Home Tags Non Fiction

Tag: Non Fiction

Spotlight on: Rough Trade Books


The London Magazine has long been a champion of emerging writers and independent publishers, stretching back to the 1950s and 60s, when young writers like Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes found a home in the pages of the then newly re-launched volumes of the magazine.

We want this tradition to continue, and given the renaissance of new independent publishers, we have decided to launch a monthly spotlight feature that promotes the best of innovative contemporary writing across the UK and beyond.

First up is Rough Trade Books, who have recently made waves with a striking series of 12 pamphlets, encapsulating poetry, photography, illustration, and more.

Who are they?

Rough Trade Books is a new venture from the independent record label Rough Trade, which can boast a strong cultural legacy of radicalism back to its roots in Ladbroke Grove in 1976. Much in the same way that the label once gave a platform to bands like The Raincoats (whose founding member Ana da Silva is among the first 12 RTB pamphlets), their new venture seeks to give a home to a number of voices and talents whose shared independent spirit ties together the disparate mediums of the artists.

Within the pages of the first 12 pamphlets can be found poetry, short fiction, photography, illustration, and an experimental novella about the occult. It’s certainly an eclectic mix so far, but despite this, each publication is tied to the next by counter-cultural ethic and DIY spirit of each artist and writer. Another obvious common ground is the sensational design and production values of the pamphlets themselves, which evoke something between literary magazines of the 1960s and 70s, and the 7 inch singles from the great era of post-punk labels (and their accompanying graphic designers) in the 1980s.

In short, much like the best record labels, there is a feeling of identity, of a club that you want to be a part of.

What are they publishing, and why are they different?

From Lorena Lohr’s photography of the forgotten corners of Southwest America, to the societal injustice exposed in the work of the poet Salena Godden, the pamphlets so far from Rough Trade Books give a platform to a number of different voices from across a global counter-culture.

There are nods to Rough Trade’s heritage in the photography of urban desolation from Jon Savage, and also to zine culture in the collected interviews of Jenny Pelly & Priests. Different viewpoints of society abound. The variety of voices and forms, along with the brevity of the pamphlets leaves open a great opportunity to publish a wide range of emerging voices. With the next wave 6 of pamphlets just announced (featuring a range of experimental fiction and photography), this is an imprint with a bright future.

What’s up next?

Just released are the aforementioned six new pamphlets, featuring (among others) short stories from James Endeacott, the photography of Japanese love hotel rooms by Laura Lewis, and new fiction from Thomas Morris, whose 2016 Faber collection We Don’t Know What We’re Doing won the 2016 Wales Books of the Year, the Rhys Davies Trust Fiction Award, and a Somerset Maugham Prize.

Upcoming events involve a trip over to Rough Trade Bristol on the 19th September, with readings from Salena Godden, Olly Todd, Joe Dunthorne and Will Burns. Rough Trade Books will then be back in London on Wednesday 3rd at Rough Trade East for a slightly early event for National Poetry Day, in the amusingly titled Not National Poetry Day. This will feature Salena Godden and Will Burns once more, as well as others including the excellent poet Scarlett Sabet, and music from guitarist Adam Chetwood.

And judging from all this, we are presumably safe in the expectation of much more in the not-too-distant future.

For more information, head to Rough Trade Books.

To discover more with The London Magazine, subscribe today from just £17.


Essay | A Journey Through Silence by Georgie Knaggs


The chat stops. We rise to our feet, step back over our benches. My foot hunts for its flip-flop.

I am nine years old. It is a mid-week evening. Supper has finished and the school is about to say grace. We must be silent. We must not move. This is normal.

The thick rubber of my flop is jammed beneath the bar of the bench.

‘… for what we have just received …’

My toes stretch outwards, then curl to a grip.

‘… may we be truly thankful.’

The shoe moves … then slips out of reach.


We turn to face the teachers at the top table as they line up to leave the hall. I start to panic. I shall be in big trouble. My shoe should have been on my foot.

Half-swivelled, I jab my foot forward. My big toe hits the leg of the bench and a sharp, fierce pain stabs through it … my cry is swallowed by relief. I have my shoe.

I force my foot into it – nothing said, nothing noticed – and limp out. The crocodile of silent children is complete.

That night my foot throbs and I cannot sleep. I am afraid but I don’t want to tell anyone. It will get better by itself, I think.

But it does not. In the morning, I study my sore toe. There is a black line, the width of a pencil, which runs from a jagged edge just above the white of my nail, right down to the flesh. It is a piece wood from the bench that has got stuck beneath my nail. I do not know how to get it out, and I am too afraid to tell anyone. Why did I take my shoe off?

The days pass, only a few but they feel like forever. I limp between the ‘listen-to-me’ and ‘repeat-after-me’ hours of class. I am okay sitting down.

Term ends soon. I shall tell someone then if my toe does not get better.

There is one problem … Sports Day  on the last day of term. I am knock kneed, flat footed, and last in everything – the limp will not change that but my toe is too sore to run.

I lie awake in the dormitory after ‘lights out’. Twenty other beds fidget around me. I have to tell someone that I cannot run tomorrow.

