"Quicksands" on BBC Radio 4

Lucy Caldwell's new radio play "Quicksands", a drama about the slippery and shifting notions of truth and memory was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on December 8. It will be available on BBC iPlayer until early January. Click here to listen.

A young married couple, Tessa and James, hire a caravan for a week's holiday on the wind-swept Northern Irish coast with their two young children. It's make-or-break for their relationship: James is in love with someone else and wants a separation. Clambering over the sand dunes on the beach Tessa and the children get into difficulties and find themselves trapped in quicksand. When James realises what is happening to his family he turns and leaves them, running away. James insists he was running for help, but Tessa believes, has always believed, that James turned his back on his family and intended to leave them for dead. But just who is telling the truth?


Beta Life on BBC and Belfast Noir on RTE

Beta Life: Stories from an A-Life Future (published by Comma Press) was one of Mariella Frostrup's topics on Open Book on BBC Radio 4 on December 12, while "Belfast Noir", a collection of dark, bleak, brooding stories celebrating Lucy's home city, to which she contributed the story "Poison" was discussed by Seán Rocks on RTE's flagship arts programme Arena.

The stories in Beta Life focus on how humans will change in the way they interact with technology, the roles they adopt in an increasingly ‘intelligent’ environment, and how we interface with each other.. The anthology brings together scientists and authors, working in pairs, to imagine what life (and A-Life) will look like in the year 2070.

Open Book is available on BBC iPlayer, you can listen to the episode here. or download the programme as a podcast here. The section on Beta Life begins at 11:50.

RTE's Arena is available online. You can listen to it here.

 

 


Louis MacNeice Memorial Lecture

The BBC Louis MacNeice Memorial Lecture seeks to acknowledge the impact and continuing relevance of Louis MacNeice’s work as a poet, BBC programme-maker, critic and author and explores current themes within the arts and broadcasting.

The 2014 lecture, given by Professor Jonathan Allison (who edited the MacNeice letters for Faber and Faber) had additional dramatized sequences by Lucy Caldwell. The focus of the lecture was the wartime period in MacNeice’s career and offered insights which his writing and correspondence provides into his work, relationship and views.

The event took place Thursday 04 December, 7.00pm, at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast

 

 


Short fiction - blanc et noir

Two new stories by Lucy Caldwell have been commisioned to appear in very different anthologies, both published in November 2014.

Beta Life: Stories from an A-Life Future (published by Comma Press) is a collection of speculative fiction imagining possible worlds in which artificial intelligence (A-Life), material evolution and swarm intelligence diverge and disperse into a balanced ecosystem of humans and robotic objects. These fictions focus on how humans will change in the way they interact with technology, the roles they adopt in an increasingly ‘intelligent’ environment, and how we interface with each other.. The anthology brings together scientists and authors, working in pairs, to imagine what life (and A-Life) will look like in the year 2070. Every kind of technology is imagined: from lie-detection glasses to military swarmbots, brain-interfacing implants to synthetically ‘grown’ skyscrapers, revolution-inciting computer games to synthetically engineered haute cuisine. All artificial life is here

In Belfast Noir (published by Akashic as part of their the prestigious City Noir series), Lucy joins celebrated crime writers Lee Child and Brian McGilloway in a collection of dark, bleak, brooding stories celebrating her home city. The anthology carves out the neighbourhoods of Belfast with scalpel-like precision. Lucy's story, “Poison” is set in Dundonald.

In their introduction, editors Adrian McKinty & Stuart Neville explain:

“Few European cities have had as disturbed and violent a history as Belfast over the last half-century. For much of that time the Troubles (1968–1998) dominated life in Ireland’s second-biggest population centre, and during the darkest days of the conflict—in the 1970s and 1980s—riots, bombings, and indiscriminate shootings were tragically commonplace. The British army patrolled the streets in armoured vehicles and civilians were searched for guns and explosives before they were allowed entry into the shopping district of the city centre . . . Belfast is still a city divided . . .

