The Literary Potlatch at Strood Library

For an organization with no budget and not an awful lot of time between us, we were extremely proud to have run another event which far exceeded our expectations.

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An ancient Native American word, the purpose of a Potlatch was the re-distribution and reciprocity of wealth, with all invited to ‘bring something to the table’. The wealth, in this instance, took the form of: ‘Parashare’ – sharing a paragraph from your favourite book, or a piece of your own writing; sharing knowledge and opinions via speed debating or simply sharing some fun with writers’ games!

We followed with an informal lunch time get together at the Parana Caffe, a short walk away, for those who wished to continue their conversations and we were thrilled that most of our guests joined us. Thank you to the Parana staff, who let us completely redesign their layout to seat us all!

The Literary Potlatch, held in conjunction with Medway Libraries, brought a mix of people of all ages together for two hours. Writers, readers and creative like minds – and those who wouldn’t consider themselves any of those – were willing to take part and see where it led them, with some wonderful collaborative writing as the result.

The collective poems deserve to be shared and these will appear in due course in separate blog posts. We’ll then add a link to each on the main event page so they can be found easily. For now, they will be accompanied by stock images but if  any artists out there would like to respond visually to them, we’d love to see your original art work with them.

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We began with Speed Debating – throwing some questions out there which enabled people to introduce themselves gradually to the group – before Parashare was let loose, with many of the group coming well prepared with their favourite texts. We slotted a few short readings in between the Writers’ Games, which in turn produced those wonderful poems mentioned above. One of the games was a Q&A with a difference: You posed a question and answered someone else’s question – but you couldn’t see what the question was! A random selection included the surreal, the philosophical and borderline profound:

What shape is your true self? A list of thoughts and expressions.

What is writing really about? It’s a gift of fate.

What is the colour of the sky? It is the pathway to finding the answer to the age old question of who was responsible for lemons.

What is the worst thing one person can do/say to another? 25 orange flavour Smarties.

What is the hardest question in the world to answer? The answer lies in yourself. Believe in what empowers you.

What is the most recent extinct animal? It becomes easy to know that when you realise the birds are shouting, not singing.

What is the point of the colour blue? It is a flowing globule of water spreading its course through life.

An eclectic mix that drew some oohs, ahs and belly laughs!

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The feedback has all been very positive – there was an excellent atmosphere, it was a very inclusive, happy and vibrant event. We had 25 people in the end (8 no-shows, probably because of the weather – were you out and about on Saturday? Brrrr!) and it was a nice size, with time for everyone who wanted to contribute to do so. But you don’t need to take our word for it – here’s what our participants said:

“Rochester LitFest – Making words work for the people of Medway since 2011 …”

“This was an amazing event, please do it again.”

“Varied and kept the energy up throughout the session. Good event.”

“Very good event. Good mix of people and ages. Nice to see very young people and older people. Enjoyable. Fun. Inspirational.”

“Perhaps more guidance on what to bring to share.”

“Looking forward immensely to the festival in October! Great to see events happening in Medway – nice to get out of Rochester!”

A very valuable and useful session. Has really inspired me and going away with lots of ideas and tools.”

“Great energy and speed to the event. I came to see what it was all about and loved it. I’m not a writer or a great reader but it was nice to do something creative in an open environment – like going back to school, but in a good way!”

A really fun and interesting couple of hours. I’m sorry I missed the start!”

“What a great morning – very inspirational – can’t wait for more events such as these – thank you very much.”

“Wonderful morning. Event had lots of energy and gave good inspiration, Would be great to have something similar again. Thank you very much.”

“Good fun – good speed and energy”

“Very good event. Varied. Good group. Everyone friendly. Time of day – good”

“Very enjoyable”

“Very inspirational – the organisers. Fun and imaginative”

“Very good group. Fun tasks and good involvement from everybody present!”

“It was more interactive than I was expecting, Great to meet new people in Medway literary scene & to get out of Rochester for it”

“More”

“I am sorry I wasn’t there at the start”

“Very stimulating and varied. Kept the energy going throughout the session. Met many people I didn’t know. Good interaction and atmosphere.”

“I really enjoyed it as a non-writer, it was extremely accessible provided I was open to try – which I was! Thank you!”

“Really, great fun, lovely to meet new people”

“Excellent. So sorry that I missed half of it”

“Very inventive and creative”

“I had fun”

From the perspective of Sarah Jenkin, Community Librarian for Medway: “I saw that the group merged very well, very inclusive, friendly and encouraging. I thought it was interesting that the group included such a wide age range, from school children up to retired people and the potlatch acted well as an inter-generational event. The room and building were both wheelchair accessible.” (If you have a creative idea of your own, please do contact Sarah and she will make it happen for you!) A massive THANK YOU from us to Sarah and her lovely team of volunteers for making it happen for us.

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We warned the event would be fast and furious and it was, although the abundance of quality writing shows there must have been enough thinking time too. We enjoyed ourselves immensely and the Potlatch, or variations of it, will become a fixture in our calendar. Thank you to all of you who came along and made it such a fantastic event to be a part of. Some more photos of the morning can be found below.

A note for your diaries – the next event is the Garden Party on Sunday, July 14th and we will be part of the Medway Open Studios and Art Festival. Full details will be released soon. We do hope you’ll join us.

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3 thoughts on “The Literary Potlatch at Strood Library

  1. Pingback: Potlatch Collective Poem #22 | Rochester Literature Festival

  2. Pingback: Other Worlds, Other Voices: Potlatch | Rochester Literature Festival

  3. Pingback: coFWd to host workshops for the Rochester Literature Festival

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