Writer, poet and creative facilitator Sarah Acton has just completed her three-month writers residency at Weymouth Library. Although her time there has come to an end, her project ‘Weymouth-on-Sea’ will live on. Here’s Sarah to tell you more:
At the start of my residency at Weymouth Library, I hoped to engage Weymouth Library visitors in the space I called Writer’s Corner. It was an invitation for the curious, and for those who wandered off the path from door to bookshelves, and anyone who had time to stop a while.
Today, Writer’s Corner has since taken on a life of its own. It’s a creative, cosy, colourful space that is clearly ‘other’ than the main library environment. Whilst my residency has now finished, the space remains a lookout post, crows nest and captain’s cabin from where you can sit and watch the library-world go by, read, daydream, or write a few lines….it is well used and enjoyed by staff and visitors alike.
Writer’s Corner at Weymouth Library
Some visitors explore the curated sea-bookshelves, some use the free writing materials. Some peer into and admire the beautiful cabinet display provided especially for the project by Weymouth Museum. It contains a nostalgic selection of local souvenir china, and a model lifeboat to commemorate the Weymouth Lifeboat’s 150th Anniversary this year.
The space has grown and been shaped by collaboration, community and generosity.
There are nautical charts on the walls. They’re all cut up in an abstract collage, so if you follow one chart it doesn’t quite connect to the next geographical area, but the overall effect is of flowing patterns recognisable as blue sea and green land intervals. As I said in my last interview, this is very much like the creative writing process. You don’t have to have everything in perfect order for it to make sense, to enable someone to feel connected. It’s often more interesting to cut things into pieces to create a new map to journey the world with, by accident or otherwise. During the residency I’ve been cutting up images and words and repositioning them to see what happens.
Pasted on top of the charts are poems that local writers and poets have offered for display, a showcase of the creative energy that is already so much a part of everyday life in the library. Next to the poems are the postcards. From these I’ve extracted parts of phrases and floated them across a large chart of Weymouth Bay – a collage of voices and thoughts and memories that show a snapshot of how those who have participated in the project live and feel and wonder about life by the seaside. The words spiral in the vague shape of an ammonite or fishing net. Many visitors came to see the chart during the exhibition, which will be framed and displayed in the renovated library together with my series of riddles written on Weymouth themes.
Original poetry for Weymouth Library
Here is one from the leaflet of eight original poetry riddles written for the project:
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
After months of longing we arrive
with suitcases full of how
to smooth away stresses and frowns.
ready for treats; carried on shoulders
of donkey-sway with ice-cream sundaes,
waving goodbye to alarms and workdays
in a chorus of Punch and Judy on the pier.
This is the place to do it, we applaud,
daydreaming retirement out of season
in a seaside resort. Who are we?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Themes of belonging, change, love and death underlie so many of our thoughts and feelings about a place. They shape the soundtrack to key images in our memory. I thought I was asking visitors at Weymouth Library to write me postcards about how they felt about being by the seaside (past or present), but looking at the seventy-or-so written in various hands on the wall, and my collage of these voices, I can hear an older story of the sea and the sky and our own attempt to find out how we fit neatly between the two, though the sands are always shifting. My legacy to the library is a collage of words and lives pasted briefly together to create a new collective perspective from the library’s-eye-view…
Sarah’s writing residency has now finished but if you visit Weymouth Library, you can still pick up one of Sarah’s free Starting Writing leaflet and a free Weymouth-on-Sea riddles leaflet (with answers). Sarah’s exhibition is on display in Weymouth Library’s Writer’s Corner until mid-April.
This residency is part our ‘Libraries as Cultural Hubs’ programme, in partnership with Dorset Libraries and funded by the Arts Council England National Lottery. It is dedicated to developing the vibrant arts culture in Libraries across the county.