Weekend Fiction: Self-Portrait

The trick is not to think about it too much, to click without thought, without self-consciousness, the right hand ignoring the left hand. But, of course, I’m always thinking. The photos are saved in my deleted file. Before their 30 days are up, I recover them and give myself another 30 days to decide. The photos are badly lit; I don’t know how to find my light. My face is always in the shadows, my arms aren’t long enough to capture both my body and face. Sometimes it’s only my chin and lips that are showing, it’s hard to tell what the lips are doing without the eyes. They could be pouting, half-smiling, promising something, but the eyes are elsewhere, looking at the image onscreen, off-camera.

Weekend Poetry: Paul Scholes' foot, and other poems

Christodoulos Makris is a poet, editor and curator. He was born in Nicosia in 1971. Since 1991 he has lived and worked in Manchester, London and, from 2001, in Dublin. His books are Spitting Out the Mother Tongue (Wurm Press, 2011) and The Architecture of Chance (Wurm Press, 2015) - chosen as a poetry book of the year by 3:AM Magazine and RTÉ Arena. He is also the author of the chapbook Round the Clock (Wurm Press, 2009), the limited edition artist’s book Muses Walk (2012), and the limited edition pamphlet if we keep drawing cartoons (If A Leaf Falls Press, 2016). The poetry object Browsing History was published in March 2018 by zimZalla.

Weekend Poetry: The F-Scale

How concerned are you with submission and domination? The problem is, I am so busy. So if we need laundry detergent it's easier just to order it. There by the door by 3. On one hand, yes, I do not agree they should use drones to deliver goods. It is not good. (My mailman is a botanist on the side!) Also the packaging. The boxes are recyclable but not the plastic packing puffs. Collateral damage? If they spill a good strong wind clears them all away... On the other hand, I do get the organic detergent. It's a small thing. (I hate myself in miniscule degrees.)

Sunday Short Film: Nine Behind

Kicking off our first short film section, we have Canadian filmmaker Sophy Romvari's Nine Behind, a tightly-controlled exploration of emotional and spatio-temporal displacements both, as a young woman (Noémi Fabian) makes a long-delayed phone call to her grandfather in Hungary, from which her parents are implied to have fled during the Soviet era. Romvari unpeels the space of the Nora's apartment over the course of eleven carefully composed shots, weighing out time in measured spoonfuls of increasing size; the distended apprehension of the difficult call in the opening few minutes giving way to self-forgetting ellipsis (in a neat transition the sparse monochrome helps to sell) as Nora is caught up in the painful undertow of lost time.

Weekend Fiction: Watching People Drown

An explosion shook the building. The wall hit Sally. Having fallen against it, she pushed off from it, charged up the stairs, burst into Katy’s room. Katy sat on the edge of the bed with her Sparkle Cat High Top Trainers swinging. Bandy baby legs in the air and arms waggling, Ashley lay on his back behind her. ‘You OK?’ Sally’s ears rang. Katy nodded. ‘Yes, Mummy.’ Ashley had a scrunched-up face, balled hands. His cries expanded to fill the room, in waves. Sally took the baby, clasped him to her, jigged him up and down, to and fro. He gradually quietened. Katy’s head jerked up. ‘Mummy, where’s Daddy gone?’ ‘Trying to get some news, sweetheart.’ Supporting Ashley with one hand, she grasped Katy’s hand with the other. ‘It’s going to be OK, I promise.’

Weekend Poetry: Five Poems

Vera grew up in Malaysia and is of Chinese descent. Starting with Human Sciences, she holds a Masters in Archaeology & Anthropology from Oxford before training as an actor at The Poor School (London) and Ecole Philippe Gaulier (Paris). Commissioned by WeTransfer alongside Deepak Chopra as one of the world's 40 "cultural luminaries", Vera is an award-winning, cross-platform writer who co-wrote The Good Immigrant (Book of the Year 2016, BBC Book of the Week, #1 Guardian Books, #1 Amazon). Her poetic and comment pieces have been published by The Guardian, Brain Mill Press, Rising, Yauatcha Life, and The Brautigan Free Press. In 2017, Vera judged the Bread & Roses Radical Book Prize, the Jhalak Prize for writers of colour, and the inaugural Tomorrow At Noon playwriting prize. She has helped develop new plays with The National Theatre, The Royal Shakespeare Company, and The Royal Court.

Weekend Poetry: Three Poems

Serena is a poet, writer, multidisciplinary performer and voice practitioner writing both in Italian and English. She is interested in voice, performance, language ambiguity, shame, family/memory, sexuality and arts politics. Serena was born and raised near Rome and relocated to London in 2011. Serena’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Hotel, Orlando, Disclaimer, hotdog, Nuovi Argomenti and others, and in narrative non-fiction anthology Quello che hai amato (UTET 2015). Performances and readings have included Goldsmiths LitLive, the Festival of Italian Literature in London, the Last Word Festival and The European Poetry Night.

Forget Unilever going Dutch – Brexit may give UK powers to protect industry

Home may be where the heart is. But for businesses there are many, more cold-blooded calculations. Lever Brothers — better known now as Unilever — has become the latest venerated British name to see control leave these shores. The giant Anglo-Dutch company has announced that Rotterdam rather than London will be the home of its new unified headquarters. Chief executive Paul Polman was quick to say what this was not about, namely the UK’s departure from the European Union. He insisted “categorically that it has nothing to do with Brexit”. He may be right as the company is, for now at least, not moving any of its operations outside of the UK, so will still need to cope with any cross-Channel tariffs once Britain leaves.

Weekend Poetry: Two Poems

Starting out as a singer-songwriter, Henry's first collection Time Pieces was published by Seren Press in 1991, winning a Gregory Award. His poems have been widely anthologised and can be found in journals such as Poetry Review and The Times Literary Supplement. They have also featured on BBC Radio 4's Poetry Please. The Brittle Sea, New & Selected Poems was recently reprinted by Seren in the UK and by Dronequill in India, under the title The Black Guitar. Mari d’Ingrid, Gerard Augustin's translation of his fifth collection, Ingrid’s Husband, is published by L’Harmattan. He was described by the late U. A. Fanthorpe as "a poet's poet who combines a sense of the music of words with an endlessly inventive imagination". Henry teaches creative writing at writers' centres and has lectured at the University of South Wales.

The Red Beach Hut Shapes the Reader into the Perfect Devil’s Advocate

I have often been described as a ‘challenging’ person, something I will admit to freely and without shame. I believe that the nature of existence is to challenge our perceptions, thoughts and experience of the world around us. Because of this, I am an active seeker of challenging, thought-provoking books, the more uncomfortable and controversial the better. In my humble opinion, those authors who seek to challenge the status quo and produce work which shakes up the reader’s point of view hold a special kind of magic. The conversations which result can and do change our world and the world of those around us. A tale which seeks to start those conversations comes from Lynn Michell in the Red Beach Hut, published by Linen Press, the UK’s only independent women’s press.

Weekend Fiction: Last Trumpet

Matilda had treacle feet again, like in bad dreams where she had to go places fast but couldn’t. Roza kept striding ahead, as if she actually wanted to get where they were going, which was past the precinct and up the hill, to where the bungalows were. ‘They’re like hutches for humans,’ whispered Matilda when they got there. ‘Snob.’ Roza knocked on the door of number six. It was a quiet spot with few cars and no people around. Each bungalow had a patch of grass outside and a white handrail that needed painting. No answer. Roza knocked again. Matilda was relieved. ‘There’s no one here. Let’s go.’ Roza lifted up the letterbox and peered through. ‘Hello?’

Weekend Poetry: Two Sonnets

Dorothy LeHane is the author of three poetry publications: Umwelt (Leafe Press, 2016), Ephemeris (Nine Arches Press, 2014) and Places of Articulation (dancing girl press 2014). She is currently engaging in a study exploring questions surrounding the social, ethical and perceptual implications of communicating the aberrant body in poetic practice. Dorothy has read her work to audiences at Université Sorbonne, Paris, Science Museum, the Wellcome Trust, the Barbican, the Roundhouse, BBC Radio Kent and contributed on innovative improvised collaborations, notably with synthesizer Matthew Bourne, and musician Sam Bailey. Recent poetry and reviews appear in SALT anthology Best British Poetry 2015, Shearsman, Cordite Poetry Review Tears in the Fence, and Long Poem Magazine. Dorothy has taught Creative Writing in primary, secondary, further and higher education institutions, including Canterbury Christ Church University, the Barbican Arts Centre, and London South Bank University.

