Browse Tag by Litro

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.”





Erdem SS15 Show at London Fashion Week

Erdem Spring/Summer 2015 Show
Erdem Spring/Summer 2015 Show
We’re running a ‘Future Fashions’ theme at Litro this month so I was sent off to write a piece about the Erdem Spring/Summer 2015 Show at London Fashion Week 2014.


The palette was subdued, with lots of dark green, ochre and brown, maybe to match the mood of the outside world.  Sleeveless tweed made an appearance  with a deconstructed jacket and an elegant dress. The botanical theme was repeated on dresses appliquéd with dark green flowers and leaves. Floaty silk was printed with splashes of ochre on cream. Most stunning was a jacket made with lustrous black feathers, followed by a matching dress. Both made the models look like wild birds poised to fly back into the shelter of the woods.

The fashion theme is running all this month so do submit your pieces for the non-fiction section I edit at Litro online.






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.”



Shakespeare in the Hands of Thomas Decker


Photo by George Tregson Roberts.
Photo by George Tregson Roberts.

I was delighted when George Tregson Roberts accepted to write a piece for Litro’s Shakespeare theme about how Sierra Leonean dramatist Thomas Decker translated Julius Caesar into Krio. I’d enjoyed an article by George Tregson Roberts in Wasafiri, in which he looked at Graham Greene’s relationship with Freetown, where The Heart of the Matter is set.

The piece that Roberts wrote for us,  A Tropical Bard and The Bard of Avon: Shakespeare in the Hands of Thomas Decker, A Sierra Leonean Dramatist,  is just as enlightening. It looks in particular at how Decker wanted to ensure that Sierra Leoneans stopped seeing Krio as an inferior language and understood that it could be used to express complex ideas.

“Stoop then, and wash. How many ages hence this our lofty scene be acted o’er.

In States unborn and accents yet unknown!” [Julius Caesar, Act 3 Scene I].

Shakespeare, in all his creative genius could not possibly have imagined that those words he wrote for Cassius would prove so prophetic. For, eighteen or twenty generations later, the words were being recited on a stage in an accent that Shakespeare could not have dreamt of, and in a setting that, ironically, was commemorating the closing chapters of an Empire that had given him voice. Another irony was that the language of the Sierra Leonean writer, Thomas Decker, in which Julius Caesar was being re-staged may well have had as long a history as that of the playwright‘s himself.




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 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.”