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Showing posts from 2012

FLASH FICTION, GUEST AUTHOR: Fairytale of New Holland - by Loz Harvey

‘It was Christmas Eve babe, in the drunk tank...’ The jukebox could hardly be heard over the murk in the Magna Charta pub.Another Christmas Eve dodging drunks on the dockside, all full of hooch and ammunition and a year’s worth of pent-up pot-luck. The factory had closed at lunchtime and the team had spilled up the streets into the pub. Now, glancing out on the debris of a late night badly in need of a refit, Jaynie wondered which of the wannabe Shane MacGowans she’d be fighting off later. None of them knew the words, but they’d got the impression down-pat, she thought. Cocksure, toothless, swaying their way towards closing time with a soundtrack of Slade and The Rubettes. Every Christmas had been the same for as long as Jaynie could remember. Since the ferry stopped. It was the 80s, but could have been last week. “I can see a better time, when all our dreams come true,” he’d said on the pier, off to art college. She had been 14 then, waving on the shoreline as the ferry made its last v…

FLASH FICTION: With An Unbeliever On A December Afternoon

I wrote this for the fifth anniversary of Joe Strummer's death. It was originally published in Article Magazine in December 2007. Seems a long time ago.



He said his name was Strummer.
I asked, what was he doing on top of a multi-storey car park in Scunthorpe? He shrugged, asked if I had a cigarette. Leaning into the lit match, he swayed forward and held my arm to steady himself. ‘You can smell the fish and chip shop from up here.’
‘Really?’ I said.
‘No, you can.’ He steered me to face the wind and told me to wait. ‘Only if it blows in the right direction.’ For a moment, I swear there was the faintest whiff of vinegar on the raw breeze, then it was gone in a gust of steelworks sulphur. ‘Did you get it?’ He said. ‘Love that smell – saveloy and chips.’ He flicked the fag end away and the wind took it in a shower of embers. ‘Gotta love a saveloy, man.’ He punched me on the arm and laughed.
‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘gotta love a saveloy’.
He eyed my carrier bag. I offered it and he helped himself to …

The Young Mod's Forgotten Story Part Four: Beat Surrender

It’s a cold December night thirty years ago. The tube to Wembley Park is packed. A load of mods and a fair few bemused and slightly edgy looking commuters. Especially when a ‘We are the mods’ chant goes up. Works its way down the carriage. There’s a bunch of us tonight, met up at Charing Cross. Let’s get this straight, I’m more than pissed off. Since the news broke at the end of October and I bought my ticket – that oh so precious ticket – tonight’s left me with mixed feelings. I had a couple of large ones in the Maxwell before catching the train. So The Jam are splitting up. That’s it, end of. Weller released a cobbled together statement, a ‘personal goodbye’. It hardly seems enough to cover what this feels like. It’s been personal. A code to live by, a band taking your life and putting it into words and music. Tonight feels like I’m about to lose something important, and somehow there’s a sense of knowing I won’t get it back. At the end of this year the Jam will officially be split…

Taking a Fresh Look at Oral History

Last week saw the first of three new Life-Writing workshops at Caistor's 28 Plough Hill Gallery. It's a course I enjoy putting together and teaching, especially as it encourages people to think about their own experiences. Earlier this year, those journo-types at the Hull Daily Mail asked me to write a piece about oral history, specificially why I think it's important to give prominence to those corners of our past that mainstream media and academic study tends to shy away from. In the end, it's all about telling stories. PROJECT TO SHED NEW LIGHT ON THE LIFESTYLE OF CITY'S WORKERS A shortcoming of traditional history is that it tends to focus attention on the recording of momentous historical events. As a writer and researcher, this means you risk overlooking the most important aspect of history: the everyday life experiences of ordinary people, those who rarely have the opportunity for their voices to be heard. With the new project Pattie Slappers – Stories from th…

THE SKINTS - Rise Up

This really is too good not to share. Anyone who has a fondness for the sound of Two-Tone, of old school ska, and who has ever thought, music ain't what it used to be. This is what it used to be and more. And it's new, released earlier this summer.

The Skints are from north east London, young and clued in. They look great and they sound great. Their album Part & Parcel was released in April. It's totally on the money, without doubt the best new music I heard in 2012. Produced by Mike 'Prince Fatty' Pelanconi, a veteran of sessions with, among others Gregory Isaacs, Dub Syndicate and Graham Coxon. See what you think.

EVENT: Hull Noir at the History Centre

Hull's History Centre has opened its doors to Caffeine Nights authors for an afternoon in December. Saturday 1st December to be precise. I'll be lining up with Nick Quantrill and Alfie Robins, reading, showing films and pictures and giving it some yuletide crime storytelling. With the Frank'sWild Years season approaching, here's an opportunity to take time out from shopping and spend a couple of hours experiencing what a friend recently described as 'Jackanory for grown-ups'. It's a new initiative for the History Centre, looking to support local writing and encourage people into an amazing architectural space. And if shopping is your thing, what better than a signed copy of one of 2012's top indie titles? For full info, contact Hull History Centre on 01482 317500.

