Writer of the Month: Mandla Rae

Tell me about you, as an artist. How do you define art? What art do you make?

Whenever people ask me what I do, I always instinctively reply “I’m a poet” but even getting to that point took years. I’m starting to feel like more of a ‘storyteller’ – that sounds pretentious but essentially, I feel like what I do is I get to play around with different ways to tell stories. I guess I’d say for me, art is an attempt to seek and understand truth. My poetry is very personal, I write to reclaim an inner power that I misplaced or gave away. It’s mostly feeling. Writing and performing have been survival.

Performance is a really cathartic experience, I have a really complicated relationship with it as every time I perform it feels like I’m opening my soul and demanding it to be seen, telling people things about myself I wouldn’t usually tell them, it’s not the idea of judgement that scares me, it’s a fear of being open.

There’s a lot of trauma in the world and there’s been a lot of repression in my mind, my work is an attempt to work through these things. This year I’ve been thinking a lot about the phrase “In order to survive, we were taught to forget” which I saw filmmaker and director Campbell X write on social media and I really felt it. That’s popped into my mind a lot while I’ve been writing this year. I’m terrified of one day forgetting my life, but there’s so many events that I push as far back as I can in order to just about survive, so I suppose it makes sense that my work has always had a confessional aspect, even a poem like ‘to the Slaughter’ which is so grotesque and seems so far away from reality where my body is being chopped away, takes me back to a very specific, very real moment.

You’ve recently been co-commissioned by Commonword and Journeys Festival to produce a piece of work in response to our Displaced Words brief. What was your initial inspiration for the piece Letters to our Mothers and Fathers? What do you hope audiences will gain from experiencing this work?

There was something I wanted to say, I didn’t know what it was but I knew I wanted to say it. I have a bit of a weird relationship with my parents. I was raised by my grandmother; my dad’s mum and I haven’t seen my mum since I moved to England as a child. My dad’s always vaguely been around but I think because he didn’t raise me, there’s a distance between us. I think we don’t really know how to talk to each other. My mum feels more like a new friend and not so much a mother figure. I wanted to explore that, to communicate with both of my parents. I started writing letters to them about a year ago, letters I’m never going to send, sometimes I keep them, sometimes I don’t. There’s a lot of things we don’t say in my family. Family dynamics are often complicated, I’m obsessed with trying to figure them out.

I wanted to see what this experience feels like for others who, like me, are far from their home countries. I wanted to try and bring to the surface a snippet of what that feels like, to be trying to stay connected to people who are so far away, who you haven’t seen for years, maybe even decades, when you can’t just…make the trip to see them.

You are the curator of Queer Contact: Outspoken. How did you get into curating? How do you feel curating compliments your work as a writer?

I was on the National Student Pride committee when I was at university and I think I caught the curating bug when I was there, for two years I saw the festival start as vague ideas and then I got to watch and be a part of its becoming.

During Temporary Monument, Permanent Protest – a project myself, Nasima Begum, Ali Wilson and Isaac Rose produced for Contact to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Section 28 protests in Manchester, I got the chance to work with young LGBTQ poets. I facilitated poetry workshops with them and worked with Nasima to curate their performance at an event at the old Free Trade Hall to launch an image we’d commissioned by Manuel Vason. We also commissioned new works from local artists Louise Wallwein and Leo Hermitt. We’d been inspired by the Never Going Underground exhibition at the People’s History Museum when we’d come together for Re:Con, we couldn’t miss the chance to celebrate this beautiful moment in Manchester’s history where 25,000 people had marched across the city in anger at the government’s anti-gay proposed laws.

I was over the moon when Contact asked me to work with them to curate Queer Contact’s Outspoken! I think being a writer can feel very isolating at times, so I always jump at the chance to collaborate and showcase the brilliant work happening in Manchester right now, particularly by queer artists. I love that you don’t have to look very hard to find someone in this city who’s doing something fantastic, I regularly go to see performances so the Outspoken line up was performers whose work I’d been admiring over the past few years.

You’re a seasoned spoken word performer, what do you enjoy most about the spoken word scene? What advice would you give to first time performers?

I love the support from other poets, particularly in Manchester. It really does help to have a community of creatives otherwise you’d just be practicing your craft alone in your room (in my case anyway). To have friends like Nasima Begum who demand to see drafts of your new ideas, to regularly have a show or a performance or exhibition to support a friend in is really important in just keeping me going.

