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Festival Round-up Straying offside in Stokie

TIM WELLS reports on a lit fest like no other

I WAS reading from my new novel at Stoke Newington Literary Festival at the start of this month. It’s one of my favourite lit fests — that it’s all on the manor and walking distance is a big plus for me.

The first event I sat down for was Tracey Thorn talking about her book Another Planet, on growing up in the suburbs. Her music isn’t my cup of tea — I’m not saying I think it’s pony, it’s good. It’s just that I like other stuff. But I surely find her an interesting person and a good writer and that’s what I like about the smaller lit fests, it’s an ideal opportunity to delve into offside interests.

I’m not really one for French cooking either, or cooking in general, unless it’s the beigel house opposite my gaff or Bake Off’s Cherish Finden getting stern with a ruler.

But, that aside, Felicity Cloake is a good ’un. She writes a food column for the Grauniad and I know her from when she was publishing my poetry in a lit zine she was co-editing. She’s nearly as much a fan of Len Deighton’s Action Cook Book as I am and is a mean pickler.

I caught the end of her set as I was hosting an event about the inimitable Adrian Henri but managed a quick hello.

The festival’s big draw was also culinary — Nigella. I didn’t manage her reading as I was busy chatting to punk rocker Tony D who’s book collecting all the editions of his zine Ripped & Torn, a fave of mine. It’s got social history, music and attitude all going for it.

The Jones the Steam of the fest, Liz Vater, drunkenly pointed out in a celebratory moment that the festival ranges from Nigella to werewolves. Indeed it did and the werewolf was me. Well, in as much as I was there reading from my new skinhead werewolf novel Moonstomp.

As it was, the reading went well and was a lot of fun. I read from the book and comic actor Paul Putner, along with 2 Tone’s Rhoda Dakar, joined me to discuss horror and aggro pulp and our teenage reading.

My book is set in 1979 and to get the audience quickly into the right atmosphere I passed a bottle of Brut for people to splash all over. One or two of the crop-head youths got a bit carried away but it’s better than the smell of preen spirit that emanates from the cooler kids at kewler readings. I’d like to give a big thank you to all that came along and made it so enjoyable.

That same evening Billy Bragg was opposite at the town hall, in discussion with Suzanne Moore and then singing. It’s a long time since he was gigging in the early 1980s and Phill Jupitus and myself were his keyboard stand, on a few occasions.

We must have done a good job because when the Redskins first started to record with a horn section the horns couldn’t make all of the gigs. Live, the horn section for a few of the gigs was ourselves loudly shouting out the horn parts. Reds strike the blues, indeed.

This week I’m in hospital for minor surgery and then recuperating. The consultant tells me I should just see it as editing.



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