The Empress on the Corner – Some Thoughts

After a long time, it happened.

The Empress on the Corner appeared in public. In part, anyway. As part of Leeds Big Bookend festival, Carolyn Eden became Annabelle Harper. She’d done it briefly, at the launch for Skin Like Silver. But this was longer, more intense, as she recounted some of the scenes from Annabelle’s life.

It wasn’t the entire play, and there were different formats – a couple of scenes performed live, script-in-hand, two recorded on audio, like a radio play, and one on video, filmed in the Victorian pub at Abbey House Museum in Leeds.

A sharing, to explore the possibilities for the future.

Pretty much a full house, about 50 people, more than I could have hoped, really. And we’d had a good build-up. Friday brought this piece in the Yorkshire Post.


Then, Saturday morning, we were on BBC Radio Leeds with Nick Ahad. Listen here; it starts about 40 minutes in – plus you’ll hear a fragment of one of the audio scenes.

The play tells the story of Annabelle’s life, as you’ll have gathered. The compressed version from yesterday is very much a work in progress. The festival believed in the idea enough to put it on, and Leeds Libraries believes in it enough to give us a grant, for which we’re very grateful (not a royal we; this has become very much a joint enterprise between myself and Carolyn, who’s also teaching me a lot about theatre. It’s very different from the publishing end of things). And there are plenty of others to thank, too, who’ve helped us – more than I can name here. But I hope you know who you are and that we’re grateful.

From the feedback forms, people enjoyed it. And that, of course, was the whole intention. But with a performance as good as this, that’s understandable.

One of the highlights for many was the performance of the suffragist speech from Skin Like Silver. While we didn’t film the Bookend performance, this was Carolyn’s first outing as Annabelle from the book launch, just as a reminder.

We intend to do more with the play. Quite what directions remain to be seen. But for an author, it’s so wonderful to see someone come to such perfect life. I don’t feel I created Annabelle. She found me. Maybe she found Carolyn, but that would be a silly idea, wouldn’t it? But I feel lucky to have found someone who is Annabelle.

Stay tuned to discover where it all goes.


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