Political finesse has never been punk's strong point. Its DIY ethos has always been inherently political – you don't need anyone to help you form a band, you don't need a distributor to start putting out your music, you can do it yourself. But the lyrics, even of the most 'political' punk bands, have often seemed like exercises in sloganeering.Read More
Sometimes game recognises game.
Here's our top picks for reading on your holidays this summer. Or for just reading anyway. In winter. Or whatever. Just books that have come out recently alright?
Gary has gone in all short and sweet on his nominations, whereas Kit has gone gushy. Kind of like in real life, only Gary is massive and not very sweet at all.
Meatspace is a wonderful book. It's funny – like proper funny – the sort of funny that makes read lines out loud to whoever is in proximity and highfiving them afterwards. It's also utterly contemporary. I personally have a hard time reading books that are set more than twenty years before the time they are written. It's irrational, probably. But it's a real pleasure to read a novel that is in tune with right now.
Shukla explores social media and it's impact on our offline lives with wit, verve and some great characters. Kitab is the narrator of Meatspace but it is his brother in the book, Aziz who may well be one of my favourite literary characters of recent years. I basically want him as my own brother. I could just add the 'ab' to my name I guess. In fact since Kitab's nickname is shortened to Kit and Aziz would sometimes address him as Kit... well, I think that just compounded my infatuation.
Meatspace can be read as a light beach read if you want; it's flows fast and strong. But it has depth. If you want to read this late into the night, when thoughts are like fizzing skittles in your mind, you'll have plenty to think about. [KC]
I loved this book. It was straight up fun. It's piss-taking, satirical, absurd, farcical and has a brilliant narrative voice. Ann-Marie is a great anti-hero. She is a mess but in all the best ways, convinced that love will save her despite much evidence to the contrary. The book really takes off when she meets an old school feminist in Stephanie who wants to sort of save her. Their interactions and dialogues are fantastic, satirising feminism without demeaning it, mocking idealism without undermining it.
I found the characters, though stretched for satirical reasons believable and somewhat sypathetic. I feel like I've met them in some form throughout my early 20s/art college life. It's a London book, granted, which can sometimes alienate readers but its drunken, hedonistic, woozy narrative would fit in any city.
However, the fact that some parts of the book take place around my neighbourhood mean I'm completely smitten.I've already given my copy away, bought a new copy, then given that one away. I'll probably go and buy another one in the future. [KC]
Neil Gaiman reprises the Sandman series twenty-five years on from its debut. The worry was always: a) has Gaiman still got it, and b) is this necessary? I'm only two issues in, but the answer is a) most definitely and b) I could read the Sandman forever. Beautiful art from JH Williams III and amazing cover art as usual from Dave McKean. [GB]
Salena's big collection. The one everyone who has ever seen her live have wanted to buy after a gig but haven't been able to because it hasn't been published until this summer. I'm a big fan of Salena's - like a lot of people I know. We even published a short story of hers in our anthology Connecting Nothing with Something. This collection is an cave of poetic wonders. From my favourite Live-Godden piece, I Want Love ('I want to clip love's toenails') to the Gil Scott Heron tribute poem When I Heard The Man ('it's like wetting the whistle but making no tune') there is gold embedded deep in this book.
Salena is a poet with a big soul, generous with her all her emotions. Her language flits between warm, fighty, dreaming, slapped and tickled. There are enough poems in here for this to be the only collection you buy in 2014 (apart from Chimene Suleyman's Outside Looking On, obviously)
Big shouts have to go to fellow small press Burning Eye Books for publishing the collection, going to show – once again – that the good shit is happening where the good people run things. [KC]
Kind of a Riddley Walker for the Anglo-Saxon generation. Paul Kingsnorth's novel charting the fates of a bunch of guerrilla fighters fighting the Norman invaders of 1066, written in an Old English 'shadow tongue' is one of the most original novels I've read in years, and delves into the problem of Englishness without ever being patriotic. Beorn angland beorn. [GB]
I hadn't read or heard any of Yrsa's poetry until our Late Night Literary Salon at Stoke Newington Literary Festival in June. Safe to say, after hearing her read I wanted to get hold of her new collection Bone (her previous On Snakes and Other Stories was published by our friends at 3:AM Press) straight away.
Yrsa's language exudes aches and pains, both the postitive and negative kind. Her poems are simple, they contain truths and lyricism that elevate them to a place of beauty ('Do not thin yourself, be vast. You do not bring the ocean to a river'). I was bewitched with the collection as a whole, each poem flowed well into the next and I read the whole thing in one sitting. This is very rare for me to do. I have revisited it since and again, like Zoe Pilger's book, passed it on and ordered another copy.
I'm pretty broke now, to be quite honest. Books are an expensive habit. [KC]
I wrote a dictionary when I was fourteen. It was exam term and, in an effort to read anything other than the allotted textbooks, I had stumbled across a magazine article about Chambers Dictionary’s editors, specifically the surreptitious insertion of jokes into the text of their lexicons (See: ‘éclair n. - a cake, long in shape but short in duration’). The idea of lexicographers smuggling such entries into an otherwise sincere work of reference struck me as the most amazing act of literary subversion imaginable; I’ve been a fan of éclairs, and eccentricities in dictionaries ever since.Read More
Throughout July and August 2014 we have a special offer on.
