Persons Unknown – The Battle for Sheffield’s Street Trees has been published by Wrecking Ball Press.
In 2012 Sheffield City Council and the Department of Transport signed a twenty-five-year contract with Amey PLC to renew the city’s highways in a programme titled ‘Streets Ahead’, costing £2.2 billion of public money.
That contract has never been made publicly available. As a result of persistent Freedom of Information requests, we now know that it includes the following clause: Amey ‘shall replace the highways trees in accordance with the annual tree management programme at a rate of not less than 200 per year so that 17,500 highway trees are replaced by the end of the term’.
For three years residents took ‘non-violent direct action’ (NVDA) to prevent the unnecessary felling of healthy street trees. This is their story, a story of ordinary people doing extraordinary things in the service of their community. All the chapters consist of original first-hand accounts of events from the perspective of people who were involved.
Calvin Payne and Simon Crump have deliberately stepped back from an authorial role, allowing their fellow protesters to speak for themselves, and often the stark truths told are all the more shocking for that.
With a Foreword by Nick Hayes, Introduction by Paul Brooke and Afterword by Christine King.
Buy Persons Unknown direct from Wrecking Ball Press at https://wreckingballpress.com/product/persons-unknown-the-battle-for-sheffields-street-trees/
John Newsham’s short story version of Killing The Horses was longlisted in the 2018 Manchester Fiction Prize run by Carol-Ann Duffy. Killing The Horses is John’s debut novel. His other writing credits include fiction publication in the Fortnightly Review, winning a Dorothy Rosenberg Prize for ‘young poets of unusual promise’ from the University of Berkeley, and the Grist first-place prize for poetry describing place, from the University of Huddersfield. He has performed at numerous literary festivals around Yorkshire including the Ted Hughes Festival, the York Takeover Festival, the Leeds Lit Festival and the Bradford Literature Festival. John is also a teacher of A Level English Literature and Language.
We caught up with John to find out more about his debut as a novelist, his writing process and the importance of place to his writing.
Give us the elevator pitch for Killing The Horses?
Killing The Horses follows two boys who are skipping school in the woods on the edge of the Bradford. They are trying to get away from all the things that are still there, haunting themselves and haunting the hillside. It’s a simple story about isolation and friendship. It’s about the violence of human beings and the violence of the natural world.
How do you feel about the publication of your debut novel?
I’m really looking forward to seeing it on shelves and hearing readers’ thoughts on it. I’ve been trying to write for years with more failure than success and I’ve had several false starts of trying to write novels in the past so it feels great to have this completed and published.
What prompted you to write Killing The Horses?
I tried to write a novel a few years ago which ended up not really working but out of that I developed a short story focusing on the characters in what would become Killing The Horses. I then forgot about it for a few years whilst I got on with life and was writing other things. When the covid lockdown hit last year I re-read the original story and just started writing about the characters and seeing where it went. The novel is the result of that.
What experience do you want your readers to have?
I’d like them to feel as though they’re walking through these woods with the two boys in the novel and seeing the landscape and the animals and the trees and the sky. It’s supposed to be a ‘close-up’ novel – it’s set over a short period of time in a single place with only two characters so it’s a lot more focused on those close-up, day-to-day details, rather than anything sprawling or expansive.
What is the importance of place to you as a writer and, more specifically, within the pages of Killing The Horses?
The novel is set entirely in the woods on the edge of Bradford, all within a mile or so of where I grew up. It’s all slightly fictionalised in the novel but everything in it is basically a real place. Bradford is a big post-industrial city and this corner of Bradford is not exactly a glamorous one but it’s nestled amongst all these rolling Yorkshire hills and there’s something quite distinctive about the combination of the two. It feels a lot more remote than it is. I like the idea of natural settings that are within reach of urban ones- places that aren’t far removed from most people’s lives. Lots of nature writing focuses on picturesque and remote places and the setting in the novel isn’t one of them. The woodland isn’t supposed to be idyllic. It’s supposed to be a troubled place but somewhere that’s isolated from the rest of the city. Otherwise, it’s set in Bradford because I’ve spent more of my life there than anywhere else and it’s a lot easier to write about what you know! Everyone should write about where they grew up – there’s nowhere that doesn’t make an interesting setting for a novel or a story.
What was your route into writing?
I used to write poetry and I had a few things published and won a few prizes when I was younger. I read with a few different groups of local writers and at a lot of literary festivals and really enjoyed it. I met loads of really talented local writers who were all really unique in what they were doing. But I mainly wrote poems because I didn’t have any kind of organisation to write anything longer. I wanted to write a novel for a long time but I never had the self-discipline to stick with it until more recently.
