The Ripple Project work with local people in the communities of Restalrig, Lochend, and Craigentinny to create opportunities, tackle poverty and inequality, and foster togetherness. Founded on the values of respect, dignity, equity, and kindness, the centre has become a real community hub in the midst of one of the most deprived areas in Scotland.
This November, as part of our continued partnership with them, poet and novelist Claire Askew led an engaging session for the Ripple’s Friday Club – a weekly social club for people over 65 – and we stopped by to listen in.
When we arrive at the centre, the café is bustling. Mugs clattering, the hum of conversation, a chalkboard near the door announces the lunchtime specials. ‘Are all these people coming to hear Claire?!’ Noëlle asks Todd Bioletti, the Ripple’s Older People Service Co-ordinator. ‘Yes, I think so,’ he says nodding, looking round at everyone. ‘And we have some superfans.’ He tells us how one club member has read all five of Claire Askew’s novels in preparation for today.
At 2pm, once everyone is settled in the event space, Todd introduces today’s author, Claire Askew, and then hands the mic to her. For the next hour, Claire reads poems to the group, she tells them stories about her late grandma – a fire-cracker of a woman who is conjured vividly in the poem ‘I’m Sorry I’m Still in Love with My Grandmother’ – she shares stories about a workshop she once led for refugees and women who have experienced homelessness. She talks about how a terrifying near-miss led her down the path of writing a story that turned out to be a crime novel. ‘I’m an accidental crime writer,’ she says, to laughter from the room, and she talks about the publishing hamster wheel of producing a new novel each year.
Throughout the session, the audience is rapt, their full attention on Claire who is a warm and funny presence at the front of the room. When she ends a reading from her first novel, All the Hidden Truths, on a cliffhanger, there’s a hush and then one lady calls out, ‘Oh, don’t stop reading now!’ The group laugh again; it’s like the room has been blanketed for that moment, brought together by this shared experience of listening.
The length of the signing queue, and the time each person spends with Claire to ask her questions, is testament to how much the group have enjoyed the event. We’re looking forward to continuing this partnership with The Ripple and bringing more authors to the Friday Club in 2024.
Read more about our partnership with the Ripple in a previous blog: here.
Thank you to the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery who support the Book Festival’s year-round Communities Programme.
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