A Medway based writers’ collective, ME4 Writers was formed by playwright Sam Hall in 2008, after she moved to the area. Sam says ‘I was searching for some form of writers group and couldn’t find one, so I decided to start one’.
The early meetings were held at local cafes and Chatham Library, and took the form of tutorials. Over time the focus changed as a core group emerged, eager to produce and showcase work together, and this more solid membership moved forward as more of a collaborative group working on larger projects.
‘ME4 Writers has created a platform for local writers to develop their creativity and share work with a wider audience…’ says Roy Smith, one of the group’s original members.
In 2009 the group began working on ‘The Seventh Traveller’, a holistic multi-media project loosely inspired by Charles Dickens’ The Seven Poor Travellers.
Part ghost story, part mystery, part online game, part history walk, it was an event fusing literature, audio, film and art, created by the writers, but also bringing in some local artists. It included live performances at Eastgate House, and also Dickens World. Part of the project was an audio walk around an alternative Rochester by Roy Smith which can still be downloaded from here.
ME4 have always had a penchant for linking their projects to current events and topical dates. ‘The Seventh Traveller’ previewed at Dickens World on Dickens’ birthday (7 February) and was capped off in June 2010 at the Dickens Festival. In between these happenings, the group stuck the literary dagger into the subject of romance at their Anti-Valentines Tea Party in February 2010 with a three hour takeover of The Deaf Cat Café.
Following hard on the heels of these interventions on the literary world of North Kent, came an invitation from Moogie Wonderland, the indie-arts club night, to devise some writing. In response to this the group premiered ‘The City Project’. This involved thinking around the idea of Medway’s prospective city status and took the form of a sort of lateral-thinking encyclopaedia.
Originally a collection of (non) definitions for the night itself on 6 November 2010, in the course of a quite convivial evening this evolved into the ‘Encyclopaedia Citaecephale’ – the city without a head. This ongoing project is now on Issue Five, heading for completion this year, and includes contributions from a fluid line-up of writers. They can be found as originally designed, rare, guerrilla printings in all the best places, from The Deaf Cat to the South Bank.
A series of summer events have kept the group busy over the last few months. The Alternative Royal Wedding Picnic in April attracted the attention of the local media, who it may be said failed completely to grasp the idea behind it! During the same month, the group gave readings at ‘i am small The World Is Big’, a takeover of Kent County Hall in Maidstone by Kent-based experimental theatre group, Accidental Collective.
The group’s real triumph of the summer though, was the performances at Eastgate House for this year’s Dickens Festival entitled ‘Low Expectations’. The show brought to life characters from Great Expectations outside of their place in the narrative and played to a packed room for the most part. A member of the Dickens Society praised the group for really ‘getting a feel for the characters’. (You can see some extracts from the show on YouTube here and here).
As to the future, ME4 are currently inviting contributions for two upcoming projects. First up is ‘Short & Nasties’, their horror project. Submissions should feature the Medway towns and be in one of four categories: slasher, creature feature, supernatural or psychological. The group are looking for short stories, scripts or poems no longer than 1,000 words. These will feature in a potential podcast or live night.
The second is ‘Letters Home’ which invites contributors from anywhere in the world to share their thoughts on the meaning home holds for them, to be submitted by any media they choose. It is intended that these will be exhibited next year. To find out more about these two projects visit the ME4 blog: http://me4writers.wordpress.com
The membership of the group is fluid around a solid core. Most of the members do have some writing experience, they may have been published already, and all have been writing for some time.
‘Groups like this keep me motivated and focused when the rubble of everyday life is getting in the way.’ (Roy Smith)
‘Any writers out there wanting to join really just need to be local, and have a genuine commitment to writing. We won’t teach you how to write, though we hope that through being a member of the group that all our writings will reach new heights’ says Sam. Information on how to join can be found on the ME4 blog.
Photograph (c) Nikki Price