Has Covid-19 affected the way that you write?
I wrote most of Killing The Horses during the first coronavirus lockdown. I’d been trying to write another novel slowly for years and then the lockdown suddenly freed up a good bit of time as I was working from home for a few months and had long, free evenings. I started writing something new based on a short story I’d written a few years earlier and it was mostly completed by the time I returned to work 10 weeks later. I’d considered expanding it further but felt like it reflected quite a unique mood of being completely isolated and locked-down. I felt like it would be impossible to recreate that mood again. As it turned out, of course, lockdown #1 was not to be that unique so I didn’t need to worry. The story itself has nothing to do with covid but I think lots of the concerns it brought up are in there- isolation, sickness, the destructive power of nature etc.
Could you tell us something about your creative process?
Now that I’m back at work it’s a good bit harder to write as regularly. However, I try to sit down every Saturday and Sunday morning and write 1,000 words before I stop. Any additional time I get to spend on it is a bonus. Writing is the good part, though, so it doesn’t take much discipline once started – it’s everything else that gets in the way!
Who are your favourite writers? And which writers are you influenced by?
My favourite novelist is probably Cormac McCarthy. His writing is so stripped back it seems timeless but it’s also got a very modern sense of the hostile relationship between the individual and nature. There’s something really unsettling about how direct his writing is but it’s also much more moving for it. I’m also a big fan of Ted Hughes’ poetry. I think both writers have quite a stark sense of the violence and destruction within the natural world which is something a lot of writers ignore in favour of a more rose-tinted view. They also both manage to create something that seems mythical out of the natural world as it exists today. Other than that, I try to read as many local writers as possible and those whose literature is rooted in the north of England. I’m currently working on another novel, set in Yorkshire, and I’ve been doing a lot of reading of writers who have written about the area: Ben Myers’ The Gallows Pole, Elmet by Fiona Mozley, Ill Will by Michael Stewart and Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile by Adelle Stripe are a few that stand out. They all create quite a striking sense of the region as distinct from the rest of the country through the dialect and character of the place. There are loads of others and loads more I’ve got lined up to read- too many to name.
Similarly, what is your favourite novel?
The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It’s a really simple story with only two characters but it seems to cover everything- life and death, meaning and meaninglessness, where humanity is headed. It’s unbelievably direct and every sentence seems charged. Everyone should read it. Why this novel now? It was mostly written in the first covid lockdown. I think the lockdowns made everyone think about things we otherwise don’t get much time to think about. Life and death questions and questions about isolation and loneliness and so on. I think the pandemic has also been a reminder of the power of nature and the strange relationship we have with it. On the one hand the natural world is being destroyed and needs to be protected. But nature as a whole is also always a hostile force which we have to battle against in order to survive. This novel explores some of these themes in its own small way.
Do you have any thoughts about your experience of independent publishers?
My experience with Wrecking Ball Press has been great. I don’t have any comparable experience with non-indie publishers but I’ve really enjoyed the creative freedom and the whole process of seeing it develop from a manuscript to a published novel. I’ve been able to share a novel which is a bit different and which I suspect would not have had any interest from major publishers without any pressure to make massive changes. I’ve found the team at Wrecking Ball really supportive and, like other indie publishers I’ve encountered in the past, they seem to be doing it entirely because they enjoy literature. I’ve also found local independent bookshops to be especially supportive with the sale and promotion of the book. The relationship between independent publishers and indie bookshops seems to be a really strong one and I think they both have a really important role to play. Independent publishers like Wrecking Ball Press seem to do a really good job of finding alternative and overlooked writers. Loads of my favourite English writers at the moment seem to have been published by independent publishers.
What else are you working on and what does the future hold for you as a writer?
I finished Killing The Horses a year ago and I’ve spent the time since then working on a longer novel with a much bigger cast of characters. I’m still very much learning as I go though so I’m not rushing anything and I’m more than happy to spend a good few years on it if necessary. I’d love to get more novels published in future but I’ll keep writing either way as I just enjoy doing it for its own sake.
What would you say to someone who was keen to write, and would like to see their words published?
Keep writing for the enjoyment of doing so and don’t worry about getting rejections or writing rubbish as both are inevitable and will make up the largest part of it.
What are your hopes and dreams for the book?
That some people will read it and that some of those who read it will enjoy it!