You can see Belfast’s bloodstains up close and personal. This is the city that gave the world its worst ever maritime disaster, and turned it into a tourist attraction; similarly, we are perversely proud of our thousands of murders, our wounds constantly on display. You want noir? How about a painting the size of a house, a portrait of a man known to have murdered at least a dozen human beings in cold blood? Or a similar house-sized gable painting of a zombie marching across a postapocalyptic wasteland with an AK-47 over the legend UVF: Prepared for Peace—Ready for War. As Lee Child has said, Belfast is still ‘the most noir place on earth.'”

“The choices made by editors McKinty and Neville celebrate lowlifes, convicts, hookers, private eyes, cops and reporters, and, above all, the gray city at the heart of each story.”
Kirkus Reviews

 


‘Talking Statues’

Lucy Caldwell is among the celebrated writers commissioned to contribute to "Talking Statues", a project in which celebrated actors and writers unite to give voice to statues across London and Manchester from August 19th

35 statues across London and Manchester will begin telling tales of the past through the voices of recognisable British actors and words from our best writers.

To hear the talking statues, visitors need to swipe their smartphones over signs beneath the statues to access the monologues.

Playing some of our most notable characters from history are Dominic West, as Achilles in Hyde Park; Jeremy Paxman as John Wilkes in Fetter Lane; Prunella Scales, as Queen Victoria in Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens; and Patrick Stewart as the voice of the unknown soldier at Paddington Station. The statues are being brought to life as part of a project by Sing London, a non-profit arts organisation, with the intention of purely lifting the nation’s spirits.

Lucy has written a monologue for Xavier Corberó’s group scultpture The Broad Family located in Exchange Square, London in which she captures the voice of the little girl in the group of figures, a little girl who loves playing Statues, in which she follow human passers by. She dares you to join her game.

Best known for her role in Game of Thrones, Maisie Williams, who voices the little girl, said of Lucy's monologue: “I loved the way the text captures the mind of a young girl. From a young age, I wondered what my teddy-bears were saying while I was away and this project encapsulates that feeling.”

For more information about the "Talking Statues" Project, visit the website at:
www.talkingstatues.co.uk

More information about Sing London, which produces city wide events in which the wider public can engage, can be found on their website.
www.singlondon.org

 


Regional Winners: Commonwealth Short Story Prize

Lucy Caldwell has been named Regional Winner, Canada & Europe for the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for her story Killing Time.

The prize provides a platform for writers from the 53 countries of the Commonwealth to share unpublished work with a wider audience.

The five regional winners (Africa, Asia, Canada & Europe, Caribbean, Pacific) will now move forward to the next round and the overall winner will be announced in Kampala, Uganda, on 13 June to coincide with a series of Commonwealth Writers initiatives in East Africa.

Killing Time is the story of ayoung girl just turned thirteen who tries to take her own life. She swallows down as many paracetamol and baby aspirin tablets as she can and goes downstairs to have dinner with her family. That evening, and in the days that follow, she waits for something to happen, caught between the equally terrifying possibilities that something might, and that nothing will at all.

Asked about being named Regional Winner, Lucy said:

“I am thrilled to hear that my story Killing Time has been chosen as the Canada and Europe regional winner. It was a very difficult story to write, and took well over a dozen entirely new drafts for me to get the balance and tone of it right. At several points I almost abandoned it entirely. So it’s a huge boost for it to receive such recognition.”

The judges for the Prize reflect the five regions with Doreen Baingana from Africa, Michelle de Kretser from the Pacific, Marlon James from Caribbean, Courttia Newland representing Canada and Europe, and Jeet Thayil representing Asia. The chair is Ellah Allfrey, who is deputy chair of the Council of the Caine Prize and was previously deputy editor of Granta and senior editor at Jonathan Cape, Random House.  

Radio Ulster - Arts Extra

Lucy talks to Kim Lenaghan on Radio Ulster's flagship arts and entertainment programme about her play "From Fact to Fiction" - what happens when a playwright and her production team join the BBC Belfast newsroom to create a drama from the week's headlines? Includes the play and a making-of documentary.

