Browse Category by Non-fiction

Posts relating to my non-fiction work


Little boys with guns – interview with an ex-gang member



Following my research for Litro’s ‘transgression’ theme, I spoke with an ex-gang member about his years in prison, his experience of gangs and his views on today’s gangs. Full piece on the Litro website: Little Boys with Guns


“I found the police very racist, back in the day. If you was black, you know what I mean, you were the criminal. That’s how it was. I was getting pulled up on the street three or four times a day. In the end, I was making complaints. OK, I told you I wasn’t sweet and innocent, but how can you pull somebody up, right, they’ve got radio so they know who’s been pulled up every time cos they have to do check up in the office, so they would say, oh, Mr Figaro was pulled up an hour ago. They would tell them but they still carried on.”

Jason is aware that the police may have thought they had reasons to stop and search him but feels the multiple daily stops and searches were harassment. The police also framed him for a crime he had not committed.

“I think it was in 1989, 1990, I was framed. I got two years in jail for something I didn’t even do. Because of my rap sheet, it looked like it fit the profile, so that I done it. My criminal history fitted with what happened that night.”

His treatment by the police pushed Jason further into a criminal mindset.

“It’s them kind of things that will get people to start rebelling even worse. You know, you come out, you come out with revenge. You think, if that’s how they gonna treat you, you just gonna go on a rampage.”

He tells me of his difficult years in London and Hertfordshire prisons.

“When I started going to prison, it wasn’t how they got prisons nowadays, because nowadays they got TVs in their cell, they got toilets in their cell. When I started going to prison we had to wee in a bucket and do our toilet in a bucket, make your own entertainment. We had to play cards or something like that in the cell! 20 years ago, it was really hard in jail. Really hard.”






Pic.RiverA piece about about a young man’s experience of parkour in 2003:

My Personal Cult – Parkour

“When I ask Christophe about the urban acrobatics group he used to be part of, he shrugs. He takes a drag from his cigarette, exhales, squints behind the smoke. He catches me still staring, waiting for an answer. He shrugs again. “I don’t know,” he says. “We just met and did our stuff.” He drums on the table, eyes in the distance again. Conversation over. This is going to be tough.”



Romany Gypsies


An essay about the Romany Gypsies and their current situation in Europe, here on Litro.



Photo by Ronan Duffaud
Photo by Ronan Duffaud

“The Santacon will be treated the next day with indulgence by the British press as a celebration of Christmas cheer. A few clashes with the police and their habit of relieving themselves all over central London are apparently forgiven. Not so with the Gypsies, who will probably wake to yet another police check.

There is something grand in the way this group of Romany Gypsies settled their makeshift camp in Park Lane. They chose one of the best London postcodes, something the Daily Mail was quick to point out, as though they were depriving someone else of the privilege. A group of purely English squatters, maybe, that was ogling the same spot? The press reported that Westminster Council was unable to evict the rough sleepers as they were generally not breaking immigration laws – Romanian nationals are allowed three-month visas to the UK. Much was made of the Gypsies’ unhygienic lifestyle, as though this was a symbol of their culture polluting the fragrant streets of Park Lane. (…)”







Dystopia: In The Eye Of The Shaman



Learn all about shady alternative cults in:

Dystopia: In the Eye of the Shaman

Written for Litro’s current theme: Dystopia.


Photo by Ronan Duffaud
Photo by Ronan Duffaud

“Those are ideal conditions for prophets of doom. They used to have to stand with loudspeakers in the middle of busy streets but are now using the internet to its full potential to attract gullible followers. A few clicks of the mouse and I am on a shaman’s portal. This particular shaman has a whole blog devoted to the fact that our world is in danger. He updates it according to the news. The recent cyclone in the Philippines is gold to him; just another proof that the Earth is soon to be extinct, and that the best people can do is flock to him for salvation. Other pages gleefully remind us of catastrophes like Chernobyl and Fukushima. Gurus from Wales with names like ‘pensive eagle’ have Facebook pages filled with angels (little blonde girls with white wings), stone statues and lots and lots of rays of sunshine alongside warnings of imminent wars.”






Ecological Activism

Cloudy SkyEcological activist Kevin Lister told me about his campaigns. Written for Litro’s transgression theme: The politics of transgression

“Fields, cows, helicopters. Naked breasts, policemen, tractors and mud. The latest video on the Plane Stupid website is infused with a continental vibe from Nantes, in North West France, where farmers and activists have been protesting for months against the building of a new airport. Plane Stupid, a UK network that protests against aviation expansion, is linking successfully with ecological movements around the world. Some of its stunts, such as a rooftop protest on the Houses of Parliament, have been media coups. Its tagline is “bringing the aviation industry back down to earth.”
What of the people behind the struggle, whose lives are devoted to a constant fight? Transgressing for ideological reasons has long been seen as heroic, pardonable. In literature, political transgressors intrigue and fascinate. Sartre illustrated the dilemma in his trilogy Roads to Freedom. His anguished protagonist, philosophy professor Mathieu, struggles against indecision. He longs to act, to make a choice, to believe in something. His opposite is Brunet, a communist, a man of action, certain of being right, whom Mathieu describes as “very real.””






Sex Secrets of Londoners

For Litro’s Sex theme, I spoke to Londoners to find out about their attitudes to casual sex.


Marco is just the start. The more people I talk to, the more I hear it: a dark, subterranean theme popping up with enough consistency to make me wonder. A mysterious being keeps being alluded to. Not partner, not lover, but a hybrid creature, kept around solely for sex.



Sex for Sale

A feature about London’s sex workers. For Litro’s current Sex theme, I interviewed London sex workers about their daily lives, their jobs and their campaigns.


“It’s early in the evening and for the lonely, horny man, finding paid-for sex to satisfy his urge is simple. It’s just a question of how much he’d like to pay. He could go up to that woman at the bar. Or go half a mile away to Soho, where sex is more blatantly for sale. Models upstairs, says a hand-written board. In its tight winding streets are neon lit signs for sex toys, peep shows, strip clubs. More discreet are the ‘walk ups’, where women are on offer for as little as twenty five pounds for ten minutes. In Mayfair, the more expensive sex workers haunt the bars of hotels and the really organised ones cruise the streets in their own cars, propositioning men. Online, courtesans have their own websites and advertise when they’re next in town.”