Killing The Horses can be purchased online at https://wreckingballpress.com/product/killing-the-horses/
John Newsham’s novel Killing The Horses is published today (August 10) by Wrecking Ball Press.
In the woods the earth made myths. Angry myths. Savage myths. Myths that could kill…
Set on the outskirts of Bradford over the course of a single day, Killing The Horses follows Ryan and Liam, teenagers skiving off school in the woods at the edge of the city. But the woods hold secrets. Dark secrets. And the landscape aches with the violence of all that has been done there.
There is blood on the ground and a sickness in the earth. As the memory of what has happened there climbs back out of the hillside, the boys learn that they are too entangled in the savagery of the land around them to be able to separate themselves from it.
Killing The Horses is rooted in the landscape and dialect of West Yorkshire and fuses realism with the mythical. It brings the macabre and darkly-religious world of the American Southern Gothic to the north of England.
The short story version of Killing The Horses was longlisted in the 2018 Manchester Fiction Prize run by Carol-Ann Duffy.
John Newsham’s other writing credits include fiction publication in the Fortnightly Review, winning a Dorothy Rosenberg Prize for ‘young poets of unusual promise’ from the University of Berkeley, and the Grist first-place prize for poetry describing place, from the University of Huddersfield. He has performed at numerous literary festivals around Yorkshire including the Ted Hughes Festival, the York Takeover Festival, the Leeds Lit Festival and the Bradford Literature Festival. John is also a teacher of A-Level English Literature and Language.
Killing The Horses can be purchased directly from Wrecking Ball Press at https://wreckingballpress.com/product/killing-the-horses/
To request review copies or for further information email firstname.lastname@example.org
Title: The Things I Learnt And The Things I Still Don’t Know About
Pages : 124
Cover : Paperback
Language : English
Publisher : Wrecking Ball Press
ISBN : 978-1903110836
Released : 26.07.2021
Talitha Wing‘s debut poetry collection The Things I Learnt And The Things I Still Don’t Know About has been published by Wrecking Ball Press.
This debut poetry collection from writer and thrilling live performer of spoken word and poetry Talitha Wing will propel Talitha to prominence in the world of poetry and spoken word. The honest, raw and intimate nature of the poetry in this debut will make a positive impact on your life.
Within the pages of The Things I Learnt and the Things I Still Don’t Know About, Talitha presents a collection of work that provides a voice for those who, like her, refuse to be categorised and labelled. Talitha explores the ambiguities of the journey into adulthood, self-acceptance and what it means to be ‘other’ in a manner that will resonate with readers.
Talitha is an actor, writer and poet, based in London and Vienna. Talitha’s debut play Socks was commissioned by Paines Plough for the nationwide Come To Where I’m From program in 2019. Talitha’s next play will be She Calls Me Crazy, currently in development with TBA Productions.
Poets can spend years finding their voice but Talitha writes with the same level of self-assurance, passion and determination that are evident in her spoken word performances. We should all be thankful that she’s picked up her weapon of choice in order to get these poems onto the page and is now ready to share them with the world. The Things I Learnt and the Things I Still I Don’t Know About is as vital and exhilarating as poetry gets.
Talitha said: “To me this collection is a journey into adulthood, a raw and real look at discovering ones identity, and all the experiences, thoughts and feelings that come along with that, both extremely exciting, utterly confusing and often a mountain sized challenge. From the first time using a tampon, to heartbreak, dealing with mental health and everything in between.
”I want readers to be able to get lost in the words, the world and the story of the collection. I hope it is accessible and easy to digest – I love that poetry doesn’t have to be elitist, fancy and traditional (I love poetry like that too sometimes) but my style is hopefully quite down to earth! I want them to feel how I feel when I listen to a Beyoncé album.
“I’d say that this collection is mostly for young people, young adults and adolescents – but also for anyone who has felt different, unseen, or unheard. It is a love letter to young women.”
The Things I Learnt and the Things I Still I Don’t Know About can be purchased directly from Wrecking Ball Press at https://wreckingballpress.com/product/the-things-i-learnt-and-the-things-i-still-dont-know-about/
To request review copies or for further information email email@example.com
Kirsty Allison was born in London in 1975. PSYCHOMACHIA is her first novel and will be published by Wrecking Ball Press on July 5, 2021.
Kirsty is incoming editor of the literary and arts quarterly Ambit, founder of Cold Lips, and her band is called Vagrant Lovers. She currently lives in Peckham.
