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September 2020

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No Fixed Abode by Maeve McClenaghan
17th September 2020

Read an extract from
No Fixed Abode by Maeve McClenaghan

 

No Fixed Abode

 

'A sensitive expose that illustrates the complexities of modern homelessness.
Moving, poetic and as rousing as Orwell.' Cash Carraway, author of Skint Estate

As the number of rough sleepers skyrockets across the UK, No Fixed Abode by Maeve McClenaghan gives a face and a voice to those we so easily forget in our society. Thoroughly researched and readable, this is a devastating, powerful and humane book that deserves to be read widely, so that as a country we can start to address the problem.

Here you can read an exclusive extract as McClenaghan builds her research

 


 

You are homeless. Do not pass go.

 

After I left Richard idling contently in the glow of McDonald’s strip lights, I found myself wandering the streets bewildered. I had been struck by his description of his first night without a place to stay, how he had walked for miles without purpose, simply to avoid having to sit down and accept defeat. How he had run out of options other than sleeping rough. I found myself scanning doorways and side alleys, squinting for clues that the spot had been someone’s bed for the night: the body-flattened cardboard, the cigarette-butt borders. ‘You never forget your first night out,’ Richard had told me.
          But what I still didn’t understand was what came before that night. How did people wind up with no other option in the first place?
          The support system had changed many times in the decades that Richard had been experiencing homelessness, but these days it was supposedly better than ever. Local councils had legal duties laid out in legislation, duties to help and support those in need. And yet, the more I talked with Jon and Richard, the more I read about the reality, I came to realize that people were still being turned away every single day. Back at the office, and during my digging around, I had come across figures from councils that showed that the number of people approaching them for help was on the rise, but many were accepting fewer and fewer people as genuinely homeless.
          I was in the middle of wondering why that could be when the phone rang. On the other end was a woman, calling because she was angry. She was working for an organization that supported people who were facing homelessness and one man she knew had been turned down by the council because he wasn’t deemed at risk enough. He had epilepsy and suffered from inflammation of the oesophagus, depression and alcohol addiction. The council had sent off his records to a medical assessment company who, without ever meeting the man, had given their opinion on his case – that he was not that vulnerable – and the council turned him down. When the man started to rapidly lose weight and suffer vomiting and diarrhoea, the woman tried to get the council to review their decision but they stuck to it, noting that the new symptoms ‘could be a side effect of his alcoholism’. It turned out that the man had terminal cancer. He ended up sleeping in a shed until a few days before he died. ‘Years ago somebody with [his] conditions would have been accepted as “priority need”,’ the woman told me. ‘The shortage of accommodation means local authorities just waffle their way round how somebody with those disabilities can cope just fine living on the streets.’
          I put down the phone, shell-shocked. It was incredible that councils could refuse to help people so ill and, indeed, that they were outsourcing advice on such decisions to an arms-length organization which would rarely meet the person in question.
          But I soon learnt I shouldn’t have been surprised. I was about to meet another man who had suffered rejection by the system, a man who on paper really had no right to still be alive. David.
 

***
 

David had barely heard the housing officer as she declared his fate; he was trying to focus through the hunger pangs. They were closeted away in a small office and it felt as though the world was closing in. The woman sitting across from him was explaining that, because he was an able-bodied,
single man, he wasn’t considered ‘priority need’: vulnerable enough for emergency housing. ‘I’m sorry, there isn’t much more I can do. My hands are tied,’ she’d said to him.
          Not priority need. It was almost laughable.


