If These Walls Could Talk workshop @ ABC Cinema, Lime Street

Photo Credit: Jerry Hardman-Jones

Photo Credit: Jerry Hardman-Jones

When you enter the abandoned ABC Cinema on Liverpool’s Lime Street, it’s like stepping into a completely different world. The walls echo when even the slightest sound is made and the atmosphere is unearthly which makes it feel like there are a million souls crying out for their stories to be told.

This spooky Art Deco building had been picked as the inspiration and venue for Tuesday evening’s Creative Writing Workshop, which was aimed at writer’s of all abilities. It had been set up as part of the Liverpool Biennial, in partnership with The Windows Project and was attended by about 18 people, including myself.

Lead by Lily Mellor and Devon Forrester-Jones, the class began with a ten-minute introductory talk where both of the leaders took it in turns to explain the history of the building and the concept behind the workshop.

There were sheets of paper on the tables in front of everyone, which set out the directive for the evening. It was difficult to see them as the part of the building we were sat in was lit only by a couple of spotlights, however, some people managed by using the glow from their mobile phones and others moved the paper round into the light.

After the introductory talk was over, it was on to the first task and the eager members of the class were encouraged to spend ten minutes writing about the building. They were invited to include any personal memories in this if they had any as well as their thoughts before and after arrival.

It certainly wasn’t easy to think what to write at times, but it was a great warm-up exercise, which got people to look at their surroundings and try to gauge how they felt about them.

At the end of the task, there was a brief discussion and the leaders invited people to give their feedback before the next activity commenced, which was to write a story based on the cinema.

About ten or fifteen minutes were allocated so that everyone could look around the building, at the architecture, the photographs and the objects that had been left when it closed in 1998. Amongst the latter were old posters, cigarette packets, popcorn containers, an old radio and a pair of dusty red slippers.

An hour was then given for the story to be written. It could be about anything as long as it had a connection to the cinema. The suggestions on the worksheet were to write about a person explaining their relationship with the building or describe how one of the items that had been left got there, the choice was down to the individual and it was certainly a lot easier than the first task.

The time slipped away quickly and we had almost reached the end of the two-hour workshop, but before it finished those people who wanted to read out their stories to the group were invited to do so.

Some people handed their work in at the end, whilst others took it home to edit or type up before they submitted it, but the best bit is yet to come, all the stories that were written at the workshop are going to be put in a zine which will be available shortly both in print and online.

There were mixed emotions as I left the ABC Cinema that night and walked out onto the city streets. I felt sad about leaving the character I’d written about and his dusty red slippers behind, but I also felt proud that I’d been given the opportunity to bring him to life in the first place during what was an immensely thought-provoking and thoroughly enjoyable workshop.

The Liverpool Biennial has a variety of events running until the 16th of October.