The decommissioned Wylfa nuclear power station on Anglesey. Photo by rodtuk is marked with CC BY NC SA 2.0.

Writing from Somewhere: Anglesey and Chornobyl

Culture The decommissioned Wylfa nuclear power station on Anglesey. Photo by rodtuk is marked with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. Philippa Holloway I’m a firm believer that writing comes from place. Stories arise from characters who are somewhere, stories involve events that occur somewhere, writers create a somewhere on the page into which the reader can step, explore, and experience the story unfold around them. For me, it’s often the confluence and place and character, and a tension between the two, that sparks the whole process of creating a story. For my debut novel, The Half-life of Snails ( Parthian Books 2022) , this journey took me from a childhood memory, to the edge of Anglesey, and then deep into the radioactive Exclusion Zone around Chornobyl. One of my earliest childhood memories is of the Chornobyl disaster. The shattered reactor on a tiny black and white TV, the sombre tones of the newsreader, the blue sky outside defying the warnings of a poisonous cloud heading our way, the cherry blossom drifting, drifting, drifting…I couldn’t understand, at six years old, the complexities of the situation, but I did know something had changed. That the landscape beyond that closed window was different, that an invisible threat was present. Years later, I was sent to run a training session at Wylfa nuclear power station, and felt apprehension creep into the palm of my hands, a nettle-sting of nuclear anxiety reignited. Nuclear anxiety But this time I was an adult, an academic, and a writer: […]

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