Writing With A Sense Of Place: On The Waterfront

Mackerel Quay… a place of welcome, departure,  romance or crime, I wonder…

Rather unexpectedly, I recently got asked to run a writing workshop for a Port Authority.

When I thought about it, this was a great idea. Creatives get a (hopefully) inspiring workshop in a distinctive setting, and the Port gets creative input and content, about itself.

Hired by  Karen, their most creative tourism manager, the workshop was designed to max out on how a distinctive environment can shape what we write. As background texts, we ranged from Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, to The Wire – start of series 2 in Baltimore docks, to John Masefield’s  poem’I must go down to the sea again’.

As regular readers and students will know, I like thinking about role a lot when writing. In this workshop, writers were encouraged to go outside, stroll around and take up the roles of Observer, Entertainer and Magician for their writing.

As Observers they were asked to note down seven things happening in the port, using interesting verbs if possible and then to link these into a piece of flash fiction.

As Entertainers, they went out and described characters and relationships in the Port and what their location might mean to them. The piece of writing started with: ‘This is the place where I…’

As Magicians, agents of transformation, they chose a character for who the waterfront represented freedom or entrapment, and then created a scene where that emotion reversed.

Though we’re having a warm and mostly sunny summer over here in Wales, this workshop coincided with an exceptional blustery day. The marquee in Mackerel Quay flapped its entrance and its metal support structure clanked like halliards.

But this only added to the atmosphere – and I’d like to thank organizer Karen and the  focussed and productive writers who came, for your  terrific creations.

Will leave the last words to John Masefield:

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.