Weekend Poetry: Two Praise Songs, and other poems

Sarah Corbett lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire but grew up in North Wales and studied at the Univeristies of Leeds, East Anglia and Manchester, where she completed her PhD in Critical and Creative Writing in 2013. She has published a verse-novel, And She Was, (Pavilion Poetry, Liverpool University Press, 2015) and three collections of poetry with Seren Books: The Red Wardrobe(1998),The Witch Bag (2002) and Other Beasts (2008). The Red Wardrobe won an Eric Gregory Award in 1997 and was shortlisted for the T.S Eliot and Forward prizes. She is currently working on her first novel, a first draft of which was long-listed for the Mslexia First Novel Competition. She teaches Creative Writing at Lancaster University.

Weekend Fiction: In the Closet

The phone rang as I was locking up for the night and I thought about leaving it ring. Then I thought about my bank account, went back around the desk, picked up, and said: “Conde.” An older man’s voice came on the line, dry as a desert bone. “Ah yes, Mr. Benjamin Conde of the Conde Detective Agency I presume?” “The same.” “Splendid, Mr. Conde. Splendid. Ah, yes, Mr. Conde, my name is Douglas P. Cahill III and the reason for my call is...well...I suppose it could best be described as a delicate issue.” The old man paused and his breath whistled through his nose for a while. I had nothing to add so he cleared his throat and went on. “Right. Yes. Well, I suppose the direct approach is best in cases like these,” he said.

Me and My Bee - Funny and Informative for Children and (Some) Adults

This review has the potential to either be very depressing, or hopeful. We will just have to see. I will try my best to steer toward the latter. It is now relatively common knowledge that bees are dying out. Modern consumerism has - to summarise the issue crudely - lead to bees being killed off in an impressive pyramid of torture. We’re poisoning them with pesticides and forcing them to move further and further north as man-made climate change slowly destroys their natural habitats. Me and My Bee is a show that advertises itself as fun for adults and children alike: it is an invitation to a Bee Party. This party is both an actual party, complete with a party bag (of seeds that will grow into bee-tractive plants), and also a political party campaign.

Weekend Poetry: Lineage, and other poems

Martha Sprackland is a writer and editor. She was co-founder and poetry editor of Cake magazine, was assistant poetry editor for Faber & Faber, and is one of the founding editors of multilingual arts magazine La Errante. She is co-editor, with Patrick Davidson Roberts, of independent publisher Offord Road Books. Twice a winner of the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award, she was also the recipient of an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors, and was longlisted for the inaugural Jerwood–Compton Poetry Fellowships in 2017. Glass As Broken Glass was longlisted for a Sabotage Award, and she placed in the Poetry London Competition in 2015.

Weekend Fiction: Narratological Chronosis

We were sat on the beach on the Costa Blanca. It was too hot, too many people crowded towel to towel, the bodily perspiration…the two of us had been lucky to get a space. I didn’t want to come here, but it was the best I could do given my financial situation. She seemed pleased enough, both when I told her where we were going and when we were there on the beach. She lay on her stomach on her towel, reading a novel, the cover caked in streaks of sunscreen, edges browned and dog-eared. I sat in a rented deckchair, with a copy of the New Statesman. Why I brought her on holiday with me I will never know.

Weekend Poetry: Three Poems by Jeffrey Skinner

Poet, playwright, and essayist Jeffrey Skinner was awarded a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry. Skinner’s Guggenheim project involves a conflation of contemporary physics, poetry, and theology. He served as the June, 2015 Artist in Residence at the CERN particle accelerator in Geneva, Switzerland. In 2015 he was awarded one of eight American Academy of Arts & Letters Awards, for exceptional accomplishment in writing. His most recent prose book, The 6.5 Practices of Moderately Successful Poets, was published to wide attention and acclaim, including a full page positive review in the Sunday New York Times Book Review. His most recent collection of poems, Glaciology, was chosen in 2012 as winner in the Crab Orchard Open Poetry Competition, and published by Southern Illinois University press in Fall, 2013.

Bold and Free, The Shape of Water is Del Toro’s Most Emotionally Mature Film Yet

It’s easy to fetishise directors like Guillermo del Toro. As is often the case with auteurs (Scorsese, Kubrick, Tarantino etc.) it’s tempting to overlook the hundreds of people involved in making a film and heap all the praise at the doorstep of one visionary. But while it no doubt took several villages to bring del Toro’s latest, The Shape of Water, into being, it’s still hard not to see the end result as a director at the height of his powers – bold, free and completely himself. The Shape of Water follows Elisa, a mute cleaner at a laboratory in 1960s Baltimore. When, one night, a tank is wheeled in containing a mysterious amphibian creature, Elisa’s humdrum routine is up-ended.

Weekend Poetry: No God is Like a Vapour

Dominic’s poetry, essays and translations have appeared in IRIS, Cherwell, Ash, The Kindling, the Oxford Review of Books, and are forthcoming in the Poetry Business Book of New Poets. In 2015, he was briefly Foyle Young Poet of the year in 2015, before being disqualified for being 6 hours too old. His well-received verse translation of Euripides' Iphigenia at Aulis was performed in the gardens of Christ Church College. Dominic is the 2017-18 President of Oxford University Poetry Society, where he is an undergraduate in English at Christ Church.

Hilarity, Pain and Mess - Wild Life FM on What It's Like To Be Young Today

Communicating across generations is one of the biggest challenges people have to face. Not only, verbal and visual codes get updated very quickly, but, with age, adults become less able to adopt new ways of expressing themselves. As a result, they often provoke unpleasant situations where they fail to establish fruitful communication with their offspring, pupils or younger siblings. Even though all of them can boast first-hand experience of youth, adults seem programmed to forget the unique features of that phase of their lives, its immediacy and randomness, and the extraordinary ability to keep thoughts and actions perfectly separated, often with detrimental outcomes. With time, they become increasingly judgemental and oblivious to the big questions that once used to anguish them, promptly dismissing the issue as silly or unimportant.

Weekend Poetry: Birdcatchers, and Other Poems

Patrick Cotter was born in Cork, Ireland, and studied at University College Cork. For over a decade he has served as artistic director of the Munster Literature Centre, where he curates literary festivals presenting some of the world’s greatest contemporary poets and novelists. He’s the author of Making Music (Three Spires Press, 2009) and Perplexed Skin (Arlen House, 2008). His work has appeared in the anthologies Separate Islands: Contemporary British and Irish poetry (Quarry, Ontario) Irish Poetry Now (Wolfhound) Jumping off Shadows - Some Contemporary Irish Poets (Cork University Press) The Irish Eros (Gill & Macmillan) The Backyards of Heaven (Newfoundland) Something Beginning with P (O'Brien Press) and in The Great Book of Ireland. He has published short fiction in Cyphers, New Irish Writing and elsewhere. He received the Keats-Shelley Prize for Poetry in 2013. In addition to poetry, he has written plays and fiction. Cotter lives in Cork, Ireland.

Forgotten and Fantastic, But Also a Strange Symphony of Magical Grace

I have a special place in my heart for fairy tales, myths and fables, and have steadfastly refused to ‘grow up’ and put aside these so-called childish pursuits. There is a lot to be learned from fairy tales and the whimsy they invoke is not something I’m prepared to live without. Any opportunity to read a new collection will thus inevitably result in my snatching at it with greedy delight. The collection causing such unbridled glee this time was The Forgotten and the Fantastical 3: Modern Fables and Ancient Tales, the third in a series of collections edited by Teika Bellamy and published by Mother’s Milk Books, an independent press which focuses on celebrating femininity and empathy. This collection of fairy tales, designed for an adult audience, is sure to ‘get the grown-ups clapping’.

Innovative The Believers Are But Brothers Delves into the Web of Modern Alienation and Extremism

His back faces the audience, the eyes are fixed on one of the screens on the table, he is intent on playing with a war videogame: Javaad Alipoor, already on the stage, doesn’t seem to care of the people coming into the room. Few minutes after the due time for the start of the show, he finally turns his chair and starts typing on his smartphone. Contrary to theatre etiquette, the audience has been allowed to keep their devices on, with ringtones and glowing screens, and beforehand been invited to join a WhatsApp group, which would then be deleted with all the related data after the 90 minutes running time. The Believers Are But Brothers is the innovative show inspired and developed from community workshops and research into the circulation of and engagement with online radicalisation.

