Saturday, 19 September 2009

CHESTER OYEZ ! or What's in a name?

October is approaching fast, month of the Chester Literature Festival, which this year has plenty to offer all ages and tastes.
Last year, 2008, a new section was addded, Chester Oyez!, which embraces all aspects of performance work from poetry to storytelling.I have been the Artistic Director for it since 2008. In its first year it succeeded in bringing over a thousand people in to Chester for the weekend and I hope this year, now that people are more familiar with it, there will be even more visitors. Its remit is to involve everyone, from 0-100! We offer participatory events: writing workshops - flash fiction, personal history, poetry, plays; activities - making poem cards, circus skills workshops combined with a look at poetry, writng workshops for children. There are storytelling sessions for children and for adults, performances of drama and the creation of drama; and cabaret performances of poetry and story telling.It's all wonderful fun and most events are free! Pick up a festival brochure from local Cheshire libraries or the Information Centre, The Forum, Chester, or have a look online at Chester Festivals website.

When it was first decided to include this section the greatest difiiculty was not in booking performers, but naming it! Chester is thought of chiefly as a Roman garrison town but has a vast history going back to mediaeval times. We have so much here: beautiful ancient city walls, a very old racecourse, The Roodee, sometimes known as the soup bowl because it's almost perfectly circular, a Roman amphitheatre, tiered rows of shops and a good number of genuinely old black and white buildings (some of our black and white are Victorian recreations). Every 4 years we have a stunning production of the mediaeval Mystery Plays. We have a wonderful riverside area called The Groves, where you can stroll, take a boat, listen to a brass band, or just sit and watch the world go by. Lime trees are the key tree of Chester and when they are in flower the air is heavy with their fragrance, soemthing I love. We also have extensive river meadows connecting Chester to the Welsh Marches route for those who love walking. It's a beautiful city.

So what to call this new element of the festival that would reflect some of this, a name that had cachet, was short, but memorable? The first thing I did was to check through all the other festival websites I could find to see what other people had chosen, wanting to make sure not to repeat anything.I had a few sleepless nights going through phrase after phrase, from "Ecce Scritori" to "Stand and Deliver" (performance work, you see!) Nothing felt or sounded right, until I thought of our Town Crier who stands each day at the Cross and whose powerful voice lets people know what's going on in Chester. In fact we have 2 Town Criers, a husband and wife team (you can't have enough of a Good Thing!). So finally, with the permission of our Town Criers, we settled on Chester Oyez! What Pop Larkin (remember the Darling Buds of May?) would call perfick!
And Chester Oyez! is not just perfick; it offers two whole Saturdays, the 10th and 17th of October, of joyful magic in a plethora of events. Come and join us and share in it!

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