The Modern Antiquarian for tQ

Music, Writing

In the first of their subscriber-exclusive Low Culture essays, I have opened up my battered copy of Julian Cope’s The Modern Antiquarian for The Quietus to argue how this classic guide to Britain’s neolithic remains has a strikingly modern relevance. An extract of ‘A Glimmer of Cope’ is available to read here.

Subscribers get perks including music, podcasts and bonus long read features penned by special guest writers such as Darran Anderson on the occulted history of kids TV show Knightmare; Megan Nolan on the unadulterated joy of loving Billy Joel; Joy White on grime as a contemporary Black British genre; Daniel Dylan Wray on John Cale and Oobah Butler on the anarchic artist Christian Jankowski. Plus, editors John and Luke are clambering into a clapped out old motor to drive round the UK to interview a wealth of guests such as legendary folk singer Shirley Collins, Repeater Books supremo Tariq Goddard and writer John Higgs about the culture that has shaped them for a brand new series of podcasts exclusively for subscribers – get the first episode as soon as you sign up today. Support on the last bastions of quality music journalism and sign up today!

Dennis And Lois: The Oldest Living Indie Rockers Of Our Luminous Age

Film&TV, Music, Writing

I have written a feature on the extraordinary lives of Dennis and Lois, two unsung heroes of the trans-Atlantic alternative underground. A new documentary based on these legendary superfans of rock ‘n roll, and directed by Chris Cassidy, is out this week. Visit The Quietus to hear more about this New York couple and their shrine to 20th century pop culture.

Portico Prize in The New Review


Anita Sethi has interviewed six shortlisted writers (including myself) for this year’s Portico Prize for the Observer New Review… with portrait photographs by Richard Saker (this one was taken in Mytholmroyd on a cold, blustery December afternoon)

‘Do writers in the north have to work harder to get published? Is there a northern aesthetic? We talk to the six authors shortlisted for the Portico prize – AKA the “Booker of the north”‘

Sacred Heart for Smagghe & Cross

Music, Poetry

One of my poems, Sacred Heart, makes an appearance on Smagghe & Cross’s new LP, 1819, via Offen Music later this month. It is taken from Cigarettes in Bed (Blackheath Books, 2008), and was recorded at Air Edel studio with Ivan and Rupert. The first installment, Cock of the North, featured on their previous album release, MA. This new spoken word track, From Sacred Heart, is available to purchase from 27/01 as a download or on vinyl through Offen Music, and Rough Trade etc.  

You can listen to a preview on Juno. It sounds nothing like me at all; which is just perfect. It’s a dark, drone-like excursion into the mind’s swampy sewer. Beelzebub in Pigalle.

Here’s the official blurb…

“This second LP on Offen is an ajar window overlooking a phantasmagoric world; a remembrance of days that never were. The music is sparse, the past is forever: ghosts of industries are conjured through the English countryside, fading memories play static with an idea of romance, the sun breaks through the iron clouds. A record free of uncouth nostalgia but laced with ethereal melancholia…”

More info at Ransom Note and Resident Advisor.

Channelling the Spirit of the North


Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile has made it onto this year’s £10,000 Portico Prize for Literature shortlist, an award for writing that “best evokes the spirit of the North”. Other shortlisted titles include Saltwater by Jessica Andrews (Sceptre), Ironopolis by Glen James Brown (Parthian), The Mating Habits of Stags by Ray Robinson (Lightning Books), The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness by Graham Caveney (Picador), and Under the Rock: The Poetry of a Place by Benjamin Myers (Elliott & Thompson).

Here’s what the Bookseller had to say about it:

The shortlist of six was revealed on Monday (9th December) and was praised by the judges for celebrating “the spirit of the people, the spirit of place and the wonderful diversity of the North”. It comprises four fiction titles, three of which are debuts, and two non-fiction titles, while the ratio of books from mainstream publishers against independents is 50:50.

The six books were whittled down from a longlist selected by the Portico Prize’s newly formed Society of Readers and Writers. They were chosen by a panel of judges chaired by journalist and broadcaster Simon Savidge of Savidge Reads.

Savidge said: “This list defies the rumour that it’s grim up North. Yes, it can be gritty up North; yes, it can be gothic up North; but more than anything it’s glorious and great up North. These books celebrate the spirit of the people, the spirit of place and the wonderful diversity of the North…”

Click here for the full article

Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile on Tour: Reviews


Lisa Holdsworth’s stage adaptation of Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile (with Freedom Studios) is touring across Yorkshire in June. It has received a series of extraordinary reviews in the press this week. These are just a few…

Vibrant and unsentimental, a shining example of site-specific work ★★★★ The Observer

A celebration of fierce, resilient women ” ★★★★ The Guardian

Poignant and resonant… a relevant and emotive caution against the one-size-fits-all approach of the privileged theatre industry” ★★★★ The Stage

The real deal” ★★★★ The Times

“A funny, desperately sad tale of a young woman whose blazing talent made her a once-in-a-generation dramatist” ★★★★ Mail on Sunday

“Compelling and totally believable… it honours Dunbar’s legacy in a manner of which she surely would have approved” ★★★★ Yorkshire Post

“Powerful and convincing” ★★★★ The Reviews Hub

“A deeply human celebration of a young, female, regional, working-class voice who was important not in spite of, but because of, the life she led and the place she came from” ★★★★ Broadway World