M. John Harrison Returns to Explore Life's Bleak Underbelly

January, oh cruel mistress! Dark, windy, rainy, skint. Angry faces everywhere you turn. In short, a horror of a month, filled with nothing but ‘New Year, New Me’ mendacity. When faced with such distress, there is little choice but to find a book and bury yourself in it. This tumultuous January, my book of choice was a new release from M. John Harrison, an author described as a ‘cartographer of the liminal’. In his first collection in over 15 years, Harrison has provided a plenteous compendium of more than forty short stories in You Should Come With Me Know. In this collection, Harrison blurs the boundaries between horror and science fiction, fantasy and travel writing, and sketches characters who exist within a tumultuous frontier which is at once spatial and spiritual

The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk Becomes a Marriage of Love and Colours

Kneehigh kicks off 2018 with one of their most poetic productions. Written in 1992 by Daniel Jamieson, the work bears the directing signature of Emma Rice, both of whom performed in the original production. The theatre piece beautifully brings to life the art of the French-Russian modernist Marc Chagall. Set in a small city in Belarus, once under the Russian authority, The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk tries to communicate the colours and undying passion of a couple, united in a dreamy dance, against the horrors of the nineteenth century. Bella and Marc meet for the first time in the waiting room of the local doctor’s studio. It was love at first sight but the clumsy painter soon left for Paris in search of fortune. Only on his return, do the lovers tie the knot. Even their wedding night, though, couldn’t pass peacefully: Chagall was called to serve the army in the wake of the First World War.

Weekend Poetry: California (I) and Sleep Psalm/Weather

Kate Potts is a London-based poet, academic and editor. Her pamphlet Whichever Music (tall-lighthouse) was a Poetry Book Society choice and was shortlisted for a Michael Marks Award. Her first full-length collection is Pure Hustle (Bloodaxe). Kate teaches for Oxford University, Royal Holloway, and The Poetry School. She is co-director of site-specific poetry organisation Somewhere in Particular, creating poetry events which celebrate and explore particular communities and places. Her second poetry collection, Feral, will be published by Bloodaxe in September 2018. Kate's poetry and prose has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including Ambit, Magma, The Best British Poetry, The Forward Book of Poetry, Poetry Review, Poetry (Chicago), Poetry Wales, and Ploughshares.

Weekend Fiction: Love’s Executioner Revisited

Not for many years had anyone fallen for her so hard. Even going back to when she was a teenager. It was a Monday in late January, the temperature had risen but sheets of rain swept in once again. Leah had said goodbye to her work colleague Bartley, waving to him from the bus outside Somerset House. Yalom’s When Nietzsche Wept was making the winter journeys infinitely more bearable (she’d first been lent one of his books during the many months of group work all those years ago). Of course she knew the story well, being a compulsive re-reader of her favourite authors. He was so open, freely disclosing several alluring facts. That he was vegan and training to be a therapist, that it was rare for him not to cycle home. But today, the weather – the weather! Just like Yalom, she said, the therapy, not the cycling. Of course, Yalom, he was a big fan of the case studies!

A Beauty Impossible to Define - Jim Crumley’s The Nature of Winter Review

Crumley takes us on an introspective journey, one that explores his own interpretation of winter. In order to discover this, he wonders, he watches and he writes. Winter means different things for each of us. Depending on where we are, and our lifestyle choice, it brings with it many different things. For me, winter brings long distant runs in the cold fresh air of the British countryside; it brings late nights reading in the warmth of my study. For Jim Crumley it brings hikes and nature watching; it brings an interest in observing the changing of the seasons and the effects of the weather on local wildlife: it brings a new aspect of life. Man’s insignificance in the face of nature’s beauty and harshness is established rather firmly through the writing.

Unnerving and Eerie Tales, Two Shorts That Become Masterclasses

The autumn editions of the now regular Nightjar Press short stories are DB Water’s Fury and Wyl Menmuir’s Rounds, and like its previous entries, they continue the publisher’s tradition of unnerving and eerie tales. But while the two have many similarities, their effects, and the means by which they draw from you a feeling of unavoidable dread, make them both interesting little beasts in their own right. The Rounds, by Menmuir, whose debut The Many was longlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize, is concerned with Alice Hooper, the new occupant of an empty flat and whose loneliness and barely disguised suffering takes us through a waltz of suspicious intrigue and aching sympathy.

Shocking, and Darkly Enjoyable - The Here and This and Now

Whether a play is tackling scientific progress, outer space or the life of pharmaceutical representatives as they memorise medical jargon during an office away-day, the human condition - the meaning of it all - is always at its centre. The Here and This and Now, a play by writer Glenn Waldron, focuses on what its four characters are holding on to to keep going every day. It so happens that at the beginning of the play, they are all working in the same pharmaceutical company and are training for their next pitch. You’ve got Niall (Simon Darwen), the manager, who flawlessly opens the play with a seamless pitch that mentions his son’s passion for trains and demonstrates his ease at connecting with whomever he is talking to.

Weekend Poetry: The Channel Swimmer, and other poems

Poet, playwright, and essayist Jeffrey Skinner was awarded a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry. Skinner’s Guggenheim project involves a conflation of contemporary physics, poetry, and theology. He served as the June, 2015 Artist in Residence at the CERN particle accelerator in Geneva, Switzerland. In 2015 he was awarded one of eight American Academy of Arts & Letters Awards, for exceptional accomplishment in writing. His most recent prose book, The 6.5 Practices of Moderately Successful Poets, was published to wide attention and acclaim, including a full page positive review in the Sunday New York Times Book Review. His most recent collection of poems, Glaciology, was chosen in 2012 as winner in the Crab Orchard Open Poetry Competition, and published by Southern Illinois University press in Fall, 2013.

Weekend Fiction: Star of the World

It was toilet-seat-sticks-to-your-ass kind of weather and Hal wasn’t having it. He left the bathroom window open and went into the bedroom to put on his favorite corduroys. Left leg, right. What a sticky, God-awful day. Was early November always like this? It was when Hal was a boy. Global warming wasn’t real, just something the government suits cooked up for a laugh and a scare, keep the sheep baaaing like fools. Baaa. They used to say television could make you blind. Hal could still spot a great ass from a mile away. Like that new redheaded meter maid. Her kaboose was alright. Hal turned off the TV and turned up the AC. Maybe the president was right. It was the Orientals that made up global warming. Keep us buying Japanese. Electric cars. Ha ha ha.

Complex, Heartfelt, a Sickly Noir That Horrifies with Everyday Banality

I am a woman of many vices, this I have accepted. One of my more nefarious foibles is a rather obsessive love of all things noir; the darker, seedier and more brutal the better. I am also a lover of horror, in all it’s terrifying forms. Anything which explores the seedy underbelly of humanity is sure to get my pulse racing and make me cackle maniacally with wicked glee. Add to that a southern gothic spin and I’m practically foaming at the mouth. The tantalising tome in my grubby grasp this time satiates these dark desires. In the Valley of the Sun by Andy Davidson, is published by Contraband, an imprint of Saraband, which publishes an eclectic range of crime, thriller and mystery writing.

Bleak, Harrowing and Raw But Witty and Humane - McDonagh's One -Off

You don’t often sit down to watch a film about the aftermath of a murder expecting to laugh. There’s various adjectives that would usually be associated with a film of this subject matter: bleak, harrowing, raw. Those words could certainly be used to describe Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, but that would be to overlook its wit and humanity. The wit becomes less surprising when you discover that Three Billboards is written and directed by Martin McDonagh. Through films like In Bruges and plays like The Cripple of Inishmaan, McDonagh has become renowned for his singular tone and blistering dark humour.

Weekend Poetry: Six Poems, After Rachel Whiteread

Jen Calleja is a Writer, literary translator, editor and curator. She studied modern literature and creative writing at Goldsmiths College and gained an MA from University College London in 2012,. She has twice been acting editor of New Books in German, is editor of her own Anglo-German journal Verfreundungseffekt and is the inaugural Translator in Residence at the British Library (2017-2018). Her short stories, poetry and essays have appeared in TEAM, Langdon Olgar, No.Zine, Playground and on BBC radio. She was Runner-Up Finalist for Brighton Festival's Peacock Poetry Prize for young poets in 2011. She is the inaugural Translator in Residence at the British Library (2017-2018). She lives in London.She lives in London.

Weekend Fiction: Colorblind

, she said. You’re sure? Lux asked. Yes. Okay, Lux nodded. Okay and turned the lock on the door. So where do you want me? she huddled in a dressing gown borrowed from the life drawing club. Thick socks and Birkenstocks. The white cold light filtered in from high rectangular windows and flooded the empty hall holding the musty memory of gym and basketball. There, Lux said. They walked together and Lux ran her fingers along the grooves of panel walling. You’re sure? Lux said. Yeah, I mean yes. Please stop asking. I’m honoured really. If this can, well, if I can help you. What are friends for right? Now hurry up I’m starkers here.

