Galley Beggar

Ten Literary Heroes of 2017

It's back. The Influx Literary Heroes blog has returned for 2017.

Rather than write about our favourite books of the year as every newspaper in the land does, we prefer to write about the people in the publishing industry who we think were absolute heroes during this year. 

These are the people we couldn't do without, the people the literary world needs and should cherish, the best of the best.

So we present, in no particular order, 10 Influx Press Literary Heroes of 2017

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Influx Press at Stoke Newington Literary Festival

Last year, the year before that, and the year before that we have had the pleasure of holding events at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival.

In 2013 we collaborated with 3AM Magazine, Galley Beggar and the Lonely Coot Press. It was at the Mascara Bar and those who came will always remember it as, 'that time I saw Eimear McBride read from A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing before it was even published'. Probably.

In 2014 we did a late night, booze sodden, literary salon with Galley Beggar and 3AM again. This time the night would be less well remembered due to the amount of alcohol consumed, but with fuzzy recall you would definitely remember Nikesh Shukla reading from Meatspace before that lamb chop got on in the pages of the Broadsheets. You'd have also been captivated by the inimitable Jack Cheshire performing a cover of 'Killing Moon' by Echo and the Bunnymen.

This year, on June 6th the festival have given us a full day to programme whatever we want. This is a great opportunity for us to share the platform, or hand over our platform to other presses and organisations we believe are producing important and interesting work exploring Britain and London. We are grateful to Liz from Stoke Newington Lit Fest for giving us this space and we've put together a diverse and fascinating day.

All events will take place in the charming upstairs room at the White Hart on Stoke Newington High Street. Dangerous, you may think, given our fondness for the sauce, but rest assured, we shall maintain a professionalism right up until we don't have to.

The programme is as follows. The details aren't fleshed out, but this should provide a taster of who we've invited and who might be reading.

1-2pm: Test Centre

Test Centre is an independent publishing house and record label with an interest in the spoken and written word. Based in Hackney, East London, it was established in 2011 by Will Shutes and Jess Chandler. Test Centre's authors include Tom Chivers, SJ Fowler and Stewart Home.

"Test Centre…have returned Hackney to a state of readiness and experimental action. - Iain Sinclair

3-4pm: Unofficial Britain

Unofficial Britain is a celebration of the uncelebrated. A champion of the overlooked. A history of the forgotten. Unofficial Britain is a hub for unusual perspectives on the landscape of the British Isles, exploring the urban, the rural and those spaces in between.

5-6pm: Media Diversified

Media Diversified is a young and growing non-profit organisation which seeks to cultivate and promote skilled writers of colour. Media Diversified has provided a much needed life-line and vibrant forum for the exchange of ideas and experiences. It’s a mothership of affirmation and nurturing for writers, building resilience for the future and supporting people to take risks in tackling controversial topics and subjects that others aren’t.  It also articulates how racism works in so many areas of life, be it from colourism to the fashion industry to the recent moral panics. More positively/subversively, it considers whether having more writers of colour in the media undermines racism.

7-8pm: Squatting London: Total Shambles and Place/Waste/Dissent

Total Shambles by George F. and Place/Waste/Dissent by Paul Hawkins are both books that explore squatting culture, self-housing and the occupation of buildings for political, social and economic reasons. This event sees George and Paul discuss squatting and space in London - its history, social effects and its future.

9-11pm: Influx vs Galley Beggar: The Late Night Literary Salon

Similar to last year's salon, we have invited old pals and collaborators, Galley Beggar to join us in the evening for a book party like no other. Rounding off the day with drinks, music and readings from Influx Press and Galley Beggar authors, this is the only place to be on Saturday evening of the festival. Expect laughs, profundity and entertainment in full measure. Who knows, you might be watching the next big thing before anyone else. Or just watching Kit make worse and worse jokes as he introduces each writer into the sweet hopped heat of the night.

Small press solidarity

Kit Caless on combining forces with other small presses...

At this years Stoke Newington Literary Festival, Gary and I decided to invite three of our fellow and favourite small publishers; 3:AM Press, Galley Beggar and Lonely Coot to join us on stage for a 'small press showcase'.

The event was great, Eimear McBride, Adam Biles, Alex Preston, Chimene Suleyman and Daniel Kramb all read wonderfully and a Q&A with Christiana Spens, Gary, Sam Jordison and Daniel Kramb raised some interesting questions from the audience.

Gary and I hadn't met Sam (Galley Beggar) or Christiana (3:AM) before, having only communicated via twitter or email. Adam Biles was a guest on my Resonance FM show, Mapping the Metropolis, but we also hadn't met any of the authors in person either. (including Chimene, our own representative on the night!). This was a definite triumph for the digital age.

Adam, Christiana, Kit, Gary and Daniel

What I found most interesting about the night was that each press had pretty much approached publishing for the same reasons we did, and also with the same methods. The Q&A's main thrust was about the whys and hows.

At Influx Press our regular story is that Gary and I started the press to put a book out (Acquired for Development By) that no other publisher would touch because it was too niche. We borrowed money from local Hackney people who came forward to offer it and the book did much better than we thought. Off the back of that success we thought we'd keep going.

Sam's reasons for setting up Galley Beggar seemed pretty similar, though coming from a bookshop in Norfolk rather than a pub in Hackney. Sam felt like he wanted to contribute to publishing rather than feel frustrated that the books he wanted to read weren't out there. They took a loan, risked a lot and the gamble paid off. Galley Beggar's first books have done very well and have funded them to do more, including the innovative Singles Club.

Christiana explained that after a hairy week a year or so back when 3:AM Magazine was lost in the internet vortex, its server disappeared and potentially 10 years of content missing, the idea for making physical books came up. As a kind of safety net, I suppose. Again, small print runs, small budgets but the crucial ingredient of almost willing a book into existence was key here. 3:AM clearly care about the writers they are publishing and they are putting books on shelves that really should be read.

Daniel, from Lonely Coot - without wishing to hammer the point home here - concurred once more. He and a friend had been writing and editing books about climate change and environmental politics. Not your average bestseller at Harper Collins. So in much the same way, set up Lonely Coot to put these books into existence.

Scrimping ain't easy

For me this is such an encouraging thing. It's hard to run a small press as it is, Gary and I only really have ourselves to talk to about what books we want to do next, argue over editorial issues, worry about money, chase invoices and all the other shit that comes with it. To do an event like this made me feel less lonely, less like we're just orbiting the publishing industry in a tiny small press capsule, whistling a melancholic Ziggy Stardust song to ourselves. It even... dare I say it, felt like there was a bit of the old solidarity in the group. We all publish very different books and have different resources, different agendas and different goals. But, I think, just to be in that space, together, knowing that the person sitting next to you on the stage has been struggling the same way you have and come out still passionate about the next publication they're bringing out - that's enough.

Galley Beggar and 3:AM books

It's enough to keep me going anyway. I'm really excited about our next two books and can't wait to get them out. Hopefully we'll be able to do more events like this in the future. This sort of solidarity and collaboration is what is needed to survive as a small press, and on top of all that - it's genuine fun.

- Kit Caless

(thanks to 3:AM and Galley Beggar for the photos)