The pink, sparkly cover – a confession

A story for a compilation for girls.  No magic, no princesses. This was one of my first paid commissions and my type of story.

I sent in proposals for two stories.  One was about two young sisters who made their arthritic grandmother a robotic arm out of an extendable mop handle.  The the was a short, sweet tale about a girl who is inspired by the shape and tones of a bees wing to enter the school carnival costume.  See?  No magic.  No princesses.

The proposals were duly submitted and accepted.  I wrote the stories and eventually received a big envelope with a copy of the book. My daughter and I, eagerly tipped it out on to the sofa and instantly flailed around searching for our sunglasses.

Treasuries: Stories for Girls

This picture does not do justice to the pinkness, the glitter and – well – the pinkness.

My daughter, who has nothing to do with ballet, or horses (after being bitten by one) gave me a ‘sell out’ look and disappeared upstairs.   It was a good lesson in a) how to write short stories for publication in children’s anthologies, b) gender-specific marketing and c) how parents start to disappoint there children so, so soon.

 

Meeting my hero, Eileen Browne

20130709_174128 They say ‘don’t meet your heroes’.  I beg to disagree.

Last year, I was lucky enough to work with the illustrator and writer, Eileen Browne, on a project to promote literacy in prisons.  Even though my daughter is now 14, we still flushed out her old copy of ‘Handa’s Surprise’, to get it signed.  However, it was the books about Jo, a child with a black mother and white father, just like my daughter, that I am grateful for.  According to the vast majority of children’s picture books, families like ours didn’t exist.

 

Wait And See Tony Bradman & Eileen Browne

 

Eileen delivered a workshop on writing for children to young fathers in a London prison.  Many of these men were not accessing the prison education service and approached the workshop with great caution.  The impact was considerable and many saw the workshop and the stories it inspired in them as a way to link with their families and children.

Now Eileen, along with other writers, is challenging the publishers on gender.   There is is still a perception that while girls will follow protagonists of both genders, boys are only interested in boys.  Better get Katniss on to that.

So posh, so white: publishing 2014

An honest, impressive and thought provoking blog about the absence of diversity at the London Book Fair 2014.

Random Pen

My friend @LawrencePatrice nudged me during the seminar by Children’s Laureate @malorieblackman: “First non-white face I’ve seen on a panel.”

Fair point. I had seen one other, but I’d been to the full three days of #lbf14, dozens of seminars, averaging 4 speakers per panel. That’s not a pretty statistic. Of course, there were black faces to be seen. Picking up our dirty coffee cups, cleaning our toilets, but they were silent, largely invisible. What is going on? This is 2014.

Race is a visible marker of class. Where there are no black people, generally the white people will not be working class. Certainly that’s the case here. Publishing is an overwhelmingly upper middle class profession. Patrice’s comment crystalised a feeling I’d had all week, that new-kid outsider sensibility that makes me want to write for Young Adults: I don’t belong here, this is not my place.

How…

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Rioters, abolitionists and Tom Hollander’s snog – welcome to Shoreditch Church

Shoreditch Church isn’t discreet – it’s a great, big hulk of a building that’s impossible to miss.  It’s currently the location for the church scenes in the BBC comedy ‘Rev’, where Adam Smallbone passionately embraces the primary school head and electrocutes a local imam.  At the moment the rear is ablaze with tulips, so it’s not quite as rundown as the programme makes it appear, but – as you can see from the sign below- it does have its unique challenges

I have recently been part of a project researching and recording the history of Haggerston.  Haggerston is a difficult area to define, incorporating part of Kingsland Road, a tip of Shoreditch and a slice of Hoxton.  It is also changing again as ward boundaries shift for this year’s council elections.

As the old estates are demolished and communities separate and disperse, we worked with Geffrye Museum, Hoxton Hall and the Building Exploratory, to capture some of the secret stories of this part of Hackney .  Last Sunday, we led a guided walk around the area to explore  the impact of migration.  One of our stops was Shoreditch Church of St Leonard’s.

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This building is the third one on the site.  Construction started in 1736 and immediately hit problems.  The contractors sacked all the local English builders so that they could employ cheaper Irish labour.  As a result, 4,000 rioters rampaged through the area destroying Irish taverns.  The disarray was only broken up when Tower Hamlets sent in the local militia.  Compared to their eighteenth century counterparts, contemporary rioters are little lower scale.

Guildhall records reveal Shoreditch Church as the place of baptism of one Jonathan Strong and the place can consequently claim a powerful role in the fight against enslavement.  Strong was an enslaved African, a young man in his teenage years, brought from Barbados to London by a lawyer and planter called David Lisle.  Strong was so badly beaten in the Lisle household, he was considered useless and thrown out.  He was found by the physician William Sharp who, with his brother, Grant, paid for Strong to receive several months of treatment at St Bartholemew’s hospital.

After Strong’s discharge, William and  Granville, funded Strong’s food and lodging and helped him find work with a Quaker apothecary.  Lisle, however, ‘sold’ Strong to another planter, James Kerr; Strong was kidnapped by professional slave hunters and sent for transportation.  However, Strong believed that his baptism had liberated him and called on the Sharps to fight his case –  he and Sharp won.

Several years of litigation followed.  English law favoured the master’s rights to own a man as property, even on English soil and Kerr sought compensation.  Eventually, Kerr’s claims were dismissed and he was ordered to pay compensation.

Granville Sharp became a prominent abolitionist and fighter against social injustice.  He is the ‘Granville’ of Granville, Jamaica and Granville Town, Sierra Leone.  He died, aged 79 and is buried in All Saints Church, Fulham.  His tomb is a Grade 2 listed building and there is a memorial plaque to him in Westminster Abbey.

Jonathan Strong died a free man.  He was 25.  I haven’t yet found his place of burial.