Weekend Poetry: Sea Memory and other poems

In the '00s, Astley founded Rain over Bouville, a poetry press, and was a member of the much-loved metal band Sextodecimo. He has since studied at Ruskin College and Oxford University and published several short collections of poetry, most recently The Gallows-Humored Melody (Albion Beatnik Press, 2016). In the meantime his poetry has appeared in magazines including Agenda and Ash, and his new pamphlet The One-Sided Coin is due in 2018. In 2010, Huck and the Handsome Fee embarked on a US tour that would inspire Astley's three-part narrative album Alexander the Great, a 'queer runaway myth' set in the American South. He is also a member of The Epstein, who released their third album Burn the Branches in 2016.

Complex and Surreal, Goblin is a Compelling Debut

As the weather turns colder and the evenings darker I begin, as usual, to seriously consider the merits of hibernation. Months of sleep and a chance to miss out on the emotional manipulation reserved for the festive season when companies are desperate to sell me their tat for Christmas. Bliss indeed. However, this is sadly unfeasible and so instead I find delicious escape in a book. The scintillating volume serving to distract me from the jolly capitalism relentlessly hounding my waking moments this time was Goblin, the debut from the thrillingly talented Ever Dundas, published by Saraband. Following the eponymous Goblin, a raconteur with a somewhat unreliable view of events, Dundas’ tale is a ‘captivating and capricious’ exploration of the ‘creature world’ within us all. Goblin sees an unconventional heroine struggle to decide between exorcising the ghosts of her past or retreating into the safety of delusion, all the while spinning a disarming yarn filled with enchantment and intrigue written by a truly original voice.

Seven Forgotten and Misunderstood Journeys of Scientific Discovery

Science is supposedly all about cool logic and extreme objectivity; experiments are tainted by nothing personal, and all the drama is contained in petriglasses and test tubes. But behind the scenes of the stereotypical white coats and microscopes lie much messier ongoings: welcome to a world sexism, politics, academic feuds, and exploited students. It might sound like the laboratory edition of Eastenders or the university version of The Bold and the Beautiful, but all this is real life, as dished out in Darryl Cunningham’s Graphic Science. Cunningham takes seven underrepresented, misunderstood, forgotten or otherwise neglected scientists who did not become the Einsteins of our science narrative and puts them under the microscope of the graphic novel.

An Affectionate Salute to One of Hollywood's Stranger Stories

There’s a lot of bad movies out there. Most simply get consigned to the scrapheap of history, destined to be no more than an obscure pub quiz answer, languishing unnoticed at the bottom of Netflix’s ‘What to Watch’ page. It takes something extra for a movie to not just be bad, but so bad that it’s good – so irredeemably awful, in fact, that it becomes a cult favourite, playing to packed-out midnight screenings and being remembered more vividly than many critical favourites of its time. The Room is just such a movie. Now, 14 years after its release, The Disaster Artist aims to peel back the lid on how such a wonderfully terrible movie came into existence.

Weekend Fiction: God as Their Witness

Michael Loomis’s hand, slick from the morning heat, slipped on the thumb-break of his holster. Tags current. Blinkers worked. He knew the outcome was in his Creator’s hands as he slipped his own back ten and two on the wheel. Still, he prayed for a way out. The officer approached. She was a petite gal, made thicker with the vest and uniform. She lacked the cop waddle but didn’t exactly glissade up to his vehicle either, instead walking tactically in sure, short steps. She paused at the back of the work van, studying his bumper stickers on its blacked out windows. He kept his hands visible on the wheel. Her last name was Smith. Eyes behind tinted Prizm lenses guarded their movements. She carried a Sig 9 on her left hip, a southpaw. “Officer, I must inform you, per my Second Amendment right under the Constitution of the United States of America and state law of Arizona, I am in possession of an open-carry firearm fully registered and duly licensed.” The Constitution was meant to protect citizens from government, not the other way around.

Intelligent and Original, Lear Translates Perfectly onto Modern India

Jivan Singh returns to his childhood after a long absence, there to witness the unexpected resignation of Devraj, founding father of the Company - a vast corporation that sits at the heart of Indian life. At the same time, Devraj's daughter absconds - desperate to escape from the prospect of marriage. Her older sisters are handed control of their father's company - and there begins a vicious struggle for power, from the luxury hotels of New Delhi through to the slums of Napurthala. India is a frequent topic for writers the world over but they rarely capture the essence of such a multi-faceted country, instead veering between semi-nostalgic tales of the British Raj, or slum set tales of poverty that blend uplifting inspiration with heavy doses of condescension.

A Vivid Collection, Fresh and Unafraid To Challenge

I sat down earlier this week filled with good intentions. I had a new collection of stories to read and, rather mendaciously, told myself I’d just read one. Just one. I didn’t. I devoured the collection in front of me, moving irresistibly and greedily from one story to the next, incapable of stopping. The addictive book in front of me was Letters Home by Martyn Bedford, published by Comma Press whose mission is to put the short story at the heart of contemporary literature. Letters Home is a collection of twelve short stories, some previously published elsewhere, and some created for this collection.

Music, Dance and Narrative Reveal a Tapestry of Multicultural Britain

The seven artists of Protein line up at the front of the stage, staring at the audience. There are a few moments of silence, then the undulating voice of Anthar Kharana echoes, and the show starts. Border Tales groups together fears, stereotypes, identities, struggles, and the vibrancy of today’s multicultural community in London, weaved in a brilliant choreographed dance, music and spoken narrative. Everything is accompanied by sounds. Part of the music is pre-recorded, but a lot is done live by Kharana: from strings, to percussion, to modelling his voice.

Weekend Poetry: New York Morning, Six Years On and other poems

Dai George was born in Cardiff in 1986 and studied in Bristol and New York, where he received an MFA from Columbia University’s writing programme. He has had poems and criticism published in The Guardian Online, The Boston Review, New Welsh Review, Poetry Review and others. His poetry has appeared in several anthologies, including the Salt Book of Younger Poets and Best British Poetry 2011 and 2013. His first collection, The Claims Office, was published by Seren in October 2013. He is an editor at Prac Crit and a funded PhD candidate at UCL, where his thesis will examine the role syntax played in American poetry's postmodern turn. He is currently finishing a novel about the Gunpowder Plot, with the playwright Ben Jonson as the central character. Dai's fiction is represented by Georgina Capel Associates.

Weekend Fiction: House of Chance

No one remembers who really came up with the idea, but it was taken up by the new government with enthusiasm. It dealt with an epidemic that had been growing for years, and did it in a way that kept the addicts both comfortable and out the way of the masses, while still allowing their families a certain level of access to them. Gambling had been getting out of control, mostly amongst men between the ages of 25 and 65, and up until that point no one had suggested a workable solution outside of more regulations and more taxation. The gambling lobby simply would not have it: casual gamblers, they said, who genuinely gambled only on occasion for a bit of “light fun”, would suffer due to the excesses of immoral disreputables and the unfeeling iron gloved hand of the nanny state.

Power, Passion and a Transformed View of Illness and Disability

As a part of the new exhibition Opera: Passion, Power and Politics, organised in partnership with the Royal Opera House, the Victoria and Albert Museum last October hosted Hospital Passion Play, a live choral performance led by founder and artistic director of Rosetta Life, Lucinda Jarrett. As a charity, Rosetta Life is devoted to changing the perception of those who live with life-limiting illnesses, involving them directly in cultural initiatives and performance-based programs. 'Rosetta Life was set up to challenge the stigma of illness and perception of disability by enabling people to tell and perform their own stories,' explains Jarrett. 'We began 20 years ago by enabling those facing life-threatening illness in hospices to tell their own stories and, with a grant from

Bold and Original Theatre That Shines Light on the Dark and the Unseen

Just breath! Fog Everywhere, a Camden People’s Theatre production, is one of the more unusual artistic opportunities in that it reminds the audience of the harm involved in a vital and simple act of daily life in London. Known for its foggy air and sinister atmosphere, the British capital has reached appalling levels of pollution. In January, it was reported that the yearly toxic legal limit was broken by the city in just five days. So small it cannot be seen, apart from the black stains on the tissue after blowing your nose or when checking the train directions in the grey and obscure underground tunnels. London isn’t mysterious. It is just very dirty. With the issue of air pollution in mind, a group of young Londoners directed by CPT’s artistic director Brian Logan explores the arguments and risks of pollution in the city. The result is Fog Everywhere.