If you’re thinking about performing or have just started, show people your work – especially if the thing doesn’t feel finished (will it ever feel finished?), do it! Performance doesn’t just happen on the stage. Ask for advice, ask for help, find your community.

Over the summer you’ve been working at Edinburgh Fringe and you’ve previously participated in the Royal Exchange’s Writers of Colour group. What are your plans for delving further into theatre land?

I’ve always thought of myself as being in a long-term relationship with words, and I’m really excited by theatre and spectacle. Before Fringe, I was working at Manchester International Festival so working amongst two brilliant festivals for showcasing theatre and art, seeing shows back to back throughout the summer, it just made sense to look into writing about theatre. I applied for the Greater Manchester Critics Scheme as soon as I got back from Edinburgh and was really pleased to get accepted! There are some great programmes in and around Manchester this Autumn/Winter at theatres like Contact, the Royal Exchange, HOME and the Octagon and I’m really excited to dive into theatre reviewing and learning from some top names in the field.

What have been the key milestones in your development as a writer?

I joined Young Identity when I first moved to Manchester and I’m really thankful for those workshops and the amount of support I gained from being part of the performance collective. I’ll always love YI. Standing on the Shoulders of Giants was a stunning show to be part of, three generations of artists came together at Contact – Speakeasy, Inna Voice and Young Identity, that was a great moment.

Shadowing Keisha Thompson and watching her spectacular show Man on the Moon bloom and grow. That was really special, to be invited by Keisha into the space and watch a show become.

Performing on Nima Séne’s Beige Bitch with Contact at Stun. Nima really encouraged me to take control of the poem I performed, to play around with its presentation. To take up space.

Chatting to, laughing with, getting words of wisdom from one of my favourite playwrights ever – Debbie Tucker-Green during a Writers of Colour workshop(!!!!)

Chronologically, it’s interesting to see how my choices and opportunities over the past few years have kind of been leading me into making theatre.

What’s next for you in your writing career?

I used to find solo shows so terrifying and always thought I’d never have the nerve to do one. When I was shadowing Keisha,I remember thinking I’d never want to get on stage, as myself in a solo show and tell people things about my life as they happened. I always thought I would just write plays and have nothing to do with the performance. I guess there’s been some growth somewhere down the line as I’m now trying to learn as much as I can about how to do just that. There’s a story I want to tell and obviously there’s poetry involved but I want to see how much further I can push it. Until this year, I had only told a handful of friends in my whole life that I’m a refugee. I’ve always shared that I wasn’t born here, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to correct people when they’d assume that I had British Citizenship. Sometimes things would happen and I’d just keep them quiet instead of telling the story and having to answer the inevitable questions. I’m picking apart that shame, while trying to figure out if there is such a thing as ‘becoming British’. This story is more than three minutes long. I’m terrified. I’m excited.

I pitched the idea to Mother’s Bloomers and I’ll be workshopping a ten-minute part of the script at their next event at the Royal Exchange on the 16th of November with Lisa and Tim’s support. It’s a completely different performance to anything I’ve ever done before.

Where can we find out more about you and your work?

Later this year in December, a small collection of some of my poems –Slaughter –is being published in the new anthology from Lungs Project. The anthology’s called New Landscapes and is now available to pre-order at lungsproject.org!

You can follow also me on Twitter – @mandla_rae – I post all my upcoming gigs and news there.

I had a chat with Nuria López de la Oliva, curator and Journeys Festival Assistant Producer for the Journeys Roots to Fruits Podcast where we talked about Manchester and I shared a monologue from the solo show I’m currently working on developing. That will be on the Journeys Festival website in October.

Also happening in October are the Letters to our Mothers and Fathers performances. The first will be at Longsight Library on the 5th of October and the second will be at Cathedral Gardens on the 12th. I’ll be part of the festival’s activities on those days too, you can come and write a letter with me so please do!

But I’d say the best way to find out about my work is to come and see me or book me to perform! I’m performing quite a bit in October actually, at the Journeys Festival Launch, Creatures of Catharsis and the Devils Dykes Network Festival in Brighton.

Sum up your experience thus far in one word.


Writer of the Month: Clare Ramsaran

Tell me about you, as an artist. How do you define art? What art do you make?
Good question!

I think of art as a way for the artist to express something of themselves, the communities they identify with, or of their imagination. I see art as a dialogue across time, geography, identity and experience.

My primary creative outlet is as a writer – I write fiction, poetry, non-fiction. The content comes ahead of the form for me. I also love taking photographs, and in September will take my first ever *complete* beginners art course.

