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Writers' Talk at the Bottom of a Cliff Lift!

Jessica did a writers' talk yesterday in quite an unusual setting ... a cafe at the bottom of a cliff lift. Quirky!


As a tutor, I regularly speak in public and really enjoy it. It's therefore always quite exciting to be asked to speak about my writing. Since the launch of my debut novel, Searching for Steven, in 2015, I’ve undertaken a few library talks which I really enjoyed, Last year, I visited a local writers’ group and am excited to be returning to them later this year. Yesterday, I had an opportunity to participate in something a little different yesterday …

There's a café in Scarborough whose owners were planning to hold a Writers’ Day, inviting local writers and poets to read their work and/or talk about their work and their writing journey. This isn't your "average" café, though. Based on a corner off Scarborough seafront with amazing views, The Seastrand is built into the base of a disused cliff lift! The cliff lifts remain on the tracks, partway up the cliff and the tracks run into the café. The safety steps and the steps into the lifts are still there and the kiosk is what I imagine was oriignally the ticket office. It's all very quirky and the ideal setting for creative types!

I love going in the cliff lifts. I did a bit of research and discovered that there were once five cliff lifts in Scarborough, each of which connected different parts of the town or cliff top to the sea front. The earliest opened in 1873 and the latest in 1930 but there are only two in use now.

The Seastrand is based at the foot of what was the St Nicholas Cliff Lift. The 31m track opened in 1929 but sadly ceased trading in February 2007 when the council couldn’t afford to spend the amount needed to bring it up to new health and safety standards.

Tess and Stuart set up and the café 2 years ago with just one level for a small kiosk and café but expanded the facilities to include a roof terrace with stunning views across Scarborough's South Beach. The original plan was to have the writers based on the terrace which would have been a spectacular setting but it was bitterly cold and very windy so they set up inside instead. It was still pretty chilly as the café is open to the elements at the bottom of the tracks, but it was a welcome coolness for me as I often find I massively overheat when speaking.

Although I knew I wouldn't have a projector and screen like I've had at my other talks, I knew I'd feel more comfortable if I prepared a presentation, giving my audience something to look at rather than just me! I spent a couple of evenings reworking and adding to my library talks, taking out some of the detail so that I'd have plenty of time for questions. I added in the highs and lows of being a writer and, of course, details about my new release, Bear With Me.

I don't really get nervous about talks with me being used to public speaking in my day job. However, I do get apprehensive as to whether anyone will turn up. 

My lovely Write Romantic friend, Sharon, kindly came along to support me which was great because it meant we could have a good catch-up afterwards. Another Scarborough-based writing friend, Sarah, and her partner also came along and, for a while, it looked like they were going to be the only audience members. Awkward! Tess tried to bring in some passing trade but, thanks to the cold weather, there was hardly anyone around. Two passing local women agreed to pop in and we made a start. I had to laugh because they said they only had ten minutes to spare, which had effectively given them an escape route if they were bored. I was therefore touched and flattered when they stayed right until the end and even said that they’d found it very interesting. Hopefully they'll spread the word or even buy the books themselves if they're readers.

It’s disappointing that there weren’t more and I have to confess that, for a brief moment, I thought I might cry. I had to remind myself that it was nothing personal and that, with hindsight, picking the lunchtime slot of 1pm was probably not the best desicion as I suspect most people were having their lunch.

Despite the teeny audience, I still enjoyed the event. Tess and Stuart were really supportive and welcoming and it was interesting for me to speak in a more informal way in a quirky setting. Thanks to The Seastrand for allowing me to be part of their programme and I wish them every success in their further creative ventures.

Wishing you all a fabulous bank holiday weekend.

Jessica xx

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