Music, Light, Laughter But Most of All Questions

Atresbandes, the experimental Catalan theatre company, are back in the UK with a tour of their latest show ALL IN, that stopped in London this week at the New Diorama Theatre. Formed by Mònica Almirall Batet, Miquel Segovia Garrell and Albert Pérez Hidalgo in 2008, the company aims to question everything its members encounter, believing that doubt and uncertainty are as important as mutual understanding. This time, they have also teamed up with performer Melcior Casals Castella - the first time that ATRESBANDES have created work with someone from outside the company. Despite having interviewed Atresbandes for Disclaimer, I was still surprised by the show. It takes you out of your comfort zone. It forces you to ask questions.

Weekend Poetry: The Boatman and Other Poems

Adam Day is the author of Model of a City in Civil War (Sarabande Books), and is the recipient of a Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship for Badger, Apocrypha, a PEN Emerging Writers Award, and an Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council. His poems have appeared in Boston Review, The Kenyon Review, American Poetry Review, ​Lana Turner, Poetry London, ​The Iowa Review, and elsewhere. He coordinates The Baltic Writing Residency in Sweden, Scotland, and Blackacre Nature Preserve.

Weekend Poetry: Four Suffolk Poems

Rebecca Goss grew up in Suffolk and returned to live in the county in 2013. She studied English at Liverpool John Moores University and completed an MA in Creative Writing at Cardiff University. Her pamphlet ‘Keeping Houston Time’, came out in 1997 with Slow Dancer Press. Her first full-length collection The Anatomy of Structures was published by Flambard Press in 2010. Her poems have appeared in many literary journals, anthologies and have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Arts online. Her second collection, Her Birth was published in 2013 by Carcanet/Northern House. It was shortlisted for the 2013 Forward Prize for Best Collection, won the Poetry category in The East Anglian Book Awards 2013, and in 2015 was shortlisted for The Warwick Prize for Writing and The Portico Prize for Literature. In 2014, Rebecca was selected for The Poetry Book Society’s Next Generation Poets.

"We Are Human": Putting the Stigma of Sex Work to Music and Challenging Preconceptions

SEX WORKER’S OPERA will be touring the UK, beginning in Cambridge, 4 November and culminating in London’s Ovalhouse, 2 December. The delightful and potentially ironic titled show aims to destroy the stereotypes and stigma that have long plagued the sex worker profession. Beginning its life in 2014, this is the fourth outing for the SEX WORKER’S OPERA. Across the cast, crew, directors and tech team, there are always at least 50% sex workers, with all creative processes sex worker led and all songs and scenes either written and sent in from sex workers or devised by all as a group. There are currently over 60 different stories sent in from 17 different countries and across 6 continents.

Weekend Poetry: Six Poems by Chris McCabe

Chris McCabe's poetry collections are The Hutton Inquiry, Zeppelins, THE RESTRUCTURE (all Salt Publishing) and, most recently, Speculatrix (Penned in the Margins). He has recorded a CD with the Poetry Archive was shortlisted for The Ted Hughes Award in 2013 for his collaborative book with Maria Vlotides,Pharmapoetica. He is writing a series of creative non-fiction books that aim to discover a great lost poet in one of London's Magnificent Seven cemeteries. This began in 2014 with In the Catacombs: a Summer Among the Dead Poets of West Norwood Cemetery (which was selected as an LRB Bookshop book of the year) and was followed in 2016 with Cenotaph South: Mapping the Lost Poets of Nunhead Cemetery. With Victoria Bean he is the co-editor of The New Concrete: Visual Poetry in the 21st Century (Hayward Publishing, 2015). He blogs at http://chris-mccabe.blogspot.co.uk/

Love, loss, and game design in Santiago

I was nervous about this book. The main character sounded like someone I could relate to and the Chilean setting intrigued me, but it's positioned as a millennial zeitgeist novel with gamer appeal, and I'm pushing forty with pop-cultural references that fade out in the late nineties. I needn't have worried: even I recognise Tetris and Super Mario, and with more mentions of Metallica than Facebook it's easy to forget the era and concentrate on the universal themes of love and stupidity. We Are The End is Gonzalo C Garcia's first novel and was published as a paperback in October 2017 by Galley Beggar Press. Set in Santiago, Chile this is a dark comedy about love, loss, and game design. Tomás is a failing game designer, a part-time university lecturer who hides under the desk whenever he's in the office, a man whose girlfriend has not only left him but gone to Antarctica.

Brutal, Bloody and Black Comedy - The Death of Stalin

What does it take to hold onto power? Steadfastness? A sense of duty? Or a swirling morass of scheming, in-fighting and paranoia? In The Death of Stalin it’s absolutely the latter, and it’s served up to such a degree that it makes the recent Conservative Party Conference look like a family picnic. The Death of Stalin, based on Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin’s graphic novel is the latest from master satirist Armando Iannucci, adapted from a French graphic novel. After skewering fictional Westminsters and Washingtons in The Thick of It and Veep, Ianucci now turns his gaze to a real-life chapter of history (and a dark one, at that). Setting a comedy in the Soviet Union is a tough ask, what with its tendency for purges and gulags. However, Iannucci and his co-writers tread the line perfectly.

Weekend Poetry: St John's Plan and Other Poems

Benedict is a journalist and lives in London. His poems have been published in Ambit, Magma, Orbis, Acumen, Other Poetry, Prole, Borderlines, Morning Star and South Bank Poetry. He’s a member of the King’s Poets, and makes poetry films – The Royal Oak was commissioned for Channel 4’s Random Acts. His first, Cul de sac, was shortlisted for the ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival competition, Berlin, then included in a Special Programme of ZEBRA highlights at the 24th International Short Film Festival, Berlin. Both films have since been shortlisted for other competitions and have appeared at a number of festivals, with The Royal Oak winning the Best Animation Audience Choice Award at the Purbeck Shorts competition at the Purbeck Film Festival. Benedict has recently been awarded three time and space residencies with METAL Southend. For more information, visit benedictnewbery.com

Weekend Fiction: Three Pieces of Flash Fiction

“Learn how to spear a frog neatly,” one crane once said to my crane, “and you’ll live like a king in the swamp,” though I only smiled my wise-ass smile as I overheard that bird go on and on. ‘Truth be told, my crane is lucky if he can pierce French toast, much less come up with the slippery master of hops and plunges. However, my crane’s not a dead loss by any stretch. He comes to me able to analyze the motives in your love letters, and he’s always more than willing to wade through the tall grass of your sentences and the squoosh of your emotions. The fine mornings he flies down to my patio, he wastes no time getting to work on your latest letter after I’ve tossed it into the sunlight gilding the picnic table and turned back to polishing off my breakfast.

ATRESBANDES: asking questions about the individual and the crowd

ATRESBANDES, Experimental Catalan theatre company, is going on tour in the UK from 23 October to 11 November with their new show ALL IN, a sharp, surreal and humorous exploration of the millennial condition and the tyranny of the crowd! ATRESBANDES is a company from Barcelona with an international reach, whose work centres on a collective creative process, inspired by a diverse range of disciplines. Formed by Mònica Almirall Batet, Miquel Segovia Garrell and Albert Pérez Hidalgo in 2008, the company aims to question everything its members encounter, believing that doubt and uncertainty are as important as mutual understanding. In part an experiment in form, the role of the outsider is taken by performer Melcior Casals Castella and marks the first time that ATRESBANDES have created work with someone from outside the company.

Sing-Along with the Scythians, Muso is Distinct, Inspiring and Infectious

Standing outside its neoclassical entrance on a mild October evening is itself a pleasure, but entering the British Museum is to enter a trove of human history. Last week, however, the museum hosted an unusual show.Playing with words, beats and imagination, Impropera presented Muso, an improvised performance centred on the museum’s rich cultural collections. First started as an experimental project in 2015 at the Grant Museum of Zoology in University College London, the opera returns with a series of events for 2017-2018. First on the line is the British Museum, where the performance is centred upon its recently-opened exhibition Scythians - Warriors of Ancient Siberia. What Impropera aims to do is to create a connection between the audience and the artefacts that, in their cases, may look cold and far away.

