Monthly Archives: February 2017

The Other American Wall

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You never forget your first American. I met mine when I was 21. They were a couple visiting London for the first time who sat in a pub with a map before them, confused by the serpentine roads. I helped them to plot a tour across London, and ended up visiting them in San Diego, […]

Losing London’s Old Adverts

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The old advertisements of London reveal a ghost map of a city long vanished. There’s already a website called ghostsigns that’s dedicated to painted wall advertisements on London buildings. Host Sam Roberts conducts walking tours and has a huge knowledge base of where all these signs are or were. He also projects light signs onto buildings […]

Mr Gay’s London Is Back In ‘The Fatal Tree’

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Jake Arnott’s ‘The Fatal Tree’ is a ripping new 18th century yarn of London lowlife on the make and take, trying to stay one step ahead of the Fatal Tree itself (the gallows of Tyburn). It uses the story of  Jack Sheppard and more importantly the lesser-known Edgworth Bess, his woman, who led a ‘wicked […]

The Many Lives of Sweeney Todd

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An odd little play that was reborn in Tooting, South London, has now become a hit in New York, set in a perfect reproduction of Harrington’s Pie and Eel Shop, where the audience gets splashed with shaving foam and Kensington Gore. Tooting Arts Club produced ‘Sweeney Todd’ late last year, staging it in a genuine […]

Where Will An Anti-Trump Film Come From?

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Rebuilding Satire Who will be the first to satirise this almost-unsatirisable change in America before Trump – who has already started banning reporters from briefings, so far CNN, the Guardian and the New York Times – starts the kind of censorship that always accompanies rising warmongers? So far Hollywood appears toothless, although they require a […]

Old Wine, Not Very New Bottles

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Everything old is new again; I can’t read another novel set in the Blitz unless somebody brings something new to the party, and I’m getting tired of books set in the mid-19th century. And yet there are still many stories to be told. I saw Gurinder Chadha’s ‘Viceroy’s House’ yesterday, about how India’s partition came […]

London Otherworld

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Certain cities are dreamworlds. For me, Tokyo, Bangkok and New Delhi fit the bill, although I haven’t been to Shanghai, which I imagine would really do it. London has a special sense of otherness, because it is still a collection of boroughs, villages and wards, despite what developers try to do to it. There’s no […]

How To Write A Short Story Part 3

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The shape of your story is built by the aim, the scenario, the characters, the plot, the style – and through them the idea emerges. The danger is that by not constructing a short story this way around, by starting with what you want to get across, you can end up with something plodding and […]

How To Write A Short Story Part 2

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I thought I’d put these three posts together to save you hunting about for them on the blog, so here’s part two. Bad stories get published; it’s a shock, but they appear regularly in collections and small press, usually because lazy editors call their mates. The system is not a meritocracy – if an editor […]

How To Write A Short Story Part 1

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I’m going to post these lessons in a row, just for fun. They’ll cover a few of the questions I most often answer. Nobody likes a good all-rounder. That was the advice given to me by my favourite teacher, Mr Scholar (really), Sherington Junior Boys School. It’s great advice. To do something well, specialise. A […]