Lucy and her producer had 5 days to choose a current news item, write, cast, record and edit a 15 minute radio drama which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday 22 February, and again on Sunday 23.

You can listen to the Radio Ulster documentary below

 

 

 

 

 

The Meeting Point - Le point de rencontre

À la frontière de deux mondes, l'Occident et l'Orient, à la croisée de deux chemins, le mensonge et la fidélité, une femme, Ruth, jeune mariée et jeune mère, mise à l'épreuve par l'inconnu et le danger, doit choisir son camp.

C'est l'heure du grand départ. Ruth n'a jamais quitté le cocon familial ni son doux confort occidental. Mais Euan, son mari, a trouvé un poste au Bahreïn. Une nouvelle aventure qu'ils vont vivre en famille, avec leur bébé. Une fois installée dans leur ghetto pour expatriés, Ruth déchante. Car l'inconnu se trouve, en fait, sous son propre toit. Son mari n'est pas celui qu'elle croyait. Il les a emmenés dans ce pays pour accomplir une mission dangereuse, pour lui, et pour eux. Bouleversée et isolée, Ruth essaie de se concentrer sur sa petite fille. Mais le voisinage avec une adolescente étrange et la rencontre de Farid vont la pousser à explorer ses propres zones d'ombre...

À la frontière de deux mondes, l'Occident et l'Orient, à la croisée de deux chemins, le mensonge et la fidélité, Le Point de rencontre dessine une cartographie existentielle et sentimentale fascinante : l'amour, la confiance, la foi, et la fin de l'innocence.

« Un roman magnifiquement écrit sur l'amour et l'échec, la foi et la trahison. »
The Sunday Times

« Un bijou littéraire, à la fois émouvant et cathartique. Vous ne l'oublierez pas de sitôt. »
The Independent

"Through the Wardrobe" & "Poison"

To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the death of C.S. Lewis, a new short story, "Through the Wardrobe", was commissioned by the BBC. An edited version will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday 24th November at 7.45pm.

You can watch and listen to Lucy reading the story in its entirety at the Word Factory here

 

Lucy Caldwell from WordFactory on Vimeo.

 

Belfast Noir

Meanwhile, another new short story, "Poison", will be published in Akashic's prestigious 'City Noir' series in spring 2014. The collection will feature the cream of Northern Ireland's fiction writing community as well as crime writers from further afield who happen to have a Belfast connection. among them Glenn Patterson, Eoin McNamee, Garbhan Downey & Lee Child.

More details about the anthology, edited by Adrian McKinty and Stuart Neville, can be found here

 

The Watcher on the Wall

To mark the fiftieth anniversary of his death, the story of poet Louis MacNeice's trans-Atlantic love affair with the American short story writer Eleanor Clark and the poetry it inspired, dramatised from his Letters by playwright Lucy Caldwell.

In 1939 Louis MacNeice fell in love. The poet had had a tough few years: his world had fallen apart when his adored wife eloped with their American lodger, and now, with divorce proceedings acrimonious and MacNeice a single parent looking after their young son Daniel, the poet plunges himself into his travels and his work.

Then, in the spring of 1939, MacNeice met Eleanor Clark, a young, beautiful and gifted short-story writer. Their intense, passionate, desperate affair - he in England, she in New York, the war and the Atlantic Ocean between them - consumed the next few years, and the poet's imagination. Communicating through letters, their relationship becomes for MacNeice one of pursuit rather than possession, but nevertheless amid the pressures of parenthood, debts, deadlines and the on-going war, it inspires some of MacNeice's most famous and passionate poetry, most notably "Meeting Point" and "Cradle Song for Eleanor". But can a relationship that exists more in the mind than reality ever endure, or will its fate simply be that of a passing poetic fantasy?

The Watcher on the Wall was broadcast on Wed 4 Sep 2013. For more information or to listen againe, see the BBC iPlayer page here.

