Afternoon Tea with Adam O’Riordan

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Adam O’Riordan

Words and Pictures by Siobhan O’Toole

As I entered the foyer of The Midland Hotel, I instantly felt transported to 1900s Manchester. The grandeur and beauty of my surroundings seemed like the perfect setting for the day’s intimate and special reading from the hotel’s writer-in-residence, and lecturer of poetry at Manchester Writing School, Adam O’Riordan.

The event was organised as part of The Manchester Literature Festival and began with an introduction from Festival Director, Cathy Bolton. She thanked O’Riordan for kindly taking time away from his novel to write his short story, which was commissioned by both The Midland Hotel and The Manchester Literature Festival for this very occasion.

The story itself is called Talk About Life in Massachusetts. It is strongly reminiscent of modernist work by James Joyce and Virginia Woolf in its refusal to abide by time restrictions and its focus on the seemingly simple sights, sounds and sentiments in life that convey the supreme sensation of it. During the Q & A session which followed, Adam O’Riordan admitted to being a huge Joyce fan, taking great inspiration from his work.

Grand Edwardian Architecture
The story is told from a female perspective commenting on life in England from a hotel, not too dissimilar in description to The Midland Hotel itself. She reveals intimate moments with an ex-lover, with whom she hopes to meet at said hotel. The story subtly dips between her present, past and memory; the detail with which the writer presents this woman’s deepest thoughts is both profoundly resonating and incredibly gentle. His language, both delicate and powerful, is extremely enjoyable to hear aloud; its command renders his audience silent and contemplative. 

During the Q & A session with O’Riordan, he explained how he enjoyed the freedom of the short story, and the lacking ‘restrictions of plot or time’. He also enjoyed being able to ‘write fluidly and follow the path of the characters themselves, whereas with novels and poetry, there is a pressure to hold your audience’s attention throughout, giving them the genre-typical rises and falls they expect’.

Scrumptious Afternoon Tea 

When asked of his novel, which is currently in development and due for publication over the next 18-24 months, O’Riordan smiled and said, ‘it’s a chronicle of a family trip, during which the father goes missing and his son seeks to find him and discover what has happened, I’m extremely excited about it’. He also revealed that at some point in the near future he plans to write a play too, completing his goal of writing poetry, short stories, a novel and a play.

The afternoon was a great success, and after everyone had feverishly tucked into their afternoon tea and indulged in discussing the reading at length, it was time to leave. A group of sixth-form students left feeling enthused and inspired by O’Riordan’s work, one even saying it had encouraged her to focus her coursework on his poetry. I felt stirred too, yet sad to be leaving the Edwardian paradise that The Midland Hotel and Adam O’Riordan had provided me. Then again, I cannot deny that I was itching to get to my phone, my laptop and a good dose of 21st century life!

Mesmerising Short Fiction
You can buy Adam O’Riordan’s wonderful poetry collection here, and his short story will soon be published on the Manchester Literature Festival website, so be sure to check it out.

Siobhan O’Toole studies English Literature at Manchester Metropolitan and is an aspiring writer, hopeless optimist and romantic, and a complete technophobe. Follow Siobhan on Twitter @smo_07

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aAh! Magazine is Manchester Metropolitan University's arts and culture magazine.

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