You’ve recently taken on the role of facilitating Identity. What have you enjoyed most about being part of Identity? How do you feel facilitating aids your personal development as a writer?

I feel privileged to see the great writing that comes out of the group. I’m inspired by the risks people take with their writing and with the painful content they sometimes cover. I enjoy meeting the writers who come along and giving and facilitating feedback that helps them develop their writing. We often bring snacks to the group; I think we all enjoy those!
Facilitating the group helps me to focus on the craft elements of writing, it gives me (and hopefully writers) a strong sense of a writing community. I love facilitating Identity, but also worry that it takes me away from my own writing. I’m learning to manage the shift in my role (I used to be a member of Identity) and finding new ways back into my own writing.

You’re currently working on your first novel. What prompted you to start working on this piece? What has been your greatest obstacle thus far in the writing process and how have you overcome it?

My novel is inspired by family history. My father told me a story about how as a young immigrant, of the ‘Windrush generation’, he was racially harassed by a group of Teddy Boys in 1950’s London. When he’d got away from them, one ran after him. Not to beat him up – as he feared, but to offer to buy his stylish jacket from him (He’d bought it by mail order from the US, while still living in Guyana).
I wrote it up as a short story which wouldn’t let go of me, and by the time I came to do my MFA in Creative Writing, it became my thesis and then the draft of my novel.

My greatest obstacle to writing is my constant battle to prioritise my writing over other aspects of my life. The support I get from people at Commonword and other friends and writing communities is invaluable to me in terms of my writing process. It’s like we’re all training for a marathon and encouraging each other to keep going.

Recently your short memoir, The New ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ was published in Who We Are Now, an anthology of women’s writing about Brexit. What inspired you to write about this particular aspect of your life? What advice would you give to writers interested in writing memoirs?

I was living in the USA when the Brexit vote happened and, shortly after returning, attended a writing workshop for creative writing responses to Brexit. I reflected on how discrimination against immigrants has had an impact on my own family in the past and linked this to events now – this became ‘The New ‘Us’ and Them’.

In terms of people writing memoir, I encourage them to read widely and find memoirs that they find fascinating, to pick and choose which parts of their lives to tell us about (hint: other people are less interested in your life than you are!). And lastly, just because something is true, doesn’t make it sound authentic on the page. You still have to work at it, and craft it as much as you would with other genres.

Back when you were living in the States, you were a contributor to Mixed Remixed Festival. What motivated you to get involved in the festival? How do you feel the festival contributes to a wider dialogue around representation in the creative industries?

It’s such a great festival! It highlights the mixed-race experience through literature and film.

I heard about Mixed Remixed through my writing community, VONA, and first went along in 2014. It was an amazing experience; everyone was so welcoming and warm and it’s a lovely to feel part of a community like that, even for a day or so.

I was motivated by a mixture of wanting to be around other mixed heritage people with the bonus that there was a writing focus, and, I was interested in visiting Los Angeles, where it was held.

The festival allows artists to showcase their work, to meet and inspire each other, buy books, have conversations. Approximately 700 people attend, and this is a good statistic to quote to publishers who are reported as saying that there’s no market for creative work by mixed race people (on the basis that the demographic for each different ‘mix’ is too low).

You’ve been a writer at Commonword for several years and appeared in our anthology, Suitcase Book of Love Poems. What is your best memory of your time with us and what have you learnt about yourself as a writer?

I have lots of best memories with Commonword: coming along to the writers’ groups, the process of having my poetry published in the anthology, and the Commonword Conference last year, to name but a few.

I’ve learned that although writing is a solitary endeavour, I can’t do it on my own.

The anthology taught me about the business side of things – writing a biography, signing a contract – it made it feel more professional, more serious and I think it helped me to take myself more seriously as a writer.

What’s next for you in your writing career?

I’ve put my novel aside for now. I’ve started writing about ‘coming out’ as a teenager and am feeling lots of energy with that piece so I’m going to keep working on that to see where it goes. I did a reading in August at Levenshulme Pride and really enjoyed that. I’d like to do more readings.

I’m planning to run a day-long writing workshop with Commonword in the Autumn and would love to run more writing workshops in the future.

Where can we find out more about you and your work?

You can find out more about my work here and here. You can also follow me on twitter here.

Sum up your experience thus far in one word


Writer of the Month: Vijay Medtia

Tell me something interesting about yourself – I’ve heard you’re skilled at horse riding. What got you into writing?

