Sue Tyley rounds up our October event


If there’s something weird
And it don’t look good
Where you gonna go? MIRLive!*

On the day the sky turned red (or brown, orange or yellowy grey, depending on where you were), it was a relief to take sanctuary in the basement of the Harrison for a MIRLive special celebrating the publication of the latest issue of The Mechanics’ Institute Review. All the readers were authors featured in MIR14, reading extracts from their MIR14 stories. Our MC was Rebecca Rouillard, one of the MIR14 editorial team, who, after acknowledging the apocalyptic conditions outside, reminded us that this is the first issue of The Mechanics’ to have invited submissions from across the UK, not just from the Birkbeck community, thanks to a grant from Arts Council England.

Elinor Johns opened the programme with an extract from “Kissing”, a story of self-discovery set in 1960s Carmarthenshire. Channelling her inner Catherine Zeta-Jones and invoking D. H. Lawrence, Elinor took us in an Austin 35 to an eye-stingingly windswept beach where May’s would-be seducer’s groping, slavering, bread-clagged advances serve only to remind her of a previous kiss, intoxicating, giddy-making, breathless, from her brother’s dashing girlfriend.

Jo Holloway was up next, reading from “The Katie Merrick Case”, about a near future in which the general public’s online vote constitutes one seat on a jury of twelve; social media has become life-alteringly important and influencing it is part of the legal profession. We heard how Liz tricks her way past a posse of fellow lawyers, journalists and spray-paint-wielding youths to try to sign up social media’s latest victim, Katie Merrick, a teacher at her son’s school.

Kev Pick then read an extract from “The Machine Gun Experiment”, and if ever a reading had the audience reaching for the book to learn more, this was it! Precisely positioned metal screens; a Browning M1919 four-hundred-rounds-per-minute machine gun; a head-shattered body on a white sheet blooming with blood . . . Suicide? Quantum suicide. Not quite the same thing.

In her introduction, Rebecca mentioned that the next reader had once worked as a scarer of children on a Blackpool ghost train (apt, given the spooky weather), and Ruth Ivo duly prefaced her reading with a gentle “Boo.” Meteorology – and blood, thrashing-limbed bodies, a golden-skinned boy and a watermelon – also featured in Ruth’s story, “Bavaria”, which began with lightning striking the Berghain – a power station turned nightclub – on the hottest night of the Berlin summer.

After the break, Grace Jacobson read from her story “Take Me Out Tonight”, describing a tearful mother’s attempts to distract herself with thoughts of getting laid and fatalistic predictions (“If the car has not moved in nine seconds, then I am going to die on my way back home.”). Particularly memorable was the way shoes – strappy, shiny, expensive-smelling stilettos, toe-strained, pee-splattered, once white plimsolls – summed up their owners’ lives and carried worlds of meaning. The image of Nell shaking her bare bottom in the cool air was pretty memorable too!

Charlie Fish then took us to a different continent with his reading from “Cut”, in which a young boy undergoes “the ritual of manhood”. “A sorry-looking slug hiding in straggly moss”, a tool like a cigar cutter, “a smart clicking sound like a hammer tapping the end of a chisel”, “the sudden sensation that he had wet himself”, “the jagged trails of blood that now decorated the wood” of his chair were just some of the vivid elements in Charlie’s visceral extract.

MIRLive veteran Keith Jarrett closed the programme in his usual inimitable style with his story “Mug”, delivered in the distinctive voice of his eighteen-year-old protagonist, also named Keith Jarrett. Keith has the tricky task of explaining to the woman at the jobcentre – Janice, with her loopy, optimistic writing, “unbeweavable” hair and discreet referral to God – how he came to lose his new position at the daycentre, touching on East London (with its many places that seem to dream up America), his estranged family and the fights, characters and imperturbable business of the jobcentre in the process.

It was a great end to a thoroughly enjoyable – and weird-sky-defying – evening. If you’d like to read the stories, MIR14 is available here.

