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Essay | An argument for theatres by Amber Massie-Blomfield

The last show I saw before lockdown was Love Love Love at the Lyric Hammersmith. 500 of us were in that room; all gathered together to do what, in my pre-quarantine life, I used to do two or three times a week. I didn’t hug my friend when I met him at the start of the evening. It was the beginning of March and what constituted acceptable public behaviour seemed to shift on an hourly basis. We touched elbows. ‘This is probably the last theatre show we’ll ever see,’ my friend said, and we laughed, incredulous. No one dared to clear their throat in the darkness. Three days later, the theatres closed. It’s strange to think of it now, being in a room packed [...]

Interview | Rick Gekoski on Darke Matter, scepticism and reading for pleasure

Rick Gekoski awoke one morning from uneasy dreams and inexplicably found himself metamorphosed into a writer of fiction. He was seventy-three years old, a retired academic, former Booker prize judge and Chair, broadcaster, bibliographer, private press publisher, journalist and rare book dealer. He had never published a word of fiction. His novel, Darke (2017) was prompted by an insistent inward voice, and its author was called “a late-flowering genius of a novelist” in The Times [...]

Essay | How to Run a Queer Reading Series at a LDN Arts Institution by Isabel Waidner

Queers Read This is an ongoing reading series started independently by artist Richard Porter and myself at the Horse Hospital in London in 2017, and co-run with the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) since. Quarterly events feature readings of texts which work across intersectional systems of oppression, and challenge formal distinctions between prose and poetry or critical and creative writing. Themes range from pansies and twink mysticism [...]

Review | Emma Rice’s Wise Children at Bristol Old Vic, 9 April – 30 June 2020

Emma Rice’s stage adaptation of Wise Children, Angela Carter’s final novel, is raunchy, colourful and garish. We have come to expect nothing less from the acclaimed director, whose bold approach proved too much for theatrical conservatives during her spell as Artistic Director at Shakespeare's Globe. In this first production from her new theatre company – also named ‘Wise Children’ - Rice’s talent explodes into an all-singing, all-dancing drama, with high kicks, sex and scandal galore [...]

Poetry | The Older Touches by Bibhu Padhi

There are times when I remember / all of them fondly enough for them / to be here once more, all around / this house, which is far away from / where they were around, and at this hour, / far away again from my childhood fears. / Now I can just think of them. And / what is thinking except the mind’s / imaginings, the heart speaking to itself / in the darkness of default, fearing alien / ears, the world’s participation in the shame / of being touched in front of others? [...]

Interview | David Constantine on Writing Lived Experience, Fiction as Felt Truth and Hope for the Future

David Constantine counts himself lucky to be having a relatively peaceful lockdown at home with his wife, Helen, in Oxford. He spends his time going for long walks and, of course, writing in his shed at the bottom of the garden amidst the birdsong. The paperback edition of Constantine’s fifth short story collection, The Dressing-Up Box, will be released later this month by Comma Press [...]

Essay | Am fit. Always thinking of you. Love. by Sam Burt

Before he settled on The Plague for his title, Camus considered The Separated and The Exiles. Exile comes suddenly to the inhabitants of Oran, a ‘clean-cut deprivation’ of contact with their lives beyond the city. The roads are sealed overnight. Not even letters can escape for fear of infection. Phone calls are restricted to ‘urgent cases.’ Lovers parted by quarantine must ‘hunt for tokens of their past communion within the compass of a ten-word telegram’ [...]

Interview | Dima Alzayat on Alligator: stories of displacement, cultural myth and inter-generational trauma

Human beings are naturally drawn to a good story and that’s regardless of the medium, whether that’s writing or film or something else. I think fiction can help readers see ways of living and thinking that differ from how they live and think, and, at the very least, this can make them more open to or understanding of difference. For me, a good story puts the reader in someone else’s shoes and taps into a reader’s own experiences and emotions in order to connect them [...]

Poetry | Almost-Heartwood by Suzannah V. Evans

The rosy almost-heartwood of larch, / which sounds like lark, which sounds like singing, / which sounds like the wood could open its rosy throat / and pour forth the song of boats / sighing in the harbour, / swimming onto slipways, knocking against pontoons / The grainy planks of teak, / which sounds like talk, which sounds like the boatbuilders / as they ease about the wooded space, handling compass planes, / talking of cleats and chines and carvels, making tea [...]

Review | A Monster Calls at The Old Vic, 5-11 June 2020

This stunning Old Vic production, devised from the best-selling YA novel by Patrick Ness, hits so many emotional notes; it left me in bits. In its honest depiction of illness and grief, A Monster Calls is a timely production to stream. Conor, while coming to terms with his mum’s cancer, must struggle with school bullies, falling out with his best friend, and his dad moving to America with his new family. It is a lot to tackle in under two hours, but the play is well-paced and [...]

Essay | Wholly Communion by Scarlett Sabet

On June 11th 1965, over 7,000 people filled the Royal Albert Hall for four hours, smoking, applauding and listening to men that would soon become myth: Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Adrian Mitchell, and Gregory Corso were just some of the poets that performed that night at the International Poetry Incarnation. It was a counter-culture ‘happening’ in one of London's most affluent boroughs, the Royal Albert Hall itself a testament to the power and wealth of the old British Empire [...]

Interview | Leland Cheuk on the comic novel, stereotype and optimism

Leland Cheuk is the award-winning author of The Misadventures of Sulliver Pong (2015) and a short story collection, Letters from Dinosaurs (2016). He is the founder of the indie press 7.13 Books and teaches at the Sarah Lawrence College Writing Institute. I spoke to Leland about his newest novel No Good Very Bad Asian (2019) and his experience of belonging to the so-called 'model minority' in COVID-19 America. A cross between Paul Beatty’s The Sellout and [...]

