads Words (and the injuries they may cause) at Small Stories Bristol Nov 2014 - photo by David J Rodger

L E Turner reads Words (and the injuries they may cause)

Clare Eddington reads MINGE a true story at Small Stories Bristol November 2014

Clare Eddington reads MINGE: a true story, and took us back to schooldays with a manic smile


Louise Gethin reads Signs at Small Stories Bristol Nov 2014

Louise Gethin reads Signs, eerie romance in the fog

Author Peter Sutton (Bristol) considers the shocking injuries to be sustained by his victim in wonderful M R James style horror story Bruised

Author Peter Sutton considers the injuries to be sustained in his wonderful M R James style horror story Bruised

Ian Millsted reading Punkie Night at Small Stories Chapter 7 Bristol Nov 2014

Ian Millsted reading Punkie Night, be careful what you call back at night

David J Rodger  performs Arnos Vale at Small Stories Bristol

David J Rodger performs Arnos Vale: people are digging up graves, pray to God they don’t dig too deep because there are horrors worse than the dead down there

Live Illustration

Live Illustration performed by Tommy Parker (@t_mmyparker + =  evil twin of Thomas D Parker). Event flyers and collateral designed by Sam Rowe.

Tommy secretly selected one of the shorts to illustrate during the evening. He chose “Fire and the Fox” by M J Hall. This is the final result:

Illustration by Tommy Parker - Bristol - for Fire and the Fox short story by M J Hall read at Small Stories November 2014

Fire and the Fox illustrated by Tommy Parker, Written by M J Hall


Arnos Vale – somebody was digging up graves…

I wanted to push my boundaries. So rather than read the story I wanted to perform it. Deliver it as a verbal tale whilst making eye-contact with the audience. Reading their expressions and reactions. Adjusting to the feel of the room. I reckon I nailed it! Fantastic feeling and had great response from folks after.  Here’s a short snippet on video:




Arnos Vale in reality is a fantastic Gothic cemetery near the center of Bristol. On the A4 road heading out towards Bath. It is beautiful in daylight but at night, the atmosphere changes dramatically… I spent 11 years living up the hill from it and went there on a number of occasions, to walk, think, soak up the atmosphere… but several times I had intensely spooky experience. Here are some photos and a video I shot there whilst researching the story…


Arnos Vale – Celtic Cross – Photo: David J Rodger


Arnos Vale – Dead Sun – Photo: David J Rodger

Statues in the mist within cemetery

Arnos Vale – Arkham Cemetery – Photo: David J Rodger



Thomas D Parker

Keep your eyes peeled for news about this chap (@tomofbristol). Yet to complete his first novel but I have high hopes for his tale of Gothic horror, The Ladies of Walthamstow, which will follow in the grand tradition of M.R.James.  It was our mutual adoration of M.R.James and all  things spooky that led me to join Tom one night at a place seeking horror… it gave me an opportunity to take some great photos. See more images and read write up here: In Search of The Horror.

The Exorcist photograph by British horror author David J Rodger - featuring Thomas David Parker

Thomas D Parker as The Exorcist – Photo: David J Rodger



You can buy the story ARNOS VALE as one of 15 short stories I put together in the anthology Songs of Spheres – a selection of my favourite shorts from each of 15 years of writing, accompanied by a brief intro about each tale.

# # #

8 thoughts on “Grave Robbing, Slutty Girls and Baking – A Monday Night in Bristol

  1. This is a great write up, and I really appreciate that my story touched you! I kept it short and to the point because, even in writing, if a woman protests too loudly about the treatment of women we are often shouted down as whiners, naggers or just generally “stupid bitches”.

    I also had an interesting experience reading on Monday and wrote about it (here –, the environment and event definitely lend themselves to deep and creative thoughts!

    Glad I got to read a little about Arnos Vale, I’m sorry I had to leave early and miss your performance, it sounds like it would have been very entertaining! :D

      • I think the wider issue is not about considering women as victims but assuming them to be less than men in life as well as in literature. Even many women write poor female characters because society tries to raise us to believe that women are less than men. Sometimes that can be something small and subtle, sometimes it can be big and violent.

        That’s why I always recommend books, shows, films etc that have women I can relate to as a real woman, not a trope for the male characters needs.

  2. What a truly fantastic event, I have no problem singing or playing an instrument in front of people but I think i would be a bag of nerves if I had to read one of my short stories to a crowd! Arnos Vale looks creepy and even the name sounds creepy. It reminded me of a local legend we have down here about the legends of Baldhu Church near Truro (Kernow) it is a site of supposed Satanic interest and the church was built facing south.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s