If you buy Marshland by Gareth E Rees or Acquired for Development By... A Hackney Anthology you can buy our south east costal anthology, Connecting Nothing with Something at half price.
To purchase Marshland and Connecting Nothing with Something go here:
[templatic_button link= "https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=HG3A9Z3CUV54L " size="large" type="warning"] M & CNWS: £15.48 via Paypal [/templatic_button]
To purchase Acquired for Development By and Connecting Nothing with Something go here:
[templatic_button link= "https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=3C4M7E9BJC8S4" size="large" type="warning"] AFDB & CNWS: £15.48 via Paypal [/templatic_button]
“Lying there, I thought: people feel guilty about wanting to do stuff like this. But this is the reward for actually doing it, for finding someone who wants to do it with you: The fantasies of it may be drenched in shame, but the act culminates in the knowledge no one has been harmed, no one has been wounded, no one has been wronged.” -- The Mad Man, p. 458
What I love most about this book is the way it blends the intellectual with the downright dirty. There are long, descriptive passages detailing sexual acts involving piss-drinking, shit-eating, smegma, toe jam – any body fluid you can think of. Some of this could only be erotic to someone sharing the same predilections. Mostly, though, the aim doesn’t seem to be sexual arousal, but more an exercise in tolerance, or empathy. Like De Sade, Delany seems to be endlessly cataloguing these sexual acts in order to move beyond mere pornography, to enter a terrain of ethics, even boredom. These extreme acts are presented in such a gleefully shameless way that one cannot help but appreciate the pleasure being taken by the participants. In his opening “Disclaimer”, Delany calls it a “pornutopic fantasy”, yet as Reed Woodman points out, the style employed is “mainstream realism” rather than fantasy.Read More
Kit was asked to curate a walk through east London and give a talk at the beginning for the Walking Reading Group - an arts collective who encourage participation and a chance to discuss issues surrounding participation, engagement, collaboration and social practice whilst walking through the streets of London.
Each guest curator chooses three texts for the group to read in the weeks leading up to the walk. Kit's walk started at Bow Arts Centre, through Westfield Stratford, past the Olympic park, on to the Lea towpath and up to Wick Woods. The texts he chose were Savage Messiah by Laura Oldfield Ford, Kingdom Come by JG Ballard and Marshland by Gareth E Rees.
Below is a transcript of his talk which highlights the need for fiction and poetry to understand your environment...
"Hello and thank you Lydia for the introduction.
To those who don’t know me… I’m Kit, co-founder of Influx Press an independent publisher. We publish ‘site-specific’ fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction. By ‘site-specific’ we mean writing that has an explicit relationship to place. Place being open to interpretation of course, but most of our books either take the line of a geographic, mental or political space. For example, Life in Transit, a poetry collection by Sam Berkson was ‘set’ on public transport and addressed issues of private and public space, sharing space and the mental worlds we inhabit when we travel.
So with that in mind I tried to pick a few texts that reflect this idea and threw in an old Ballard book because I’m a cliché and he’s basically my replacement father figure – him and Arsene Wenger combined actually, but Wenger is less relevant to this walk that old Jim. Although, I’m grateful to Arsene for a banging hangover last Sunday.
Anyway… thanks to Lydia, Ania and Simone for inviting me to curate the walk.
The first thing I’d like to talk about is the relationship between texts. Particularly books written about this area of London. Reading books set in a such a city like London is a never ending hobby. I’m sure you’ve all read some. Or at least, you’ve read an extraction. Or at least, you should have done!
In a previous anthology Influx Press edited we used a phrase borrowed from Alexander Baron’s novel, The Lowlife. Baron was an east end novelist writing in the 1960s. He was largely out of print until one man Hackney magpie and groovy Welsh hipster Iain Sinclair brought him back to life, championing The Lowlife in particular. Ken Worpole, who led the first of these walks was also instrumental in Baron’s resurgence.
When we decided to edit an anthology of writing about Hackney in 2011, Gary Budden my co-editor pulled a quote from Baron’s novel: “And as I came away, I saw on a board that epitaph to all our yesterdays, ‘Acquired for Development By…’” – this phrase, ‘Acquired for development’ was something we were seeing, that had inspired us to create the book in the first place. It was a revelation to realise a text set in Hackney in the 1960s could be so relevant to our contemporary experience. The same billboards and notices that came up in Baron’s time were still coming up in ours. What also connected us was that we took to writing fiction to position our thoughts on the matter.
Fiction has its own landscapes, it’s own worlds. Books develop and build on top of one another. Much in the same way that houses, estates, architecture and public spaces develop on each other. The walk we’re about to go on passes through whole swathes of development in progress – Stratford, Hackney Wick, the post-Grand Distraction Olympic Park. So we built our anthology on Baron’s work, acknowledging the foundations and adding to the literature. I see it kind of like the Sagrada Familia – each new publication adds another layer to the psychological architecture of an area.
Around the same time we released Acquired for Development By, Laura Oldfield Ford had her work collected and published by Verso under the title Savage Messiah – an extract of which you would have been sent to read. Despite a blindly obvious connection in that Laura provided the illustrations for the cover of Acquired for Development by – there are also connections with another one of our titles: Marshland: Dreams and Nightmares on the Edge of London.
