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'Gather 21 - New Writing Festival: Showcase' Pupils Showcase Creative Writing Talent

08 July 2021

On Friday 25th June, the last day of the New Writing Festival, we held a showcase to celebrate some of the wonderful creative writing talent in the school. Pupils from across the school were invited to share their poems and stories with a live audience: we heard beautiful work from pupils in U5, fun and surprising poems written for Dippy’s residency at the Cathedral from the fourth form, and even a published story that won a national competition! Pupils from L5 and M5 also shared new work they had created over the last three days during workshops running throughout the New Writing Festival. We also had an opportunity to hear collaborative poetry projects from Writers’ Bloc and the Norfolk Youth Summit. Congratulations to all our talented writers! Below you can read some of the pieces that were performed at the showcase: 

 

What does it take?  

Kyriel Finn (U4) 

Some would say the cathedral is a dinosaur in age.  
Some would say the dinosaur is a cathedral in size.  
But how can such things be comparable, when placed together?  
When the grandeur of the cathedral towers around the dinosaur, as dapples of light, colours arranged like a bouquet of flowers, stream through the stain-glass windows and extend over the stone floor of the cathedral like the reflection of buttercups against your chin?  
When the eyes of the dinosaur are the eyes of an animal that has lived through countless events, each like a slide on a film of storyline, probably more than the worshippers seen through the eyes of the cathedral, as the weight of perception hangs heavy on his body?  
I would say that the cathedral’s ridge is the dinosaur’s spine.  
I would say that the cathedral’s spire is a spike from a dinosaur’s back.  
I would say that the cathedral’s arches are the dinosaur’s ribs.  
And if the cathedral has a dinosaur’s body, it is set against a landscape so distanced from the age of its predecessors. But my cathedral dinosaur stands above its modern city backdrop, in size and majesty.  
What does it take to notice the dinosaur that looks down on us?  
What does it take to imagine its relatives, with their whip-tails and crane-necks?  
What does it take to see the start of everything embodied around us today?  

 

 

The Apple That Fell From The Sky 

Daisy Pickering (L5) 

Plucked from the heavens, it drops with a sigh 
And away goes its radiant glow. 
The apple that fell from the sky. 

It was because the wind had uttered such a cry 
That it dealt a fatal blow; 
Plucked from the heavens, it drops with a sigh. 

In spindle-like fingers it soon shall lie, 
But for now it sinks in sorrow. 
The apple that fell from the sky.   

While falling gracefully by 
It watches the old apple tree grow 
Plucked from the heavens, it drops with a sigh 

Withered and bruised, soon to die. 
It hangs its head so low. 
The apple that fell from the sky. 

It sits in a hand that is bold and sly, 
Cursed to question but never know. 
Plucked from the heavens, it drops with a sigh; 
The apple that fell from the sky. 

 

 

Loss and Liberation 

Persephone Andrews (U5) 

My mind was engrossed in thought as I flumped down onto the dust-covered leather stool. The time to visit Grandma was almost upon me, and as always the prospect was distressing. Three dismal years had passed since Grandma’s dementia compelled her to move into a care home and it was painfully easy to deduce from my monthly visits that her mental state was rapidly declining. Drearily, I raised my head and peered at the keys of the piano resting before me. Visions of Grandma’s dancing hands that once leapt effortlessly across the ebony and ivory wafted into focus. It profoundly ached my heart to remember the distinctive spark that lit up in her eyes as her music enchanted her audience with sheer joy and warmth.  

With dragging feet and a heavy heart, I meandered my way to the front door. As I squatted down in search of my shoes, the memory crashed down upon me of the woeful day when Grandma’s first major incident occurred. It was a damp, melancholy autumn day and she had been due to come over for a roast dinner. Grandma was a very punctual woman who took pride in planning her day flawlessly, so naturally I felt a slight sense of unease when our designated meeting time came and went without the sound of her cheery knock on the door. The feeling became more and more potent as the minutes ticked by, until even the mouth-watering scent of freshly made Yorkshire puddings failed to keep the butterflies in my stomach at bay. After a long hour of agitated fidgeting, my parents instructed me to dash across to her house to find out what had happened. The bitter wind whipped and lashed at everything as I paused for a moment on her porch and tried to open the door. I rushed to a nearby window and pressed my face against it in search of a sign of life. The strength sapped from my limbs as my eyes came to rest on an unrecognisable scene: a hunched over, trembling woman rocked back and forth on her tailbone in the middle of the living room floor. Her face was buried in two clammy palms which had turned yellow with tension. Tentatively, I tapped on the window. No response. I tried again more forcefully, and as I watched Grandma’s pale, disorientated face appear I struggled to conceal my pity and dismay. 

