Exploration, encounter and more than a dash of mystery will inform the work of six specially commissioned Manchester writers who will be reading their Macclesfield-inspired short stories, accompanied by immersive visuals by artist Simon Buckley– on Saturday 23 November, 6pm, at the United Reformed Church on Macclesfield Park Green. The event – Macc Stories - is part of LIT Macc, a new literary festival based in Macclesfield, offering an adventurous weekend of stories and light (22-24 November).

It is an event with its own tale to tell too. The stories that will be read were created when the six writers came to Macclesfield one day in Autumn, each in search of inspiration – unearthing everything from turbulent tales of the past and creative characters to walks through woodlands, side-streets and even more secretive spaces….

By Simon Buckley

So who are the writers involved – and how does their ‘outsider’ perspective on Macclesfield influence their fiction? What delights have they discovered? What have they chosen to delve into? One of the writers is Literature Editor at Creative Tourist and writer-in-residence of Victoria Baths Sarah-Clare Conlon (previously interviewed by Haunt Manchester here): no stranger to penning the particulars of place, and a prize-winning micro fiction writer too. She will be joined by David Gaffney – an author especially known for his intense and unsettling flash fiction, including Sawn-Off Tales (plus the follow-up More Sawn-Off Tales) and his latest novel All The Places I've Ever Lived. He will additionally be running a flash fiction writing workshop as part of LIT Macc. 

Also involved in ‘Macc Stories’ is the novelist and short story writer Nicholas Royle, Reader in Creative Writing at The Manchester Writing School (Manchester Metropolitan University) who Haunt previously interviewed here about his role as Publisher at Gothic-inspired Nightjar Press. Following on the theme of darkness and mystery is Abi Hynes, who for ‘Macc Stories’ has turned her attention to the reports of the ghost of Thomas Savage haunting another church in Macclesfield! Abi is a writer of fiction and drama, with an intuition for emotional intensity – also the creator two new plays for LGBT History Month's Festival Theatre: Mister Stokes: The Man-Woman of Manchester and Burnley's Lesbian Liberator.

But what about the ghost of Thomas Savage? A Tudor diplomat in his day, Thomas Savage was knighted by Henry VI and although was buried in York Minster, his heart was interred in Macclesfield’s St Michael & All Angels Church – hence the ‘Savage Chapel’ there! The setting of a fascinating story, for sure – and also another LIT Macc event, as here a reading of Arthur Miller’s play Death of Salesman with Joe Ward will take place on Fri 22 Nov, 6.30-8.30pm. 

 Another writer ready to be involved with a short story is Reshma Ruia, known for her wide-spanning range of poetry and fiction; her latest poetry book A Dinner Party in the Home Counties recently published on 25 October. Reshma’s story is set to plunge the audience into a particularly heavy cloudburst, with plenty more to be revealed…

By Simon Buckley

Award-winning writer and Senior Lecturer at The Manchester Writing School (Manchester Metropolitan University) Joe Stretch completes the ‘Macc Stories’ line up. His novels Friction, Wildlife and The Adult (winner of the Somerset Maugham Award) express an intense, evocative writing style – and therefore a short story from Joe about Macclesfield offers plenty of excitement.

And that is not all. The short story readings will be amplified by the atmospheric setting of Macclesfield’s United Reform Church, complete with a backdrop of specially commissioned visuals by artist and Not Quite Light photographer Simon Buckley. Previously interviewed by Haunt here about his Not Quite Light festival (the next will take place in Salford in March 2020) which Haunt covered (including a hauntology panel and event), Simon is known for the perceptive use of darkness and light within his work, sensitive and skillful in his approach to place.  His imagery uncovers layers of history and tells of stories in its presence alone.

 In addition, Simon is involved in another two LIT Macc events: a dawn smartphone walk (sold out) and a performance on Sunday 24 November titled ‘On the Way There, On the Way Back’ at King Edward Street Chapel. In this event, Simon will be joined by musician Michael Walsh – creating an evening of enchanting spoken word, film, soundscapes and music. Exploring childhood memories and family relationships will be a key theme: Macclesfield having particular resonance with Simon as the station served as emotional landmark in his childhood journeys by train between Manchester and his grandparent’s home in Stoke-on-Trent. He reflects:

"I spent so many of my holidays as a child passing through Macclesfield station on the way to visit my nana and grandad in Stoke, but without ever getting off. The ornate shop front of Arighi Bianchi alerted me to the approach of the station, and, back in the 1970s, for me it was passing from Granada land into the world of ATV. From home to away.

“This project has finally forced me to get out of the train and explore the town, to see what lies beyond the simple platforms and brief resting of the train as I travel to somewhere else."

Simon also has a shared connection with musician Michael Walsh – as a performance from Michael marked the finale of this year’s Not Quite Light Festival, with his album ‘Quarehawk’ attracting wide acclaim. Musician Liz Hanley will also join Michael for the Macclesfield performance, whilst Simon will also welcome Thurston Thomson, sound artist and producer at Courtyard Creative.

By Simon Buckley

In turn, the range of immersive artistry in LIT Macc reveals a number of Manchester creatives making the journey to express their encounter with a place beyond - exploring themes of light, darkness, dawn, dusk and personal journeying. Further examples of weekend events include a Performing Flash Fiction workshop with Fat Roland , a Polari Literary Salon featuring Paul Burston and Rosie Garland (plus a performance of Bona to Vada your Dolly old Eek! with Jez Dolan) amongst a range of other fabulous writers and a sold-out in-conversation event with Dave Haslam interviewing Stephen Morris.

Make the journey to Macclesfield - what will you discover?

By Emily Oldfield 

Photography with thanks to Simon Buckley/Not Quite Light