Throwback: Page to Stage, and Screen

Through these ‘throwback’ posts, I have sought to tell the story of poetry journey, recounting instances beginning with my first ever foray into the form, all the way up to the present day. However, as these posts move into 2018 and 2019, they begin to cover moments that are expressed more thoroughly elsewhere on this site. The full story of Bella can be read on the dedicated page; today’s post will only be short, giving moments of personal insight into my post-publication adventures!

The joy I felt at holding my pamphlet in my hands for the first time was magical, and means I can remember that day clearly. I travelled to Wolverhampton to meet with my publishers from Offa’s Press, and on the journey home, I just remember flicking through its pages in amazement. It took a while to sink in – that my childhood dreams really had come true.

That was August 2018. With publication came several launch events: the official Offa’s Press launch was in Wolverhampton, and was followed by a slot to read at their open mic event in Ironbridge. I read alongside Ros Woolner and John Woodall, whose pamphlets On the Wing and This Is Just To Say were published simultaneously to Bella.

By this point in my poetry journey, I was quite used to reading in front of audiences. So while these events were the first where I could read from my own printed book, the poems which made up Bella had been heard by audiences a few times before.

In the year running up to my pamphlet’s publication, I was fortunate enough to be invited to read at a number of ‘Bella’ events. In February 2018, filmmaker Tom Lee Rutter premiered his docu-drama titled Bella in the Wych Elm: A Midlands Phantasmagoria. The event, held at the Gunmakers’ Arms pub in Birmingham, also showcased a number of local writers of horror, thriller, and mystery. The stories, poems, and songs that were shared were not all on the theme of Bella, but all contributed to the atmosphere in the run-up to the screening of Rutter’s eerie and fascinating film. View the film for free here.

  • A copy of Bella, by Nellie Cole, published by Offa's Press, with a dark green background and three panels of illustration.
  • A young lady stands behind a mic, on a stand, reading from a book.
  • A young lady reads in a darkened room, behind a mic.
  • A poster giving the times, dates and locations of an event. The background is black, with a greyscale picture of the Wychbury monument (which reads 'who put Bella in the Witch Elm'), surrounded by red flames and sparks.
  • A theatre-style ticket issued by Borough Halls, for an event titled 'Who put Bella in the Wych Elm? 75th Anniversary Evening'.
  • A young woman stands behind a podium, in a spotlight, reading to an audience out of shot.
  • A beer bottle, labelled with the same art design as the book cover of 'Bella', sits on a windowsill.

In April 2018, an event was held to commemorate the 75th anniversary since Bella’s remains were found and the ensuing mystery was born. This event was organised and hosted by paranormal investigator and researcher Jayne Harris, who had premiered her own Bella documentary, Who put Bella in the Wych-Elm?, the previous year in August 2017. Tickets were sold out, with a large audience attending to hear readings, see films, and engage in discussion panels on the subject of the Bella case. To date, this is still one of my favourite events at which I have read! View Harris’ film for free, here.

Inspired by these wonderful events, I set about planning my own little launch party in November 2018. Hosted at the Gunmakers’ Arms, the event also included readings from my editor, Emma Purshouse, and the delightful new voice of Sallyanne Rock. Excitingly, the Two Towers Brewery connected to the pub even sold a ‘Bella’ ale, with my pamphlet’s artwork on the label!

One of the things I am most proud of, following the publication of Bella, is how my poems have inspired others to make their own art. The desire to make films about the Bella story has not waned, as evidenced by the Sutton Coldfield Movie Makers, who incorporated my poems into their own retelling of the case through the medium of film. The poems from Bella have also been used in a drama project by students from the University of Birmingham, in their own final year performance. To see the film and the theatre piece, scroll to the bottom of the Bella page, here.

I am a big believer that opportunity begets opportunity, as I have said in an earlier throwback post. But it is when creation begets creation, that the magic of art is truly felt.

If you read this far, I hope you enjoyed this post, and the throwback posts that have come before. Only one more step along my poetry journey is left to be recounted… Tune back in next Thursday for the final ‘Throwback’ post, to tie this story up with the modern day!

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