Set in the surroundings of Birmingham Central Library, ‘Time Has Fallen Asleep in the Afternoon Sunshine’ living book project has challenged volunteers to memorise whole chunks of their favourite books, and relay them to punters. Hannah Elsy from the Fierce Festival’s Press Gang listened to Aaron Virdee recite (Un)arranged Marriage by Bali Rai, and interviewed him afterwards about his experience as a ‘Living Book’.
Hannah: So, how long would the whole book take to recite?
Aaron: I’d say a whole day. You just heard 17 pages in about half an hour. It feels like far more, because you read so quickly. When you’re talking it slows the text right down.
Hannah: How long did 17 pages you to memorise?
Aaron: I can polish off a page in three hours. I have a good memory as I’ve been doing acting at the Birmingham Rep, so it’s just like learning lines. Memorising chunks is a bit harder as there’s nothing to bounce off. I have to visualise it in my mind, almost like a comic book.
Hannah: Did you choose the book (Un)arranged Marriage?
Aaron: I did. It’s a book which is close to my heart, as I feel really culturally connected with it. I can personally relate to the issues in the story. I’ve never been pressurised into arranged marriage, but I’ve seen it happen amongst my cousins and my family.
Hannah: Are you for or against arranged marriage?
Aaron: I’m not for it personally, but there are a lot of people I know who’d be happy to go ahead with one. I don’t think its right to pressurise someone, but if they’re not bothered, I don’t have an issue with it.
Hannah: How many performances have you been doing a day?
Aaron: This is my fifth one today; I’ve been doing one every half an hour. It’s really tiring because telling story takes you on an emotional journey. I’m an actor, so I actually become the character in the book. I deliberately chose a book in the first person so I do it like a monologue, it’s like intimately talking to a friend about my experience!
Hannah: What do you think about the surroundings of the Library?
Aaron: It’s beautiful, really calm and quiet. I did a recital outside the other day, and it wasn’t the same in all the hustle and bustle. I love being in my little zone surrounded by books!
Hannah: So, do you prefer reading or speaking now?
Aaron: Speaking! When you read, it’s all in the imagination. When you hear the words, they seem stronger, more intense.