Challenging but funny, Big Foot carries big responsibilities

Dipping a slice of roti into a bit of curry, the audience enters one of the two theatre spaces at the Stratford Circus Arts Centre. A dancing Moon Gazer (Joseph Barnes Phillips) welcomes them. He/she is dressed very colourfully and she dances at the rhythm of a Trinidadian music as they take their seats. A couple of questions here and there to the public, laughter and the curry in the cups is finished. The lights go down, and Moon Gazer slowly suspends her fluid movements to tell a tale, of Sensible Bill and Stupidity Bill and the latter’s questioning on love. Big Foot easily and immediately engages. This original new script is intended to touch a chord many will find familiar: those butterflies in the stomach, the impulse of doing everything and to be everywhere now and together, the feeling of the head flying.

Weekend Poetry: Dominic and other poems

Maria Apichella;s debut collection Psalmody has been shorlisted for the Forward Prize in the catergory of Felix Dennis Best First Collection, one of the most sought-after accolades in the UK and Ireland for established and emerging poets. Her book won the Eyewear, Melita Hume Prize in 2015. Her pamphlet Paga was a winner of the 2014 Cinnamon Press Pamphlet competition. She wrote these as part of her PhD in English and Creative Writing at The University of Aberystwyth in Wales, which was home for ten years.

Where Others Fear to Tread, Guest is a Novel with a Social Conscience

Lisa Jones is the pseudonym of a real woman who, in 2003, fell in love with a man called Mark Kennedy. An environmental activist, Lisa was with Kennedy for seven years until, in 2010, suspicions grew that Kennedy wasn't who he said he was. Lisa and her friends investigated - and found that Kennedy was an undercover police officer who had infiltrated their group in order to gain information on the plans and objectives of the activists. The life that Lisa had built for seven years was a lie - going public with her story led to a public apology from the police force, and a public investigation into undercover police officers. What wasn't explored though - save for the odd newspaper interview - was the impact that this had on Lisa Jones.

Weekend Poetry: Three Poems

Khairani Barokka (b. Jakarta, 1985) is a writer, poet and artist in London. Among her honours, she was an NYU Tisch Departmental Fellow for her masters, Emerging Writers Festival’s (AUS) Inaugural International Writer-In-Residence (2013), and Indonesia’s first Writer-In-Residence at Vermont Studio Center (2011). Okka is the writer/performer/producer of, among others, a deaf-accessible, solo poetry/art show, Eve and Mary Are Having Coffee. It premiered at Edinburgh Fringe 2014 as Indonesia’s only representative, with a grant from HIVOS. She was recognized in 2014 by UNFPA as one of Indonesia’s “Inspirational Young Leaders Driving Social Change", for highly prolific, pioneering international work in inclusive, accessible arts. Her first full-length poetry collection, Rope, will be published by Nine Arches Press in October 2017.

Weekend Fiction: How I'm Spending My Afterlife

Beach Drive has always had the smoothest pavement in the city because that’s where the money lives. I remember how the steering wheel vibrated in my hands—maybe “trembled” would be a better way to put it—that afternoon as I drove along the edge of North Shore Park, and I made a mental note to check the tire pressure in the morning. But then it occurred to me that in three or four hours I would be dead, and the Porsche would become someone else’s problem. I nudged the gas pedal and the Boxster’s engine responded, as if it had been anticipating the weight of my foot all along, just like it always did. I slipped past slower-moving Jaguar S-Types and Lexus SUVs piloted by retired hedge fund managers and solitary platinum-blond soccer moms.

The Absurdity of Ignorance: The Monkey That Speaks of our Fears

“It’s a story that must be told.” Although we already know the end, although there is no historical document that would prove the events, although the interpretations of the legend are multiple and the facts narrated date from ages ago, there are plenty of reasons not to miss The Hartlepool Monkey by Carl Grose. Gyre & Gimble, in association with Fuel Theatre and Stratford Circus Arts Centre, presents a sparkling production, combining the fascination of a myth and a strong message for the present. Hate and fear are often connected, and both the feelings link with the unknown.

Radical and Disruptive, The Northern Fiction Alliance Signals Change

The atmosphere in Waterstones Deansgate in Manchester is positively electric, the room is crammed with people and the excitement is palpable. Around the room, tables are filled with copies of the latest works published by a range of Northern independent publishers including Comma Press, & Other Stories, Dead Ink, Blue Moose, and Peepal Tree Press. Joining forces to give the London centric publishing monopoly a run for its money, these publishers have banded together to form the Northern Fiction Alliance, a collective designed to establish the North as a hive of creativity in UK publishing.

A Perfect Match? Fever Pitch Becomes Opera

The high roof of the Union Chapel makes the chanting of the Arsenal supporters resound exactly like the singing of Sunday worshippers. The faith with which the two different audiences approach their weekend appointments looks more or less the same. In this Chapel, Fever Pitch – The Opera by the Highbury Opera Theatre, based on its namesake, the autobiographical book by Nick Hornby, premiered last week. A curious feature was the form chosen for this adaptation. Would an opera be the best medium for a football-centred story? Looking at other stage adaptations in London there are a couple of other examples where the source material is far from a theatre script; Obsession at the Barbican Theatre (2017) and American Idiot are just two that stand out. The former, Obsession, did not receive great applause from the critics, despite Jude Law in the starring role of the seductive Gino. The reason may fall on some odd artistic decisions.

Weekend Poetry: Juggernaut and other poems

John McCollough's poems have appeared in places including Poetry Review, London Magazine, The Guardian, Poetry London, Best British Poetry and now Disclaimer. His first collection The Frost Fairs (Salt, 2011) won the Polari First Book Prize. It was a Book of the Year for The Independent and The Poetry School, and a summer read for The Observer. John has produced commissioned poems for both The British Museum and The British Film Institute. His second collection Spacecraft is out now and published by Penned in the Margins. It was named one of The Guardian's Best Books for Summer 2016, and was a Book of the Year for both Sabotage Reviews Critic's Choice and the London Review bookshop.

Weekend Poetry: The ghost in our house and other poems

Fran Lock is a dog whisperer and poet, now living and working in London. Her debut collection Flatrock (Little Episodes) was launched in May 2011. Her work has appeared in various places, including Ambit, Poetry London, The Rialto, The Stinging Fly, and in Best British Poetry 2012 (Salt). Her second collection The Mystic and the Pig Thief (Salt) came out in September 2014. She is the winner of the 2014 Ambit Poetry Competition. She won third prize in The Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition 2014.

Sex, Drugs, and the End of the World: An Unflinching Examination of Self

In this wanton riot of individuality, we hear the story of a struggling author who works in a book shop by day and experiments with hard drugs for artistic inspiration by night. Michelle Tea writes in a fast, edgy style that reflects the nature of her character; it is chatty, modern, and slightly eccentric. The protagonist, also named Michelle, lives a life with no stop lights. She works. She parties. She writes. She works. She parties. She writes. The cycle continues until Michelle gets a particularly strong dose of recreational drugs and burns out, alienating those that love her most and attracting the attention of friends that are clearly no good for her. The writing is undeniably honest, holding very little back. There is a strong sense of freedom of expression, freedom on the page and in Michelle’s own life.

Weekend Fiction: Chances

Cyrus sat in the St. Louis County Courthouse next to his son, Octavian, and wondered what he could have done to save them all from the angry, disappointed look on the judge’s face when she asked his other son, Francis, to explain why he tried to rob the plaintiff as he entered his house. Francis kept his head down and said quietly, Because I needed to get high, ma’am. The plaintiff, a tall, thin, suited black man named George Davidson, whispered something to his lawyer before standing up and asking if he could make a request. The judge, took her glaring eyes from Francis and agreed. I’d like to ask that Mr. Munroe not be sent to jail, your honor, he said. They all turned to look at him and Cyrus held his breath. I have a niece and, well, she’s addicted to drugs.

Bold and Charismatic, Anne Siddons Takes us on a Tour of Loneliness

I always enjoy going to the Soho Theatre – it’s the fringe venue par excellence that is not afraid of staging shows for many different types of audiences and ages, such as How (not) to Live in Suburbia, advising under 18s to perhaps stay away. In this hour-long autobiographical piece containing live performance, narration, video, and new and old music hits, performance maker and writer Annie Siddons bares all by revealing the story of her struggle with loneliness and how this can affect and hurt so many more souls than we think. In her own words: “I’m an inherently gregarious person. I’m not the person that you would think would be lonely. But I became pathologically lonely, and it affected me really deeply, changed my personality and my outlook. It became impossible for me not to talk about it.”