I think Laura’s work is phenomenal. It’s violent, angry, spaced out, disappointed, elated all at once. The visceral quality of her illustrations are brilliantly punched with taught, provocative sentences.
In his introduction to Savage Messiah, cultural theorist Mark Fisher quotes Laura saying, “I regard my work as diaristic, the city can be read as a pamplisest, of layers of erasure and overwriting, the need to document the transient and ephemeral nature of the city is becoming increasingly urgent as the process of enlcosure and privatization continues apace.”
This is far more eloquent than I could ever hope to be about the need for writing, fictional, documentary or otherwise to provide layered narratives to allow us as city dwellers to produce and create our own stories of our lived environment. All of our Influx Press publications are designed to expose and highlight a counter narrative to the official stories and histories given to us by the people who control our environments. Mark goes on to write, “The perspective Ford adopts, the voices she speaks in – and which speak through her – are those of the officially defeated: the punks, squatters, ravers, football hooligans and militants left behind be a history which has been ruthlessly Photoshopped them out of its finance-friendly SimCity. Savage Messiah uncovers another city, a city in process of being buried and takes us on a tour of its landmarks.”
Given that neoliberalism and corporate capitalism have laid waste to much of our organic, fluid counter culture, I think the presence of the hyper consumerist circus Westfield, where the home has been renamed as ‘property’ and the global elite wealth generator Olympic park here, in east London, the traditional home of dissent, radicalism and new ideas is poignant.
Of course, I could be wrong. I’m not. But I could be.
Politics aside, one of the great aspects of Savage Messiah is Laura’s use of the ‘drift’ or ‘derive’ as it is called by those pretentious enough to want to impress people with their knowledge. The drift is an old psychogeographic technique developed and made famous by the Situationists, a bunch of lefties in 1960s France semi led by philosopher Guy Debord. The dérive can be defined as an “unplanned journey through a landscape, usually urban, on which the subtle aesthetic contours of the surrounding architecture and geography subconsciously direct the travellers, with the ultimate goal of encountering an entirely new and authentic experience.” The main way to journey is to walk. Savage Messiah is like a walk through a London that doesn’t, does, has, hasn’t and will or won’t exist.
The extract you were emailed is a great example of the things I’m talking about. Firstly it references another text about imagining the city – Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, that's the process of building on a foundational text adding a layer to the writing I just mentioned. Then she writes her derive from Clapton to the marshes. I particularly love the verbs she and adjectives that are almost incongruent with the landscape: “We pick through ruins, an abandoned rose garden, bleached landscapes, we roam under motorway flyovers, tower blocks cascading down embankments.” There’s a pastoral, countryside feel crashing into the urban setting; producing a new experience.
Like Savage Messiah, Gareth Rees uses psychogeographic techniques in his book Marshland. Psychogeographers like to place limits on their walks, be it placing a map of another place onto your location and following it instead of the genuine map of the area, the time you spend walking or otherwise. Gareth uses his dog, Hendrix as a limit. He’s an excitable, blind cocker spaniel, Hendrix. He follows his own path, dances to his own rhythm, shits where no human dare go, sniffs out stained prophylactics, empty cider cans and old rags. Gareth just follows him, the willing blind being led by the blind. Marshland is a book of stories set in the Marshes, part history, part fictional, part autobiographical.
On his many walks through the marshes Gareth discovered the untold stories of London’s past, the alternative narratives – like the story of the Trekkers, those Eastenders who abandoned the city every night during the blitz for the safety of the marshes and Epping forest. His own fictional tales drew on his experience of the place as a character in it’s own story, the marshes produce their own narrative in anyone that visits there. Marshland is almost an account of the way the marshes changed Gareth from 9-5 tube riding, chain pub dwelling Londoner into a wanderer, psychogeographer and eventually, successful author.
At the beginning Gareth felt that he had discovered the marshes himself, like they were his secret and he tried to impose his own will on the place. As the years passed, he discovered that there have been many there before him, stories written and told and recorded from centuries of human activity with this ancient lamas land. By his own admission, Gareth says that the marshes wrote their stories, and he is just a conduit. The city tries to control its environment, but ultimately, it is never able to silence what has come before if you are willing to look hard enough.
When editing Marshland, there were many, many references points to research and read. Just a look at the bibliography will show you that. Layers and layers of previous writing fed the book. In the same way layers of history fed the marshes. Fact and fiction became synonymous. Did it matter if a story about two Victorian gentleman falling into a time warp and ending up looking like hispters on the Hackney marshes in 2012 didn’t really happen?
For some people it does matter and we’ve been called up on Marshland for missing out facts or misrepresenting. For you, on this walk, try to think about whether the literal truth is anymore assured than a fictional one. Where do we read our literal truths from? Newspapers, television, websites – these mediums are known for their ability to fabricate, falsify and tell fictions. When we construct our own stories they are sometimes more relevant to us than the grand narrative we are presented in the media, in school or in history books. What do you know or have been told about Westfield, the Olympics, Hackney Marshes, Bow? What do you see instead? What does your imagination tell you?