The Humber Beat: Fiction and Films of the Festival Season

With the publication of Frank's Wild Years in March this year, I've had a dozen or so opportunities to take the book on the road, for readings, book groups, libraries and in the last couple of months literary festivals. Usually on the fringes, but pretty much without exception a welcoming and enthusiastic audience, eager to hear new writing and interested in the how? and why? of what it takes to make half a living from writing. Hull author, Nick Quantrill and myself have developed a series of self-contained presentations - of our own work, of short films by the brilliant Hull film maker, Dave Lee and of talks that, for example, make the links between the Dickens' social realist stories and modern crime writing. Look at the themes, the characters and the underlying story of Oliver Twist. Would it be marketed as a crime novel if it were published today? Recently, as part of North East Lincolnshire's Filter Festival we teamed up with another Hull author, Russ Litten for an …

ME AND MY MOTOR - Frank Neaves

Earlier this year, the nice people at the Hull Daily Mail asked me to contribute to their 'Me & My Motor' section. It didn't start well. I told them my first car was a knackered Vespa 90. 'That's not a car,' they said. 'Stick to four wheels, preferably one at each corner,' they said.  So I gave them my list of second-hand crates: the 1977 Datsun Cherry, the Fiesta with holes in the floor, the Volvo with stuff growing in it ... I could've gone on, but the look of Clarkson-style contempt suggested they'd got the message. Which was when I pulled the chair a bit closer and leaned in, 'Tell you what,' I said, 'if you're interested, I know a bloke who might have what you're looking for.'  I can't say Frank wasn't happy about it. He's keeping a low profile at the moment, but once I'd managed to find him, he came round. He usually does.  1. What do you drive? Last thing I owned outright was a Rover 75, maroon, lea…

NEW SINGLE: 'Mutiny on the Thames' - Pope

Erstwhile Chords guitarist and songwriting mainstay, Chris Pope has been busy. With his band Pope, he's recorded a new single - Mutiny on the Thames. It's probably a bit brassier - in every sense -  than your favourite Chords three minutes, but swapping powerpop for politics brings out the best in Pope and brings to mind the Redskins in their prime.
Either way, it rocks and lays it on the line. And hey, it's not every day a bloke whose songs you've admired for 30+ years drops you a line to tell you about a new one!

EVENT: The Humber Beat at Ilkley Festival Fringe

A heads up for an event taking place as part of the Ilkley Festival fringe on 2nd October. Mr Quantrill and myself will be taking a late drive down the M62 to present 'The Humber Beat' an hour of readings from novels and short stories and discussion about the city and its impact on crime writing. Our session is free that evening - we'll be following on from the paid event with 'The Dark Winter' author, David Mark.

SHORT STORY: 'Shane MacGowan's Coat' in BEAT THE DUST - Made in Sheffield edition

Melissa Mann's Beat The Dust is an online magazine dedicated to bringing new writing into the world. An invitation to contribute to the Made In Sheffieldedition - curated and introduced by the estimable Mr Simon Crump - was not to be missed. Based on an article in The Independent some four years ago, over the years I'd written and re-written the short story Shane MacGowan's Coat more times than I care to remember. It had never quite come together in the way I wanted it. For Beat The Dust, I started again and here it is, finished and in full. It's difficult to remember just what an impact The Pogues had in a post-punk world; seeing the band in the mid-80s, as many will testify, was a riot. A beacon of real music in a sea of synthpop and gated snare drums. I was lucky enough to see them a few times, including a St Patrick's night gig at the Town & Country Club in 1988. Possibly the roughest moshpit I was ever in, but one of those nights you're just glad you we…

BOOK NEWS: THICK AS THIEVES: Personal Situations with The Jam

Having Spent a hefty chunk of the last five years interviewing people about their working lives and unique experiences for social history purposes, it's something of a culture shock to see a book that treats an ever present from my own cultural past in the same way. The track Thick As Thieves from 1979's Setting Sons just about nailed what it was like to be part of a gang, knowing it couldn't last forever. Keeping that spirit on the road, Stewart Debill and Ian Snowball's new book trawls the archives and conducts new interviews with anyone connected with The Jam, the people who worked with them live and on record and those who followed them from Sheerwater Secondary School to Brighton Arena. I've written elsewhere on this blog about the impact Weller and The Jam had on me as a teenager growing up in the suburbs in the late 70s/early 80s. [Check The Young Mod's Forgotten Story Parts 2 and 3] Here Debill and Snowball have the blessing of Weller - he provides the …

CREATIVE WRITING: Short Story Course - Caistor Arts & Heritage Centre

There is something magical about the short story form. I think it's that you can do pretty much anything with it, malleable within a nominal framework of a piece you can read in a single sitting - if you adopt Edgar Allan Poe's formula. It's also unlikely to make you a fortune - not that it ever did, which means by and large you write short stories because you want to, because it suits you, because you have something to say and the desire to get it said. 'The short story, I should point out, is perforce a labor of love in today's literary world; there's precious little economic incentive to write one...' Lawrence Block, Manhattan Noir Coming up with stories and angles for a new series of workshops for Caistor Arts and Heritage Centre, starting this Thursday evening, I had the task of working through a box file full of collected stories, dog-eared photocopies and well-read favourites. And that was before looking for new angles; I wanted to include something t…

VISUAL ARTS: GILL HOBSON – Questions of Light, Time and Space

Gill Hobson is an artist who refuses to be complacent. Constantly challenging herself in her artistic practice, at the heart of her work is a ringing consistency of ideas: of time, place, space and light and how to unify them to create work that speaks to our contemporary world and ways of living. Known best for intricate pieces in glass and metal – imagine the most elaborate peacock’s tail in glass and filigreed metal – that work was concerned with patterns of surface, colour, light and tactility and, for Gill, trying to make sense through making, arrangements and forms. ‘I developed a particular approach and style to using those materials that is about this location, here in Northern Lincolnshire, but I felt I was only speaking about a tiny area of what fascinates and motivates me in being an art-maker and researcher.’ In 2007, Gill embarked on a Masters in Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University. It marked a change of direction and renewed her commitment to developing her artistic p…