Uncovering the Unsettling in the Everyday

I like a strand of darkness in my fiction so I was delighted when this collection landed on my doormat. Before I even turned to the unsettling tales within I was captivated by the design, the robin egg blue edging and the illustrations of selected birds' eggs after the dedication. Ornithology is, I believe, the first foray into book publishing by Manchester-based Confingo, better known for their magazine of fiction, poetry, and art. It was released in June 2017 and brings together sixteen of Nicholas Royle's stories featuring birds. This is Royle's third short story collection, one that we are promised will be disquieting and surreal but will also offer moments of black comedy. Several of the stories were written for horror anthologies but there is little of blood and guts here, with most tending to the weird and uncanny, and one (Gannets) that seemed like straightforward literary fiction.

A Year in Batley: Rugby League, Gay Pride and 21st Century Northern Culture

For a story about a small-town rugby league team, “Underdogs” contains multitudes. More than a great sports book, it is a gripping and witty insight into a neglected, working-class community struggling to find its place in a changing world. Redolent of “Friday Night Lights”, author Tony Hannan does for Batley, West Yorkshire what that classic did for Odessa, West Texas. The year Hannan spends embedded with the Batley Bulldogs is tumultuous. On the field, the modestly resourced club have their most successful season in years. Off it, their colossus of a captain, Keegan Hirst, comes out as gay. The Brexit referendum highlights the long-ignored struggles of towns like Batley – most tragically of all when the popular local MP, Jo Cox, is murdered. Meanwhile, issues of racial integration and economic decline remain unresolved. The support Hirst receives from within the club and (mostly) beyond as Britain’s only openly gay, active professional rugby player is a heart-warming demonstration of how, in some respects, society has changed for the better.

Visual effects: Are we losing or expanding creativity?

Why are you going to the cinema this weekend? Are you watching the latest Marvel production, a comedy, or an action-packed movie? Films are not limited to these big categories, but it wouldn't be difficult to group many of the current productions in with any of them. One of the most recent exceptions would be Dunkirk. Although historical movies can't do without post-production and, now more than ever, without an increasingly present process: visual effects.

A Deeply Moving Portrait of a Father’s Final Years

The Old King in His Exile by Arno Geiger is one of the most exciting offerings published this year by literature in English translation specialists And Other Stories. It marks a departure from their usual fare of literary fiction, as it is Geiger’s memoir of his experiences caring for his father, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, a work of literary nonfiction if you will. Expertly and sensitively translated by And Other Stories founder Stefan Tobler, the book moves through the decades of August Geiger’s life, from his birth in the Austrian Alps into a farming, schnapps-making family in 1926, to his conscription into the army as a “schoolboy soldier” during World War II, an experience that left an indelible but unspoken mark upon him, right up to his later years, spent in the grips of dementia.

Facing Violence and Oppression, A Parade of Brutal Disillusionment

Picking up How to Be a Kosovan Bride my automatic response was a resigned sigh of ‘all quiet on the Western Front’ – yet another human-fates-and-bravery-in-a-war-torn-era tale. War has definitely been thoroughly used and explored in literature, and there is no end in sight: Hosseini hit the target with his Afghanistan novels; the BBC Spitfires WWII period drama and modern crisis series at a steady pace; Nolan blew the box office with Dunkirk; and Tolstoy is a permanent victor with that War and Peace of his. War as a backdrop is a safe bet to provide enough story line potential for a brick of a novel (looking at you Tolstoy) or a seemingly never-ending series thereof (the Sharpe saga, anyone?).

Weekend Fiction: Artefacts

Normally these sorts of letters are about his Mum. It’s been a few months since the last wrangle and the postman’s been on time for once, so that’s something. Brian takes the official-looking envelope into the kitchen and sets it down on the counter. 25 Castleton Road. There’s no hurry to open it. He’s used to throwing forms or money at what’s left of her problems. All in good time. First he clunks the mechanical arm of his espresso machine and spoons fine earthy grounds into the basket he cleaned out, as always, after yesterday morning’s coffee. He’s not the type to leave muck in his kitchen overnight. He wipes spillage off the marble worktop and sets the machine trickling. The emerging smell welcomes him into the world and makes him feel that a day’s work will be possible after all.

Nostalgia, Politics, and Drums: Edinburgh - A Week in Review

The Wardrobe Ensemble, who have previously looked at relationships and sex in the 1970s and how it still relates to today have in their latest endeavour jumped forward a couple of decades to 1997. The setting is a local comprehensive school, looking at the staff and student relationships within the context of both Tony Blair’s recent election victory and the UK’s success that year in the Eurovision song contest. The story is mostly told through the impressions of a German classroom assistant Tobias who is new to the School, exploring many of the issues and events that were topical in 1997, from New Labour to Tamagotchi’s. The cast play both students and teachers, which means some quick changes.

Charismatic Villains Turn Fargo’s Dark Comedy into an Epic TV Saga

“This is a true story,” says Fargo’s opening tagline. “At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.” This is an untrue but apt prefix for an iconic tale of bloodshed and deceit. Fargo was the first film by Joel and Ethan Coen to receive an Academy Award, winning the 1996 Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. With its dark humour, vivid neo-noir cinematography and lush Carter Burwell soundtrack, Fargo is a crime drama typifying the Coen brothers’ unorthodox style of filmmaking. In 1987, Minnesota car salesman Jerry Lundergaard conspires with thugs Gaear Grimsrud and Carl Showalter in Fargo, North Dakota to kidnap Lundergaard’s wife and blackmail his wealthy stepfather into handing over a lucrative ransom.

A Slap in The Face for the Apathetic

I’m sure I am not alone in feeling scared, uncertain, angry, and powerless in the current political climate. Between Brexit and Trump, the world is a scary, unsettling place. As always, when in doubt, it is often best to bury your head in a book which challenges your world view or at the very least serves as a suitable distraction from the horror of day to day life. That’s my motto anyway, cumbersome as it is. The world-weary volume serving to distract from the news of Nazi protests and impending nuclear doom this week was Begat: an entertainment for the Trump epoch by Richard Major, writing as Felix Culpepper, published by Indie Books.

Life, Death, and Buddhism

Life is a tricky thing. What is the purpose of it all? Where are we going? Who am I? These are three questions that bombard the mind of Gameson’s protagonist, Win, as she has an existential crisis of Buddhist proportions. She undergoes a death of self, a destruction of her memories and personality in order to attain enlightenment. It is the ultimate form of impermanence, a recognition that the soul does not truly exist. Who she is has nothing to do with her past, but is determined only by her mindset and her level of focus in each and every new moment. She stands aloof from her family and utilises an approach of non-attachment to everyone and everything. And as such the dangers of such a mindset are explored with touches of humour and equal measures of seriousness.

Weekend Fiction: International English

A voice tells him to make himself comfortable. A disembodied, non-British voice, its accent impossible to place but with the curled vowels of American English. An international-school voice. Female, of course – but then they always are. Clients find female voices more appealing than male ones, regardless of the gender or orientation of the client themselves. Much research has gone into confirming this. He looks to the four corners of the ceiling. No evidence of any kind of public address system. The voice may as well be coming from inside his own head. Once again the voice - this ideal voice - tells him to make himself comfortable. But this only makes him feel less relaxed, as if he’d been doing it incorrectly before and now needs to be corrected. He is not in his world. That’s how Bob would describe it, if anyone were to ask.

Weekend Fiction: Red Among Em

Usually it’s Pendril and the Celt what bring me the news from the villages tween ere and Croydon. They come to me when they’s passing through Penge on the way to the markets up London Wall way. They tell me who’s sick round their parts, I tell em what I’ll need to make their folk better, and then they fetch it for me from the herb sellers at the Wall. I don’t pay em for their troubles, but Ailsa creates certain protections for em now and then, and that’s payment enough for any man. What’s the matter with you two? says I when I stepped out to meet em that last time. They was busy tyin up their orses like they normally do, but even in that ordinary endeavour I could see a sombreness about em. It’s Swayne,Mister Apothecary, says Pendril, when they was done. The Celt took off is cap and came and stood beside Pendril oldin a sack. Pendril just put is ands together in front of isself, all respectful like. E’s in a very bad way, sir.

Interrogating The Nature Of Citizenship With Immersive Art

It cannot have escaped anyone’s notice that a monumental event occurred which shook the UK to its core, divided communities and severed relationships. No, I’m not referring to the Great British Bake Off’s shift to Channel 4 but rather Brexit. Ah, Brexit, I seem to have spent much of my time in post-Brexit Britain considering my future, my political beliefs and the beliefs of those around me, my role in society and how much impact I can have in changing the world. It appears I am not alone. Little Soldier Productions have taken these feelings of disempowerment, confusion and anger alongside a desire for action and personal engagement and created Derailed, the latest production from this innovative, exciting theatre company.