I met David in a park less than a mile from the council office where this conversation had taken place. He jumped up to greet me warmly, his gangly limbs reaching out to pull me into a hug, trapping my hand – out-reached in an abortive handshake – between us.
          Over the course of a little less than two years, his life had blown up. A tall, lean man with dirty blond hair and twinkling, pale-blue eyes, David had worked for most of the 1990s as a chef in the army. He’d travelled the world, cooked for the Queen and, after leaving the army in 1997 and moving to
London, he worked first as head chef at the British Film Institute Southbank, then set up his own pub restaurant. The hours were long, the stress intense and David drank heavily. On Easter Sunday 2011, as families buzzed into the restaurant and the food orders piled in, David started to lose feeling down
the left-hand side of his body. His speech became slurred. He was having a stroke.
          After being raced to the hospital, he made a fast recovery, so much so that he was soon back at work. But the exhausting pace of a professional kitchen was too much for his weakened state and he quit soon after.
          The following months brought body blow after body blow of misfortune. In the space of two years his boyfriend left him, he was diagnosed with colon cancer, then neurosyphilis and HIV. It was almost too much to process. One day, he was waiting at the council office with a friend when a doctor called with yet more bad news: he had been diagnosed with hepatitis C. David’s response had been blasé. ‘OK,’ he’d said as he hung up the phone. His friend stared at him askance, shocked at the news, but David had barely flinched; he had become numb to it all.
          Ill and bewildered, he knew he couldn’t go back to the intensity of working as a chef so he enrolled on a university art course. For a time, art became his therapy. But, unable to work and, being a student, not entitled to any housing benefits, David was struggling to pay both the £6,500 tuition fee
and the £480 a month in rent for the flat he shared with a friend out of the meagre savings he had.
          He missed several months’ rent and he knew the landlord and his flatmate were becoming increasingly irate. Ashamed and fearful of the anger that might be unleashed if he showed his face, David found any excuse not to go home. He stayed on friends’ sofas or rotated between a house party one night, to a sex party the next – anywhere just to have a bed for the night. He got used to turning up at the flats of friends’ friends, strangers who he’d ask if he could use the shower, with some excuse for why he needed it. Anything to avoid facing up to the unpaid bills at home.
          When he went to the council for help they said there was nothing they could do until he had actually been evicted. ‘Bring us the Section 21 notice,’ they said. But there was never any official letter. Instead he ventured home one day to find the landlord had changed the locks.
          Which is how he found himself at the council housing team, presenting as homeless.
          ‘But surely you . . . surely you would be classed as vulnerable?’ I spluttered.
          No. As David was an army veteran, the council worker explained she would put him on the waiting list for a specialist Veteran Housing organization, but the wait could be years. I later looked into that and it turned out that, as an army veteran, David should have been offered extra support. It is well known those leaving the army suffer all kinds of mental health issues, and it is generally acknowledged that by serving one’s country in the armed services you are owed an extra level of protection on return. Yet in 2014 the Ministry of Defence estimated (probably conservatively) that about 3 per cent of London’s rough-sleepers – more than 200 people – were former military personnel. The council David went to was later criticized in an academic report for its online assessment tool, which incorrectly informed veterans that they would be ineligible to join the housing register. But he hadn’t known that at the time, so he’d just accepted it.
          More than thirty people become homeless every single day across Britain; now David was one of them. Eventually, he ended up living in his car, a cramped Peugeot 206. A tall man, six foot three inches, David had to stretch his body across both front seats, a pillow over the gearstick, his legs in the front-passenger footwell, to try and get any sleep. When he couldn’t afford fuel, he wasn’t even able to put on the heater. He’d shiver through the night, trying to ignore the cold by scribbling sketches in a small notepad.
          ‘I thought, I should be able to make this work,’ David explained sadly. After all, he had been in the army, he was a man who knew how to survive. In the mornings he would furtively find a hidden spot on the residential road he had parked in to go to the toilet. He ate fruit off the trees in nearby parks and scouted out the best cafes and delicatessens, loitering outside and waiting for the staff to throw away the uneaten food at the end of the day, then picking it out of the bin to eat. His weight dropped to a precarious 65 kilograms. That is how David lived. Sick. Alone. Afraid. He had done what he was supposed to – he went to the council for help – but there was none to be had.

 


 

Maeve McClenaghan

Maeve McClenaghan is an award-winning investigative journalist at The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and founder of the popular, critically-acclaimed podcast, The Tip Off. She has led investigations for BBC radio, the Guardian and Buzzfeed UK. Maeve has won the Bar Council's Legal Reporting Award, the innovation awards at the British Journalism Awards and the European Press Prize. She has also been a finalist for four Amnesty Media Awards, the Paul Foot Award and the Orwell Prize in 2016 and 2018.

 

Overpaid, Oversexed & Over There by David Hepworth
16th September 2020

Read an extract from
Overpaid, Oversexed & Over There by David Hepworth

 

Overpaid, Oversexed & Over There by David Hepworth

 

In his new book Overpaid, Oversexed & Over There, David Hepworth looks to the States, and the incredible impact The Beatles and British music had over there. The Beatles landing in New York in February 1964 was the opening shot in a cultural revolution nobody predicted. Suddenly the youth of the richest, most powerful nation on earth was trying to emulate the music, manners and the modes of a rainy island that had recently fallen on hard times.

