Published Surrealist Collaborative Novel is ‘Everyday Marvelous’

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Prof. Ursula Hurley and Dr Stephen Sunderland came together last month with Salford Loaves and Fishes to celebrate having a new collaborative novel published. ‘Alsdorf is an adventure from Salford’s dream-other where queens hide and a fly morphs into a supernova’. The new book is the output of the ‘Everyday Marvelous’ project.

This project was funded by additional QR money internally from the University, allowing the exploration of potential of ‘surrealist’, ‘avant garde’ and ‘anti-traditional’ creative writing techniques to promote well-being. It offered a series of accessible workshops at ‘Salford Loaves and Fishes’, a drop-in centre which supports the homeless, isolated and vulnerable in the local community.

Led by Salford PhD alumnus, Dr Stephen Sunderland, the project exceeded all expectations, culminating in a co-created surrealist automatic novel published by Hesterglock Press. Set in the world of Alsdorf, Salford’s dream other, one reviewer described it as:

“You don’t know where you are? This novel will tell you. Its authors a band of seizing geolocators that come into being through the kindest, darkest collective automatism. Imagine Salford sucked into a pinprick in the ground, and then inverted, usurped by a new place in the process. Here is Alsdorf, where you’ve been sent in the dream of surrealism come to pass a century on. What should be praised more? The way this novel has come into being, a testament to the open heartedness that can drive the curiosity of complexity? Or the text itself, groundbreaking, illustrative, rich and weird? Folkloric, luminous, ravenous and completely original, this is a piece of literature unlike anything else.” – SJ Fowler

The event to celebrate the launch of the book took place at Loaves and Fishes community drop in space in Salford. Members of the local community and University staff were welcomed with copious amounts of cake and cups of tea. Prof. Ursula Hurley and Dr Stephen Sunderland introduced the project and talked very openly and honestly about their personal experiences of working on the project and the ways it has benefited their lives and creative practice. For Stephen the road into the project had been rocky but discovering the writing techniques and methodology used in the project had been positively life changing, whilst Ursula, described the project as her career highlight. Both praised the open mindedness of Loaves and Fishes and collaborators in taking a risk on what many would see as an obscure approach. Most of all they praised and thanked their collaborators for the creativity, honesty and commitment they shared on a journey of discovery resulting in a unique, literary gem.

The audience was then treated to a live reading of the novel by the writing team with people reading part of the work that they had been involved in writing. It was a fantastic experience to hear the words from the authors and see their pride in sharing it with the world as for many it was their first published work. There was then time for questions from the audience which gave the writers the opportunity to reveal more about their influences and the writing process.

The funding also allowed the team to commission an independent evaluation, which found a range of positive benefits for participants, including enhanced wellbeing, creativity and social interaction. Further support from the Universities Research Impact and Public Engagement fund allowed them to publish the novel and give all the participants their own copy, as well as copies for Loaves and Fishes to sell in aid of their work. The novel can be ordered here: Alsdorf – Hesterglock Press

“I find in Alsdorf an exquisite concern for what happens when the internal is made external, itself a meta commentary on the very writing and crafting of this novel as a collaboration” – Julia Rose Lewis.

The article was written with contributions from Emma Barnes taken from her SAMCT Newsletter.