Essay | Layli and Majnun: Romeo and Juliet of the East by Joobin Bekhrad

When it comes to love stories, none are as well known in the English language as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. In Iran and elsewhere in the Persian-speaking world, however, another pair of star-crossed lovers reigns supreme. Lord Byron, who enthused over ancient Iran in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, called Nezami Ganjavi’s Layli and Majnun ‘the Romeo and Juliet of the East’. Though given to exaggeration, this was no exaggeration on Byron’s part [...]

Interview | Scarlett Sabet in conversation with Gerard Malanga

You ask how my week has been? I've been in lockdown now for 3 weeks or so, though I might've lost count. I have plenty to keep me busy in the house here, plus I have responsibility towards my 3 cats. And then there's dreamtime, between 4 & 6 in the morning. But suddenly I felt days back this ennui coming on, like, did the poetry suddenly disappear? Sometimes I'm concerned—but just for a moment mind you—whether I can match or even better the last one? There's no way [...]

Update | A Note on COVID-19

We ask readers to be aware that the production team remains working from home and that print times are inevitably somewhat slower than usual with the result that print copies of the June/July issue of the magazine have been delayed, available on back order and may take a week or so longer than expected to reach you. The June/July Supplementary Pamphlet will be released mid-June so may arrive separately for some orders [...]

Review | This House, National Theatre at Home

Undeniably, the UK has experienced a turbulent political era in the last five years, but it certainly meets its match in the five running from 1974 to 1979. From fistfights in parliament, to faked deaths, to MPs brought in to vote from their hospital beds, this period saw it all. In the critically acclaimed This House, playwright James Graham and director Jeremy Herrin masterfully capitalise on parliament’s real-life melodramas, creating an accessible political drama exploding with tension and laughter [...]

Fiction | Negative Capability by Michèle Roberts

Yesterday ended in disaster. Very late at night, I decided to write down everything that had happened, the only way I could think of coping. So here goes. Yesterday I woke up at seven thirty in my white-painted wrought-iron bed, felt lazy, decided to have a lie-in. Almost immediately, above me, the neighbours’ bed began creaking. [...]

Virtual Exhibition | Unseen Spring by Joe Machine

The London Magazine is delighted to host a virtual exhibition of Joe Machine’s new paintings. The series comprises motifs of spring and his iconic animal figures, such as the magpie and the fox. As ever with Joe’s painting the work draws the viewer into a mythically charged landscape. Yet these are delicate, quiet and hopeful paintings. London Magazine subscribers will receive a discount and a percentage of all sales will be donated to the NHS [...]

Fiction | Fear In Your Water by Julia Bell

I had been reading Foucault – and not understanding it properly; I was too distracted to concentrate. But I got the gist of it, at least what I thought was the important stuff, what he was saying about madness and how it has been civilised out of us, how back in the day it used to be that sane people and mad people all lived together and there wasn’t so much of a difference. And ‘mad’ people were often seen as visionaries with special access to God. It was only when people [...]

News | The London Magazine Prize for Debut Fiction 2020

The London Magazine has launched its debut fiction prize, formerly known as the Collyer Bristow Prize, for a third year running. The award will be administered by the magazine’s editorial team. First launched in May 2018, the prize aims to celebrate exceptional literary fiction, inviting publishers to submit one debut work of fiction each that was published in the previous calendar year. This can include collections of fiction by a sole author, but the book must be in its original [...]

Interview | Ra Page on Stories of Uprising and Protest in the Age of Coronavirus

Ra Page is the founder and CEO of Comma Press, a Manchester-based publisher specialising in short stories. He has edited many anthologies, including Protest: Stories of Resistance (2017), and Litmus (2011), an Observer Book of the Year. He coordinated Literature Northwest until it merged with Comma Press, and is a former director of Manchester Poetry Festival. Ra's latest collection, Resist: Stories of Uprising (2019), pairs fictional retellings of British protests through the ages with historical afterwords [...]

Essay | Diary of a Pembridge Poet: June 1976 – March 1977 by Chris Rice

On 17th June 1976, Robert Greacen, Northern Irish poet and colleague of Chris Rice at a private language school in Holland Park, hosted the first of his poetry workshops from his flat in Pembridge Crescent, Notting Hill Gate. As the junior member at that first meeting, Chris kept a diary of the group’s comings and goings, and continued to do so for the next six years. The extracts below trace a ten-month period from the first meeting in a small flat in Notting Hill Gate to the group’s first public reading in Sloane Square [...]

Fiction | Winter by Philip Womack

One Wednesday evening, on the stone steps outside an umbrella shop somewhere near Tottenham Court Road, Sam encountered Silvestra de Winter in person for the first, and last, time. Rain droplets spattered down the back of his neck. The umbrellas, lining the window like carcasses in a butcher’s shop, were striped in pinks, greens, and oranges. Some, in what was evidently thought a rather witty touch, had carved animal heads. One duck-headed umbrella looked like [...]

Interview | Darren Coffield on Tales from the Colony Room: Soho’s Lost Bohemia

British painter and writer Darren Coffield has exhibited widely in the company of leading artists such as Damien Hirst, Howard Hodgkin, Patrick Caulfield and Gilbert and George, at venues ranging from the Courtauld Institute, Somerset House to Voloshin Museum, Crimea. His new book, Tales from the Colony Room, is an authorized history of one of London’s most infamous arts establishment, the Colony Room Club in Soho [...]

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