 

Who would've thought something as simple as a hairstyle would cause such mania? Here you can read an axclusive extract about just that

 


 

This being the United States it wasn’t long before the psychologists weighed in. One Joyce Brothers wrote a column explaining ‘why they go wild over the Beatles’. To be fair it took a woman to point out that there was an attractively feminine side to their performances. She noted how the girls in the audience screamed when Paul and George closed on the same microphone and shook their heads. When they did this their hair did something hair had never previously been seen to do in the entire history of American popular entertainment. It moved.
 

The fuss about the Beatles’ hair, which in truth wasn’t a great deal longer than the average, served only to illustrate how many years it had been since America looked at itself in the mirror. The length of their hair wasn’t the issue. The way they wore it was.
 

The prevailing American hairstyles of the post-war years, which had been beamed into Europe’s living rooms via TV sitcoms, had valued control at all costs. This applied equally to men and women. American women would visit the salon once a week to have their hair ‘set’ so that it might maintain its shape throughout the following weekend. Men, many of whom had formed their idea of an acceptable hairstyle in the armed services, would have their hair cut every three weeks for fear that anyone should suggest it was anything that could be described as ‘scruffy’. The same conventions were imposed on the rest of the world by Hollywood. In those movie epics popular at the time which were set in the ancient world the hair of heroes such as Kirk Douglas as Spartacus was kept under such firm hold that even a duel to the death in the Circus Maximus would be unlikely to disarrange a single strand. Leading ladies such as Gina Lollobrigida’s Queen of Sheba had clearly spent an inordinate amount of time under whatever passed for a drier back in those biblical days. As Sibbie O’Sullivan writes in her memoir of being a teenage fan at the time, ‘if teenage girls screamed when the Beatles shook their heads they could have simply been responding to seeing hair actually move, given how flat-topped, greased up or encased in military grade hairspray American hair had become by 1964’.
 

None of this was taking place in a vacuum. By 1964 the British hairdresser Vidal Sassoon had already built a reputation for his revolutionary approach to cutting the hair of fashionable women. Sassoon, who took his inspiration from modern architecture, moved the emphasis from the dressing of hair to the drama of its cutting, ideally in ways that complemented the bone structure of his client. After Sassoon, women could wash their hair, let it dry, and the severity of the cut would take care of the rest. ‘You could even,’ recalled one early client wonderingly, as though lucky enough to have been present at the invention of sex, ‘run your hands through it.’
 

This sensuality was a galaxy away from small-town America where it was believed that hair, like the emotions, was best kept under tight control. Bruce Springsteen of Freehold, New Jersey, who was fourteen at the time, recalled just how much was at stake when people talked about hair. ‘It is almost impossible to explain today the effect of the hair. In 1964 Freehold was redneck ugly. If you were going to grow your hair you ran the risk of having to get into a fight to earn your right to do so.’
 

This had already been an issue before the Beatles came along. Back in May 1963, Life magazine had carried a story about hair length and young boys. This had been occasioned by photographs of the two-year-old John Kennedy, the son of the President, with hair which strayed slightly over his ears. The writer told a personal story of how her own young son preferred to wear his hair at the same modest length. She added, controversially, that she had been prepared to support him no matter how much the barber argued that he should be ‘given a butch’ (a butch was the kind of crop favoured by the nation’s heroes of the time, the astronauts). However, even she was forced to give in when a delegation of mothers came to see her and begged her to cut her son’s hair because they were worried about the effect his hair length was having on their own sons.
 

In December 1964, after almost a full year of American Beatlemania, a Connecticut schoolboy called Edward Kores was involved in a dispute with the education authorities at state level. He had been sent home from school because of his bangs (the American term for hair combed forward into a fringe rather than to the side). He had been dismissed even though, in the words of the New York Times, ‘unlike the British singing group’ he had his hair short at the sides and back. His school had still objected to the style. His parents supported the boy, arguing that the school had infringed his
constitutional rights.
 

Whereas similar squabbles in the UK would rarely amount to much more than a few headteachers being quoted in the Daily Mirror and an opportunistic would-be pop star called David Jones popping up on the BBC’s current affairs programme Tonight, announcing himself as being from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long- Haired Men, in America the same argument would soon be about the nature of the republic and would involve the enlistment of the Founding Fathers on both sides of the argument. Such disputes didn’t readily go away. Fully two years after the Beatles’ arrival members of a Dallas rock band called Sounds Unlimited actually sued their school in federal court over the length of their hair. They eventually took their case to the Supreme Court. The school in this case prevailed. Two members of the band cut their hair and joined the US Marines.
 