Fiction Uncovered – Shortlist

All The Beggars Riding is among the 8 titles on the Fiction Uncovered shortlist. Fiction Uncovered is a promotion which celebrates our best British fiction writers. The titles were selected by a judging panel chaired by novelist Louise Doughty, with judges Sandeep Mahal, Programme Manager at the Reading Agency, Lynne Hatwell, aka influential blogger dovegreyreader, and writer Courttia Newland.

The promotion is supported by Arts Council England and funded by the National Lottery.  The titles will be part of a summer promotion supported by retailers Foyles, Kobo, Waterstones, iBookstore, Amazon and independent bookstores across the UK. Fiction Uncovered authors receive a artist-bound edition of their book. For more information, visit the website

Fiction Uncovered Review


Lucy Caldwell’s All The Beggars Riding is difficult to write about without spoiling its effects. Not that the twists and revelations in it are particularly dramatic – in fact almost the opposite – but that they are so deeply woven into the fabric of the story that to tell to any great extent what the book is about, and how it goes about being what it is, would be to diminish it, and in the end make it rather less worth reading than it is.

In other words, it’s one of those books you have to take on trust – though if I mention that it’s been shortlisted for the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award 2013 and chosen as Belfast’s One City One Book mass read this year (this month, in fact), then at least you’ll know it’s not just me you’re trusting.

The book’s narrator is Lara Moorhouse, a young woman living in London under the shadows of a string of losses: being dumped by her long-term boyfriend, the death of her mother, and, further back, the death of her father, in a helicopter crash in Northern Ireland, where he worked as a plastic surgeon, patching up people who’d been blown half to pieces in the Troubles, only making it back in snatches to see his patiently waiting family. His job, of course, is deeply ironical, for all the time he is saving lives and faces, he is sinking the knife deeper and deeper into the life of his family, so slowly that you might not notice how much damage is being done.

What we get, then, is a portrait of a family seen with the bitter clarity of hindsight. “All the time I watched them as a child,” Lara writes, “and was convinced that no parents on earth loved each other as much as my mother and father – it wasn’t love, it was desperation, and addiction, and a shared guilt, and a need for that guilt and its consequences to feel justified.”

And that Lara writes what we read is equally important – for that’s another thing Caldwell gets just right. Lara’s self-discovery comes about through writing, through ‘Creative Writing’, and Caldwell very accurately mirrors the particular way that memoir and fiction mix and blur in contemporary literature, and the way that the Creative Writing industry is sanctioning, even formalising, a particular way for people to think about and use their own past.

Which might make the book sound tricksier or more severe than it is. All The Beggars Riding offers the reader a subtly intelligent and moving journey through domestic tragedy and its long aftereffects. If Lara Moorhouse had really written it, or if it really were Caldwell’s own story, disguised, we might applaud them their courage, and their accomplishment. But she didn’t, it isn’t, and so we must applaud Caldwell for something altogether slyer and more intriguing – a fake fake memoir that lives up to the demands of its genre, while also gently lifting the cover to show the machinery at work beneath. I could say more, but I’d ruin it.

Irish Novel of the Year – Shortlist

All The Beggars Riding is among the 5 shortlisted titles for the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award 2013, which was announced on April 17at Dublin’s Mansion House by Kerry Group’s Aoife O’Brien. The €15,000 award is the largest monetary prize for fiction available solely to Irish authors. Previous winners of the award include Christine Dwyer Hickey, Anne Enright, Neil Jordan, John Banville, Joseph O’Neill, Roddy Doyle, Sebastian Barry and John McGahern.

The chair of the jury, Robert McCrum said “After an intensive selection process, shared throughout this spring with my distinguished associate Rita Ann Higgins, I am delighted to announce these 5 fine writers for the shortlist of a most important Irish literary prize. It has been such an honour to make a contribution to this part of Listowel Writers’ Week, and I look forward to working with Rita Ann in picking the winner. It’s going to be a close race, down to the wire.”