A well-trained horse is a beautiful animal and a pleasure to ride, although my skills are a little rusty lately. I have varied interests, but I don’t wish this to read like a dating profile.

As regards writing, there are many reasons. An early interest in literature and storytelling. I wasn’t however one of those people who wanted to write from a young age, that came later. I also felt that I wanted more of a challenge from this life, something more creative and satisfying. Writing is all this and more. You learn new things about the craft and yourself, daily. To create a piece of artistic work is very rewarding on so many different levels.


Your debut crime novel, The Missing Husband is out this month. What were your inspirations for telling this particular story?

I had an idea about creating an Indian private detective, who would solve difficult cases, set in India. This is Abhay Chauhan’s first case, and hopefully more novels will follow. Chauhan is thirty-four, single and nowhere near rich. He drives a Hindustan Contessa and carries a Glock semi-automatic pistol. He works the mean streets of Mumbai, trying his best to help people in trouble.

I liked this starting point for the novel. He is tough but fair and everything is underlined with humour. I don’t wish to write grim novels; the world is already grim enough. My regular visits to India also inspire me to write about the country and its people. I found this the perfect setting for the novel.


Your novel revives the typical detective novel by placing all the action in Mumbai. What do you hope this communicates to readers? What changes do you think the publishing industry needs to undergo to dismantle limited representations of people of colour in crime fiction?

There are only a handful of Asian crime writers across the globe. I’m hoping the readers will want to read something different. I wanted to write about an Indian detective, in Mumbai set against the background of a new world, culture and customs.

As regards the publishing industry, I’d like them to take greater risks. Not to be so concerned about sales and accounts people. They need to invest in POC writers, because there are some brilliant writers out there. Unfortunately, they can’t seem to get past the gatekeepers.

It would be great if more POC became literary agents. The publishing industry needs to recruit POC at all levels but definitely at the submission editor levels to begin with. They could also recruit people early by going to schools and universities. For most BAME people the concept for working in the publishing industry appears like working on the moon.

It would also be great if the industry supported literary prizes aimed at BAME writers and give greater exposure. The Jhalak Prize has done a good job to bring some awareness.

It’s still mostly the small independents however who are willing to take risks in investing in BAME writers. From the outside, this is how it feels to me.

Having said that, I feel a large responsibility still falls on the writer. If you work hard, listen to critical feedback and write a very good story, then your chances of publication will improve.


Your novel explores several themes including family, hope and betrayal. What approach did you take to making these themes feel original and enticing?

Someone has said that there are only thirty or so plot lines for stories, and they’ve all been done repeatedly over the centuries. Yet every individual has a different outlook, voice, attitude to a particular story. I’m bringing my individual voice, humour, and outlook to this novel. I’ve also started the novel with a multi-millionaire Fernandez family, who have their own set of terrifying problems. The private detective Abhay Chauhan will help to solve them.


You have been a writer at Commonword for many years and attended our Advanced Novelists group. What is your best memory from this time and what did you learn about yourself as a writer during those years?

A little nostalgia creeps in at the question. We were lucky at that time, and it wasn’t so long ago either. I was part of a good and talented set of writers. We bounced ideas of one another, down in that basement in the Quakers building. And we all more or less went on to succeed in our respective writing fields. We were dedicated, wrote regularly and were brave enough to submit our unfinished works for scrutiny. All the writers helped with their warm and critical feedback. They helped me to some extent with my first novel THE HOUSE OF SUBADAR.

It was published around that time by Arcadia Books, and was short-listed for The Glen Dimplex Literary Prize, Dublin.

Writing is a solitary business and it was great to have that camaraderie. Constructive feedback is important for your writing. It helps you to improve quicker. On your own, you may waste years thinking you’re on the right track when you’re not. I’m glad the Wednesday night Identity group still flourishes at Commonword.


What advice would you give to aspiring novelists when it comes to approaching publishers?

There is a treasure trove of golden advice on writing from all the past and present great writers. If you’re serious about writing, you will find it and read it.

There are no set rules as such, we’re not manufacturing cars but works of art! The basic rules however always apply. Work hard, write regularly, read widely, and gain constructive feedback. I’ll add that when you finish your draft, it’s worth investing in a good editor before sending out your work. Don’t take Rejection of your work personally, all it means is that you need to work harder. Perseverance will take you a long way.


What does the future hold for you in your writing career?