It is only overstating the case slightly to say that in pop music, hair is everything. The Beatles understood this. One of the first things John Lennon said to Ringo Starr when the latter agreed to join the band was ‘the sideburns will have to go’. The manner in which they choose to wear their hair is one of the few things artists can agree on early in their career, and this usually happens long before they sign a contract or see the inside of a recording studio. The look is who they are. Once they’ve arrived at a look they are unlikely to depart from it. Long before Elvis Presley had made a record he was known around Memphis for the care with which he swept back his hair and the trouble he went to to dye it to achieve the Tony Curtis shade he favoured. Artists like Little Richard were 50 per cent hair, often literally. The Ronettes sported the towering beehives of girls who wished to be taken as slightly older and possibly a tad sluttier than they really were.
 

In the year 1964 it was impossible for anybody to talk about the Beatles without mentioning their hair. It appeared to be, much as it was with Samson, the source of their strength. That snap decision John and Paul had taken during a short holiday in Paris in 1961 to abandon the last vestiges of their swept-back rocker pompadours and instead to embrace the choirboy style favoured by the Parisians of the nouvelle vague was, it turned out, the most consequential creative decision they ever took. In Liverpool it instantly defined them against the competition. In America it defined them against the adults of an entire continent and invited its youth to join them in this great revolution of the head.
 


 

David Hepworth

 

David Hepworth has been writing, broadcasting and speaking about music and media since the seventies. He was involved in the launch and editing of magazines such as Smash Hits, Q, Mojo and The Word, among many others. He was one of the presenters of the BBC rock music programme The Old Grey Whistle Test and one of the anchors of the corporation's coverage of Live Aid in 1985. He has won the Editor of the Year and Writer of the Year awards from the Professional Publishers Association and the Mark Boxer award from the British Society of Magazine Editors. He lives in London, dividing his time between writing for a variety of newspaper and magazines, speaking at events, broadcasting work, podcasting at www.wordpodcast.co.uk and blogging at www.whatsheonaboutnow.blogspot.co.uk.

Author Photo © Imogen Hepworth

 

The Weirdest People in the World by Joseph Henrich
10th September 2020

Discover The Weirdest People in the World
by Joseph Henrich

 

The Weirdest People in the World by Joseph Henrick

 

Do you identify yourself by your profession or achievements, rather than your family network?
Do you cultivate your own unique attributes and personal goals?
If so, perhaps you are WEIRD: raised in a society that is Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic.

 

In his staggering new work The Weirdest People in the World Joseph Henrich has written an exhilarating new account of how psychology, culture and institutions co-evolved to produce the Western mind, that is sure to surprise, fascinate and shines a brilliant light on the cultural evolution of PEOPLE.  Here you can read an exclusive extract.

 



Who are you?
 

Perhaps you are WEIRD, raised in a society that is Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic. If so, you’re likely rather psychologically peculiar. Unlike much of the world today, and most people who have ever lived, we WEIRD people are highly individualistic, self-obsessed, control-oriented, nonconformist, and analytical. We focus on ourselves—our attributes, accomplishments, and aspirations—over our relationships and social roles. We aim to be “ourselves” across contexts and see inconsistencies in others as hypocrisy rather than flexibility. Like everyone else, we are inclined to go along with our peers and authority figures; but we are less willing to conform to others when this conflicts with our own beliefs, observations, and preferences. We see ourselves as unique beings, not as nodes in a social network that stretches out through space and back in time. When acting, we prefer a sense of control and the feeling of making our own choices.
 

When reasoning, WEIRD people tend to look for universal categories and rules with which to organize the world, and mentally project straight lines to understand patterns and anticipate trends. We simplify complex phenomena by breaking them down into discrete constituents and assigning properties or abstract categories to these components—whether by imagining types of particles, pathogens, or personalities. We often miss the relationships between the parts or the similarities between phenomena that don’t fit nicely into our categories. That is, we know a lot about individual trees but often miss the forest.
 

WEIRD people are also particularly patient and often hardworking. Through potent self-regulation, we can defer gratification—in financial rewards, pleasure, and security—well into the future in exchange for discomfort and uncertainty in the present. In fact, WEIRD people sometimes take pleasure in hard work and find the experience purifying.
 

Paradoxically, and despite our strong individualism and self-obsession, WEIRD people tend to stick to impartial rules or principles and can be quite trusting, honest, fair, and cooperative toward strangers or anonymous others. In fact, relative to most populations, we WEIRD people show relatively less favoritism toward our friends, families, co-ethnics, and local communities than other populations do. We think nepotism is wrong, and fetishize abstract principles over context, practicality, relationships, and expediency.
 