I like blurred lines, not the Robin Thicke Song, but the grey areas of fiction and fact. What do we see when we walk? Mysteries and stories of our own, we wonder what we are looking at, why it is there. Who planed those trees in Wick Woodland? Why is there a stone circle by the river lea? What was here before the warehouses? We cannot find the answers straight away at the time we are walking, or, before smart phones we couldn’t, so the walking experience has always been a fictionalization. We couldn’t find the truth or the perceived truth. We let our own imaginations decide. I’m completely guilty of checking my phone when I’m walking, live tweeting what I say, looking at the weather forecast when I should just look up at the sky. But I do try. Savage Messiah and Marshland have encouraged me to walk more, to put the phone away. To walk without purpose. To create my own narratives.
Ultimately, it’s about stories. Over lapping layered, lost and found.
The city tells as many stories as you want it to, if you’ll just let it.
This is one of the key things about writing, particularly fiction, for me.
Reading about an area in fiction transforms it. You look around you and the stories you are told emerge from the landscape to give depth and meaning. Stories allow us to engage emotionally with a place, they let our imaginations heighten our experience. As children we have all produced fantasy and narrative in our environments. The cardboard box became a fighter plane, under the duvet was a hideaway den, the bottom of the garden a world of magic where blades of grass host tiny worlds of chattering insects and green skyscrapers. As adults we can still access these vital elements of our psyche via fiction and poetry.
If you’d allow me a string of forthcoming pompous analogies, I think the areas we are about to walk can be related to the way we consume stories, how, as a culture they are presented and produced. If you can think about these things on the walk, do try. But if you want to tell me it’s all garbled, pseudo intellectual nonsense while we’re strolling, that’s also fine. There are never any full proof opinions.
The abandoned or unused buildings like Olympic Media Centre we will see on the two path of the lea navigation are like the stories we read when we are told to read them. How a novel suddenly becomes a ‘must read’ for a week, because everyone is talking about it and you don’t want to feel left out. One Day by David Nicholls for example, or even 50 Shades of Grey. Soon these books will lie dormant, forgotten. I used to volunteer at the Oxfam in Dalston. The number of Dan Brown books that were donated was off the scale. Most read, perhaps, but none cherished.
Where as the water way itself, the flowing nature that all the development has been unable to crush is like the old books with tales still to tell of relevance and the past. Those books that stick in the mind, resurface, like The Lowlife or those that will always be around like George Eliot or Austen’s work. That begs the question how does a book become a classic? In the same way, how does a building become iconic Brutalism is now iconic again after a long period of distain, will the Media Centre, in its bland neo-liberal forming serving a temporary service ever make an impact other than to exist as a ruin from a period of collective madness?
Bridges over water and roads over show you the old ways, the old stories whilst taking you on a new journey. You can see the river flow beneath you but you are now taking a different path. Like a book you have read before that you see echoes of in another, later on. Like the Wide Sargasso Sea and Jane Eyre, or Zadie Smith’s On Beauty and Forster’s Howard’s End.
The controlled environments with specified pathways of the Olympic area refuse to let you walk anywhere but their designated pathways. Like the national curriculum deciding which poets are worthy, how we will learn about our imperial past, which novels tell us more about ourselves.
The new high rises on Stratford High Street look over the old terrace houses that look over the older river. This feels like the accumulation of knowledge and stories – each one overshadowing the next. The old story still flowing away underneath but no longer the only narrative, constructed upon and viewed from different angles, higher up, lower down.
The emotions we get from writing similar to those emotions we get from landscape. As Gareth Rees writes in Marshland: “The whole city, the whole country, the whole world is full of stories” and that “Every single human being is a node channelling the landscape in which they live”
I’d like to leave you with a brief touch on my boy Ballard and his novel Kingdom Come. When I decided to take the route through Westfield there really was no other option but to choose this book. The complete fiction in Kingdom Come is, in a sense, a way of documenting something. Ballard exposes the psychological landscape of the shopping mall through novel set in a fictional place. This allows him to control his environment completely, to decide what has happened, what space there is and what will happen. Fiction is a way of showing the truth without using anything real, without writing as documentary. Fiction can take the narratives to the extreme, revealing truths unavailable to the journalist or documentarian.
Kingdom Come was published in 2006, before Westfield was even proposed, yet when I re-read it before this walk it resonated more acutely than it did the first time I opened it. Fiction allows Ballard to write dialogue into characters mouths to posit arguments and theories. It allows him to create the narrative he sees in his head that others might not see on the ground. It lets the shopping mall become a character. And once you’ve read that, your imagination will run with it. Fiction lets us have new ideas, see things differently to how they are. Change our perspectives.
It is by no means his finest novel, but as we walk through Westfield, try to remember a few of the things he wrote in the book:
“Consumerism celebrates coming together. Shared dreams and values, shared hopes and pleasures… consumerism is a new form of mass politics. It’s very theatrical, but we like that. It’s driven by emotion, but its promises are attainable, not just windy rhetoric”.
“The travelator reached the end of its journey, carrying us into the heart of the Metro-Centre. We were now in the central atrium, a circular course where shoppers strolled to the escalators that would carry them to the upper retail decks. A diffused aura filled the scented space, but now and then a beam of concealed spotlight caught my eye. I felt that I was on the stage of a vast opera house, surrounded by a circle packed with spectators. Everything seemed dramatized, every gesture and thought. The enclosed geometry of the Metro-Centre focused an intense self-awareness on every shopper, as if we were extras in a music drama that had become the world.”
