Christmas things to do

The Longest Night: Ghost stories, Booker-shortlisted writers & mince pies

Susie Stubbs
Posted
Image courtesy Beth Ward The Longest Night

Jenn Ashworth, Emma Jane Unsworth and friends go DIY with their latest, limited edition anthology.

Friday the thirteenth is unlucky for some. But not, we hope, for a group of five authors who have chosen Friday 13 December as the launch date for their latest book. Said book is an anthology of winter-tinged ghost stories, and its title – The Longest Night: Five Curious Tales – feels entirely fitting, given that the authors have made what at first feels like a curious connection between Christmas and the supernatural.

“I’ve always liked ghost stories and Christmas, and the connection between the two,” argues Jenn Ashworth, one of the writers behind The Longest Night. “There’s a tradition of writers producing ghost stories and giving them to their friends as presents at this time of year, and Richard [Hirst] and I wanted to do something that recaptures that idea.” The title of the book also, of course, refers to the Winter Solstice, that longest night whose darkness we attempt to hold at bay with a mass of overenthusiastic Christmas lights, sparkle and glitter.

The short stories, all set in December and all featuring an element of the supernatural, have been written by an impressive set of writers. Ashworth has been lauded by the BBC’s Culture Show as one of its best new novelists, while her fellow contributors all hold various awards – including, in Alison Moore’s case, a place on the 2012 Man Booker Prize shortlist. What’s particularly intriguing about this book, however, is less the calibre of its writers and more their approach to producing what turns out to be a literary one off.

Short stories are like a drive-by glimpse of something potentially terrifying

“We thought it would be really nice to make something lo-fi, that was illustrated and presented as a limited-edition paperback; we just thought it would be something quite different,” says Ashworth of a collection that has been written, illustrated, produced, marketed and distributed entirely by its authors. “We wanted to create a beautiful object, in a day and age when everything is more electronic,” agrees fellow contributor, Emma Jane Unsworth. The end result is a handsomely produced anthology that feels almost handmade – each book features bespoke illustration and is individually numbered and signed, “and when they’ve run out, that’s it, there are no more,” adds Ashworth.  That original idea of a story performed to friends on a winter’s night also means that, alongside the book itself, there is a tour. “The stories are like an antidote to the cosy glitter of Christmas, whereas the tour is quite jolly, with mulled wine, mince pies and a bit of atmosphere,” says Unsworth of a series of live readings at libraries across the north. “It’s good fun, this band of travelling writers going on tour; we’re like the Traveling Wilburys only a bit more gothic.”

Yet it’s the gothic, that sense of menace darkly blooming in the long hours of a winter’s night, which really makes this anthology worth tracking down. “I’ve always loved horror films – and I think a lot of people like the idea of there being something magical beyond the everyday,” says Unsworth. “It’s an inspiring idea for a writer and it gives you so much more scope for storytelling. Filmmakers have a bag of tricks they can use – sound effects, visual effects, motifs – but as a writer you only have words on a page. I haven’t been as scared by a book as I have a film, but the ideas I’ve read have preyed on my mind much more.” Unsworth pauses for a moment, then says: “Short stories are like a drive-by glimpse of something potentially terrifying – that sense of something much, much bigger is the thing that stays with you.”

Culture Guides

Image courtesy of HOME

Cinema

Cinemas around the North are putting on their festive hats this month but don’t worry, there’s plenty going on even if you aren’t into the whole Christmas thing.

Intervention 15 by Edward Krasinski

Exhibitions

100 artists feature in an exhibition celebrating the Bluecoat’s 300th anniversary, Edward Krasinksy is a surprise hit at Tate Liverpool and Manchester Museum looks at a world without bees. Our top exhibitions in Manchester and the North.

Credit Karen Wright

Families

It may be blinkin cold but The Whitworth’s Frost Fair will warm your cockles, as will some tip top theatrical family classics – but not as you know ’em.

kulning

Literature

Plenty of festive fun, including some seasonal storytelling in Manchester and Liverpool, then much to add to your lily-white 2017 diary…

La Vie Parisienne

Music

As the days get shorter, Manchester’s music calendar gets busier – with the city’s music venues burst from the seams with live music for you to enjoy.

COAL

Theatre

We’re breaking this month’s theatre picks into grit and glam. Glam because it’s the season of shiny, sparkly things, ­and grit because, well, we’re Northern after all.

Destination Guides

Things to do right now

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COAL
Dance 07–08 December 2016 , from £10.00

Gary Clarke Company: COAL at Contact Theatre

Film Season: Fade To Black – Generations
Cinema 25 November–09 December 2016 , from £5.00

Film Season: Fade To Black – Generations

Feed Me - Image courtesy of Rachel Maclean
Cinema 03–13 December 2016 , from £7.00

Film Season: I’m Too Happy

scouseacomedyofterrorscreditdavidmunn3
Theatre 17 November–15 December 2016 , from £7.00

Scouse: a Comedy of Terrors

Michael Rosen - Image courtesy of Z-Arts
Families 17 September–17 December 2016 , from £7.00

Bear Hunt, Chocolate Cake & Bad Things at Z-arts

Benji Reid: A Thousand Words
Exhibitions 22 September–17 December 2016 , FREE

Benji Reid: A Thousand Words

La Vie Parisienne
Music 07–17 December 2016 , from £21.00

La Vie Parisienne

Photo of the festive display outside the Corn Exchange
Food and Drink 10 November–20 December 2016 , FREE

Manchester Christmas Markets

timisherwood
Exhibitions 24 November–21 December 2016 , FREE

Tim Isherwood: Please Use The Intercom

Find Rudolph
Families 26 November 2016–02 January 2017 , FREE

Find Rudolph

Tim Etchells, Lets Pretend (Large) (2014), installation view, Grundy Art Gallery. Photo: Phill Heywood, courtesy Grundy Art Gallery.
Exhibitions 01 September 2016–07 January 2017 , FREE

NEON: The Charged Line at the Grundy Art Gallery