Tag: Chester

Nation of Shopkeepers: Chester for the Daily Telegraph

I’m always on the look out for story ideas around Chester. My daughter spotted this antique doll shop and the interview with the owner was fascinating. This story first appeared in the Daily Telegraph.

Mo Harding, owner, Dollectable, says:

“I was born in Cheshire and, after running a hotel in Manchester for years, we were looking for a new business based around my love of antique dolls.

I had always loved dolls but my parents told me I was too old for them when I was 12.

We found this Tudor townhouse in Chester, dating from 1621, in the early Eighties. Originally we wanted to make a doll museum upstairs but the building is Grade II listed and needs a lot of work.

As far as we know, it’s the last remaining shop of its kind in the UK.

Early days

I started collecting pre-1930s dolls when my husband, Steve, was working the antique fairs. I still remember my first one. Polly was a German doll from around 1900. She had a lovely face.

Sometimes you look at a doll’s face and it’s just like a painting.

The heyday of doll making was from the 1870 to 1900 with best dolls made in France and Germany. Most of the dolls in the shop are Victorian.

Children played with dolls differently in those days. They brought the dolls out on Sundays and girls learnt to sew by making clothes for them.

Prized possessions

Every doll in the shop has a story. Henrietta is wax doll with beautiful boned underwear; she belonged to a suffragette. We also have some rare items.

The twin French dolls from the 1870s, both with glazed china heads, are worth upwards of £2500 each. A Shirley Temple doll of the American child star, dating from 1934, is one of our few American dolls.

We have travelled the world to international doll fairs and auctions. When you find a rare doll, it’s still an incredible buzz.

I’d sell the house and the car rather than loose my dolls, both the stock for the shop and my private collection at home.

I’m still always searching for the ultimate doll. I’ve wanted a Schmidt, a French doll from around 1870. They would sell at auction for around £18,000.

Future plans

We hope my daughter will take the business forward eventually, maybe creating a website and taking us onto social media.

My granddaughter loves my Victorian doll houses, too. But there are no plans for retirement yet.

I still love decorating the window every Christmas with a themed display and half the fun of running the business is the community of like-minded people at the auctions.

For me, you are either a doll person or not. It’s a way of life.

A doll person would never dream of collecting teddy bears.

 

Liked this? Try also Move into top gear at Cars and Coffee Chester.

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#WriteHereWriteNow: How to make the most of direct speech

We love direct speech.

As writers, nothing brings life to our work more the actual words people say.

Quotes, dialogue, comment — whatever you call it. We need the words of others to add emotion, opinion and drama.

Just try reading a book by the journalist and author Jon Ronson.

The man behind The Psychopath Test and others has made a career out of using direct speech to optimum effect.

But quotes mean handling interviews and therein lies the issue: sometimes interviews go wrong.

Try this clip, for example. Unluckily for the Channel Four News presenter Krishna Guru-Murthy, this car-crash celebrity interview has since gone down in history.

Next step forward Rhys Ifans. The Ruthin-born actor became legendary for all the wrong reasons a few years ago after a magazine interview turned into a study in interview hell.

Handling interviews is not easy and a skill only acquired through practise over time. That, and making mistakes.

We’ll be discussing how we use direct speech and how to get the best out of our interviewees at the next #WriteHereWriteNow meeting at Storyhouse, Chester.

Share your experiences and join the conversation before the next meeting by posting below.

Over to you …

Liked this? Try also Can we learn to write better?

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#WriteHereWriteNow: Can we learn to write better?

I was on assignment in Stockholm last week and looking for an idea.

We obsess, as writers, about the words. We analyse the craft and devour books about the technique.

Writing in the Guardian recently, the columnist Ian Jack discussed the perennial question: can writing be taught?

He suggests that, while we can study templates and consult with experts, nothing beats the age-old concept of practise. He says:

Writing is like riding a bicycle: its techniques are best not dwelt on.

For me, it’s about the ideas.

If the ideas are poor then, no matter how erudite the words, then the writing will not shine.

If there’s no angle, no hook, no reason to grab the attention of the reader, then it’s just more words on a page. And we have enough of those already.

The writer David Quantick says ideas are gold.

In his book, How to Write Everything, he describes the craft of coming up with good ideas as even more crucial than the craft of writing itself.

A good idea is simply one that inspires something you are capable of writing, something that might sustain.

But can we learn to have good ideas?

We’ll consider this at the next #WriteHereWriteNow meeting.

As for me, wandering around Stockholm in search of a good story?

Well, let’s just say a visit to the Abba Museum [pictured above] and a night at the Pop House music-themed hotel may just make a Scandi-pop story about Eurovision-crazy Sweden.

Thank you for the music.

Liked this? Try A new writing group comes to Storyhouse, Chester.

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A new writing group comes to Storyhouse Chester

Image: Storyhouse.com

Storyhouse opens this week.

The new arts centre is big news for Chester and already riding the crest of local support.

But it’s not just a new theatre, cinema and library. A major aspect of the project is the community programme.

That’s why I’m leading a new writing group, based at Storyhouse, from this month.

It’s called #WriteHereWriteNow and open to anyone who wants to find their voice as a writer.

THE CONCEPT

We all have a story to tell but not everyone has the opportunity or confidence to do so.

This new creative community offers an opportunity to express yourself in a supportive environment.

Expect workshop-style activities and occasional guest speakers, based around Storyhouse events.

We will look at ways of getting your story out there — from blogs to flash fiction via magazine features — and craft our work together.

Never tried a writing group before? No problem. Here’s an outlet for your creativity.

JOIN US

We meet monthly on the last Thursday, starting May 25th. It’s free. No, really.

The sessions run 7.30-9pm and we will be in the Meeting Room. Subsequent dates are June 29, July 27 and August 31.

To find us, take the cinema stairs and follow it round to the left to the meeting room. You can take drinks up from the bar, or we’ll retire there afterwards.

There’s space initially for 14 people.

Please bring your own iPad/laptop or similar device.

You will need to create an account via the Storyhouse website in advance to use the free public WiFi. No need if you have already bought show tickets through the site.

More events listed at the Storyhouse activities page.

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