Poetry with A Kick and A Bite, Beck’s Words Are A Call To Arms

So, after yet another hectic weekend, the scourge of the summer months, some rest was required. Being of a relatively antisocial bent at times, I wanted a chance to sit by myself and simply exist. In my extensive experience of avoiding others, a good book is always a worthwhile companion and so I managed to form a delightfully withdrawn bubble of isolation for a short while this week. The trusty defence against social intrusion was Virtual Living by Gary Beck. Published by Thurston Howl Publications, this is a collection of Beck’s poetry previously published in a wide array of publications including Boston Poetry magazine, collated for the first time into a slim, snappy volume. Virtual Living is a ‘revealing glimpse’ into our ever-evolving relationship with technology, particularly our relationship with online spaces.

Weekend Fiction: The Arrival

Inspired by Rene Magritte’s L'Empire des Lumieres. Lalice watches the last train arrive, its passengers spilling out into the platform in a blur of shadows and setting sun. Most are in a rush to get back home, footsteps haste and barely touching the floor. Only one took his time, and Lalice studies him as he leisurely walks out of the carriage with his hands in his pockets. He was looking around. Lalice caught a glimpse of his unnerving blue eyes. Before her, the train hums, gets ready to leave. In the stranger's distracted wanderings, he collides with another. The last of the passengers disappear beyond the flashing green exit signs, and the doors are now beeping. The automatic doors shut, and the train rumbles back to life.

Ten Must-See British LGBT Films of the Last Fifty Years

The story of a man caught between two lovers - one male, one female - was the first film to feature a gay kiss. It's one of the finest examples of British social realist cinema and reached a surprising level of mainstream success given that it came out only 4 years after decriminalisation (it featured stars like Peter Finch and Glenda Jackson, and earned multiple Oscar & Bafta nominations). It demonstrates that, while lawmakers were still blustering about deciding what was legally 'proper', real people's lives and sexualities were far more complex.

Visually Spellbinding, Celebrating Eighty Years of Hockney

Despite having visited the City of Lights countless times and almost exhausted all its major league tourist attractions, I'd somehow never found myself scaling the exposed plumbing of the Pompidou Centre until last Wednesday. Whilst these tubular escalators offer spectacular views all over the city, on a hot summer's day one does feel somewhat like an ant being boiled alive by a sadistic magnifying glass-wielding schoolboy. They are currently hosting a summer exhibition celebrating the life and work of perhaps Britain's most famous 20th-century artist, David Hockney.

Last Resort, Tom Barnes talks Enhanced Interrogation, Holiday Resorts, and his New Guantanamo Play

Guantanamo Bay is a ridiculous place. It could quite easily have been conceived by George Orwell or J.G. Ballard. Ironically enough, George Orwell’s books are banned from the base, as Clive Stafford Smith of Reprieve found out when he would take books to a British detainee named Shaker Aamer. Originally, 1984 was allowed in but Shaker Aamer’s essay on what the book was really about, opened the eyes of the otherwise ignorant guards, and these rules became more stringent. ‘Unbelievable’ really is the word.

Potent and Relevant, Polly Aitkin Celebrates Nature

The lake is crystal blue, shimmering in the summer sun. It is surrounded by healthy trees on three sides. I sit on the fourth, overlooking the Nene Valley nature park with Basic Nest Architecture in my hand. It is poetry written to be read outdoors. It is a celebration of nature and all that she entails. Indeed, in the Wordsworthian tradition, the poem ‘Lake Fever’ evokes the importance of nature to humans. It is home; it is a refuge: it is where we are meant to be. For Wordsworth, the Lake District was the absolute epitome of this; it was his poetic muse; thus, he spent his life there writing.

Exploring the Human Condition, ZU-UK is Disrupting the Expected

Theatre innovator ZU-UK was born from the collaboration between Zecora Ura and Para Active, two companies engaged in alternative experimental theatre for over two decades. 'In 2006, we came together to create Hotel Medea' explains ZU-UK’s Co-Artistic Director Jorge Lopes Ramos. 'This was an overnight piece where we refined our approach to game design, participation, interactivity, live performance and multi-disciplinary innovation, later also with the inclusion of technology.'

Weekend Fiction: Juan the Magnificent

Juan the orphan joined the Circus Invisible on the afternoon of his ninth birthday, but he spent that morning, like any other, wandering his neighbourhood of Sant Pere looking for something to eat. Stomach grumbling, he picked his way through the darkened alleyways hung with loops of washing and lined with convenience stores, hair parlours and family shops that only sold pyjamas or underpants. He shivered in the spring air and ran halfway down Calle Princesa. He turned a corner and almost collided with the other members of his gang, Pepé and Slippery-Iñaki who were lurking opposite an ATM smoking cigarette ends and trading mock blows. "M-m-morning, c-c-compa's," said Juan.

Beautiful and Thought-Provoking, Refugee Tales Gives a Voice to the Unheard

For me, the migrant crisis has always felt like a crisis the news media is unequipped to deal with. While terrorist attacks or natural disasters are presented to us with the ease of a cinematic finale; with images that force our jaws to hit the floor as we comprehend what exactly has happened and what it means, whenever I see the images of refugees like Aziz, arriving by some fraudulent description of a boat, I am left with a great big void where comprehension should sit. We don’t and cannot see the Syrian civil war that interrupted Aziz’s life as an engineering student or that visited ‘despots, droughts, and deities’ to his country. We don’t see the packed-out vans or the threats of torture and death.

an Exploration of death, Estrangement, Trans-Atlantic Tensions, and cultural divides

Upcoming on the 3rd August from renowned indie press Myriad Editions is The Favourite, an assured, compelling debut by the elusive, London-born Manhattan-based S.V. Berlin, who is very much a writer to watch. Myriad Editions prides itself on unearthing and nurturing fresh literary talent, reaping nominations and awards in the process, such as the Scottish Book Trust Pick of the Year in 2014 for Liam Murray Bell’s The Busker and the People’s Choice Wales Book of the Year award in the same year for Tyler Keevil’s The Drive. Aside from their imprint of diverse fiction, from bone-chilling crime thrillers to scintillating literary debuts, Myriad also boasts a wide array of graphic books and atlases, such as Una’s Becoming Unbecoming, a memoir of male violence in 1970s Yorkshire.

Beautiful and Bullshit Free, Emily Morris’ Memoir is Amusing and Affecting

Your early twenties. A lot of us were at University then - with the accompanying drinking and debauchery - Late nights, late mornings and the occasional lecture. What seemed like moments later would come the dull terror of starting a first “grown-up” job, discovering the horrors of taxes, bills and grubby house-shares. All fairly awful, but dealt with easily, normally with the aid of the cheapest bottle of wine on offer in the corner shop. Now take those feelings of uncertainty, doubt and unpreparedness that we all felt, and imagine that you found out you were expecting a child too - those boozy times swapped for nappy changes, sore nipples and endless sleepless nights.

Guest – The Story Behind the Story

SJ Bradley is a writer from Leeds, UK, whose short fiction has been published in the US and UK. She is the organiser of Leeds-based DIY literary social Fictions of Every Kind, an award-winning editor, and the director of the Northern Short Story Festival. Her second novel, Guest, will shortly be published by Dead Ink Books and here, she talks to Disclaimer about the influences behind the work and allows us a peek at an extract: The character of Samhain, an angry punk squatter who never knew his father, came to me one day as I was making fliers. I was my friend's basement at the time, rolling the treadle on an antiquated, ancient letterpress printing machine. Printing ink on cards, then alternating the fliers, still wet with ink, with old newspapers.

Joy Division said it best…

BJ McNeill’s celebrated debut play ‘Torn Apart (Dissolution)’ is back in town for a month, and lovers of West End Fringe theatre won’t want to miss this chance to catch a future classic in the full flush of its youth. ‘Torn Apart’ is a fascinating, fleshy, deeply challenging work, and this production sees six stunning young performers giving their all, and more, in the Hope Theatre’s sweatily intimate upstairs space.

Anarchy in the Emerald City

Nobody’s here for the story. As the Scarecrow points out, while nursing a pint and grinning fiercely, ‘Sure, no-one’s seen this fucking story before …’ Dorothy blushes, wondering whether her straw-headed friend was joking when he told her he was gay, or if it was his later pronouncement, that he wants to come back to Kansas and fuck her brains out, that was serious. Either way, Dorothy and her glove-puppet dog are a long way from home right now, and the audience is hanging on a drunk Irishman’s every eye-rolling pratfall while a lanky cross-dressing Wicked Witch plays a laconic keyboard.