Making Things Up – right in the thick of it

Photo © Chris Dorley-Brown, 2018

Mathew Clayton is a writer, publisher and happening-maker, a folk aficionado of the margins and the mainstream, who has started a new series of interviews, talking to (he says),

people running interesting creative projects that i hope will give inspiration to people thinking of starting something themselves.

Such a great idea, so I am delighted to have been first in line for a chat, which covers Piece of Paper Press, art school, The Fountain in the Forest, collaborations with Blast Theory and the Science Museum, Resonance FM, and my unique view of the Poll Tax Riots of 1990, from the podium beneath the Neo-Classical portico of the National Gallery…

So there I was, watching the Poll Tax Riot from this ornate gazebo, with the public square and this historic struggle on one side, and the gallery on the other: a unique vantage point, right in the thick of it.


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Bloomsday readings by Marcia Farquhar and Tony White

I shall be reading at the wonderful Bookartbookshop as part of their Bloomsday celebration this year, and I’m especially delighted to be doing so alongside Marcia Farquhar. I was privileged to see Marcia performing Molly Bloom’s monologue a couple of years ago, and it was really something.

Not to be missed.

Here’s the announcement:

Please join us for Bloomsday readings by Marcia Farquhar and Tony White
Sunday 16th June, 2019
2.00 – 5.30pm

The legendary Marcia Farquhar will be reading Molly Bloom’s monologue from James Joyce’s ULYSSES & we will drink a glass or two of the cheapest Bourgogne wine.

London author Tony White will give his ‘bravura’ reading of ‘The Willingdone Museyroom’ from Finnegans Wake – plus his Portrait of the Author as a Young Postman: on reading Joyce in the Camden Town of the early 1990s – as presented at the recent Finneganight celebrations on 4 May, marking the 80th anniversary of its first publication by Faber and Faber in 1939.

“White stormed his way through a bravura performance of ‘The Willingdone Museyroom’ during which we all became temporary exhibits . . . prefaced by a brilliant off-the-cuff account of his early encounters with the Wake.” David Collard

Marcia Farquhar is an artist working in performance, photography, painting and object-making. Her site-specific works have been staged and exhibited internationally in museums and galleries, as well as in lecture theatres, kitchen showrooms, hotels, pubs, parks and leisure centres.

Tony White’s latest novel is the Oulipo-inspired thriller The Fountain in the Forest (Faber and Faber, 2018). In 1994 he founded the artists’ book series Piece of Paper Press, and has since published titles by writers and artists including Michael Moorcock, Liliane Lijn, Alison Turnbull, Courttia Newland, Tim Etchells, Joanna Walsh, and many more.

Do come and join us!


Bloomsday readings by Marcia Farquhar and Tony White, Sunday 16 June 2019, Bookartbookshop, 17 Pitfield Street, Hoxton, London, N1 6HB. 2:00pm–5:30pm (readings start 2:45pm)

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Another Fool reviewed

Thank you to Jonathan Bousfield for including Another Fool in the Balkans in his round up of literary Istria for Time Out Croatia. I’m really chuffed to be included, not least because Istria is one of my favourite places in the world. Here’s what he says:

Another Fool in the Balkans (2006), one of those perceptive and offbeat books that offer something of an antidote to the straw-hatted, Zorba-ate-my-donkey narratives that blight English-language travel writing elsewhere. It devotes a good ninety pages to Istria and stands up very well as an informed and sympathetic travel companion. When it comes to Pula, White is intrigued by the James Joyce connections but doesn’t allow them to lead him astray, embarking instead on an unorthodox agenda of his own. He goes off in search of Pula’s historic cinemas, tracks down Seventies’ movie star Igor Galo, and props up the bar at the cult café of local boxing legend Mate Parlov. Each of these quests reveals aspects of the city that other books rarely reach.

Well the Olympian Mate Parlov is no longer holding court in his bar in the cente of Pula. He sadly died – far too young – in 2008. But reading this makes me want to visit Pula again, right now . . .

Bousfield’s guide to literary Istria is a fascinating piece, and well worth a read. He takes in Thomas Mann and James Joyce, and he also recommends an Italian novel that is new to me, but which I now can’t wait to read: Materada by Fulvio Tomizza.

Another Fool in the Balkans is out of print, but a small number of copies are available to buy on Abebooks.


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In conversation at Brunel University London

Tony White talking about The Fountain in the Forest with Nick Hubble for the Brunel Writers Series, Brunel University London. Photo: © Bernardine Evaristo, 2019

Thank you to novelist and Professor of creative writing Benardine Evaristo for inviting me to talk about my latest novel The Fountain in the Forest as part of the wonderful Brunel Writers Series 2019 at Brunel University London back at the beginning of the year, and for taking a few photos of the event. Bernardine is a great force for good and for writing, and her latest novel Girl, Woman, Other was published by Hamish Hamilton last week, and is getting rave reviews all round.

