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  • Writer's pictureleodoulton

A Fortnight at Aldeburgh (Part 5): Mechanics, Inspiration, and Act 1 Of A Young Adult Novel

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

This is the fifth in a seven-part sequence of blogs going into the work on Come Bargain With Uncanny Things done during my Creative Retreat at Aldeburgh (supported by the Britten Pears Foundation). You can read the first, second, third, fourth, sixth and seventh parts at the appropriate links.

This particular blog is mostly meant to be a break from the analysis of previous posts, giving a brief preview into some of the rites the audience will have available to them, what each offers the show, and weaving them into something else entirely.

You see, I sometimes wonder whether historians of the future will look at my internet history and conclude that all of my inspiration came from those sources, in the same way that we are restricted to knowing what books Mozart owned, and what works he happened to write about, but in all probability he borrowed books and heard things he never spoke to anyone of. While at Aldeburgh, I took a walk to Snape Maltings. When I looked at a map, I saw something that looked rather like I was in the first act of a young adult novel, noticing signs of an all-encompassing conspiracy that would be revealed in Act 2.

And so it begins. Can you link all the signs (and if so, please tell me what you conclude)?

Humming & Stamping Rite: Simple procedures for voting within the group. Easy enough to do, involve everyone as part of a single community that must form a consensus before certain tasks, and add pleasingly to the musical world.

Wyrd Gazing: A person passes through a riddling maze created by the Uncanny Thing; if they succeed, they can ask it a question. Creates a sense of mystery, gets people to interact with the Uncanny Thing, and get a sense of the wider world through their questions and the puzzle.

Offerings: People give things to the Uncanny Thing that it might want. Requires them to consider what it might crave and desire and what they and their community are willing to offer. Allows room for some quite tactile, crafty interaction.

Invocations: The group command the Uncanny Thing as they see fit. How they go about doing so, from persuasion to coercion, again gives a chance to think about relating to the strange, and which goals its worth pursuing in the ritual.

Potions: The group craft and give potions to shape the Thing’s power. This is the most ‘decipher the lore’ of the rites, drawing attention to how much trust to place in the Uncanny Thing, and what you will use your control for.

Now, these things are all very loosely described. Each has its own rituals and procedures, making them feel magical and special. But none are too overwhelming. While they can be made more sophisticated, they rarely become more challenging.

The difficulty mostly comes in more complex requests from the community, not ever-greater magics.

And after all, there is always the hard way. You could always ask the state for help.


This is part of a series reflecting on my time at Aldeburgh on a Creative Retreat. There will be seven parts in total.

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