Irvine Welsh has described Kirsty as “the greatest cultural beacon this planet has produced.” We asked Kirsty some questions to set the scene for the book’s launch and she provided a book’s worth of answers, which we love. You will too.
It’s weird – I’d been singing them to myself, in my head to write them and I do think of those as songs, like the one on Diana: driving down the underpass, driving down the underpass, I can go so fast, I can go so fast, pap, pap, pap, pap – that’s like Gary Numan, no?! I have a total score for it. But yes, probably madness.
You appear to like a good collaboration. Tell us about your collaborators, and why you collaborate?
Was there a significant person in your life that encouraged you to write?
It was all so new initially, I started out writing a lot, continuing what I was doing in Hamburg, and received a literary grant from the Society of Authors which stopped me fretting about less income from journalism.
I actually like stories working together like jigsaw puzzles, so they become something unexpected, that can be a naturally slow process, but sometimes it’s almost written before you’ve started it, I like letting work breathe, after the lack of that as a journalist, and I’ve been lucky in my fiction to not have had any deadlines or pressure with writing to deadline, so I’ve taken pleasure in learning how to do it naturally rather than having to force it, but there is nothing as good as battering away on a book. That’s total sex.
Do you have any thoughts about your experience of independent publishers?
Beyond that, I’m going to record an audiobook, and versions of Psychomachia. I might do some of that on my Substack. I really owe the subscribers some stuff. I want to make a film of the promo of the book this summer, something poetic and documentary, and develop the novel as a film installation with performance.
Michael Chestnutt from Snapped Ankles is working on a couple of Vagrant Lovers tracks, and the first physical release of Vagrant Lovers is coming on a gatefold vinyl compilation from Das Wasteland Records in Berlin. It’s also got Rob Doyle, Nathan from the Fat Whites, Tim Burgess.
I want people to love it.
I want people to talk about it.
Have the characters in their minds, and see it as a great work. Obviously when people you admire like it, that’s great, but really I just want people to have enough time to read it. I’d love it to be a bestseller. A classic.
I always saw it as a movie, and used some film structure in drafts, and it would never be the same as I see it. I’d like the money of it being made into a Netflix series, but it really is a book, so it would be amazing to get it out in other countries, anything that allows me to write more. But really – I’m just so excited to think that people are going to read it. It’s lovely going into bookshops. Talking to people who like books.
Poetry and prose from Wrecking Ball to you.
Imagine a Wrecking Ball Press title delivered to your door every single month. That’s what the Wrecking Ball Press Book Club is all about.
Here’s how it works – for just £80 we will send you a book on the same day every month for a year. The first book you will receive is your choice* – simply go through our back catalogue and pick the book you want.
After that we’ll select books for you from literary legends such as Ben Myers, Dan Fante, Roddy Lumsden, Geoff Hattersley, Niall Griffiths and exciting voices like Shirley May, Toria Garbutt, celeste doaks, Vicky Foster, Isaiah Hull, Barney Farmer, Dean Wilson, Andy Fletcher and Peter Knaggs.
So what are you waiting for? Join the Wrecking Ball Press Book Club, include all your contact details and, in the order notes, your choice of first book and we will add you to our lovely list of literature lovers who will be getting a year’s worth of words, one month at a time.
The £80 cost is fully inclusive of postage and packing, so the Wrecking Ball Press Book Club is great value for lovers of poetry and fiction.
So what are you waiting for? Head here to sign up:
*excludes The City Speaks.
Dean Wilson’s new collection Take Me Up The Lighthouse will be published by Wrecking Ball Press on January 31, 2020.
Take Me Up The Lighthouse follows previous Wrecking Ball publications of Wilson’s work Sometimes I’m So Happy I’m Not Safe on the Streets and the limited edition WITH. Wilson, whose humble brag is that he is the fourth best poet in Hull and the second best poet in Withernsea, is back with more of his trademark revelatory and brutally honest poems set against the backdrop of the Holderness towns and villages he frequents.
This new collection takes the reader on emotional journeys via bus, covers encounters on benches and trains and entertaining postmen, while celibacy, sex and the search for romance are juxtaposed with orange curtains, omelettes and Cheerios. Throughout, Wilson combines humour with heart-tugging pathos.
Having stepped out of the shadows during 2017 City of Culture year by making a host of live appearances and becoming a regular radio contributor, Wilson’s growing audience have been clamouring for more published work that builds on his existing output.
Dean said: “I’m happy and anxious about the publication of Take Me Up The Lighthouse. I’m hoping that readers will enjoy the fun and the rhymes about my East Riding adventures.