The pain of the memory sent a shudder through my body and jolted me back into the present. I grabbed my coat and left the house. For a moment, my spirits were lifted by the fragrance of freshly cut grass and the hum of the chirping chaffinches high above. The dappled sunlight shining through a canopy of green encouraged me to be optimistic about my visit. Breathing deeply, I began my journey to the care home doing all I could to repress the sad events of the past few years. The last time I had seen Grandma before she was whisked away was on a drizzly Thursday morning. I remember the specific day because it was our habit to convene every Thursday at the tranquil coffee shop that was part of the local garden centre in her village. The café was run by an amiable middle-aged couple, and as we were regular customers, Grandma had become firm friends with Dorothy, the owner. That Thursday, Grandma had arrived at the coffee shop in an emotional frenzy of hysteria. She was only wearing a shoe on her right foot; the left was entirely exposed to the icy air and the muddy pools of the path outside. Once I finally succeeded in coaxing her into a chair, I ordered her favourite – a slice of walnut coffee cake and a pot of black tea. Subsequently, I listened in bewilderment as Grandma mumbled incoherently about how she needed to remind her husband to feed the chickens. I gnawed the inside of my cheeks in frustration as I tried to jog her memory; my grandfather had died several years ago, and the chicken coup had been empty for as long as I could remember. I knew Dorothy was coming to my rescue when I caught a whiff of walnut coffee cake, and sure enough she promptly appeared around the corner with an irresistibly succulent slice.  Grandma stared vacantly into the distance as it was placed onto the table and she uttered none of her usual complements. The corners of her mouth scarcely twitched when Dorothy tried to start a light-hearted conversation. Sharp pangs of grief tore through my stomach as I gazed at a woman who once filled the room with conviviality, now lifelessly prodding at some cake. 

As I arrived at the care home, and the tips of my fingers traced the familiar surface of the door handle, I braced myself for the depressing scene that I had witnessed many times before. Nervously I opened the door and peered in. Grandma was nestled in an ancient taupe armchair that engulfed her wasted frame and blankets shrouded her jutting bones and fragile skin. Her face was unexpectedly peaceful as I moved gently towards her. As I held her wrinkled hand in mine, I was once again reminded of her once deft, nimble fingers that glided across the surface of her piano. Her sunken eyes remained closed and I felt tears tumbling down my cheeks as a surge of adoration and warmth welled up inside me, entirely overwhelming me. Grandma’s illness had played a wickedly lingering game on her, and as she feebly squeezed my hand, I knew her ghastly countdown to death was almost over. It was time to say goodbye. 
 

 

The Statue 

Colette Maxwell-Preston (L5) 

Somewhere in the north of a country which didn’t exist on maps, where the statues in the fountains bowed down and endured the endless snaps of camera shutters, and the streets smelled of citrus and sugar, there was a café. It was well known by the locals, although tourists still managed to end up sitting at the tables outside the well-furnished place with a drink in one hand and a cigarette being twirled between two fingers in the other, and all seemed well. 

All seeming well, however, is completely different to all being well, and if one was to look past the ash trodden into the asphalt and the sun-bleached mosaics of long-forgotten deities, and instead stare into the eyes of one of the statues, one would see that there were such intricate details that it was almost impossible for it to be just a statue. There were veins running up the statue’s arms, and there had been rumours over the years that what flowed within was not blood but the life of their country, and with the statue preserved, they were safe. Carved into the marble was a set of tired, ancient eyes and a gently curved nose. The statue’s hair was like that of any man who walked the streets – short and curly. His marble hands reached for the doors of the café, as if it held the answer to the secrets of the world. 

Nobody had ever suspected that the statue was not just a statue after all, but the body of a man named Cassian. He was the “founder” of this little-known country, but by bringing his idea of society to the country, he had unknowingly banished a woman who had lived there for decades, and practiced witchcraft. She had not taken kindly to her house being filled with a new family, and she bestowed a curse upon him that he would be immortal and guard the country as a statue until the moon shattered and the sun broke in two. Of course, such a day would never come, and Cassian had been a statue for thousands of years since then. 

With the twitch of a marble finger, he could reign chaos upon the country. With the flex of a muscle, earthquakes would shake the earth to its core. With the grit of his set of marble teeth, fire would engulf houses at a time. And yet, with all this power, he was not happy. He would give the universe with all its planets and stars just to feel like an ordinary man again. 