That’s the thing about place writing. It doesn’t have boundaries in any strict sense, but there are limits with the framework of the writing. Even the writing becomes part of the story of the place.
Ballard leaves me cold emotionally, but excited by ideas and visuals – like Westfield itself. Savage Messiah is trippy, other worldly where I experience in ruin lust, broken places, abandonment.
Marshland is packed with facts, humour, excitement and discovery, wildlife. Something wick woods and the marshes instill through incongruent and ancient landscape.
The place makes the writing makes the place makes the writing makes the place.
On Wednesday 25th June from 7:30pm, Influx Press and legendary live fiction team Liars' League will team up to celebrate the release of Above Sugar Hill by Linda Mannheim; a book of 'smouldering vignettes achingly sad and beautifully wrought' (Stuart Evers) with a night of New York stories set on river Thames floating pub. Entertaining, witty and moving short stories set in New York will be read out on the night by professional actors, bringing the great American city to life in London.
Above Sugar Hill, which is being launched on the night and read out by actors tells "restive tales of a desiccated stretch of New York that provoke and abide like a slap." (Eimear McBride, author of A Girl is a Half Formed Thing)
As well as stories from Above Sugar Hill, there are carefully selected stories from the Liars' League archive and a story by novelist Richard Smyth.
Liars' League is a monthly live fiction event where new short stories by emerging writers are read by professional actors: the motto is "Writers write, actors read, audience listens, everybody wins." Their archive includes over 400 stories and MP3 recordings and over 200 HD videos.
All set on the Tamesis floating pub, a 1930s Dutch barge moored on the Thames. This is a live literature night that will be hard to forget!
And it's FREE!
You will not get a better free live fiction night on a floating boozer for the rest of your life.
Extra details like a map to the venue etc here
Last weekend Influx Press had the pleasure of being a part of the second London Radical Bookfair, this time working in tandem with the Alternative Press Fair at the much bigger venue of the Bishopsgate Institute (last year’s venue, Conway Hall, became so packed it was almost impossible to move – a good sign).To us this seemed like a perfect pairing – combining the more overtly political aspect of the radical bookfair and the more ‘creative’ side of Alternative Press is an obvious choice, the crowd of people who attend these two normally separate events having a heavy amount of overlap.
For Influx Press it was especially perfect, as really we could have been on either floor, the work we publish (hopefully) being ‘creative’ rather than academic, but with a genuine interest in modern social problems and attempting to address those problems through fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction. Also we know lots of lefties and crusties with poetic aspirations.
There appears to be a really positive upsurge in independent publishing right now, with small presses, journals and magazine springing up all over the place, exploring and addressing issues and ideas left largely untouched by the work of the big publishers. It’s an exciting time to be doing what we’re doing, and we’re very happy to be part of this loose network of publishers and writers who actually support each other.
We are very grateful for all the people who attended and bought our books, as well as the sterling efforts of Nik at Housmans who put the whole thing together. These events are crucial for small outfits like ourselves, a great way to meet likeminded folk, check out all the exciting projects that others have been working on, make people aware of who we are and what we do, and to get us out of the office away from our laptops actually speaking face to face with people. We’d even go so far as to say it was fun.
On a personal note, it was great to see our friends and allies like Lisa at PROWL, Nick at Annexe, Jon from Active Distribution, the guys at the brilliant Zero Books, Kitty at Red Pepper Magazine, Canterbury poet Mark Beechill, Verso, Housmans…the list goes on and on.
Here’s to next year!
American anarchist, poet and author Peter Gelderloos’ most significant contributions to the anti-canon of radical critique and journalism have come in the form of two books exploring and exploding the false dichotomy of ‘violence versus non-violence’ in terms of enacting political and social transformation. His 2005 essays How Nonviolence Protects The State and The Failure Of Non-Violence: From The Arab Spring to Occupy (2013) both set out to '[debunk] the notion that non-violent activism is the only acceptable and effective method of struggle' and to 'defenestrate the stranglehold that [pacifism has on movements]', yet it is his 2010 work To Get To The Other Side that more fully explores and examines the human aspects of a life anarchic. Engaged in the life of action, as well as literature, Gelderloos has also been incarcerated for his political actions, once in 2001 for attending a protest at the School For The Americas, and again in 2007 for public disorder offences during a squatter’s protest in Barcelona.Read More
We are very happy to officially announce that Influx Press is now Arts Council funded. From the outside, funding can often look mysterious and you never really find out where exactly the money has been allocated. We like to be open about what we do here so I’ve decided to write a short post detailing what we’ve received and where we are going to spend the money. For me, it’s a bit like taxes – if I knew what percentage of my income tax went on the NHS and what went on defence spending I’d be much happier/angrier about the tax system!
Gary and I applied to the Grant for the Arts programme to fund our next three titles. We have applied to the Arts Council before but haven’t made the grade. Looking back on our previous applications we can see why. They went a bit like this:
Give us some money to print some books.
We’ll do some engagement and a book launch.
Give us some more money.