“My life is all there in my work, warts and all. I don’t decide what to write about and what to leave out. I’m writing in my head all the time whether I’m walking on the beach, dusting, shopping, swimming or watching Corrie. Rhymes never leave me alone.”
Dean’s pain will bring readers pleasure. This new collection will also allow Dean to return to the stage with new work to perform, something he is surprisingly nervous about.
He said: “I love performing and making people laugh. It’s the best feeling I know. I don’t like the build up – the rehearsing and the doubts and the nerves, but it’s all worth it.”
Dean might be viewed as a Hull and East Riding treasure but his live performances beyond the region have proved beyond doubt that his work goes down well anywhere he reads and performs. His many local references and the concrete details that litter his poems about his east coast existence ground his work in a specific place but also allow his work to travel. His local take on life brings into sharp focus feelings and emotions of universal appeal. As he navigates his life, and what it means, readers realise they share common ground with the poet, even in his wildest, untamed and passionate moments.
As for Withernsea, where Dean is based, it seems the perfect place for this former postman to be located.
“I moved here a year ago. It’s a magical and wondrous place. There’s nowhere I’d rather be.”
Wrecking Ball Press editor Shane Rhodes said: “Dean’s a one-off, a totally unique man and it’s good to see his reputation continuing to grow. I originally published his work in The Reater, at the beginning of the Wrecking Ball story, and we’re proud to continue to publish his work.”
Dean will be announcing a series of gigs in 2020. Follow him on twitter at @PoetDeanwilson6 for updates.
For more information and to purchase Take Me Up The Lighthouse visit www.wreckingballpress.com
Bathwater, the script of Vicky Foster’s BBC Radio 4 drama, has been published by Wrecking Ball Press. The book contains the full-length script, including material not aired in the radio version, and additional prose.
Bathwater is a gripping, ever-twisting, often moving, somewhat shocking and often agonising piece of work.
Vicky Foster said: “Bathwater is based on my real life experience of domestic abuse and the impact that violent crime has on families.”
Rather than a cathartic over-share, however, Foster goes way beyond writing what she knows in order to craft something that is simultaneously hard-hitting and poetic. She has written a work of literary beauty, despite the harsh and uncomfortable subject matter, combining prose, poetry and dialogue.
This is as bold a line in the sand as a writer can make to announce their arrival.
Poet Helen Mort, five-times winner of the Foyle Young Poets award, says that Bathwater is, “A powerful, extraordinary piece of drama. It has left me changed. Courageous and compelling poetry from a very talented writer.”
Bathwater is available to purchase now and can be ordered from the Wrecking Ball Press website.
A limited number of copies of Bathwater signed by the author will be available. Please indicate if you would like a signed copy when you place your order.
On March 6th this year, Martin Goodman’s new novel, J SS Bach, will be published by Wrecking Ball Press (available for pre-order here). Martin Goodman, award-winning author and Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Hull, “writes enchantingly” (The Literary Review), in beautifully crafted and emotive storylines with the greatest sympathy for his subject. J SS Bach is no except. The story of three generations of women from either side of Germany’s 20th Century horror story suffering the consequences of the actions of men, spanning from 1990s California right back to the midst of the Second World War, is intricate and moving.
Without giving away too much, let us say this: J SS Bach is singlehandedly one of the most affective and beautiful books that you will read this year.
Tonight (Tuesday 29th January), Martin will be on BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking at 10pm. Listen to him in the company of art historian Monica Bohm-Duchen and cultural historian Daniel Snowman, with host Anne McElvoy, discussing ‘Art and Refugees from Nazi Germany’ here. If you miss it, the wonders of modern technology will keep the programme available as a podcast for 30 days.
There will be two launches of J SS Bach, in London and in Hull, with Martin Goodman reading stories from the novel and – a special treat – live performances of Bach’s cello music.
The first, on February 26th at 6pm in the University of Hull’s Middleton Hall: French cellist Brice Catherin will play Bach’s 6th Suite and a range of other pieces (including his own compositions) to reflect Martin’s readings. Booking is highly recommended and may be done so here.
Second up, the London event. On March 7th at 7pm in the Great Chamber at Sutton House (Hackney) and hosted by the glorious Pages of Hackney: London-based cellist Hannah Monkhouse will play Bach’s 1st Cello Suite, and Martin will read from the book and tell stories of its conception. Tickets may be purchased here.
And, finally, a review of J SS Bach by Paul Simon of The Morning Star can be read here. The final words, “A masterful novel,” have never been more accurate.