Book Review: No Homeless Problem

No Homeless Problem is a book of poetry by, once homeless, Seamus Fox. This compilation is based on the experiences of 44 individuals and sheds light on the issues faced by the homeless including the process by which they came to be homeless and the subsequent horrors they faced (I personally found 10 days very disturbing).

I found this compilation of poetry very touching and moving. This book allowed me to be the fly-on-the-wall in the various homeless situations that people had found themselves in. As someone, and I know I am not alone, who does not truly grasp what it means to be homeless or how somebody could end up this way, I found myself seeing through the eyes of these misfortunate people. The way the poetry is written and presented on the page adds to their haunting nature. It is insightful and breath-taking. I believe the raw emotion felt throughout these poems evokes real empathy within the reader. I know I felt very emotional after reading ‘Yellow’ and it breaks my heart to know that this is not fiction. It pains me that even today, innocent people are battling with homelessness and I am grateful to have read this collection. My heart and ears have been opened to the homeless and for this must thank Seamus Fox. A truly talented man who has shed such compelling light on such a broad issue.

by Vanisa Pankhania


No Homeless Problem by Seamus Fox will be published in August.

Nature Deficit Disorder

Words by Paul Thornycroft

Lucky me when, as a child, access to nature was straight forward.  With no stranger danger inhibiting my parents, I could I roam the wooded slopes that led down to meadows where a small stream meandered the woodland boundary.  This was the Wild Wood of “Wind in the Willows” fame, and the brook was Ratty’s brook, where he and Mole messed about in boats.  I haven’t visited this place for decades since the time that nostalgia drew me there to feel again my childhood haunts.  What I saw broke my heart.  The meadowland is now a motorway link-road, and the stream a foetid culvert choked with rubbish.

When I see nature brutalised I feel a deep, visceral anguish.  I feel loss, confusion and guilt, adding up to a feeling of abandonment–– but have I abandoned nature or has nature abandoned me?

In an everyday sort of way, we don’t notice losses to the natural world.  We admire technology and enjoy its fruits, finding reassurance in doing so.  But deep inside we know, when we care to look, that our wild desires are harvested and seduced into numbed fulfilment by the consumption of irresistible products, both material and ideological.  By these means our wild desires are muted and the anguish is somatised and normalised.

It seems that nature is defined by western culture as just another resource to exploit, use, abuse and control.  Sound familiar?  If it’s ok to do that to NATURE then surely, it’s ok to exploit, use, abuse and control everything, anything, anybody?  Not so.  That’s not what we want, but it is happening.

But how is it that western civilisation engenders this sense of human supremacy and entitlement at the expense of all other living beings, and cultures?  If we could examine this as a pathology, as if the collective were an individual, what do you think we would find?

As individuals we are conditioned by cultural metaphors from a very early age, perhaps even from the moment of conception, and yet children remain remarkably elastic in their imaginations until the realities of life constrain them.  They have an intuitive sense of the wonder of wild nature, and a hunger for this common source of nourishment, which, sadly, is no longer common nor abundant nor inexhaustible.  Many children have severely limited access to un-degraded nature, some none at all.  Sadly, for most, this becomes normalised.

Why should this normalising go largely unchallenged?  Do we really view nature merely as a resource to be exploited for our own economic advantage?  Perhaps we do, but not consciously; such deep rooted values come from the cultural metaphors embedded in our social mores, and in language itself, and these patterns of belief are cultural, not genetic.  We can change them if we choose to.

Nevertheless, the future looks bleak indeed.  Many young people are struggling, unhappy without knowing quite why, scanning the world for meaning and finding an absence.  Isolation, depression and anxiety have become normal, too, for a large number of older people.  And yet we seem to have no choice but to participate in a social and economic system that is degrading the natural world to a condition soon to be inhabitable only by machines, while humans live lives enclosed within urban norms.

Richard Louv, in 2005, wrote a book called “Last Child in the Woods” in which he coins the term ‘nature-deficit disorder’.  He states “Nature-deficit disorder is not meant to be a diagnosis but rather serve as a description of the human costs of alienation from the natural world.”.

Clearly, children benefit from spending time in wild nature, on camping trips, on adventure holidays and equine-therapy days.  We would all benefit from such activities.  But as Louv indicates, this goes much deeper and it is not just children that suffer nature-deficit disorder, it is humans of all kinds, it is society itself, and most significantly, it is Nature itself.

I recently came across a sentence that made me take notice.  “There’s something unsettling about being reassured in troubling times” (source not known).  This exactly resonates with my ‘deep, visceral anguish’.  Well, actually I feel no reassurance.  I’m clearly not consuming enough.  But if I could see back through time, I might see the beginnings of the patterns of culture that alienate us from the Earth, patterns that could be re-imagined.