* With apologies to Ray Parker Jr.

October 23, 2017

MIRLive: MIR14 Special

Sue Tyley rounds up our October event
July 13, 2017

MIRLive Life Stories Special

Elinor Johns rounds up MIRLive.
June 20, 2017

MIRLive Life Stories

Katherine Angel and Emma Henderson Join us for MIRLive
May 22, 2017
MIRlive 480

MIRLive Call for Submissions: Life Stories

Join us at The Harrison for our last event of the summer term. We’re looking for stories inspired by real life.
May 19, 2017
live performance poetry given by Birkbeck postgraduate students and staff

Poetry Live Arts Week Special

Elinor Johns rounds up Poetry Live.
March 30, 2017
MIRlive 480

Poetry Live!

An amazing line up of poets for our Arts Week Special
March 15, 2017
MIRlive 480

MIRLive Celebrates International Women’s Day

Sue Tyley and Stella Klein round up our MIRLive International Women’s Day Special
February 28, 2017
MIRlive 480

K J Orr Headlines MIRLive

BBC National Short Story Award Winner KJ Orr headlines our International Women’s Day event. 
February 15, 2017

Leila Segal brings Cuban Warmth To A Frozen January

Katherine Vik rounds up our January MIRLive
February 4, 2017

K J Orr To Headline Women’s Day Event

Our next MIRLive takes place on March 6th at the Harrison, 28 Harrison Street, King’s Cross, WC1H 8JF. This event will be headlined by BBC Short Story Award Winner, K J Orr, and will be an International Women’s Day Special. We will be accepting submissions from all genders but work should be […]
January 23, 2017
MIRlive 480

Leila Segal Headlines MIRLive

Leila Segal reads from her debut collection, Breathe. MIRLive’s Alison Hitchock shares work from her letter writing project, From Me To You. Leila and Alison are joined by five more wonderful women reading poetry and short stories.
December 11, 2016

Leila Segal to Headline MIRLive

Our next MIRLive takes place on January 30th at the Harrison, 28 Harrison Street, King’s Cross, WC1H 8JF. This event will be headlined by Leila Segal. The deadline for Submissions is January 15th.
December 9, 2016

MIRLive: An Evening of Festive Fun

Alison Hitchcock rounds up our MIRLive Christmas Special
November 2, 2016
Liz Fremantle 480

MIR13 MIRLive special

Sue Tyley rounds up our October event.
October 25, 2016
ein altes aufgeschlagenes Buch auf einem Tisch vor einer Schultafel

MIRLive December 5th

Our next MIRLive takes place on December 5th at the Harrison, 28 Harrison Street, King’s Cross, WC1H 8JF. This will be a Christmas Special and we are looking for work inspired by folk tales, fairy tales and magic. The deadline for Submissions is November 18th.
September 29, 2016
Liz Fremantle 480

Elizabeth Fremantle to read at MIRLive

MIRLive returns  on October 24th 2016 for an anthology special. We are joined by Elizabeth Freemantle, Melanie Jones, Aliyah Keshani, Melody Razak, Chris Lilly, John Forde and Claire Montell.
May 27, 2016
May 13 16 480

Great Turnout For The First MIRLive

Melanie Jones gives a round up of our first MIRLive.
May 2, 2016
MIRlive 480

MIRLive May 13th

Our first MIRLive will take place on May 13th 2016 and we are joined by Benjamin Wood, Nadim Safdar, Courttia Newland, Gilli Fryzer and Anne Rabbit.
April 13, 2016
Courttia 480

Courttia Newland to read at MIRLive

Our first MIRLive will take place on May 13th 2016 and we are looking for readers to join Benjamin Wood and Courttia Newland.
March 7, 2016
PMV1 489

Goodbye Hubbub. Hello MIRLive.

Alison Hitchcock gives a round up of our last ever Hubbub.