Short Shorts Fridays


a bit of a daft title, possibly referencing the hot pants of my 1960s childhood, but these events happen on Fridays, and the stories are short – about 12 minutes to read. Yet they aren’t daft, and the hosting theatre – Pentameters in Hampstead – is sublime.  I use this word more carefully; Dictionary def’ – set aloft (it’s over the horseshoe pub)  blindly supercilious, supreme, of the highest or noblest nature: awakening feelings of awe and veneration just under the skin.  That’s why I’ve always liked Pentameters, enjoying fresh ‘off grid’ drama and readings.   When I asked owner and Artistic Director Leonie Scott Matthews if she would host my series of readings there, she said yes.  I was delighted, and set to, inviting short story writers, discovering how many use and enjoy this form. They’re jewels, and one of our first readers Anne Aylor wrote this for the poster  ‘Because of the short story’s concentrated form, I share Tolstoy’s belief they should fulfil this requirement: “one ought only to write when one leaves a piece of one’s flesh in the inkpot, each time one dips one’s pen.”   Spot on, and all readings have been personal yet universal.   To be told a story by the writer – as Jowonder says –  ‘is like being given a ripe berry straight from the bush.’

I enjoy curating these evenings. I know that ‘curating’ is posh for organising these days, but to get a good balance of style, gender and personalities is important. It’s like making art – like doing the posters.   There are four here (for 3 events, but more on that in a bit). I needed posters that weren’t just lists of names and details, but images to attract audiences – so I went out and about with my iPhone. I’ve always loved the artist Kurt Schwitters and have what I like to think of as ‘Schwitters eye.’

First up was an assemblage of objects on my allotment – an old lock mysteriously painted aquamarine. Put with some bits of rotton wood and ripped red paper, they made an enticing promise of story; the unlocking of things, without being literal.

The second was from my collection of photos of peeling posters on underground stations – that weird time in the life of a poster when an ad’ for something ugly disintegrates, or the agency can no longer afford to keep it up there.  Before the next one’s put up (which must be in the wee small hours when there are no trains) they rot and peel, revealing what was underneath them. This often makes for beautiful abstract images, and I snap what I instantly like. I stress ‘snap’ and ‘instant’ as this has to be done between trains. Besides, if the reaction is instant then I know I really like it. Poster 2, of texture and warm and cool colour tension was at Oval tube and is now covered over with an an ad’ for something selling you an app to tell you how to advertise.

I present the 3rd one – for 30th August twice. I was very pleased with this image of peeling paint at Carshalton Beeches station, on the wall, just below the ticket office. A botched painting job, or one that hadn’t yet started; I loved the reds and the creamy textures. It also made good space for the next list of names. So off it went to design, and, feeling pretty pleased with it this sent it to the writers. Jowonder, fine artist as well as writer/performer told me, yes, all very beautiful, but it didn’t suggest story. I’d aestheticised it. And so, in a way anesthetised it. ‘Tweak away Jo.’

And so, notice her second version with the demon reaching for the berry – nicely chiming with her quote above, is far more interesting, reaching a bit deeper into the psyches of potential audiences. 

So come along on the 30th to hear Simon Chandler, Jowonder, the Davids Wilson and Erdos – and Me.  Details on the poster, designed by artist/writer Roelof Bakker, who read at the fist gig lying down. These evenings are full of surprises. 


Jan Woolf


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