Who needs security? Aka Swapping a life of employment to be a freelancing writer.

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. As is any day, to be honest.  For the generation before me, I am at the age when you should be counting down – ten years, nine years, eight – to claiming your state pension.  Whereas I am embarking on a life of insecurity, hustle and potential impecunity.

Friday was my last day at the wonderful Spread The Word, in Deptford, working with London’s writers. (If you’re ever short of a writing prompt, can I recommend Deptford Market? The clash of bike speakers between the Rasta guy cycling by booming dub and the old white guy blasting Rainbow’s ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ is a play waiting to happen.)

From tomorrow, no more Pay As You Earn tax deductions. No more prepaid National Insurance. No more contractual hours.

Why am I doing this? It’s time. I have wanted to write all my life, but only now feel able to be a writer. Nearly every job I have had since teenage years has fed into my writing, from a two-week stint cleaning St Francis psychiatric hospital (previously Brighton County Borough Asylum) where my parents, stepdad and virtually everyone else I knew worked to my jobs in London with families involved with social services or affected by imprisonment. St Francis

The stint in Brook young people’s sexual health clinics was particularly insightful and rather useful for Indigo Donut

But also, I’ve had a chance to reflect on Orangeboy and the potential for Indigo Donut. I wrote about subjects I care deeply about and they have given me a springboard and platform to explore those topics in different ways with young people – creative, innovative and knowledgeable young people, that never fail to impress me.

So what’s next?

The pragmatic stuff – sorting out income and expenditure spreadsheets, being way more rigorous about keeping and storing receipts and organising an effective invoicing system. Oh, the excitement.

I need a proper website. I’ve been putting that one on hold for a while. A horrible amount of while. But at the moment people contact me in different ways – via my agent or Sarah, my publicist, at Hachette. Some come directly via Twitter, Facebook or email. It’s hard to keep up. I need to be way more strategic.

Hachette have offered to help me put together a school leaflet. It’s time, it’s time.

And this week – up to Bath tonight for two school events in Bath and Bristol tomorrow supporting the Bath Literature Festival. Then a meeting on Tuesday with the fabulous Hackney Museum to talk about how Orangeboy, a Hackney-set book about a young, black geeky guy who gets pulled into an underworld, can be used as a discussion point for a project with local men. 20170629_084127.jpg

There’s a meeting with my agent, Caroline Sheldon, to discuss freelance opportunities – we are both excited about the possibilities that lie ahead. And a rather wonderful opportunity to talk Black writing and activism in Writing in the Age of Black Lives Matter at Brixton Library on 4th October with Patrick Vernon and Jackee Holder.

I also need to do a bit of writing …

So, come on this new journey with me! I’ll be keeping you posted.

Patrice x



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.