Pre-history

I think it’s safe to say that I was the first author to give a reading at the Sheffield branch of Waterstones bookshop in Orchard Square, or author-to-be at any rate. My first novel wouldn’t be published until nine years after this picture was taken, although 24-year-old me didn’t know it at the time.

I was a 3rd year student studying for a Fine Art BA at what is now Sheffield Hallam University, but was then the Psalter Lane site (a c.1945 purpose-built art school, now sadly demolished) of the former Sheffield City Polytechnic. But then again, in 1988(!) the Sheffield Waterstones wasn’t fully-fledged yet either. At the time it was undergoing final fit-out in a newly opened shopping centre. It’s still there, or was last time I looked. It’s been a great pleasure in recent years to return to Sheffield to talk about my fiction and more for the wonderful Off The Shelf Festival of Words. I certainly wouldn’t be doing what I do now if I hadn’t had the opportunity to go to art school, first in my home town of Farnham and then in Sheffield.

BTW I’m fairly certain that this and other photos (which I found among a mixed box of old papers, that also stretch forward in time to include sections of the original long-hand MS of my 1999 novel Charlieunclenorfolktango) were taken by old friend and then Psalter Lane contemporary Brett Dee. Judging by the massive power switch and fuse box on the wall behind me, where I’m standing in this picture is now probably ‘out the back of the shop’ or in a cupboard somewhere.

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