Morning dawns. I put on my white shorts, and my white tshirt, and line up by the basins to brush my teeth. Everyone is excited, except me. I am scared.

I am scared because my foot hurts, because I took off my shoe when I was not supposed to. I am scared because I never told anyone. I did not want to get into trouble … and now it is worse.

I cannot keep my big secret in any longer. It bursts out of me as soon as I see my parents. There are frowns and questions, and then a rush to the doctor.

My toenail is sliced open. It is sore but nobody gets cross. The teachers don’t because my parents are there. My parents don’t because the teachers are so helpful. And I don’t because I know I shouldn’t.

That is how it was in the country where I grew up. We were newly independent and unravelling into a civil war. There was more to worry about than being soft on school children.

Nine years after the toe incident, I finish school. I am soundly educated, deferential to authority, and know how to hold my tongue and survive. I am the product of hard working parents, two boarding schools and a racially divisive civil war.

By the time I leave school, the country, in which I was born and raised, has changed its name four times since my birth. It is now Zimbabwe.

I step out into the world unaware that my life has been fenced apart by censorship and sanctions. I see and hear what those in power wish me to see and hear … and I believe them.

It takes a year of travel to loosen my point of view – to start to feel the joy of my generation.

University in Scotland follows. I am in a small department with a professor who prefers research to examinations. He sends me to Spain and back to Zimbabwe where the silence has lifted. The country is noisy with hope.

I write my dissertations and I graduate. I am 25 years old when I marry a man in the British military.

Another silence descends. This silence lasts a quarter of a century. It is the silence of ‘loyalty’ – of attachment to a member of a nomadic, hierarchical system caught in a time of slippery conflict.

I know silence. It is not a friend. I regress and so does the land of my birth.

When the new millennium arrives I visit my father who is ill in Zimbabwe. The country is trapped beneath the chaos of land redistribution and government ambition. Silence spreads like a bruise. It deadens.

Fourteen years later, in the south of Italy, I meet silence again and its grip is tighter than any I have known.

We are based just outside Naples, surrounded by a powerful mix of history, grace and crime in an ancient, volcanic landscape.

‘The mafia are here to stay,’ a local friend tells me. ‘I know them, I know them all. Sonno tutti mafiosi … but I say nothing. I say buongiorno and I smile. They know I know … but I am afraid for my children.’

I understand this silence that creates accomplices.

In Naples itself there are plaques, memorials to the dead, to the victims of organised crime, but I do not photograph them. I do not write about them for they fill me with dread and questions. Are they to honour the fallen or to warn those that remain?

A young American arrives in Naples. She is full of the certainty of faith and the passion of work to be done. There is joy in every positive step … but it fades.

‘We were promised the building for our work. It must be where the need is greatest. But always there is some reason we cannot start.’

She is earnest and determined, but she is alone. Then one day she is gone. Visa problems we are told.

Above her, the waters close. I bob on the surface, eyes to the sunshine while tides rip beneath.

This is corruption polished to a high finish but the people dance as they always have– gracious, defiant, captivating, faithful to their city and its beliefs. Who am I to judge?

Now, we are back in England. It is 2017, a year of anger and disbelief, a year where influence fights across the new frontier of cyberspace, where power resorts to camouflage, and truth is hard to trust.

Today, I am in a café in rural Dorset. It is the day London’s Big Ben falls silent. The day that the moon blots out the sun across the USA.

A young man paces the floor, mobile to his ear. His voice penetrates the barista’s clatter and steam. He is out of work and job-hunting.

‘I was a CEO. I had a team in Rome … people in Brazil … staff of 70 … ‘

Conversations cease. Newspapers rustle uncomfortably. We listen to the man parade his corporate credentials.

‘What is the goal of the company? Is it to grow the top line or the bottom line?’

We ponder the question, unwitting members of his interview panel. The verdict, unanimous it seems, is that he must try again elsewhere. He does. He makes one call after another – a large piece in the café’s jigsaw of noise.

I am happy to be here, free to speak and to listen in, privileged by freedoms earned by others.

A young family, armed with electronic devices, enters the café – mum, dad, and two children. The youngest is no more than four. They order their hot chocolates then, slouched and silent around their steaming mugs, they disappear into worlds we cannot see. Only their bodies remain on our shore.

I watch and I wonder if the empathy Shakespeare showed us will be smothered or amplified by digital space. Will this family emerge stronger from its new worlds … or weaker?

Behind me, giggles wriggle through the pot plants. A little boy chases his sister around the table.

My mind drifts through the noise. I re-read what I have written. Silence beckons me backwards. Why say anything? Why write anything?

Then all the words I have never said scrabble against the sides of my mind. They spell out the consequences they have witnessed in silence – fear. Shame. Corruption. Contamination. Cruelty. Collapse.

I look away. I look down. Platforms click across my screen.

All I have to do is find my voice.

Dearest reader! Our newsletter!

Sign up to our newsletter for the latest content, freebies, news and competition updates, right to your inbox. From the oldest literary periodical in the UK.

You can unsubscribe any time by clicking the link in the footer of any email you receive from us, or directly on info@thelondonmagazine.org. Find our privacy policies and terms of use at the bottom of our website.