And all of his aches and sorrows were connected to his yearning for the woman in the little café across the street – a waitress by the name of Aiyana. Cassian’s stone heart thudded and made flowers spring from the ground each time he saw her. He knew that, however attractive her grey eyes that shimmered like the moon or her smile as bright as the sun were, it was not what she looked like that bewitched Cassian. Instead, it was how she would hold his cold marble hand before work every day “for good luck”. How she sometimes ran to him in the dead of night to lament her sadness and anger. And yet, as her tears would stain his marble robes, all he could do was stare. 

It was a day just on the cusp of June when Cassian’s wish finally came true. Aiyana had been engaged to a man for a long time, even Cassian knew this, but on that sweltering spring morning, he had watched as the man broke off the engagement and told Aiyana he’d found someone better, who would serve as a dedicated and loyal wife, instead of dancing around at night and singing to the animals. 

Her skin paled and her heart wilted as the two walked off together, and she ran, crying, to Cassian. Tears streamed down her rosy cheeks and Cassian noticed that she looked so worn Out. It was almost as if the moon within her eyes had shattered and the sun in her smile had broken in two. 

All of a sudden, Cassian felt a surge of life in his fingers. The feeling then travelled to his feet and shot through his marble lungs into his head. It was not until dusk, when Aiyana had left with a somber wave, that his marble skin turned olive, tanned by ancient sunbeams, and his robes of marble became robes of white satin. He cried for joy, feeling the life coursing through his veins. The earth was no longer upturned at the raise of an eyebrow – he was free! 

His first night of freedom was unequivocally one to be remembered. He danced with the cosmos and recited poetry to the birds. In the few hours he had alone, he took a man’s clothes off his window sill. Once he had tried them on, he scratched his chin, staring at the unfamiliar reflection in the window of one of the many shops. 

Once the night was over, men and women flooded into the town square to see that the statue had disappeared. None of them were even remotely aware that the bronze-skinned, bright-eyed man reclining and smoking a cigarette languidly in one of the café chairs was the statue. 

And so, days went by, until days turned into months. Aiyana remained sorrowful, and Cassian would linger beneath her window at night and sigh as he heard her frail attempt to muffle her cries, her heart breaking as her tears ran from the corner of her eyes and onto her pillow, thinking of every moment which led up to this, all the mistakes and harsh words. Cassian visited the café frequently, gradually befriending Aiyana. Slowly, friendship blossomed into love, and, once September arrived, they would slip sonnets into each other’s houses, with as much secrecy as they could muster. They shared a table together once, her nursing a mug of coffee while he hummed an old song, resting his fingertips over his larynx to feel the vibrations, to know that this wasn’t a dream. They began to know each other intimately; how Aiyana had a freckle on her eyelid, and how Cassian was afraid of any mention of witchcraft (something she never seemed to question). Despite his immortality, he felt youthful once more, rejuvenated by love. 

Cassian invited her to sit with him on the roof of the café at night. He thrusted a bouquet of yellow lilies into her hands and opened a pack of cigarettes. He lit one, and offered to light her one too. She shook her head politely, and stared deep into his eyes. 

“Cassian, our love may not be confirmed by the church or a gold ring, but to just sit with you beneath the moonlight, our heats softened by one another’s gazes, surely that means more.” Aiyana cupped his face in her hands, and he melted at her touch. “You have healed me.” And before Cassian could realise that the broken sun in her smile had become whole again, or that the shattered moon in her eyes had been stitched back together, she kissed him. Tenderly and passionately all at once. Like the breaths their lungs were provided with were infused with flowers and honey and fresh hope. He kissed her back in the way that a rooftop is kissed by rain, in the way that a dying man drinks water, knowing it sustains him. Their souls held hands and, oh, how wonderful and endless the world seemed then – how unexpected each turn of their lives would be! And so, time became meaningless; was it days that they were sat there, hands locking with each other’s as if they were made to hold one another, or was it a mere bunch of seconds, clocks out of synch, ticking when others tocked? Planets aligned, ancient deities rose one last time, the bouquet of lilies was dropped and the cigarette was forgotten. And as they fell from the kiss, laughing breathlessly, there was a sense that, by being with each other, the world was right again. That nothing was expected of them. 

But the sun was no longer broken nor the moon shattered, so Cassian’s body became marble once more. Aiyana, it turned out, had become a part of his soul, and – united as they held hands – she, too, became a statue. She gasped as she watched her skin turn into marble, but gave him one last warm smile. 

“I’ll love you forever, Cassian.” 

“And I’ll love you until after forever, when immortality is mortality.” 

And so, Cassian and Aiyana lost their voices, and became rooted to the rooftop, where they would watch forever unfold, until eternity was a thing of the past.