Commenting on her shortlisting, Lucy said “I am thrilled beyond words that my novel’s been shortlisted for the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year. I’ve wanted to come to Listowel Writers’ Week for as long as I can remember, and to come as a shortlistee is just wonderful.”

All The Beggars Riding

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. (Trad.)

When Lara was twelve, and her younger brother Alfie eight, their father died in a helicopter crash. A prominent plastic surgeon, and Irishman, he had honed his skills on the bomb victims of the Troubles. But the family grew up used to him being absent: he only came to London for two weekends a month to work at the Harley Street Clinic, where he met their mother years before, and they only once went on a family holiday together, to Spain, where their mother cried and their father lost his temper and left early.

Because home, for their father, wasn't Earls Court: it was Belfast, where he led his other life . . . Narrated by Lara, nearing forty and nursing her dying mother, All the Beggars Riding is the heartbreaking portrait of a woman confronting her past.

 

Praise for "All the Beggars Riding"

"…the heartbreaking portrait of a woman confronting and trying to make sense of her past. While the story is gripping and raw, the structure is the most interesting thing about Caldwell's creation – the book itself the talisman that anchors us in actuality. It's a novel about writing, about telling other people's stories as well as our own. […] Lyrical, involving and in a way upsetting…" (read the review)
Irish Independent

"All the Beggars Riding" … is often moving, and it succeeds at allowing us a peek at other, believable, fully realised lives. (read the review)
The Guardian

Drawing on dynamics, from Belfast to Iraq

Lucy Caldwell’s latest novel is inspired by an ancestor’s dramatic life, and her own career has taken her from the stage to the page and recently to Iraq
Interview published in the Irish Times, Monday April 15.

When Lucy Caldwell was 13, an English teacher at school set her class an unusual exercise. The students had been reading How Many Miles to Babylon? by Jennifer Johnston, and were asked to write an extra chapter for the book.

Caldwell, who knew the characters well, became obsessed with it – and decided to write an extra ending. “It came after Jennifer’s ending and I loved working on it. That’s honestly when I realised that I wanted to be a writer.”

Her first work was not in fiction, but in theatre – a short play, The River , which was performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. A longer play followed, Leaves , produced by Druid and directed by Garry Hynes. Drama and literature did battle, and in the same year, Caldwell’s debut novel, Where They Were Missed , was published.

“I started off writing plays and novels at the same time, because I go with whatever tugs at me, but I can’t work on a novel and a play simultaneously. You need to be in control of your form, while knowing the possibilities and limitations of each.”

A third novel, All The Beggars Riding , has just been published, and its genesis comes from a fascinating family story. Caldwell’s mother, in tracing the family’s genealogy, discovered that Lucy’s great-great-grandfather emigrated from Bristol. He left behind a pregnant wife, seven children and was never heard from again.

“We think he faked his own death, and started a new life,” says Caldwell over a pot of tea in Dublin. “As a novelist, you want to fill in the gaps about why he did it, where he went. Around the same time, I had a dream about a doctor who led a double life. At the time I wasn’t looking to write a new story but I would rip stories out of newspapers about secret lives and people kept telling me their own stories at literary festivals.”

All The Beggars Riding is told from the point of view of Lara, a woman whose surgeon father died when she was young. Lara’s life is in London, but she discovers her father had another family in Belfast. It examines the horror of separate families who share a father and husband, with many dualities to the story. “I’m fascinated by the extent to which you can ever really know someone and as a writer, you are, in a way, leading a double life, because you spend far more time with your characters than with your own family.” (read more)

Interview with Writing.ie

Eleanor Fitzsimmons © 7 March 2013.
Posted on writing.ie

“I start the novel with this fictional documentary based very much on the stories told by the Belarusian journalist Svetlana Alexievich (in her book Voices from Chernobyl) using testimony from people, especially women but some men also, firemen and soldiers, who had been involved in the Chernobyl catastrophe. One story in particular is told by a woman about her fireman husband. I base my fictional documentary on it because it is one of the most moving stories about love I have ever read.”

