Tag Archives: New Writing

Black & BLUE with Beckie Stewart

Ahead of the publication of REVOLUTION on Bonfire Night, we talked politics, pamphlets and people with Black & BLUE editor Beckie Stewart

It took just a few short years for Black & BLUE to establish itself as one of Manchester’s top contemporary literary exports. Founded in November 2011 by Dane Weatherman and Alex Marsh, both students of University of Manchester at the time, Black & BLUE has now grown to be a five-strong editorial team (plus designer). They host exhibitions and readings up and down the country and bring the works of artists and writers from around the world together in original, beautifully curated print publications/print journals and political pamphlets. Though the Black & BLUE founders are now based in London, there’s still a strong Manchester presence maintained through Beckie Stewart, one of the Black & BLUE editors, who has stayed in the city and continues to contribute to its creative scene.

Beckie describes the people behind Black & BLUE as “an odd handful of people, each with really diverse tastes, political views and backgrounds but with one aim: to provide a space for new writing as a counterpoint to what we view as the ‘traditional’ literary scene”. This patchwork of people and ideas is reflected in the genre-crossing nature and variety of the work they produce: annual journals of creative writing, images and art; political pamphlets; blogposts on art and words – there’s no one rule. They’re tackling as many art forms and inviting as many collaborations as possible in their attempt to re-imagine literature.

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When I asked Stewart what Black & BLUE are looking for, she noted that they are “openly political…because everything is political”. Black & BLUE believe that “no one can speak from a position of neutrality anymore” so embracing the highly political nature of society through literature is what seems natural to this group of creatives. What this means for the submissions Black & BLUE want is that they are eager for “fresh writing that speaks to everyone; we want to make it accessible and break down the walls of what surrounds poetry and creative writing” – they want to challenge people’s assumptions about literature and the forms it can take in the modern day.

Talking about how Black & BLUE want to represent themselves, Stewart referred to co-founder Weatherman who saw representing younger writers as a main focus of the magazine. They wanted to “make a break from outdated literature promulgated by archaic university lecturers” which is something I’m sure a lot of students can relate to and appreciate at least some of the time (I know I certainly can!). This focus on newness and energy is in everything they create, every issue of the Black & BLUE journal aesthetically and thematically unique.

one  fire  city

That being said, as you look at the Black & BLUE catalogue there is an underlying current that links it all. Beckie points out that the issue CITY ended on the lines “you have no idea what you are doing, that you are merely wandering the earth, no particular reason for being there, no particular place to go” (from a piece by Louis Jenkins). The Black & BLUE team felt that this could not be left on a cliffhanger – they had to pick it up in the next issue and “it was only natural the theme of REVOLUTION followed, considering pieces in CITY like Robert Montgomery’s billboards denouncing high capitalism, tweets encapsulating the rise of UKIP… it drew our attention to this shift, this un-settling.”

REVOLUTION is Black & BLUE’s boldest issue to date. To be published on 5th November, the edition features poetry, prose, art and thought that is in itself revolutionary, or is inspired by what is. A dedicated Twitter feed set up during the submissions process gave people a chance to share that exciting experience of reading what revolution means for different people around the world. Beckie talks excitedly about it as “a strong collection of writers” having received phenomenal submissions – the main problem she encountered in the process of making it was finding space in the magazine for it all! “It’s a shame we can’t feature more of it, there’s a huge pool of creative writing out there and it’s so exciting to provide a platform for some of that”.

Turning to the future of Black & BLUE I asked Stewart what we could expect from the publication.

“Much like M20Collective, we’re all for collaboration in all areas of arts – Black & BLUE work with the basis that the more people involved, the more inspired we can be and the more we can accomplish”.

This has already been a key focus for Black & BLUE in 2014: in June they put on a London-based exhibition, Illuminations, showcasing textual forms of art. The success of this project has spurred on hopes for more in the future with a pop-up gallery and other collaborative plans in the pipeline. We can also expect a follow-up to the brilliantly received political pamphlets Black & BLUE released last year and Beckie revealed that the group is “hoping to do a series of lectures”.