Emotionally, WEIRD people are often racked by guilt as they fail to live up to their culturally inspired, but largely self-imposed, standards and aspirations. In most non-WEIRD societies, shame—not guilt—dominates people’s lives. People experience shame when they, their relatives, or even their friends fail to live up to the standards imposed on them by their communities. Non-WEIRD populations might, for example, “lose face” in front of the judging eyes of others when their daughter elopes with someone outside their social network. Meanwhile, WEIRD people might feel guilty for taking a nap instead of hitting the gym even though this isn’t an obligation, and no one will know. Guilt depends on one’s own standards and self-evaluation, while shame depends on societal standards and public judgment.
 

These are just a few examples, the tip of that psychological iceberg I mentioned, which includes aspects of perception, memory, attention, reasoning, motivation, decision-making, and moral judgment. But the questions I hope to answer in this book are: How did WEIRD populations become so psychologically peculiar? Why are they different? Tracking this puzzle back into Late Antiquity, we’ll see that one sect of Christianity drove the spread of a particular package of social norms and beliefs that dramatically altered marriage, families, inheritance, and ownership in parts of Europe over centuries. This grassroots transformation of family life initiated a set of psychological changes that spurred new forms of urbanization and fueled impersonal commerce while driving the proliferation of voluntary organizations, from merchant guilds and charter towns to universities and transregional monastic orders, that were governed by new and increasingly individualistic norms and laws. You’ll see how, in the process of explaining WEIRD psychology, we’ll also illuminate the exotic nature of WEIRD religion, marriage, and family. If you didn’t know our religions, marriages, and families were so strange, buckle up.
 

Understanding how and why some European populations became psychologically peculiar by the Late Middle Ages illuminates another great puzzle: the “rise of the West.” Why did western European societies conquer so much of the world after about 1500? Why did economic growth, powered by new technologies and the Industrial Revolution, erupt from this same region in the late 18th century, creating the waves of globalization that are still crashing over the world today?
 

If a team of alien anthropologists had surveyed humanity from orbit in 1000 CE, or even 1200 CE, they would never have guessed that European populations would dominate the globe during the second half of the millennium. Instead, they probably would have bet on China or the Islamic world.
 

What these aliens would have missed from their orbital perch was the quiet fermentation of a new psychology during the Middle Ages in some European communities. This evolving proto-WEIRD psychology gradually laid the groundwork for the rise of impersonal markets, urbanization, constitutional governments, democratic politics, individualistic religions, scientific societies, and relentless innovation. In short, these psychological shifts fertilized the soil for the seeds of the modern world.

 


 

Joseph Henrick

Joseph Henrich is an award-winning anthropologist, and a professor and chair of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. He is the author of The Secret of our Success. He lives in Massachusetts.

Author Photo © Natalie Henrich

 

A Girl Made of Air by Nydia Hetherington
5th September 2020

A Q&A with Nydia Hetherington, author of 
A Girl Made of Air

 

A Girl Made of Air by Nydia Hetherington

 

Beautiful and intoxicating, A Girl Made of Air brings the circus to life in all of its grime and glory, and is published to a raft of deserved praise and recommendations.  Debut author Nydia Hetherington took part in a Q&A with Foyles to give a little more insight in to her beguiling novel and her own experiences and inspirations.

 


 

Please tell us a little about your debut A Girl Made of Air

A Girl Made of Air is the story of a high wire walker born at the end of the second world war into a travelling circus. When rejected by her mother, she’s taken in by a circus performer with mythical heritage, who teaches the child the art of funambulism. Now an adult, living in New York after rising to stardom on the cabaret scene, the narrator tells her tales through the transcribing of notebooks, diaries and letters, embellishing them with memories as she goes. The act of transcription is a way to launder the past, make good her mistakes. It’s a many layered novel, exploring how we use stories to navigate through past harm and inherited trauma, how we translate those stories and in turn, how we pass them on. Although the book is dark in places, it’s tinged with magic, folklore and hope.

 

What five books or authors inspired your writing?