Lucy describes the difficulty of inventing memoir in a way that makes it truly authentic and credible.

“I had to do such meticulous research. I used a brilliant website that I credit in the book, CAIN (Conflict Archive on the Internet) and using this I was able to check what was actually happening on any given day in Northern Ireland. For instance when Lara travels to Belfast as a little girl I was able to check what the weather was like on that actual day.”

Was it important to be that accurate, I wonder? As this is a novel surely she could have simply made it up? Was it necessary for her to incorporate that level of accuracy?

“It was important as it had to be as close to memoir as possible. It was important for this book and for this character as she is so concerned with the difference between something being true and being untrue, fact and fiction and recovering the truth and how memories come to you suddenly out of the blue and how you don’t narrate your own story in a seamless telling of it.” (read the full interview)

 

Belfast’s One City One Book 2013

February, 2012:

“You are standing, face upturned to the window, breathing in the sun. I can see you, almost: if I close my eyes I can almost see you. A Thursday morning in May, 1972”.
All the Beggars Riding, a novel by Lucy Caldwell - Belfast choice for One City One Book Belfast 2013

The people of Belfast are being encouraged to get reading with One City One Book which returns to the city this May. All the Beggars Riding, the latest novel by Belfast born author Lucy Caldwell, has been selected as Belfast’s second ‘One City One Book’ read and will be the focus of this Arts Council initiative to develop the art of reading and promote Belfast’s rich creativity. Narrated by Lara, nearing forty and nursing her dying mother,the chosen book is the heartbreaking portrait of a woman confronting her past.
Developed by the Arts Council and supported by Belfast City Council, Literary Belfast, Libraries NI, Belfast Telegraph, QFT, Faber & Faber and U105, One City One Book is a community reading initiative which aims to get the people of Belfast reading and discussing the same book throughout the entire month of May.

Following on from the hugely successful campaign in 2012, this year’s One City One Book month long campaign promises to be bolder, brighter and packed with a bigger programme of events. Themed around the book, the exciting programme will feature a wide range of talks, city tours and a weeklong QFT film screening hosted by well known and loved local personalities. (read more)

Lucy interviewed by The Thought Fox

From the award-winning author of The Meeting Point comes another powerful exploration of love, desire and family, featuring a narrator raking over the past to uncover secrets long-buried – secrets that take in The Troubles in 1970s Belfast. All the Beggars Riding confirms Lucy Caldwell as one of the most accomplished young novelists writing today – and we’re delighted to hear that the Arts Council in Northern Ireland have chosen it as their One City One Book Belfast choice for 2013.

Lucy answered a few of our questions …

- Where did the idea come from for All the Beggars Riding?

Some years ago, just after my first novel was published and before I’d even begun my second, I had a dream, in which this double-layered, double-crossing surgeon’s life came to me. It was such a vivid and startling dream that I took note of it, and for the next few years started seeking out stories of people who lead double lives and men who have a second family, mistresses who have their lover’s babies …

Around the same time, my mum had been researching our family history, and she uncovered the story of an ancestor – my great-great-grandfather – who left a wife and seven, soon to be eight, children in Bristol to sail for the gold mines in America. He disappeared almost without trace soon after he arrived, and there are enough mysteries in his story and the documents that remain to make us suspect he fell in love with someone on the voyage and decided to start a new life, or had simply had enough of the grind of life in England and wanted to disappear. This has nothing directly to do with my novel, of course – but we were talking a lot about him and about family secrets.

Also, my novel The Meeting Point had been about thwarted and illicit love affairs and dangerous obsessions, and I wanted to take that idea further, go even deeper into the darkest corners of the heart.

And finally, the spark that set me actually writing was watching a brilliant, incredibly moving film called My Architect, a documentary made by the son of the architect Louis Kahn. When Kahn died, he left behind three families – and his son Nathaniel made the film as a way of trying to find out who his father was, going to the buildings he’d designed and speaking to the women who had loved him and stayed with him, even knowing they weren’t his only families. (read more)