It’s an Exciting time ahead. I’m working on the next Abhay Chauhan novel, and I’m also tempted to write a good stand alone crime novel. This year I’m hoping to promote my work at more literary festivals in the U.K. and abroad.

A publisher in India is also interested in placing The Missing Husband to the large Indian market.

I was lucky to be invited to a university in Poland a few weeks ago, to sign advance copies of my new novel. I’ve written about the visit on my blog, vmedtia.blogspot.co.uk.


Where can we find out more about you and your work?

On my website: vijaymedtia.com

Blog: vmedtia.blogspot.co.uk

Twitter: vijaymedtia@twitter.com

The novel is available for pre-order at amazon.co.uk, Waterstones, WH Smith, and Foyles book store.


Sum up your experience thus far in one word


Writer of the Month: Muli Amaye

Tell me something interesting about yourself. What got you into writing?

I have always made up stories. Even when I worked in offices and had to write official letters. I remember I temped at a place called ‘Our Dogs’ which was a newspaper all about dogs (go figure) and the boss asked me to respond to a complaint. I wrote a two-page missive about someone going AWOL and used so many metaphors and fictionalised scenarios that even while my boss was laughing he was showing me the door. I started writing seriously when I started my undergraduate degree at MMU and took a creative writing module. I found that all the stories I would tell my son at bedtime fed beautifully into stories on the page.

Your debut novel, A House with No Angels is out this month. What were your inspirations for telling this particular story?

I didn’t know this was the story I was going to tell. I first met my father in 1996 in Nigeria. He told me about arriving in Cardiff in 1950 and then moving to Manchester to complete his Masters in Civil Engineering. He said the communists sent him. That alone sparked my interest. I began my research looking for links between communism and Nigeria and Manchester and the story grew from there. I found information in the Labour Archives about the Pan African Congress in 1945 that took place in Manchester and all the photographs I looked at had African/Caribbean men and white British women. It made me curious as to why there were no African women in the pictures. I decided to insert them into the congress and into life in Manchester from the 1940s.

Your novel explores several important and powerful themes including Pan Africanism, mental health and Black womanhood. What approach did you take to making these themes accessible for a wide readership?

I wanted to tell a human story. I wanted to give people a glimpse into ordinary lives of women who work, struggle, politicise, mother, love and lose. I decided that telling individual stories of connected women would provide a platform for intergenerational exploration, the effects of politics on women particularly black or mixed women, and the way second and third generation negotiate the space that they occupy in Britain, personally and politically. By telling the stories of their hopes and desires and presenting their flaws, I hope that the little stories are ways of giving the bigger picture to a wider audience.

Your novel takes an original and refreshing approach to including a mixed race protagonist without playing on stereotypes of mixed race experiences. What do you hope this communicates to readers? What changes do you think the literature industry needs to undergo to dismantle limited representations of people of colour?

Being of mixed race and raised with the influence of one of those cultural spaces and not having access to the other, is an all too familiar happening. In AHWNA, I make reference to babies born during the second world war who were put into care, hidden away – think Delaney’s A Taste of Honey – and the problems attached to having a child of mixed heritage. My studies referenced the Tragic Mulatto, the mixed-race person who is sad or suicidal because they do not fit into either black or white society. I decided that Elizabeth, my mixed-race protagonist, was not going to entertain that trope, but would in fact define herself and her own personal issues.

It is about time that the industry took a large step back from ‘racesplaining’ how people of colour should be presented in literature. It is 2019 and we are no longer an anomaly on the page, we have shown that we are people, too. Imagine that! We are capable of defining our own lives in our own ways that do not have to include drugs, guns, gangs and killings. We no longer have to sit in the margins as though we are a bookend holding up the main story. We are our stories. We have the ability to tell a tale that is universal and that everyone can read and enjoy no matter their race, gender or any space they occupy in this world. The literature industry needs to stop trying to colonise our stories under the disguise of being inclusive and acknowledge that we have the right to tell our truths in our own ways.

You’ve completed a PhD in Creative Writing and you’re now working at the University of the West Indies. What advice and tips would you give to aspiring PhD candidates?

