‘These are the currents that chiselled the city,
That washed the clothes and turned the mills,
Where children drank and salmon swam
And wells were holy.
They have gone under
Boxed, like the magician’s assistant.
Buried alive in earth.
Forgotten, like the dead.’
Rising Damp, by U.A. Fanthorpe
Been working on Lily’s Walk the sequel to West Richardson Street and it’s going well. I’ve written about two thirds of the novel now and been snatching time on my daily commute and in the different places my life resides in. It the mean time I have been catching up with the BBC TV series Peaky Blinders and been impressed by it’s writing, characterisation and setting. Capturing Birmingham in the early part of the last century is no mean feat though the depiction of Asian and African characters leaves a lot to be desired. Though this has given me further motivation and inspiration to work on a screen play with the project title ‘Dropping bombs on Downton Abbey’ which I mentioned last year.
As ever High Wycombe serves as inspiration to me. Despite the cast of characters it is the town itself that casts a shadow on proceedings. This is still the case in Lily’s Walk where key local landmarks serve as points of navigation through the storylines in the novel.Walking through it’s streets I’m drawn to small glimpses of the town’s past. A little alley, boundary stones and architecture that points to its medieval origins. The network of roads and their names that reveal what went on hundreds of years ago.
I’m going to working with the artist and activist George Coombs to do the artwork/cover for the new book and again will be looking to get it out on Kindle. As ever it’s a labour of love but I gotta tell these stories. I hope it will be the same rollercoaster of a ride that the first one was and works both as a sequel and accompaniment to West Richardson Street and in it’s own right as a piece of art that is meaningful and truthful.
Saqib, July 2015
‘I chose to reflect the times and the situations that I find myself in. How can you be an artist and NOT reflect the times?’
Sometimes you are fated for events to happen to you. This is what happened with and me and Nina Simone. More than twenty years ago I was living in Manchester and she was playing at the now defunct Nia Centre around the corner from my yard. Mate of mine had a row with his Mrs who was supposed to go and lo and behold there was a spare ticket which I nabbed quickly. Amazing and memorable show where she played all the classics and she must have been have been in her 60’s then but it was a performance full of energy and wisdom. Nina was also an activist like many artists of her time and was on the frontline during the struggles of the sixties and the seventies. True inspiration seen!
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‘We will see
When the cruel mountains of injustice
Will blow away like cotton wool
We will see.’
Hum Dekhenge by Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Someone asked me the other day what inspired me as a writer and activist so going to be putting up some key influences on my novel page and on here over the next few weeks. As a child growing up in a Pakistani household you could not avoid Faiz. His name was imprinted in the minds of anyone who loved poetry and music and this was something that was common in the seventies and eighties. It was only when I was older when I began to understand urdu better and read him in translation about the power of his words and what he meant:
Before You Came
‘Tum jo naa aa’e the to har chiiz vahii thii kih jo hai
aasmaaN hadd-e-nazar, raahguzar raahguzar, shiishaah-e-mai,
‘Before you came,
things were as they should be:
the sky was the dead-end of sight,
the road was just a road, wine merely wine.’
Faiz continues to be an influence on me and other South Asian writers and you see countless references to him in our works. It is that mix of revolutionary spirit and beautiful lyricism that inspires us.
Those that know me will know my love of hip hop. From 1987 through the golden years till now I love that combination of beats and rhymes. Those who know me better will know me back in the day as a DJ and founder member of the Kaliphz crew who I later managed. Hard job thinking of one tune or a single album that can point to but I am never too far away from this long player. Underrated UK crew who produced this album more than 20 years ago now. Big production and mad skills that still sounds dark and ominous. #Whatinspiresme
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‘The year is 1348. Medieval England has just been struck by a terrifying plague. The fate of a young sculptor and his wife will be decided today. With a brutal moneylender breathing down their necks and The Black Death wrecking havoc will they be able to escape doom? With 100% of the dialogue spoken in rap and poetic verse, ‘The Quickener’ is an unusual period drama shot on location in the Midlands, England.’
Love this mix of hip hop lyricism and medieval tales – it’s a kind of area and trajectory that I’m interested in. Big shout out to man like Juice Aleem
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I’ve been taking a break from writing Lily’s Walk the sequel to West Richardson Street and doing a different kind of writing.
This month has been the second inquest into the death of Habib ‘Paps’ Ullah who died during a stop and search in High Wycombe in July 2008. I’ve been supporting the family since then and with his cousin Zia Ullah set up the Justice4Paps campaign early on after his funeral.
Over the last month I’ve been writing a daily blog from the court about the proceedings so those that couldn’t attend could at least get an update. Been a hard job attending court all day and going through reports and notes and then writing the damn things!
If I want to be critical the quality has been patchy and its been a struggle to keep it mainly factual and descriptive and nothing that will prejudice the legal proceedings. Not a big believer in balance when it comes to dealing with injustice. In the words of the great Sivanandan if the whole society is bias against you why you do want add more balance. If you have very little power/influence we need more bias and more opportunities to get our views across.
