Saturday 14 May 2022




Mainstream brings thirty authors in from the margins to occupy centre-page. Queer storytellers. Working class wordsmiths. Chroniclers of colour. Writers whose life experiences give unique perspectives on universal challenges, whose voices must be heard. And read:

Aisha Phoenix, Alex Hopkins, Bidisha, Chris Simpson, DJ Connell, Elizabeth Baines, Gaylene Gould, Giselle Leeb, Golnoosh Nour, Hedy Hume, Iqbal Hussain, Jonathan Kemp, Julia Bell, Juliet Jacques, Justin David, Kathy Hoyle, Keith Jarrett, Kerry Hudson, Kit de Waal, Lisa Goldman, Lui Sit, Nathan Evans, Neil Bartlett, Neil Lawrence, Neil McKenna, Ollie Charles, Padrika Tarrant, Paul McVeigh, Philip Ridley, Polis Loizou.

The anthology is edited by Justin David and Nathan Evans. Justin says, ‘In publishing, it’s often only the voices of a privileged minority that get heard and those of ‘minority’ groups—specifically the working classes, ethnic minorities and the LGBTQ+ community—don’t get the amplification they deserve. We wanted to bring all those underrepresented groups together in one volume in order to pump up the volume’

‘a wonderful collection of fascinating and unique stories by unique voices’ KATHY BURKE

An enjoyable anthology of outsider voices.

Full table of contents...

Foreword—Aliya Gulamani
Introdution—Justin David and Nathan Evans
Home Time—Kathy Hoyle
Giant—Lui Sit
In the Shell Museum—Padrika Tarrant
Easy Peelers—Lisa Goldman
The Spinney—Gaylene Gould
The Initiation—Bidisha
Happy Ending—Golnoosh Nour
The Beach—Hedy Hume
Going Up, Going Down—Nathan Evans
Twickenham—Neil Bartlett
Bleach—Neil Lawrence
Last Visit—Alex Hopkins
A Review of ‘A Return’—Juliet Jacques
Scaffolding—Giselle Leeb
Dilated Pupil—Ollie Charles
Serosorting—Justin David
It May Concern—Keith Jarrett
Partnering—Aisha Phoenix
The Birdwatchers—Julia Bell
Our Kind of Love—Paul McVeigh
The Reluctant Bride—Iqbal Hussain
The Weight of My Revenge—Kit de Waal
Coup de Grace—DJ Connell
A Life That Isn’t Mine to See—Kerry Hudson
Pixmalion—Polis Loizou
The Dick of Death—Neil McKenna
The Flower Thief—Jonathan Kemp
Notes from a Composer—Chris Simpson
Alignment—Elizabeth Baines
Sunday—Philip Ridley

A few months on from reading a lot of the stories have disappeared from my consciousness which kind of makes it a bit awkward when trying to assemble some semi-coherent thoughts on the book - why do I do that, probably laziness.

Like any collection, some of them hit all the right notes and resonated and some passed me by, just not really connecting with me.

My favourite was probably the opener, Home Time by Kathy Hoyle. 
A bit of a kitchen sink drama, with a lot packed into a little. It's set in a mining community during the strike in the 80s and concerns a family with two girls. The youngest kind of senses that not everything is quite right with her world. She's just old enough to discern fissures in her family relationships. She just isn't capable of articulating them or conversely she's savvy enough to know that voicing them will make them all too real. I found it quite haunting really. It reminded me of the difficult years when you leave childhood behind and enter the big scary world of the grown ups. You want to embrace it, but there's a comfort in childish things and innocence and naivety. Problems aren't something we want to consider or have the skills or experience to tackle.  

Equally enjoyable and just as haunting - Twickenham by Neil Bartlett. 
A man looks back at his first relationship, as a 15 year old with an older man.

Overall, an interesting and diverse collection of stories.  

All about feelings, family, relationships, connections, and memories with mainly innocuous events assuming importance in the eye of the narrator.  

3 from 5 

Read - February, 2022
Published - 2021
Page count - 274
Source - review copy from editors
Format - PDF read on laptop


  1. This does sound really interesting, Col, and several new-to-me authors, too, which is always nice. Most collections have some great entries and some... not so great, but it sounds as though most of these ticked most, if not all of your boxes, and that's great. Sometimes short stories really are just the thing, aren't they?

    1. Margot, agreed. More to like than dislike and a couple of standouts. Not a collection I regret reading.