Cults, Communes and Childhood
WCN Young Ambassador Emily Webb experiences the first UEA Live of 2018

Emily Webb from Thorpe St Andrew Sixth Form joined the NCW (formerly WCN) team as a Young Ambassador in 2017. This is her review of the first UEA Live of 2018, featuring Eleanor Wasserberg, Rebecca Stott and the best emerging talent from UEA’s Creative Writing MA.

‘Cults Communes and Childhood’ was an incredible experience. It was the first UEA Live of the year and the variety and quality of performers got the season off to an excellent start. The venue, Dragon Hall, is beautifully historic and walking through the doors feels like a warm hug from the past. The atmosphere matched the venue and being surrounded with friendly faces with the same love for literature and the creative arts not only makes the event stand out but also delineates a sense of belonging and makes you feel at home.

To begin the night, Liam Heitman-Rice (a student on UEA’s Creative Writing MA) began the night with hilarious poetry based on his childhood. His poem about his father conveyed the love he feels for family and kept a humorous tone throughout; an exceptional and confident performance. He was followed by Alice Willitts performing her first public reading, though you could not tell. Her poems blew me away and I was touched by her eloquent use of metaphors. The third student writer was Peter Goulding, who wrote a non-fiction creative piece on rock climbing. Although it touched upon hard-hitting themes, it had a humorous tone and was unlike anything I had heard before. He was followed by Sylvia Madrigal who read a passage from a book about Mercedes de Acosta. It was beautifully read and had the whole audience gripped.

The night then progressed to the incredible headliner Eleanor Wasserberg, author of Foxlowe. It’s a chilling, incredible debut about group mentality, superstition, and betrayal surrounding a religious cult with ties to the Solstices and Paganism: “that’s where the bad comes from the salt keeps it out”. She read an extract where the main character, Green’s, sister is born. The exquisitely detailed scenery description made me feel as if I was in Foxlowe myself. A beautiful reading; I shall definitely be purchasing the book. At the end of the night, we were all incredibly lucky to hear an extract from her forthcoming Girl in the Red Dress.

The exquisitely detailed scenery description made me feel as if I was in Foxlowe myself

After the interval, the faculty guest reader Rebecca Stott, former member of the cult “The Exclusive Brethren”, read a passage from her award-winning autobiography In The Days Of Rain, which yet again used metaphors as an incredible description of scenery making the whole audience feel as if we were reliving the memory with her. The overall tone expressed a love for her father and family in exquisite detail and this gave a heart-warming element to the otherwise dark passage. I cannot wait to read more.

Next, student writer Mattia Natale performed three poems. The first one was in Czech and while I couldn’t understand I was enticed by his eloquent tone. Then, Rachel Goodman read poems on the theme of the night; they were all differentiated from one another and beautifully written. The penultimate reader of the night, Keeley Middleton, wrote four short poems on childhood, conveying undertones of death, childhood adventures, becoming ‘lost’ and melancholia. The last student writer was Saloni Prasad, who ended the night in fleets of laughter. Her hilarious anecdote of “how the world really works” in her poem ‘The Youngest Bitch’ was a great way to end an incredible night.

For anyone with a love of literature I cannot stress enough the wonderful time I had at January’s UEA Live. I cannot fault any of the performers, I enjoyed every moment of it. The atmosphere and content of the night was extraordinary and highly recommend to anyone who wants to sit down, drink and relax to some exquisitely read literature.

The next UEA Live featuring Submarine author Joe Dunthorne takes place on Thursday 15 February. Find out more >>

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