But it’s a skill to write whatever setting and continues my aim to write everyday as a discipline. This writing is also vital as it’s about bearing witness and ensuring that the events of this inquest are recorded BY us and FOR us. About bearing witness to the key events that we go through, and these trials and inquests are going to feature sadly more and more in our lives as police powers grow exponentially and their accountability decreases. The final conclusion was of a critical misadventure and narrative verdict further details on the INQUEST page.
Got to give a big shout out to the Family Web Pages Collective and in particular Zinzi Napthali for managing the site and giving me tech support.
Good in some ways to get some time away from Lily’s Walk but itching to jump up back in so watch this space.
It’s been a mad year for me as a writer and relieved and glad that I managed to get ‘WEST RICHARDSON STREET’ out. Thanks to all for the support and encouragement. A special thank you to Cafe Amalfi, Wycombe Sound, Central Furniture Aid, Arts4Every1 (did a short reading from my novel at their Open Mic last month) and even the High Wycombe Society folk for their interesting review!
I’ve had so much interest from local people in the town and a few disagreements (which I’m working through with folk) All good though and it’s nothing like a bit of controversy to drive interest and sales. The novel facebook page has had thousands of people looking at the statuses and seeing the pics. It’s been an interesting way to market the book which I would recommend to others.
Speaking of which I’ve sold a good 400-500 books so far which is more than I expected. The paperback edition has done better than the Kindle version so I’m doing a special offer right now to download for the next 48hrs for 99p/$1.56. As I had to strip down this version for e-publishing I am sending a free copy of the PDF with all the timelines, family trees and glossary for all those that request it. As promised before I will write up something about my experience of doing this and pass on any tips.
Looking ahead to 2015 I’m hoping to do a London book launch with those good folk at the Islamic Human Rights Commission, and a book signing at the local Waterstones in High Wycombe. I’ve started working on the second book ‘LILY’S WALK’ and I promise you will love the material that I’m putting together for that. Writing novels about place and time seem to be something that attracts me and it’s been a fascinating doing the research and chatting to folk in the town.
Anyhow have a good festive season and Happy New Year to you. Let’s see what 2015 brings us all.
There are a number of loose ends in the book and in the editing process I cut out a lot so I’ve started writing a sequel and a further one to form a trilogy of books about the town. The other two books even have working titles. I wanted to extend the theme of roads and place names in High Wycombe so the second book is going to be called ‘LILY’S WALK’ and the second ‘WORLD’S END’. They will pick up from where ‘WEST RICHARDSON STREET’ ended.
Not going to give too much away but rest assured these books will be out in the next year or so as I’ve got so much to say. The action will take place immediately after the first book and a few years later (2010-2011) as well as looking at other relevant periods of the town’s history and then with the final book everything will be brought up to date. Unless you are living on another planet you will know that High Wycombe has been the news again due to more terror raids and young men going to Syria. I’m going to be exploring some of these issues and the dynamic that exist with some of the new characters .
I have to deal with a great deal through my day job and the campaigning that I’m involved with. Writing keeps me sane but crucially gives me a creative outlet to explore what I see in front of me and to try and make sense of it.
Khyaal Rukna/Be safe
‘A little insight into the going on in a town which is both beautiful and tragic, where the rich and privileged live pretty much side by side with the homeless, drug addicts, poor, vulnerable and the disenfranchised, but yet they all live in a world of their own. With their own rules, regulations, expectations, hopes, fears and of course face saving tactics. A must read, I look forward to more from this author.’
‘A great read if you are from High Wycombe and like me remember the 1970s and 80s in the town. Well researched and well written.’
‘A funny amazing story, with good characters and plot, an awesome must read.’
Mad month with the novel finally coming out. Had some good feedback and sales – seem to be selling a copy a day through orders and direct to folk. The novel facebook page has created a nice buzz and I’m getting hundreds of views every week. Did a short interview with the local paper and starting to do some readings. I did one at Arts4Every1 on the 7th of November as a part of an open mic session and got a great response. Got a slideshow with some music from my bro Jaydev Mistry that I’ve also done that I’ll be using soon. Looking to do a booking signing at my local Waterstones bookshop and perhaps maybe a little book launch. Thanks for all the support and encouragement from peeps it makes it all worthwhile.
Have now finally finished doing Kindle version for all you geeks and those who love reading books on a screen! Note to self for the future and all those thinking of publishing to this or any ebook types remember its all about FORMAT! Write it to this medium first folks then format it for conventional publishing purposes. Will post some useful links/videos soon.
Got some further news that I will share soon (real soon)
Finally got the novel out . Big shout to family and friends and to all those that have supported me. Book is available through Createspace where I published it and through Amazon direct. You can also order it from your local bookshop I have been told. Currently out on paperback and working on the Kindle version.
Been a serious labour of love so glad to get it out. Happy with it overall but needed to let it go as it was driving me mad (all you writers will know what I’m chatting about)
Got a special present for you folks and that is the whole First Chapter (25 pages) to tickle your literary taste buds.Those of you on Twitter see the links and retweet and put on Facebook PLEASE.
Want people to read the book and enter the world that I’ve created from the deepest bowels of High Wycombe!