My PhD at Lancaster University did a number of things for me and my writing. It gave me space to explore both critically and analytically the subject I wanted to write about. I was asked recently, ‘What actually is a PhD in Creative Writing?’, by someone with a PhD in literature. I don’t want to point out the obvious here, but literature is creative writing… Every novel that is read and analysed is creative writing. I also pointed to the contents page of my bound PhD copy that I keep in my office and showed the one line that is my novel and the five chapters and all the subchapters that are my thesis! I am glad I did a PhD, not only for my own writing, but because I gained the skills needed in order to teach at a tertiary level and give the best advice to my students. Doing a Masters or a PhD in creative writing pushes you to fully consider where your writing sits in the canon and consider the boundaries you are pushing and why. Even for people who wish to write popular fiction as oppose to literary fiction, a degree in creative writing is a great route for ensuring your writing stands out from the crowd and gives you a full understanding of what it is you are doing and why.

You have been a writer at Commonword for many years and attended our Advanced Black Novelists group. What is your best memory from this time and what did you learn about yourself as a writer during those years?

I think one of my best memories from the Advanced Black Novelists group was my first visit. I didn’t know what to expect and as I sat in the basement confident with what I had presented because I’d been through a Masters in creative writing, my writing was brutally pulled to pieces. It was a very important learning experience that showed me the difference between a seminar room full of polite students and a room full of writers who demanded more. It also gave me a place to develop my ‘black’ writing without having to explain certain aspects of it to people without the black experience. It was a great place to explore and discover who I am as a writer. Over the years watching other people’s writing grow from the feedback they received and the support and encouragement we gave to each other was wonderful.

What advice would you give to aspiring novelists when it comes to approaching publishers and venues with their work?

Believe in what you have written. Also listen to the feedback you are given as you approach publishers and consider what that means, i.e. whether you will have to compromise yourself and your writing to make a fit. Choose carefully. See what else has been published by them and decide if your work is in line with their ethos.

What does the future hold for you in your writing career?

I am writing. Constantly. I have another novel that was longlisted for the SI Leeds Literary Prize in 2014 and I’m about ready to go back to that and edit. I have a collection of short stories that I’m still working on and ideas for at least two more novels are lurking. I’m also writing a lot of poetry at the moment so who knows, that could also see the light of day some time soon. I will carry on teaching on the MFA in The UWI in Trinidad, it’s something I love and I find my students teach me as I teach them.

Where can we find out more about you and your work?

I have a website, that I’m trying really hard to keep up to date www.muliamaye.com. I have short stories published in various journals and magazines, but don’t look for them, they’ll be going in my collection! I’m on twitter @muliamaye (I’m worse at that than my website, but I’ll try harder)

Sum up your experience thus far in one word


Archive Spotlight Item 21: Marshall’s Big Score (c.1979)

Marshall's Big Score Cover

Marshall's Big Score Cover

1976: One hot summer night in a gay bar in Liverpool, Martin, a white gay man from Stockport, meets Marshall, a black West African sailor. They drink, dance and fall in love – fast.  Marshall’s Big Score chronicles the ups and downs of their relationship over the course of three years. The book is by John Gowling, who was a member of the Commonword group Northern Gay Writers.

You get a really strong sense of what Manchester and urban life in England was like in in the late Seventies.  Martin, Marshall and the people around them lead incredibly precarious working-class lives; low-paid jobs, dangerous jobs, poor housing and an array of characters in desperate need of health and social care. But there is also the excitement of gay bars and clubs that stay open late where you can enjoy yourself and easily pick someone up for the night. This is an era of relative freedom before the AIDS crisis of the Eighties.

Here’s a playlist of the songs mentioned in the book, a soundtrack to Martin’s life and a nice little reminder of how inseparable black culture is from gay/queer culture.


Martin is the narrator of the story, so we see the world entirely through his white perspective. He  touches upon the racism that Marshall faces at work, but seems unable or unwilling to take any responsibility for the racism he might experience on the gay scene, or even within his relationship to a white man. Martin muses upon the homophobia black men face on the scene, he fails to consider that black gay men experience may experience more than one kind of oppression:

Perhaps the discrimination that was around Britain in general terms was working the other way for gay people; perhaps we all had too much prejudice laid on us about being gay to afford dabbling in racial and traditional differences.

Two thirds of a page are dedicated to Martin’s thoughts about prejudice, but apart from that, there is little pontification. The characters and their lives aren’t very well-fleshed out, not even Martin’s. You meet his parents briefly, but it’s unclear whether Martin is out to his parents. There is no outward hostility; just a resignation that their wayward son hasn’t settled down and got a proper job. There are occasions where Martin’s humour and frustration punches through, but they are rare and brief.  It’s hard to get a sense of what the characters are really like; they don’t really possess characteristics. They are too busy in the moment; either struggling to get by or completely immersed in their passions. There is a lot of potential here!