The giant screen was filled with an image of lush rolling farmland, and a backdrop of high green hills scattered with tiny white dots of sheep, like dandruff on a giant’s shoulders. In the foreground, in sharp close focus, hedgerows glowed with a glorious kaleidoscope of wild flowers. The vivid colours of the picture looked almost hyper-real, possibly enhanced.
“Okay, let’s go on. This next image shows the steep slopes of the northern escarpment. This is one of the most popular views of our region.”
The lecturer clicked his infrared remote controlled mouse, and the next image slid into view. The audience gasped in unison. The speaker paused to allow the room to settle, as they turned to each other with amazed expressions. “I had no idea!” “Who would have known?” “All this, right on our doorsteps!”
As the room settled down, the speaker leaned forward on his lectern. “Amazing, isn’t it? This would be a good point for you all to pause and set down your impressions in your notebooks. Don’t try to analyse deeply or get side-tracked into matters of geology and so on. Just write what you see, and most importantly what your emotional response to the image is. Okay, go.”
The students began to follow his instructions. Some were scribbling furiously from the start. Others focused their eyes on the majestic image of the towering mountainside topped with wisps of cirrus cloud against a deep blue sky for a long time, before beginning to write. Yet others closed their eyes for a time, allowing free rein to their feelings, and at last began to write – sometimes just a single word – trying to capture the moment.
The lecturer paced slowly from side to side for several minutes before speaking again.
“Okay, now let’s just park that for a moment. Don’t lose your first impressions though, I want to move on. Ready?” There was a sound of pens being placed on desks.
“Right, next I’ll show you something I can guarantee none of you has ever seen. It’s in the East side of the region, close to the sea, but it’s so inaccessible that few ever venture far enough to capture this amazing sight. If this doesn’t stimulate your imaginations, nothing will.”
He clicked the mouse, and the rugged mountain scene was replaced by the image of a wide river, clearly fast flowing over and around half-submerged boulders. The craggy rocks threw up a mist of spray, its movement through the air frozen in the bright still image, splitting the sunlight into a glorious rainbow cloud. The river finally plummeted down through a cascade of waterfalls, hundreds of feet to the rocky shore below.
The students gasped yet again. Some stood and applauded. This was beyond even their wildest imagination.
“Yes, you may well applaud, but now you’ve got to capture your impressions on paper while the impact is still with you. You see, the thing I love most about Thanet, creative writers, is the way our region, often maligned as drab and mundane, can take our dreams to places beyond our conception, and inspire our imaginations to the highest levels of expression. Right – go for it! And remember – ‘show, don’t tell!’ ” He looked at his watch and took his seat behind the lectern. “You’ve got five minutes to write your final piece.”