Friday, 17 August 2012

Landscape Orientation

Ainscough Flour Mill, Lancs
I am totally thrilled and delighted to have had a proposal I put forward commissioned. I am one of three writers commissioned by Litfest to write a piece on 'Landscape' to be published in the next Flax ebook as part of Litfest 2012.

When I saw the request for proposals a few weeks ago, I knew immediately what I wanted to write about. There is an abandoned, derelict Flour Mill in my village that has always held a fascination for me. Its distinctive silhouette rises out of the otherwise flat landscape. It has been slowly crumbling into itself for years. Like a beacon, you can navigate by its high rising chimney and zigzag roofline. It has been bought by a development company who keep making noises about turning it into luxury apartments. And this moment, just before that change, seems important to capture.

It is a monstrously beautiful place that has formed a backdrop to so much of my life. It is the marker that shows when you are about to arrive at the village train station. It hunches beside the canal my husband and I walk along when we want to get fresh air or need to chew over stuff. When I was little it was the site for epic water fights, using the walls and crevices as defences as we ran around it in sodden teeshirt and shorts. I've wanted to write about it for AGES and this is a perfect opportunity to do that.

I have started to piece together some ideas for my short story. It is tempting to go down the predictable routes, haunted old building, faces appearing high up at windows where the levels have no floors, squatters and break ins... but I want to try a different angle. Initial thoughts were around getting someone into the building legitimately and so I was thinking about bat surveyors - every building up for development has to have a bat survey for the planning permission. This is still a possible area for the story (and definitely one I will write one day) but I want to ensure I stick to the landscape brief. I fear if I go too far down the bat hunting route, I will get myself lost inside the building and not give enough to the way the building as a whole affects the village landscape.

I'm excited to get started on this and also to see where the other two commissioned writers go with the brief on their chosen landscapes, celebrating the areas that are sometimes overlooked.


  1. Congratulations, Sarah! I love the term 'monstrously beautiful' and feel the same about derelict working buildings as you do. I hope you do some bat stories at some point too - lots of interesting stuff about them... how they like to follow straight lines within landscapes so they're often found near canals, how they always turn left when flying out of their roosts etc. Have fun whatever you decide to do!

    1. Thank you! Wow - you know cool bat facts! They are such strange and fascinating creatures... in the same awesomeness league as sea horses and dragonflies in my opinion! Thank you for your encouragement. It really means a lot.