At Brunel I was in conversation with Nick Hubble (L), whose latest book The Proletarian Answer to the Modernist Question is now out in paperback from Edinburgh University Press. On the screen behind us is a detail of Guardian ‘Quick Crossword’ No. 4,652 from 7 March 1985, one of twenty-six crosswords from the 90-day period between the end of the Miners’ Strike and the Battle of the Beanfield on 1 June the same year, which provide the ‘mandated vocabulary’ that I used to write the novel. Find out more about The Fountain in the Forest’s use of an Oulipo-inspired ‘mandated vocabulary’ in Sukhdev Sandhu’s Guardian review of the novel here, or in this interview with Kevin Gopal of the Big Issue.


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Forthcoming events, and a note about bookings

Events archive: 2012–2017

Library promotion

May 2019 is National Crime Reading Month, and I love this imaginative crime fiction promotion that I spotted in Whitechapel Idea Store a couple of weeks ago.

Actually, I love Whitechapel. As some friends will know, I lived in the area for quite a while, and my novel Foxy-T is set there, just a few minute’s walk away on Cannon Street Road.

(ICYM You can read reviews of Foxy-T, or hear me talking about the novel on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.)

In 2013, the Whitechapel Idea Store held an event on the 10th anniversary of the publication of Foxy-T as part of a Cockney Heritage Festival, which was a great thrill. And not least because local libraries had been supportive of the novel when it first came out. (At that time there were not as many bookshops in the East End of London as, thankfully, there are now.)

This time I was visiting because the Idea Store hosted the launch of Spread The Word’s London short story prize anthology. Emerging writers of all ages reading great work to a supportive audience? What’s not to like?

While I was there I was also delighted to learn that the library had The Fountain in the Forest in stock. As seen here – in the Crime section FYI.


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Crime fiction panel in Staines

After our sell-out event at Chiswick Library earlier in the year, it was a great pleasure last week to do a second panel discussion with the authors (L–R) Louise Burfitt-Dons, Emma Curtis and Amanda Robson, to another packed house – this time in Staines.

(Or ‘St. Aines’, as an old friend of mine who lived there many years ago, and was from Staines, used to call it.)

It was a beautiful spring evening on the Staines riverside, and we received a really warm welcome. The event had been brilliantly marketed to book groups in this part of Surrey, and once again a fantastic and very engaged audience gathered to hear Amanda, Emma, Louise and I speak about our novels, our influences and approaches, about writing in general, and about each of our very different relationships with the crime genre. We each have new books out, so there is lots to talk about, but I think this particular panel works so well because we are all coming at crime fiction from such different angles, e.g. Emma Curtis is founder of the newly-formed Psychological Suspense Authors Association, Amanda Robson is a Sunday Times Bestseller, Louise Burfitt-Dons is a screenwriter and anti-bullying campaigner who writes topical political thrillers, while I spoke about my interest in an alternative lineage of more experimental detective novels.

I learned a lot, as usual, and the response from the audience was incredibly positive.

After a bit of Q&A, the conversations continued over tea and biscuits and the signing of books. It was great fun. I hope we can do it again sometime.


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Finneganight photos

Follow me through the heavy steel mesh security grill and into the derelict former Paddington Conservative Club, scene of the inaugural Finneganight, which was held here on Saturday 4 May 2019 to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the first publication of James Joyce’s novel Finnegan’s Wake by Faber and Faber.

Described as ‘a one-off pop-up Dadaist cabaret’, Finneganight brought together a brilliant company of authors and performers for readings, discussion and performances. I was honoured to have been invited to be part of it.

I read ‘The Willingdone Museyroom’ (p.8–10 of Finnegans Wake), and wore my old Royal Mail tie for the occasion (for the first time in probably twenty-five years), as later in the evening I also spoke briefly about reading Finnegans Wake in the Camden Town of the early 1990s – ‘A Portrait of the Author as a Young Postman’, in David Henningham’s words – before giving a reading of Patrick Kavanagh’s poem ‘Who Killed James Joyce?’

Here is author and critic David Collard – Finneganight’s impressario and Master of Ceremonies – and author June Caldwell, just arrived from Dublin, unwrapping the cheese and ham sandwiches (triangular cut), ‘shop cake’, fig rolls, and black and white puddings. This was the part of the evening where there seemed to be enough Guinness to go around . . .

And here’s David introducing the proceedings in front of the Convervative Club’s honours board, which stops abruptly at 1990.

Visiting from Los Angeles, Dan O’Brien and Jessica St. Clair performed ‘Jute and Mutt’.

‘So when did you first not read Finnegan’s Wake?’ L–R Jennifer Hodgson in conversation with Susan Tomaselli, Eley Williams and June Caldwell. The funniest, most earnest and illuminating literary conversation of the year.

‘Finnegan’s Wake’ – the song, with apostrophe – here performed by Melanie Pappenheim, accompanied by Alice Zawadzki. Later both company and audience reprised the song in the ‘shoutmost shoviality’:

Whack! Hurroo! Now dance to your partner! Welt the flure, your trotters shake; Isn’t it the truth I’ve told ye, Lots of fun at Finnegan’s wake.

David Henningham sang ‘The Ballad of Persse O’Reilly’ . . .

. . . while Henningham Family Press produced the programme, which was printed on their physics-defying – ‘Quarko’ format, specially developed for Finneganight.


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