This time round we met with two lovely people at the Arts Council London offices to discuss a real business development plan. We worked out how to curtail our ambitions, how to make the money stretch as far as possible and where to focus our efforts. In a huge Orwellian ministry of culture building we sat under a ceiling fan in the highest ceiling you could imagine and sweated nerves of molten steel.
The application was arduous. That’s not to say it wasn’t worth it, but for two people like us – a punk and a golden era hip hop junkie – grant applications have never entered our lives. It took us about ten full days to complete. We argued over every word (each section has a 250 word limit) and at times felt we were just churning out shit soundbites on an endless loop. Luckily, as editors, we knew when our writing was awful. By then end we thought we had something good, so we transferred £30 from the lowly Influx account to Gary’s card and went to the pub for some beers. The pub being in neo-Hackney, this meant about a round and a half before it ran dry.
The Arts Council, after rejecting the initial application because we’d put £500 in the wrong place, agreed to everything we asked and we went ape shit in the office for about thirty minutes.
The main thrust of the application was ‘business development’ over six months and our next three titles. Influx Press has existed by the skin of its teeth since we started. Gary and I haven’t taken a penny (apart from that aforementioned booze money) out of the business since our first book, Acquired for Development By came out in 2012. Until the grant was accepted we have only been able to pay our solo collection writers royalties from net sales. Some of the grant money is to pay Gary and me a small wage for the work we will be doing over the next six months: editing, publicity, typesetting, hobnobbing – that sort of thing.
The main part of the grant is the bit we’re most proud of. We will be able to pay the authors of our next three titles an advance fee. It’s not a life-changing amount, but for us – as a tiny independent press - the ability to pay writers for their work is fantastic. We so dearly want them to be valued for their outstanding talents and I’ve felt really good being able to write a contract for them stating that they will get paid in advance of the book being printed! (plus payment of royalties will continue at 20% of course).
The rest of the money has gone on a few other things. Our office rent for six months, an accountant to teach us how to run the company books properly (payments to authors, tax returns etc) and an intern for six months. Up until this point we have had many requests from young people for internships with us. We steadfastly refuse to employ anyone for free so we haven’t been able to take anyone on. Now we have this grant money we will be employing someone for one day a week, well above the London living wage. We want this person to gain experience in the book industry that they may not have access to otherwise (due to circumstances financial or class etc). We will be teaming up with our good friends at Arts Emergency to find the right candidate and hopefully help them as much as they help us. Lastly, the rest of the money will go to our designer Chris for his wonderful work and also any artists that work with us on book covers or art inside our books.
We feel so lucky to have been given this money we are determined to spend it wisely. We realise that opportunities like this don’t happen to everyone, so we’re going to try our best to help our authors and other contributors to further their careers as well as make Influx Press a sustainable small press in the future.
Thank you for all your support so far with our literary experiment, without the success of books like Life in Transit, Acquired for Development By and Marshland, we certainly wouldn’t have got the funding we did.
We raise a toast the future of independent publishing!
Sprayhoppers. Kelp-ash. An indoor retail-Eden of glass and steel. One-armed stone-age storytellers. An unnamed town, in an unknown time, struggling in an indistinct rural region isolated from the world. Some of these things are real and some are not, some may have been real once and some may be real in a time yet to come. Characters full-blooded and contradictory, petty and noble, as human as the page allows, unlikeable and sympathetic in equal measure. They enact small dramas we recognise in fictional topographies. These places that seem so familiar, the battered coastlines, heaving cities and muddy fields, they have no name and they don’t exist. They’re populated by creatures that never were, but sound like they did. They are archetypal and specific.Read More
I found my way to Spidertown, Abraham Rodriguez’s first novel, when I was trying to understand what had happened to The Bronx, trying to track its trajectory from a bustling working class neighbourhood to a derelict hell hole where the burnt out hulks of six story buildings stretched for blocks – the post-apocalyptic neighbourhood across the river from Manhattan. The stretch of streets where 16 year old Miguel lives is known as Spidertown, named for the drug dealer that he works for. Miguel shares a rundown apartment with Firebug, a teenage arsonist for hire. And, when Firebug torches a building, Miguel and Amelia, Firebug’s girlfriend, are his popcorn-eating audience, “cheering when the water gun on a pumper nailed the building with a loud crash that sent bits of metal and wood flying, flames scurrying away.”Read More
In the prologue to his novel Los lanzallamas Roberto Arlt writes: ‘to have a style it is necessary to have comfort, to live off a rent, to have an easy life’. This was an answer to many contemporary critics who had pointed out that Arlt's prose was arcane and obscure, that he couldn't write. Regardless of the place he now occupies in Argentinean literature, Arlt, born to Prussian/Austro-Hungarian parents in Buenos Aires, arrived to the canon as an outsider. An outsider to the aristocratic club of the Argentine literary establishment. A linguistic outsider.Read More
My own experiences in hospital are as follows: hare lip and cleft palate operation, broken leg in traction for seven weeks, bone graft from my hip to my upper jaw, abscess in my knee, concussions, fractured fingers, a broken ankle and false alarm ball cancer. I’m pretty au fait with both Canterbury hospital of the 1990s and Homerton hospital of the 2000s. I’ve been in the back of an ambulance enough times to remember what it smells like. I know how much morphine is enough to knock me out. I’ve got some scars.Read More
If X = Xtine Brooke-Rose, and Y= Why? then X÷Y = Remake.
