Tell A Tale — The Winners Revealed!

Tell A Tale — The Winners Revealed!

25 July 2018

We reveal the top tales in our gothic fiction project. Watch the winning tales read by members of the cast of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and find out more about the people behind them.  

Tell A Tale


Dark tales about the influence and dangers of social media and online identities take the top awards in the Tell A Tale Gothic Fiction project.

Last October, we began our search for gothic tales that remained faithful to the genre by exploring contemporary fears in a dark but fun and emotional way. We asked participants to write tales using a quotation from the script of David Edgar’s adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde as inspiration – ‘Man is not truly one, but truly two’.

Since then, we’ve received over 400 submissions each with their own sublime and twisted take on split identities and supernatural forces. As we announce our winners, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who participated and those who were able to see Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde on tour. This has been our most popular project to date with stories being read hundreds of time.

The project ran in association with the tour and every week a new selection of tales were selected for shortlisting and sent to members of the cast who chose their favourite to read to camera. At the end of the tour, we had a shortlist of nine tales that are all available to watch here. We also published a longlist of stories that were originally highlighted in the judging process but which didn’t quite make the final shortlist.

We’re thrilled to have had three terrific judges on-board.

Greg Buzwell, Curator of Contemporary Literary Archives at the British Library. Co-curator of Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination

Dr Monica Germana, Senior Lecturer in English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Westminster. Teaches Writing London, a module which introduces the fundamental principles of short-story writing, such as setting, character, plot and structure. Research focuses on contemporary fiction, the Gothic and popular culture.

Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes, Senior Lecturer in English Literature and Film at Manchester Metropolitan University, a founding member of the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies at Manchester Met. Co-organising 14th International Gothic Association conference in 2018.

Each judge scored the shortlisted tales individually and the three tales receiving the highest number of points determined the final result of the project. Well, without further ado, it’s time to reveal which tales those are…

* dark dramatic drumroll please *

Top Tale Award – The Dark Mirror by Jennifer Baines from Cambridge

What the judges said

An exquisite reflection of the monsters we become through social media and of the splintering of the self required by the creation of online avatars. A Jekyll and Hyde for the digital generation - very timely and relevant.
Xavier Aldana Reyes

A compelling contemporary adaptation of Jekyll and Hyde’s concern with moral dualism.
Monica Germana

In her own words
I am absolutely thrilled to have had my story chosen. I’ve been writing for pleasure since I was a little girl, but it wasn’t until recently I decided to try to make a career out of it. Having published a travel guide to my hometown of Cambridge, I’m currently working on my first fantasy novel. Winning this competition has given me such a boost! 

I owe my love of gothic horror to my Dad, who introduced me to classics like Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Edgar Allen Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher and, of course, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

I think it’s fascinating the way these stories use vivid description and suspense to delve into the complex and often dark nature of human emotions, playing on people’s fears about not only our society but ourselves. Social media has brought such change to the way we communicate and share our thoughts and ideas that I wanted to explore the flip side of its influence. What are the possible outcomes of using social media to express ourselves and what would the physical manifestation of these consequences look like?“

Runner-Up  – Status Update by Rebecca Holland from Manchester

What the judges said
Two things in particular really impressed me about this story. The first was the way in which the author created a sinister atmosphere, especially in terms of describing the landscape and location by the use of punchy, short sentences. The second – and this struck me as something that it is amazingly difficult to do – is the way in which what is left out of the story actually becomes incredibly compelling. Why is the narrator holed up ‘in the middle of nowhere’; what are the events that have led her to such a location; why does she see isolating herself as such an alluring prospect? I think explaining the backstory would have reduced the narrative’s impact. Leaving it open was a brave, but very successful decision and it made the story all the more powerful.
Greg Buzwell

A clever 'update’ of the technophobia behind Jekyll and Hyde’s original story
Monica Germana

In her own words
“I've been writing since I was very young - I was a massive bookworm as a child (and still am!) and I loved creating my own worlds where anything could happen, but it's only recently that I've started to share my stories with other people.

I read Robert Louis Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde as a teenager but hadn't revisited the story until last year when I came across it when working in my local library. Reading it again I was struck by how much darker it seemed second time around! It's such a powerful story, and it was fresh in my mind when I saw Theatre Cloud's Gothic Fiction Project, so I knew I had to enter. 

My submission was obviously inspired heavily by Jekyll and Hyde and the idea of 'two selves'. I think we probably all have two (or more!) versions of ourselves - whether that be work and home, or the person we are in public and the one we are when no one else is around. Most of the time they might not be so very different from each other, but what if they were? What if one part of us wanted something drastically different to the other? I wanted to explore that idea but in the context of this new internet age we find ourselves in. Many of us have an online presence, and we get to present this curated version of ourselves to the world, but I wondered how it would feel, and what might happen if our digital self took charge. A few of my friends and family who read 'Status Update' have asked me "but what REALLY happened?" They want to know if there was a malevolent force, or 'other' or if it was more of a psychological break between who we really are and who we pretend to be, but I think every reader has to decide that for themselves. I don't know which I find scarier to be honest!

Third Place - Riven by Janet Barket from Christchurch

What the judges said

This had a beautiful intangible quality. As you read the story it’s impossible not to search for that elusive moment where the narrative neatly falls into place but it always remains tantalisingly out of reach. As a story, this is the one that haunted – and troubled - me the most.
Greg Buzwell

A brilliant story about intergenerational struggle. Hints of cybergothic and of the dystopian novel here, woven together by beautiful and powerful writing.
Xavier Aldana Reyes

In her own words

“I am a tutor so I am familiar with the Gothic tradition having previously helped students with this genre at GCSE. 

As I mentioned earlier I have been writing for a while and in the past have belonged to a writing group.  My motivation for finally trying a competition was that I found myself unable to work and I convalescence provided both time and opportunity for my imagination to run riot.  It is a cliché I know but the story seemed to have a mind of its own in that I had no idea of how it would develop.”

Most Popular (Longlist) - The App by Gerry Langton from Watford

In his own words

"I entered a local short story competition in May last year. The subject was 'Magic' and I wrote about my youngest granddaughter who had been born with six fingers on one hand. With my normal efficiency I managed to miss the deadline, but I was contacted by the competition organiser who recognised my name as someone he had worked with thirty years before. He invited me to a writing group and since then I have written a number of short stories and poems.

As a child I read Kidnapped and Treasure Island. Blind Pew's dreaded 'black spot' gave me nightmares for weeks! The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde I came to later via a number of films and TV dramas.

The motivation for my submission was to provide an updated gothic story with current technology as the background for the plot. Mobile phones are ubiquitous and immensely useful, but what would happen if they could be used for supernatural purposes?"

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde opens at  Rose Theatre, Kingston, where it plays from 9 to 17 February 2018. It then tours to Aberdeen, Malvern, Dartford, Nottingham, Blackpool, Wycombe, Edinburgh, Bradford, Wolverhampton, Cambridge and Darlington.

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