“This brutally honest and beautifully written work, performed by a cast who really get it, would have had Andrea raising a glass to them in The Beacon” ★★★★ North West End

Lively, engaging and packs one hell of a punch” British Theatre Guide

A really impressive feat of acting and staging” The Culture Vulture 

“The truth does hurt, but thank goodness Dunbar chose to tell it”  The Independent 

Fat White Family Hit Paydirt: Serfs Up! Reviewed


I have written the lead review on Fat White Family’s new LP for The Quietus. “There is no darkness like that of a bleak Yorkshire winter, days when the light barely rises and outside the streets are pounded with relentless horizontal rain. It is fitting that from this climate and post-industrial landscape emerges Serfs Up!, a shimmering spectacle of delight. Recorded at Champzone Studios in Attercliffe, Sheffield, Fat White Family’s third album should be regarded alongside their forebears – Cabaret Voltaire, Human League and Pulp – as a welcome addition to the musical canon of Steel City…”

Eight Days Left

Art, Books

Eight Days Left is a new short story by Adelle Stripe that was commissioned by Manchester Literature Festival and Manchester Art Gallery in response to the Martin Parr Return to Manchester exhibition. It was performed in the Gallery on Wednesday 5th December as part of the 2018 Manchester Literature Festival. The story, which is inspired by one day in the life of a Salford funeral director, is now available to read at Manchester Review. An audio version can be heard on Soundcloud…

Beyond the Silver Pit: A Poem for Hessle Road


In late spring I started researching a new poetry project, inspired by a framed family tree in my grandmother’s hallway. She had spent 20 years of her life researching our family history in records offices, historical archives and libraries across East Yorkshire. I remember spending long afternoons with her, back in the 1980s, and often accompanied her as she flicked through reels of microfilm on big screens in darkened rooms. I was a bored child, whose task was to write down dates of birth and causes of death as she squinted at blurred newspaper articles.

My grandmother’s great grandfather, Matthew Gains Mudd, lost his life at sea in 1894. His name stands out on the framed family tree, and I started to wonder what the story was behind his death. He was from a long line of mariners who lived and worked in the Hessle Road area, where my grandmother was born and grew up.

In her back room, buried beneath piles of old magazines, was a series of boxes that contained clippings about his death. She pulled out folders of documents, including the List of Lost Trawlermen, fragile baptism certificates from the Seaman’s Bethel, and faded photocopies from the Hull Daily Mail. Her handwriting drew maps from name to name, with cross references to other files in the box. Over the course of an afternoon we started to piece together the story of one of Hull’s biggest maritime tragedies in the nineteenth century.

The story we uncovered formed the roots of my new poem, Beyond the Silver Pit, which makes its debut at Enlighten Festival in December, at Manchester Central Library. I have spent the past four months researching and writing the poem based on the life of Matthew Gains Mudd, and his final, fatal voyage on to the Dogger Bank on 22nd December 1894.  Matthew lost his life with 107 other men, in a violent storm that destroyed eight smack boats and five steam trawlers from the Great Northern Fleet. They were hauling the catch before heading home to Hull to see their families for Christmas.

This tragic event began on the winter solstice, around the Silver Pit fishing area, approximately seventy miles north-east from Spurn Point. This region is known for its lucrative fishing grounds but also suffers from hazardous conditions in its shallow waters. It was once known as ‘The Cemetery’ due to the amount of wrecks on the sea bed. In the pre-Ice Age era Dogger was the piece of land that joined Britain to mainland Europe. Fishermen have been known to pull up oak trees, mammoth skeletons and peat soil in their nets when fishing in the area.

The narrative poem tells the story of Matthew and his battle against the tempestuous nature and savage beauty of the North Sea. Drawing on local folklore and superstitions, oral histories, hydrographic maps and archive material from Hull History Centre, Beyond the Silver Pit captures the atmosphere of Hessle Road in the nineteenth century, and the harsh realities of working-class life in the area.

At almost 11 minutes long, this is the longest poem I have ever written, and it has recently been recorded as a spoken word piece by the Hull author Russ Litten, who originates from Liverpool Street, just one street along from where Matthew lived. His accent is distinctive and hearing him read the poem has really brought the subject to life.

I’ve also collaborated with Curated Place, Factory Records’ typographer Trevor Johnson and lighting designer Nick Malbon to create the piece. You can hear the poem as part of a captivating audio/projection installation at Manchester Central Library from 10-12 December 2015, tickets are free, but you’ll need to book. The festival runs from 5-8pm each evening.

For more information on the Enlighten Festival visit:

Listen to the poem here:

This project is supported using public funding by Arts Council England.


The Year of Reading Women


I am honoured to be included in Joanna Walsh’s Read Women 2014 list of 250 female writers you must read this year.

The recent campaign, based on a series of Cartes de Voeux (a French tradition of New Year cards), features five illustrated bookmarks by Joanna Walsh of Gertrude Stein, Deborah Levy, Simone de Beauvoir, Marguerite Duras, Anne Carson and Djuna Barnes.

To read more about the campaign follow the twitter hashtag #readwomen2014 or visit the Guardian’s article online: “Female authors are marginalised by newspapers and literary journals, and their books are given ‘girly’ covers. Take action against this inequality by making sure the next book you read is by a woman…”