Remake is the autobiography of Christine Brooke-Rose “dit” (as they say in France when the mean, “also called”) for the purposes of this novelised version, Tess (whom we shall call, T). In Remake, Xtine Brooke-Rose = X to the power of T.
X ÷ Y = Remake = Xᵀ
Xᵀ = X ÷ YRead More
‘On the country has gathered the idea of a natural way of life: of peace, innocence, and simple virtue.’ Raymond Williams wrote this in his 1973 book The Country and The City which explores urban and rural settings in literature. This pastoral ideal, the concept of a lost rural idyll, is still the predominant view of country life in Britain, which is remarkable since it originated in the Greek Empire during the 3rd century BC in the Idylls, the poems written for the Alexandrian court by Theocritus. These poems were based on the song competitions held by shepherds in Theocritus’ native Sicily and present an idealised and nostalgic vision of a simple life in contact with nature. They have retained a place in Western culture through the Roman poet Virgil’s reworking of these themes in his Eclogues and Georgics.Read More
“When I walk on the street, alone,” Orhan Veli Kanik writes, “If I notice that I am smiling, I think that people will suppose I am crazy. And I smile.”
1940s Turkey was evolving, and with it a recent democracy that saw way to a new equality and understanding of secular life. The Ottoman Empire had collapsed, with it the Republic of Turkey emerged to replace it. The arabic script which had previously been used, was now exchanged for a latin alphabet. Naturally, Turkey’s liberated youth captured this socio-political independence, and with it transformed the recent anarchy into their words.Read More
Octavia E. Butler is almost always referred to as a great ‘African American/Black woman’ science fiction writer. What this really says is that she was pretty good at writing sci fi, for a Black woman. It is rarely simply stated that she was an amazing science fiction writer, full stop.Read More
We've asked our writers and editors to put together a playlist that reflects, or inspired the work they've done with Influx Press. Editor and co-founder Gary kicks things off...
This is a list of songs that inspired me whilst putting together the two Influx Press anthologies, Acquired for Development By . . . and Connecting Nothing with Something, and my own two pieces in the books, ‘Tautologies’ and ‘The Exhibition’. Both stories either directly reference the songs on this list, or were inspired by them in some way. This playlist also reflects my obvious love of punk, ska, reggae and folk music.
CLICK FOR SPOTIFY PLAYLIST LINK
1. Inner Terrestrials – ‘Smoke’
The ITs are one of my all time favourite bands, the best example of the political-punk/ska/folk/dub crossover there is and the best live band you’ll ever see. Coming out the free festival/traveller scene of the nineties they’ve been going for 18 years with no sign of slowing down. I can’t recommend them enough. To me, this is the sound of the Hackney squat parties described in Acquired For Development By..., making it the perfect start to this playlist. Like all the best political music, you can dance to it. It bigs up South London, but nobody’s perfect...
2. Roy Ellis aka Mr.Symarip – ‘One Way Ticket to the Moon’
Roy Ellis was the singer of Symarip, one of the very first skinhead reggae bands, songs like ‘Skinhead Moonstomp’ and ‘Skinhead Girl’ being almost universal classics that perfectly sum up the spirit of ’69 ska sound. This track is off one of his much later solo albums, a call back to ‘Skinhead Moonstomp, and in my opinion is one of the greatest ska songs in existence. Proof that not all skinhead music is dodgy white geezers playing Oi!
3. The Horses of the Gods – ‘John Barleycorn’
“Three men came down from Kent / To plough for wheat and rye / And they made a vow / A solemn vow/ John Barleycorn should die.” This is a version of the old folk song ‘John Barleycorn’. I’m really interested in weird British folk traditions that never seem to quite die, and this song captures that feeling perfectly. John Barleycorn is a folk figure akin to the Green Man, the wodewose etc, in this case personifying barley and the booze we make from it. So a weird folk song that mentions Kent, is about boozing and nature springing up again where it’s not wanted make it the perfect choice for this list. Folk music that’s as far away from rubbish like Mumford & Sons as you can get and a song I listen to whenever I’m in a Wicker Man / A Field in England kind of mood.
4. Chas and Dave – ‘Margate’
“...you can keep the Costa Brava, I’m telling ya mate I’d rather have a day down Margate with all me family.” It’s a song about going to Margate with the family. Self-explanatory. I found it interesting that this addresses the issue of people beginning to take cheap package flights in favour of holidaying on the English coast. Quoted directly in ‘The Exhibition’.
5. The Restarts – ‘N16’
“My body's sore / But I just want more / Dead brain, my head's in pain / Tonight we'll drink again / Weekend in N16” A hardcore punk song about going a weekend bender in N16. Sums up my life for about five years and is directly referenced in ‘Tautologies’. I don’t really expect anyone else to like this kind of punk rock, but I love it.
6. The Jam – ‘That’s Entertainment’
“Watching the telly and thinking 'bout your holidays” I’m not actually the biggest fan of The Jam, but I always thought this song was brilliant. It completely captures how oppressive a city like London can feel at times.
7. Aswad – ‘Warrior Charge’
The best reggae track I’ve ever heard, from the soundtrack to the 1980 film Babylon, which anyone with an interest in the reggae soundsystems or London needs to watch. Even better than Aswad’s ‘Don’t Turn Around’…
8. New Town Kings – ‘La La World’
A contemporary ska-band from the new towns in Essex. It’s a great ska track. Simple.
