Crime and creative writing – using the archives for inspiration
Once a month Gilly Beckett and her Creative Writing group have been meeting in Berwick Archives to discuss their creative writing and develop their skills and techniques. Archives are a rich source of inspiration for creative writing, often providing a starting point for a story which can go in any direction.
In 2019, the group used the Archives and the theme Crime and Punishment to write their own short stories which were inspired by documents they encountered in the Archives. Excerpts were read at Berwick Literary Festival in October 2019 and the stories of Tim Binder, Gilly Beckett, Judy Crow, and Anna Edgar are published here in full.
If anyone is interested in finding out more about the group, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
On the night that he escaped, the voice of the sentencing Judge echoed through Peter Gentle’s mind, as it had done for the previous six months. Every word was seared into his memory; he rehearsed them many times a day, and always last thing at night.
‘Peter Gentle,’ the sharp faced old man with a clipped voice had said, ‘you have been found guilty…’
November 1871 and Ghost Story are both based on the same story, a newspaper account about Elizabeth White, which was pubished in the Berwickshire News and General Advertiser in 14 February 1871.
I can hear him calling me but I am out the back, sweeping the yard so I can pretend I don’t hear him. Tim Purves is his name. He is such a gentleman, even towards me, a lowly wench from the workhouse. He’s well educated is Tim, but he has a kindly manner – just like his Pa who gave me the job of getting their meals and cleaning their big house in the High Street. Oh, I am glad of it – I couldn’t think of going back to workhouse days. They don’t know I come from there, at least I don’t think they know. Tim is shouting again.
If you choose to walk the Berwick Ramparts in the evening, after dark, when the mist rolls in from the cold sea and you can hear the shush, shush, shush of the waves on the shore below, you may find yourself with an unusual companion on your walk. Here you are, coming up the steps beside the Lion House and there, where the footpath divides, the hairs on your neck may rise, the air feel even chillier and your dog become ferocious, straining on his leash as he growls or barks towards some unseen apparition. Maybe the clouds will part and for a few minutes the mist rolls back and the small, slight, figure of a woman can be seen.
It was an afternoon in late November and the shadows were already darkening the alley. Trade was slow. I was shutting up the shop and stacking bales of fabric at the back, when I heard the shop door scraping open.
She was framed by the gaslight in the street behind her. “Mind if I come in Mrs Dixon”, she said in a Northumberland lilt. I was surprised that she knew my name already.
Banner: The document image in the page banner is taken from one of the “Wanted” posters which are preserved in Berwick Record Office; ref. BA-P-15-13-266 (1894).