I first read The Yellow Wallpaper in my twenties. It’s really a call for women to gain intellectual and physical agency over their lives. The story’s vivid claustrophobia has an almost magnetic power over me. Even now, if it catches my eye on the bookshelf, I have to pick it up.
It’s hard to describe my love of Wuthering Heights. Stories within stories, unreliable narrators, gothic darkness, cruelty, revenge, passion and Yorkshire. It has nourished my imagination, fed my dreams and fuelled my need to be a teller of tales. 
Another big inspiration is the wonderful Geek Love. It’s a gorgeous grotesque, so provocative yet funny and as fierce as it is tender. Katherine Dunn’s writing has taught me how to anchor a packed narrative to place and time. 
I cried the first time I read The House of the Spirits. It’s a political allegory dripping with magic and beautiful imagery. When I tearfully got to the end of the book, I simply turned back to the beginning and started again. I just wasn’t ready to leave it yet.
From childhood, fairy tales have been my lifeblood. The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grim, is like treasure to me. All life is here.

 

Tell us more about your background in the circus?

I don’t actually have a circus background. I trained in Paris in physical theatre and clowning. The theatre clown isn’t the same animal as the circus clown, although there are obvious crossovers, including the red nose (the smallest mask in the world). There are no gags, as such. It’s a way of looking at the human experience and describing it, theatrically. I worked in theatre in Paris for many years. The lines between devised theatre, cabaret and circus are less opaque in France than in Britain. There’s a more fluid attitude to the art of the spectacle. I have performed under canvas, though. The walls move according to the elements outside. It’s quite a thrilling experience.

 

Does your central character Serendipity Wilson have any real-life inspirations?

She was inspired by a place rather than a person. For me, she is the embodiment of the Isle of Man. I lived there as a child, but we left when I was still very small. My first memories are of the island landscape and of course, of the fairies. I was very fond of the fairies as a child, almost obsessively so. Serendipity Wilson is built entirely on my experience of leaving a place that is my first memory of home. She’s inevitably imbued with a childlike magic, deep folkloric traditions, mists and an ancient association with the sea. She is my longing for a place that, because I left, even though I have a deep personal connection to it, I can never belong there.

 

Could you tell us more about Manx mythology and your research that you have woven into the story? 

I’ve always known snippets of Manx mythology. I grew up hearing stories about the fairies, and with names like Manannán mac Lir and the Buggane floating around my consciousness. We knew an old man who had the basement flat of our building when we lived on the island, he was a Manx speaker who kept a parrot in a cage and was a great one for old Manx superstitions. So those bits of half remembered tales came in handy as a starting point. But my main source materials were Sophia Morrison’s 1911 Manx Fairy Tales and A W Moore’s 1891 The Folk-lore of the Isle of Man. Sophia Morrison was an incredible figure and a really important advocate for Manx culture and language. She travelled the island collecting ancient tales from old folk and writing them down verbatim, as a sort of oral folk history. The result means some of the st The folk lore of the Isle of man ories are quite sparse and leave a lot of room for someone like me to fetch up and reimagine them. They are glorious pieces of folklore and although I’ve messed about with them quite a lot for my novel, I love the integrity of the originals.

 

Was it a challenge to weave feminism into the period of your novel?

Stories are a powerful tool for change. We need to be careful how we tell them. Change the nuance slightly and the message is altered forever in the mind of the reader (for believe it or not, there is always a message). My book takes old folk tales and attempts to tell them through the prism of feminism, with all the facets and colours on show. Then there are the individual stories of the characters, sometimes told, perhaps, with a hint of cruelty. I hope the book shows that the telling of a story through this prism does not have to be a heavy blow of ideology; it can be magical and hold a great deal of beauty and subtlety. But feminism does always have to be the ballast, the thing that holds the story fast and true. 

 


 

Nydia Hetherington

Originally from Leeds, Nydia Hetherington moved to London in her twenties to embark on an acting career. Later she moved to Paris where she studied at the Jacques Lecoq theatre school before creating her own theatre company. When she returned to London, she completed a creative writing degree at Birkbeck.

 

Introducing Vintage Editions
4th September 2020 - Nick Skidmore

Introducing the new Vintage Editions

 

Vintage Editions
 

From the home of the renowned red-spine Vintage Classics, this month Vintage Publishing introduce a new list to their impressive range, Vintage Editions, showcasing fiction in translation from around the world, with inaugural eight titles. Exclusively for the Foyles blog, Vintage Senior Editor Nick Skidmore has written an essay explaining his inspiration in curating the new list, and his hopes for the selection, along with some hints as to what we can expect for future additions to this exciting new list.

Elegant, pocket-sized paperbacks, Vinatge Editions celebrate the audacity and ambition of the written word, transporting readers to wherever in the world literary innovation may be found.

