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The Manchester Literature Festival Blog

Young Digital Reporter Review: In The Dark Radio

Young Digital Reporter Jack Clare filed this account of our In The Dark Radio event…

I had no idea what to expect when I turned up at the Anthony Burgess for In The Dark. I had been intrigued by the description of the event, which said it aimed to lift spoken word radio ‘out of its traditional settings and celebrate it in new and exciting ways’.  What happened was actually rather refreshing and unlike any literary event which I have ever been to. After a short introduction, and being asked to say ‘shhh’ into a microphone (which we have been promised will be used in one of Radio National’s productions), the centre’s beautiful ‘Engine Room’ was plunged into near darkness and the first of the night’s pieces began playing. It was a short and touching documentary about a promising creative writing student who was run down by a van. The accident left him unable to concentrate and with terrible headaches and he was unable to continue his education. Instead of becomes somebody who wrote books he became somebody who binds them; work which he described as fulfilling.

Some of the pieces were a bit more abstract and experimental. One of these was called Noise to a Minimum, which was essentially 5 minutes of noise that had been recorded in a library. The piece considered the place of silence in libraries which are becoming increasingly multimedia. Another was called Beginnings, which was my favourite of the pieces. Described as being a kind of riddle, the audience was challenged to figure out what they thought it was. I listened as a man stuttered his way through a set of alphabetically arranged words. An image which came to my mind as I was listening to it was of a robot which had just been switched on and was encountering the English language for the first time and it found it so beautiful and complex that it started to crash. In actuality, the producer (Roger Beebe) had taken every single word in the first chapter of Genesis and put them in alphabetical order. As it happens there are no words in that chapter that begin with a J or a Z.

Remedial Theory, created by Benjamin Walker of Benjamin Walker’s Theory of Everything, was perhaps the most affecting story of the night. It told the story of how he delivered some books to Slobodan Milosevic whilst he was on trial at The Hague for crimes against humanity. Walker talks about a few of the books he has decided to take to him and explains why he chose them. Finally, they ended with a radio drama which speculated about the final day of Poe, which was a strange coincidence considering I had just been to see Sean O’Brien talk about Poe a few night’s earlier. It imagined Poe being captured by a gang who were going to dress him up in a few different costumes and send him to vote multiple times on election day.

Overall, In The Dark was an atmospheric and interesting evening. I’ll definitely be going to see anything they do in the future.


P.S Most of the pieces shown on the night are available online. Below are the links:

The bookbinder documentary is available as part of a larger piece called A Need to Build

Noise to a Minimum

13 Ways

Remedial Theory


The Death of Poe