For anyone who wants to get involved with Black & BLUE, and we can’t push this opportunity enough, Beckie is eager to find new collaborators and submissions to the Black & BLUE body of work. After all, collaboration “is how the most progressive and beautiful things in life are formed”, she says. The contemporary, collective Black & BLUE way is certainly progressive and a great platform for future developments as yet undiscovered.

Alex Webb

REVOLUTION is A NEW ANTHOLOGY OF REVOLUTIONARY CREATIVE LITERATURE IN SEVEN PARTS: FATHERS| CHILDREN|FUCKERS|WOLVES LIBERTINES MONSTERS|THE DEAD|NO PLACES|PLANTS & FLOWERS. Pre-order now to receive on bonfire night [051114]

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If you want to get involved email them at revolution@blackbluewriting.com
Read some of Beckie’s work in the creative corner…

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Storm by Jonny Heath

The storm arrived in the middle of the night. Nothing and no one was prepared for its force.

They had said on TV that people should expect heavy wind and rain. Maybe the weatherman was new or asleep or drunk on the job, or maybe the weather itself had made the last minute decision to behave in a completely new and unexpected way, because no whisper of a warning ever came close to reflecting the savagery of that wind, that rain; that force.

First it arrived as an icy wind so powerful that as it swept through the city’s streets it tossed up cars, pulled down chimneys and ripped out road signs; obliterating with whistle, howl and moan the silence that hangs between dancing and dawn.

The first three victims of the storm were, in order:

A set of traffic lights,

The front window of St. Margaret’s Church,

And a papier mache elephant named David.

St Margaret’s was the church on Witherton High Street, and it had a window display that was updated every now and then with a new symbolic item. For a while there had been an elephant there, along with a sign that read:

 

‘ELEPHANTS NEVER FORGET. DON’T FORGET GOD.’

 

When the storm hit, the traffic lights came off best, because they were mostly made of metal; the window of the church shattered into a million pieces, and poor David was caved in like a collapsed meringue.

The storm’s first lucky escapee was a man called Lou, who at the time was watching his feet.

When the wind tore the traffic lights from their moorings in the concrete, pulling up a big clump of it like the earth that comes up with the roots of a weed, Lou was pretending to be in the Bahamas. Lou had never been to the Bahamas, but he had the idea that it was warm there. He was watching his feet because when he brought his face up any higher he got scared that the wind would scrape it off.

The traffic lights missed him by three inches. He didn’t see them but he heard them go; the dreadful rumble as they were ripped from the ground, and immediately after that the dreadful crash of the window as it shattered.

Lou was saved by the same gust of wind that got the traffic lights. It picked him up too, taking him off his feet and throwing him into the opening of an alleyway running alongside the church. If it hadn’t been for that gust of wind, those traffic lights would have taken Lou’s head off. (Although actually they wouldn’t have done any such thing, as if it hadn’t been for that gust of wind, those traffic lights would have stayed just where they were meant to.)

Lou went into the alley on his hands and knees, not thinking anything at all. He held on tight to the bottom of a gate a little way inside. Still Lou had no thoughts, but he knew he should hold on tight to that gate. Sure enough, as soon as his gloved fingers closed around the bars another gust swept through the alleyway as if a giant was trying to blow the dust out, and lifted Lou’s feet clean into the air. Then Lou was upside-down, and his arms near torn from their sockets, but still he thought nothing.

Then he came down with a thump. Then, he had his first thought:

Bloody hell.

His second thought was for Deirdre. She was in the breast pocket of his fraying jacket. Deirdre was a rat.

You’re alright, Deirdre, Lou thought.

(Lou’s thoughts only came every so often, and when they did they were white on a black background with a white embellished border, like the narrative frames of old silent films.)

Maybe Lou felt a wriggling near his chest, as if Deirdre was letting him know she was alright and hadn’t been crushed. Before he had time to check, the spire of St. Margaret’s fell into the alleyway.

