At seven p.m. on Friday August 9th, I died. And then I went to Hell with Christopher Eccleston (who you might remember used to be Doctor Who) and fellow GHB-er, Tamsyn Murray. Hell, I discovered, is very dark and shaky, and it tastes of lemon sherbert sweets. It’s hot too, but you knew that already.
I promise you that I’m not hallucinating. This is all true. Tamsyn and I were very privileged to be among a select group of writers and publishers invited to a private theatrical event at the Roundhouse in Camden Town. It was shrouded in secrecy, so we had no idea what to expect until we got there. All we knew was that it had something to do with books and that it was going to be dark and claustrophic…
There were five people in my group, including the author Sarah Waters (who wrote the Victorian novel, Tipping the Velvet). When we arrived, we were ushered into a space in the bowels of the Roundhouse. Someone pressed a button and Eccleston’s voice came out of a speaker, giving us the alarming news that we had died. Then, holding hands, we were ushered into a lift by a strange woman – who gave each of us a boiled sweet to suck – and plunged into total darkness.
For the next 45 minutes, we listened as Eccleston told us a story. Titled ‘Now That You’ve Died’ it was specially written by Patrick Ness and took us on a journey to Hell and back.There were sounds and smells, tastes (the sweets) and physical sensations, as we were thrown around in the lift and touched by hands that came out of the dark. In fact, every single one of our senses was stimulated except our sight. It was a powerful and disturbing experience and, at times, quite funny too.
The idea of the evening was to make us question our expectations of storytelling whilst experiencing a unique sensory experience – but without using our vision. It was organised by the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) as part of their ‘Read for RNIB Day’ Campaign to raise awareness of the lack of reading material for blind and partially sighted people in the UK. Just seven per cent of books are fully accessible to them.
As girls who heart books, we know how important reading is to you. So imagine being blind and not being able to read the books you want because they aren’t available in braille or as audiobooks. The RNIB wants to change that. And they want you to get involved. Find out how by going to http://www.readforrnib.org.uk
Do you know anybody who is blind or partially sighted? Do they like books? Can you imagine what it would be like not to be able to read books easily?
Read for RNIB day is on October 11th 2013