Damien Mosley, director at Indie Novella, introduces a new anthology of fresh local literature
Community members of Haringey and Hackney came together last month to celebrate the launch of a very special and unique anthology.
The Local Voices Project is a collection of stories by 34 local writers about home and what being part of modern day Haringey and Hackney means to them. My name is Damien and earlier this year I and my colleagues at a small publisher called Indie Novella put out an open call for story submissions from real people living in two of the most diverse and welcoming places not only in London, but in the UK, to demonstrate what a wealth of writing talent we have on our doorstep.
We have stories about forming diaspora communities, growing up in a multicultural society, coming together during Covid-19, caring for relatives, rent hikes, gentrification, being Black and British, and finding a place where you feel accepted. It is a true snapshot of Hackney, Haringey and what North London means to us. And last month’s event celebrated this. We had readings from twelve different writers across the boroughs, and the event, hosted in a full Newington Green Meeting House, was attended by three local councillors including the deputy mayor of Hackney, Anntoinette Bramble. Haringey-based writer and performer Phoebe McIntosh summed up the writerly talent involved when reading from her own submission to the anthology, The Surge.
Extract from The Surge
Occasionally, there are movements within you, ones you have nothing to do with. It is your responsibility to monitor them, to count them, recognise if they are happening less frequently, report it, tell someone, knowing that if you fail to do so, the consequences could be grave. You fight the urge to lay down. There is so much to do. The list of life admin, the tasks that fill your days, never dwindles for long but continually re-germinates and grows like a newly planted seed.
You think about your mother more lately, about how she did this alone, walked herself to the hospital when she went through this very experience, carrying her hospital bag alongside her bump. You wonder how she stayed so calm, what it took for her not to panic that you were on your way, and she was so young, so alone.
You drink that in now, that strength, as your midsection tightens around the additional life it holds. You ask it not to cling too tightly. “Please,” you think. “Let go a little, body of mine, just enough”, your own skin holding onto the new skin that you’ve made from your own cells, but which doesn’t belong to you. You call to mind words that bring about ease. Ease is all you want.
For this to be easier this time round.
If anyone asks, no, no you’re not scared. You throw them a bone: “A little nervous, I guess.” That’s all you admit to out loud. And on the inside too, within the secret folds of your mind, there is no room to second guess that impulse either now, little room to reconsider or admit to truer feelings because you are occupied, full to the brim with fresh spring air, new bones, soft limbs, shoulders as yet unweighted by the reality of the world just beyond the confines of your body, housing her.
Within you, there is a face that already knows how to smile. Fully formed eyes with fully formed tear ducts ready to be filled and emptied down the softness of the barelythere peaks of skin which you have helped to mould into her appearance. You’ll see it soon, no longer grainy and separated from you by glass and medical machines but real, looking back at you, asking of you all the things you would never ask of yourself.
But you will. Because you’ve done it before. “All I have to do is feed her and love her,” you tell yourself. And you can think of nothing truer. You are alone now, when for days you have been surrounded by people and anticipation. That’s why it’s happening now, the contractions, the shortness of breath, the knowledge that time, this kind of time, the kind you’ve grown so accustomed to recently, is short. A new time is dawning. And it starts now.
Dominoes, a novel based on Haringey writer Phoebe McIntosh’s play of the same name, will be published by Penguin in March 2024. The Local Voices Project is available now from indienovella.co.uk/bookshop