 


 

This September, Vintage launch our new Vintage Editions list – a collection of some of the greatest books we have published in translation over the last few decades. The idea for a new translated list has been brewing for some time at Vintage. Translated fiction has seen a remarkable resurgence in recent years, thanks in part to some of the incredible publishing smaller presses, such as Fitzcarraldo, And Other Stories and Tilted Axis Press have been doing. And yet, despite our history with translated literature, we had no means of spotlighting and celebrating this important part of our publishing heritage.

 

The first thing you’ll notice about the Vintage Editions is that they’re smaller, A-format books. Portable. That association was built into the series from the very beginning: as much as these books transport readers, we also wanted them to be transportable, thrown into a backpack or beach bag and read on the road. There can be a gravity that readers bring to books in translation, and this choice of format felt like the first step in making these books more approachable. But we haven’t skimped on quality, either: however tactile the Vintage Editons are, they’re also beautifully produced – flaps, uncoated stock, spot panels and coloured foil. As with any list, you aspire for them to be collectable.

 

Our launch list of eight titles came together almost intuitively. I was already very eager to reissue Emmanuel Carrere’s dark, playful early novels The Moustache and Class Trip, but then I read Philippe Besson’s heart-breaking In the Absence of Men, followed by Yoko Ogawa’s sinister but riveting Revenge. Here were four short, contemporary and criminally overlooked books in translation that felt almost united in the vibrancy of their worlds. The parameters for the list we had long talked about were coming together. Then, there were books that were already modern classics that we knew deserved something special: Carmen Laforet’s stunning novel of youth and Barcelona, Nada; Magda Szabo’s masterly The Door, Nobel Prize Winner, Patrick Modiano’s haunting investigation, The Search Warrant, and, what remains to my mind the perfect introduction to Roberto Bolaño’s literary genius, Distant Star.

 

The A-format lends itself to shorter books, novellas, and so one of the ‘rules’ of Vintage Editions is that they’re never going to be tomes. That poses a challenge when finding new books for the list – having to think, is this book going to be too big for the series feels like a strange starting point. We’ve had to dismiss some ideas on those grounds. We already have plans for the next ten Vintage Editions, including Jacqueline Harpman’s strange, sad and deeply moving masterpiece of isolation, I Who Have Never Known Men, and Dag Solstad’s Shyness and Dignity. But as we grow the list I’m aware that any exploration of our backlist also unearths many of the prejudices and oversights that have prevailed, and so my hope is that with time the Vintage Editions will also reissue books that Vintage haven’t previously published. As much as it celebrates our past, I hope the list can also speak for our present and future priorities and we can make Vintage Editions a home for discovering and promoting the widest range of authors and languages in translations.

 

Vintage Editions

 

Hey Hi Hello by Annie Nightingale
3rd September 2020

Music and memories -
Hey Hi Hello by Annie Nightingale

 

Hey Hi Hello by Annie Nightingale

 

As a dj and broadcaster on radio, tv and the live music scene,  Annie Nightingale has always been in tune with the nation's taste, and in her new memoir Hey Hi Hello she digs deep into her crate of memories, experiences and encounters to deliver an account of a life lived on the frontiers of pop cultural innovation. Littered with names and events you'll be oh-so familiar with, this is a candid and warm memoir, and sure to be on the wish list of many music-lovers.

Here you can read an exclusive extract

 


 

Song Contest, Anyone?
 