9. Bad Manners – ‘Skinhead Love Affair’
“I took her down the last resort / She nicked a shirt, I went to court” I had to put Bad Manners on this list, for many reasons. Firstly, Buster Bloodvessel ran a hotel for ‘larger’ customers in Margate called Fatty Towers, until 1998. Secondly, I simply like Bad Manners and this song makes me smile. Thirdly, this relates to a number of topics in my story ‘The Exhibition’, mentions The Last Resort, ballroom gigs and a number of other sub-cultural things mentioned in the story. Poor old Buster cries at the end.
10. Burial – ‘UK’
Like all white people who know nothing about dance music, I like Burial. This is a nice ambient piece, incredibly melancholy which is the right tone for a song called ‘UK’. This is ‘after the party and the comedown’s kicking in’ type music, a feeling I try and get across in my writing.
11. Hard Skin – ‘Beer and Fags’
Hard Skin were a band who started as an affectionate pisstake of the Oi! and street-punk scene (taking their cues from the Cockney Rejects, and, well, the Cockney Rejects) who ended up writing better songs than any of the bands they were spoofing and becoming one of the most loved institutions in the UK punk scene. If this song doesn’t cheer you up then there’s no hope for you. They did a song with Joanna Newsom recently. Go figure.
12. Citizen Fish – ‘Wake Up’
“As disbelief in systems tries to reason with insistence / That the way you think is something to be classified as bad /It will send you down the learning curve/ From ‘I accept’ to ‘I deserve’.” Another political ska-punk song. Vocalist Dick Lucas (also of Subhumans and Culture Shock) is one of the very best lyricists out there, definitely as influential on my thinking as any novel or academic text. I could have chosen any number of songs, but ‘Wake Up’ shows Citizen Fish at their best.
13. The Levellers – ‘Miles Away’
“I always hoped this place might stay the same.” Tragically, I like The Levellers. This is a great simple folk song written at the time of the road protests in the mid-nineties. To me it succinctly sums up a huge number of the ideological divisions in the country and the anxiety of being in a landscape in constant change.
14. The Filaments – ‘Land of Lions’ A pure ‘London pride’ song about unity in Tower Hamlets. The Filaments are another UK band coming out of the street-punk/ska scene, and this song cheers me up endlessly. It makes me happy to be a Londoner.
Buy Acquired For Development By or Connecting Nothing with Something from our shop right here:
Last Saturday we went to Hastings to do a Connecting Nothing with Something reading at the Roomz in St Leonards.
Salena Godden, our briny siren hosted the night with me, Chris Watson, Sam Berkson and Gareth Rees of Influx reading. We were also joined by Emily Lloyd, the legendary actress from the film Wish You Were Here reading from her memoir.
Hastings features heavily in Connecting Nothing, as one of the original cinque ports its connection to Dover, Sandwich, Folkestone and the like is as old as the castle on the west hill. It's a town experiencing similar changes to Margate; a much lauded new art gallery, an influx of artists and "creatives" to the town, new cafes and auxiliary services. But to me, Hastings felt very different to the east coast of Kent this time I visited. Maybe it's come alive from the fiction and poetry we edited for the book, perhaps the changes are more gradual than in Kent, or it might just be that sea was dead calm and the gulls a little more laid back.
There was still very much a sense that this town is on the fringes, but purposefully so. There's a sense that Hastings wants to be the alternative (but not necessarily 'alternative'), a refuge for weird and wonderful, a place where you can be whatever you want so long as it isn't pretentious or highfaluting. I'm loathe to romanticise dead-beatness, as I grew up in a deadbeat part of Kent and couldn't wait to leave, but... there is a certain charm to Hastings dead-beatery, wearing it on its sleeve rather than pretending it doesn't exist, unlike other places on the south east coast. Our event was attended well, the drinking was solid and dependable, the crowd increasingly raucous as the night went on - and yet... due to commitments on the Sunday morning, I had to get the last train to London at 22:10.
I was disappointed to leave, aware that perhaps the 'drinking town with a fishing problem' was about to come alive at night and reveal itself to me. The deadbeat transformed into a hedonistic quest for liquored enlightenment - or perhaps I've just read too much of Salena's work. Salena's fictional Hastings is a seductive place and her writing is so powerful that her version of Hastings is now my version of Hastings. My disappointment at leaving was compounded by the emergence of a video late last night of the remainder of the night - a lurid, psychedelic smash of Gary and our Hastings-based writer Gareth extending the night through to the morning. The 'official' video of the evening, the readings at the Roomz seemed a little more urbane by comparison.
But I will return to Hastings soon, it had been too long and my crazy golf score card didn't look too hot this time. I also didn't visit the Jerwood, walk up either hill, pub crawl the old town or watch the catch come in. The sea was eerily calm last weekend, but the next time I'm down I want it violently crashing and the winter rain to be lashing and...
Who am I kidding? I can't demand anything from Hastings - it does what it wants to and I can only take part on its terms.
But what great terms they are.
- Kit Caless
Two videos below of stark contrast, first our sober readings, second the maverick jaunt of the drink possessed.