There was first a flash of blinding white, then there was a sudden tumbling around, and then there was darkness.

The darkness was total. The darkness was like velvet, blacker than black, and the darkness was deep, stretching out in front of Lou forever. An unmeasurable number of moments passed. Then a thought came:

Can’t feel my feet.

It was true. He couldn’t move them either. One peculiar thing was that Lou couldn’t tell which way up he was. There was pressure from all sides. Soon the parts of his body that he could feel began to complain about the weight of the stones or the ground or the sky or whatever it was that had fallen in on top of him.

Deirdre.

   One of his hands was trapped up against his chest, the arm bent at the elbow. He wriggled his fingers to discover a small cave of space to move around in. He cupped the bulge in his breast pocket; it was warm. Carefully he freed the button of the pocket. His wrist had just enough room to bend so that his hand could slip inside. His fingers met fur.

You’re alright, Deird. You’re alright.

And Lou felt a nibble on his index finger.

Must be terrified.

And he stroked her with one finger, up and down.

You’re alright, Deird.

In the dark with weight on all sides Lou lay, and with each thunderclap he felt the rat quiver in his hand. He heard another window shatter. Kebab King? Solomon Grundy? The One Stop Supermarket? Then came a noise like clashing titans’ horns, and the scream of tearing metal, and thunder erupting in cracks and booms; the wind was a chorus of tortured creatures; high-screeching banshees and low-groaning undersea giants, and car alarms, whistles and shrieks, howls and moans, and ever more breaking glass, breaking glass, and every so often the faraway rumble of a wounded roof.

Lodged in the black, Lou could have been a stone in the belly of a mountain. He remembered the time when playing hide and seek with Uncle Felix as a child he had found the perfect spot, a space behind the washing machine where there was barely even room to breathe.

Felix couldn’t find me as hard as he tried.

Then he noticed wetness seeping through the back of his jacket, and that made him notice the constant radio hiss of falling rain which before he had taken for silence.

The only clues given by time of its passing were each white clash of the storm and the spaces in between.

There were no thoughts for a while.

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CREATIVE CORNER… Alex Webb

God is dead.

‘God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers?’

– Nietzsche, 1882

 

When Nietzsche said God was dead what did he mean?

If God is dead then let’s hold a festival of

blacks, whites and greys

and welcome in the monochromatic manifesto.

Let’s bleach the flags of the world and drain out their colour,

purge variation and label it “incompetence”.

We will be plain:

as we kneel, it will not be with a nation’s hopes for something greater.

No more will we pray, messages sent without stamps.

We’ll wander confused

sheep without Shepherd as we dive off cliffs,

suiciding ourselves onto Dawkins’ sword.

 

When we killed God, did Siva stop his dance?

Did time pause itself, rewinding decades of growth?

As we beheaded Our Father did ignorance grow,

with us as It’s love child, rejection our mother

bathing in the destroyer’s demise, a paradox

only faithlessness could breed?

 

Look, I’m not trying to say God exists,

but if we killed God let’s watch as

civilisations of old crumble.

Anubis, Zeus, Saturn, Ahura Mazda.

All will disintegrate, cracked by whispers of certain

militant atheisms.

 

They say we were built on centuries of blind faith,

if that’s the case then we stand

on the shoulders of visually impaired giants

and boy did they know how to build!

Pyramids, coliseums, temples: monuments to the greater.

If God is dead then say goodbye to your good grades because

damn! indiscriminate, undefined being you had my back back there.

 

Now I know, I know,

When we listen to the ramblings of unfounded extremists

We all want to ebay our Bibles (without charging postage),

padlock heaven’s gates and

throw the key into Visnu’s milk ocean

but don’t count the potentially old guy/girl/trans*gendered being out yet.

They’re the only living remnant of civilisations we trampled on.

Don’t drown one culture out

with the screams of another.

 

– Alex Webb, www.independencedaywritings.tumblr.com