Put on your own song festival ? Well, why not ? A competition to see who can write and arrange the best song, words and music, with a star to sing it, a clutch of musical experts to judge ?
          Eurovision had been going since 1956, really an exercise in overseas outside-broadcasting skill and panache, among the EBU (European Broadcast Union) countries. Their theme or signature tune has always sounded like some creaky Ruritanian national anthem. Fill of pomp and self-importance, and very, very dated. But kinda cutesy quaint at the same time.
          The idea had begun inspired in Italy, ‘land of song’, especially popular in the 1950s with ‘Volare’, and Americanised versions such as ‘Ciao, ciao bambina’. Italy still has a pop chart with more indigenous hits than any other European country.
          It all began with a song festival in Sorrento. And another, further north in San Remo, a seaside town on the Riviera near to the French border, where their song festival continues to this day.
          I’d been sent to San Remo in my early days as a TV presenter, the year that Dusty Springfield took part. I met and was photographed with almost all the international stars taking part, from Gene Pitney to Petula Clark and Timi Yuro. The event was really for the benefit of songwriters and music publishers, to sell their wares, as much as for the stars who sang the songs.
          So . . . thought Associated-Rediffusion, the TV company that had created Ready Steady Go ! . . . let’s do our own version, a British song festival, right here in the UK, on ITV (as the BBC has the rights to broadcast the Eurovision version).
          And it was decided that the British Song Festival would be held in my adopted hometown of Brighton.
          It was, it’s safe to say, an unmitigated disaster.
          Rules of entry got, er, bent, so that one song had already been performed in public. The event had been organised by middle-aged music publishers, hoping to have winning hits with old-fashioned ballads. But the teenage audience were more into screaming for the then pop heartthrobs such as Billy J. Kramer (of the Dakotas) and Paul Jones of Manfred Mann.
          I was a co-host but was always unclear what my role was to be. Actually no one had any idea what anyone else was supposed to be doing. It was live and had never been attempted before.
          I shared a dressing room with Marianne Faithfull, though hardly saw her there at all. She was newly pregnant and being hotly pursued by the intrepid Daily Express showbiz reporter Judith Simons, known to all as Fag Ash Lil on account of her equally intrepid chain-smoking habit. There was a drama a day, with tantrums, storm-outs and disqualifications.
          I had to make a ‘promo film’ trailer for the event to camera, poised aboard Volk’s Electric Railway, clattering along on the beach front in a bright-yellow painted miniature train that ran – still does – a mile from Black Rock to the Aquarium and Palace Pier. I had to deliver my lines between stops, no retakes possible, and could not screw up.
          I did photo shoots on the beach in a navy bikini, and more in front of the Royal Pavilion. I’d been lent a very glam sugar-pink evening gown with sequin top to wear for the final. I had my picture taken with Lulu, one of the participants. Lulu’s song was announced the winner. Then was . . . unannounced. There had been a mix-up. Sorry folks. Sorry Lulu, there’s been a mistake. You are not the winner. The proper winner was adjudged to be a song sung by Kenny Lynch. All this confusion unfolding on live TV.
          The world’s press was there. Variety, the US showbiz bible, attended, and delivered its career-killing line about my televisual delivery, ‘The girl’s a looker but not a sayer.’ You never ever forget reviews like that. I rather hoped they were reviewing the dress, not me. But I’m sure my part in it all was abysmal. The British Song Festival was a write-off.
          It never happened again.
          Except . . . it sort of did. Nine years later, in the early seventies, the actual, actual real Eurovision Song Contest came to Brighton, to the same venue. I was not taking part and very relieved not to be. But I was busily involved, meeting the publishers, mingling with the managers. Hearing the songs, interviewing the singers. Who came from myriad counties, with myriad customs and taste and appearances. Eurovision had had to break its rule that the winning county must host the following year’s contest. Luxembourg had won two years in a row. Said they didn’t have the cash to put on the event yet again.
          It was all nearly as bizarre then as it is now. As the UK representative chanteuse, we had Olivia Newton-John, who had lived most of her life in Australia. Israel, geographically challenged as a country actually in Europe, situated as it is in the near Middle East, took part. (But then Australia, the other side of the planet from Europe, is now included. Go figure, it’s all part of Eurovision’s delightful eccentricity.)
          Even so, it was bewildering to behold the Yugoslav entry called ‘Moja Generacija’, a Serbo-Croatian creation and composition. No, not a cover version of the Who’s ‘My Generation’. I met, interviewed and misunderstood the author. Also another entrant, an unknown singing group. They wore knickerbockers and weird little hats.
          I mostly likely thought that the UK had it in the bag, with our international superstar rep Olivia Neutron-Bomb.
          I told the rather out-of-touch-looking knickerbocker group, in as loftily kindly a way as possible, not to get their hopes up. They didn’t stand a chance.
          The UK host nation jury concurred. Awarded them NUL points.
          They represented Sweden.
          They won.
          They’ve sold, since, 385 million records.
          They were . . .
          ABBA.

 



Annie Nightingale credit Anya Campbell

Annie Nightingale CBE is Britain's first female DJ, and longest serving broadcaster on BBC Radio 1. She celebrated her 50th anniversary in 2020. Her radio shows are listed among 50 cultural highlights by the Observer critics' panel, March 2020. A presenter, documentarian and journalist, she was the sole anchor of BBC's music TV show The Old Grey Whistle Test and associated TV programmes for 11 years during 1970s and 80s. Her previous published memoirs are Chase The Fade (1982) and Wicked Speed (2000). As well as touring the world as a live DJ, she has also released music compilation collections, including Annie On One (Heavenly) and Masterpiece (Ministry Of Sound). Annie was born in South West London and lives in West London.

Author Photo © Anya Campbell

 

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