Mia Robinson took part in the Beacons Project at Hay Festival Winter Weekend 2021. The Beacons Project aims to encourage creativity and forge a sense of creative identity amongst young people in Wales. It offers a unique opportunity for twenty Welsh students aged 16-18 to meet and work with exceptional writers, broadcasters and journalists in a highly creative and stimulating environment during Hay Festival.
The Fairy Door
In plain view, but only to the lost, crossed like a ‘keep out’ sign. Travellers, swamped in coats that sweep up the dry Earth as they hurry by, pay little heed. ‘Fallen branch, that sort of thing’, their shivering brains twitter to them, and gladly they’ll make haste towards the closest source of smoke. But maybe someone a little more curious, child, adventurer, someone untouched by frost’s clammy hands, might pause and let their mind wander, craving the magic that this composition suggests. Touch, inspect, run numb fingers over the knotted wood. A tree cradled in her sister’s arms; a confused and distorted creature crawling up, out and away, towards the pale pond that floods the lilac sky. Tall enough for a toddler, perhaps. Or a determined adult.
There were three important rules that they drummed into us as children. They were fairly simple: Never go out in a storm. Never open a door or a window during a storm. Never look outside during a storm. They would make us chant it, recite it until it was etched into our brains. Nanny would always know when one was coming: she would wrinkle her nose and mutter darkly to herself, things like ‘it’s a big one, this time,’ and ‘on laundry day of all days’. Then she would rap on the outer wall of the Shell with her cane, rousing everyone’s attention, and give her warning: ‘There’s a whopping great storm a-rumbling this way and you lot are lounging around like it’s a bloody God’s given day of rest!’. After that she would lock herself up in her little cabin up in the Eye, and stay there until the storm had passed.
On storm days, we would get put to work: taking as much inside as possible, ensuring every door, window or draughty crack in a wall was closed, locked or covered, all before the dense purple haze peeked over the dusty horizon. But while the adults marched about, carrying hammers and talking to each other in low, grave voices, we would gather in a circle and chatter with excitement, each of us desperate for the sound of howling wind and rattling steel to announce the arrival of the storm: we were finally going to catch a glimpse of the ‘storm things’.
Our friend Danny once told us that the storms are caused by huge, magical horses that run up and down in the desert, kicking up masses of dust.
‘It’s a secret’ he hissed, ‘I’m not supposed to tell anyone’. We begged him for more. None of us had seen a horse before, not outside of the storybooks. He staunchly refused, insisting that he would get in trouble. He would only say more if we made a pact with him: a pact to look out at the next storm when it came. Leading us to an area of the Valley of Oddments that we had never been to before, he presented us with a tattered, torn book, written in a language we didn’t understand. He said it was an ‘Oath book’, and made us swear our secrecy on it. Looking back, it could have been any old book; a dictionary, a textbook, written so long ago that nobody alive would know how to read its words. After each of us had made our promise, he continued his story.
‘If you look at the storm, one of the horses might look at you. That means it’s chosen you as its rider’ he said slowly, drawing out every word for dramatic effect.
‘What does that mean?’ asked Izzy.
Danny smiled mysteriously before beckoning us closer. I remember his dirty, scabbed hands and his pale blond hair. I don’t remember what his face looked like.
‘You get to become a wizard’.
Thanks to Welsh Government for funding the Beacons Project and to Bad Wolf and Screen Alliance Wales for their partnership in creating Jack Thorne's workshop. And finally, thanks to Booths Bookshop for allowing us to film Owen Sheers on location.