This Christmas, I’ve written a story for Ormskirk’s Festival of Tales, which has included newly commissioned artworks, a site-specific play in the town centre, and three short stories, all creative responses to myths of Ormskirk, a Lancashire market town with a thousand years of history.
I take Orme the Viking as a departure point for my tale, but this is a contemporary re-imagining of the figure for an adult reader. My Orme has lived for over a thousand years and has retired to Ormskirk. He’s now a regular drinker at The Golden Lion pub, in the town centre, and it’s during one boozy session at the pub that he narrates the story of his time in Ormskirk, recounting the ways in which the town has changed across the centuries.
And here’s what I said in a news article about being involved in the project:
“It’s been a pleasure to be able to delve into the past of Ormskirk and try to bring some of those stories to life again for this year’s Festival of Tales.” All myths and legends are stories that have been told and retold over time; evolving as the place they record evolves. So what we’ve tried to do is give these particular stories new life. It’s been great to work with two other writers, Claire Dean and James Rice, who both have meaningful connections to Ormskirk, as I think this makes a real difference to whether you can get a sense of the place you’re writing about.’
‘Orme & The Golden Lion’ by Rodge Glass (opening)
It’s a good spot, this. Look, you can see right through to the clock tower. All the life around it. You get the noise and the movement of market day, the sounds and the smells. You’re in amongst it, especially now, with the place all lit up like fireworks. You can tell the time from this table too, so I always know how long I’ve got left. These days I have a curfew – safest all round. If I have more than a few, well lad. Let’s just say it’s not pretty…
You can read a PDF of the full ‘Orme & the Golden Lion’ story here.
Limited edition booklets featuring the story, alongside ‘The Two Sisters’ by Claire Dean and ‘A Bit of Folklore’ by James Rice are available to buy at the Chapel Gallery, Ormskirk (only 100 copies).
Information on the two other stories in the project is below this message, along with the start of the stories themselves.
‘The Two Sisters’ by Claire Dean (opening)
Have you heard the story of the two sisters who argued so much they chased the sun out of the sky? When Signy said it was dawn, Runa said it was dusk, and when Signy said it was dusk, Runa said it was dawn. This went on and on and on until the sun hid from them to get some peace and the long dark came to their lands.
The two sisters were daughters of Orme. They came here on a great ship packed with their father’s men, all the wives and children, their mother and grandmother, and just enough food for everyone to survive. Orme made the two sisters lookouts and they quarrelled all the way across tides and time. When Signy said all was calm, Runa said there was a storm coming, and when Signy said there was a storm coming, Runa said all was calm. This went on and on and on until the sea hid from them to get some peace and the boat came to rest on dry land…
James Rice’s debut novel Alice and the Fly has been well received internationally. James has strong connections to Ormskirk, particularly having worked in the local Waterstones, and he grew up in nearby Maghull. James’ story is for a young adult audience and has a modern day setting. It revolves around Lucy Morris, a teenager at Ormskirk High School who has been set a research task involving the infamous Ormesher murders for her school History project. The Ormesher sisters were gentle souls who were brutally murdered in 1956 in an incident that shook the quiet town of Ormskirk, a crime this violent had ever happened before. This is a coming of age story, as Lucy – who takes her research project far more seriously than the rest of her class – gets her first glimpse at the horrors of the world.
‘A Bit of Folklore’ by James Rice (opening)
She’s stood in Ormskirk town centre on a cold Friday morning, spring 1956. It’s raining. The pavements are crowded with people, all in their finest clothes. It’s as busy as market day, except on market day there are stalls and the crowds are buzzing, whereas today everyone’s still. Some people have umbrellas, others stand with their heads bowed, hats in hands, allowing their hair to wet.
Nan’s hungry. She’s not actually Nan, not yet, but is still a six-year-old girl, and – even though she must know they will do nothing to satisfy her hunger – what she wants most of all are Rowntree’s Fruit Gums. Her mother sometimes walks her to the sweet shop on the corner but hasn’t done so for a week now because the shop has been closed. Something has happened to the two old ladies that run it. Somehow this has led to her and her mother being stood out in the rain…
For the full stories, please click here.