I’ll need some help, need to look stuff up.  Learn how to shrink time.  I’ll report back.


Paul Thornycroft is the author of The Adventures of Horatio Mowzl, an illustrated children’s story that reflects on the impacts that human activity is having on the environment, whilst taking readers on a whirlwind adventure.

Follow Paul on Twitter, Facebook and his website for more blog posts, information about Mowzl, giveaways and competitions.

The Adventures of Horatio Mowzl is available to buy here.

Diversity and the Publishing Industry

Tom Weldon, chief executive of Penguin Random House UK, noted that the book industry will ‘become irrelevant’ if it continues to fail to reflect and represent the diverse range of voices within our society.

There are many reasons for this, including a lack of contacts within the publishing industry, low levels of confidence, poor experience of mainstream schooling and sometimes greater needs around developing young people’s writing. There are many under-represented communities within the book world, including individuals from poorer backgrounds, from LGBTQ or BAME communities, or writers with a disability.

‘The past 10 years of turbulent change affecting the UK book industry has had a negative impact on attempts to become more diverse’, Professor Claire Squire states in The Writing Future, and if the publishing industry continues down this path, it ‘risks becoming a 20th century throwback out of touch with a 21st century world’.

Attempts have been made to tackle the publishing diversity deficit; Random House launched its new #WriteNow Initiative aiming to discover and mentor authors from the UK’s most under-represented communities in 2016. Authors Sunny Singh and Nikesh Shukla created the annual Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour, an award that intends to ‘celebrate the achievements of British writers of colour’. Pioneering efforts by English PEN, the founding centre of a worldwide writers’ association with 145 centres in over 100 countries, who campaign to ‘defend writers and readers in the UK and around the world whose human right to freedom of expression is at risk’, matching writers with marginalised groups such as people in prisons, in refugee or detention centres and young people in disadvantaged areas. The Arts Council England dedicates funding to support writers from disadvantaged backgrounds. However, disproportionate obstacles to getting published for disadvantaged authors continue.

Whilst the rise of digital publishing and self-publishing services means that more writers can get their work published, there are still challenges in effectively stocking and selling books, which directly impacts what gets read. Promotion and distribution are challenges that self-published authors and even those with an independent publisher face.

The result is a gap or omission in whose accounts, voices and experiences are heard, causing common stereotypes to go unchallenged, or even reinforced by other, more privileged accounts who may misappropriate or misrepresent different narratives.

Literature plays a huge role in exploring the current socio-political climate and debate, reflecting on various aspects of society and highlighting the need for action or change. From the work of Charles Dickens to Zadie Smith, a book can really change the world. However, when some authors are excluded from being published and platformed, it is not only unfair to them as individuals but denies society the opportunity from accessing their unique perspectives.

At Arkbound, we recognise the diversity deficit in publishing and seek to address it by supporting authors from disadvantaged backgrounds. Founded in early 2015, Arkbound is an innovative and unique publisher that bridges the gap between contemporary and ‘vanity’ publishers by offering writers a chance to publish their work in a supportive and sustainable manner.

Supporting individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, Arkbound believes firmly in the power of writing as a healing and inspirational tool. Invested in developing creative talent, promoting social inclusion and breaking down barriers within the publishing industry, Arkbound is a publisher with social enterprise at heart. Many of our titles focus on under-represented voices and have supported authors working with charities like First Stop Darlington on Roofless and Emmaus for No Homeless Problem (to be published in April) to curate collections of poetry that looks at narratives of homelessness and the critical issues that are at the heart of current social and political debates.

Arkbound’s social enterprise efforts are centred around training individuals who want to enter the publishing world, offering alternative routes and equipping people with the skills and knowledge to make their dreams a reality. The Publishing Excellence Programme, launched in 2017, is just one way we try to ensure that everyone gets the opportunity to work in publishing, with many candidates carrying on to secure paid work placements. Our ‘Zooker Award‘ also endeavours to acknowledge debut books by diverse authors with an environmental or social message that encourages their readers to make positive changes, whilst Arkbound’s annual writing competition can sponsor entries from disadvantaged writers.

There is still a great way to go, with many challenges making things difficult to tell a range of stories that are truly representative of our time and society. Arkbound is committed to building sustainable futures for a diverse range of authors and will continue to keep bridging divides within the publishing industry.

Three Bristolian Authors You Should Know About

Words by Polly Hember

Arkbound started out in Bristol, with the aim to build futures and bridge divides in the publishing world. Publishing a community content magazine Vocalise, and with many of Arkbound’s titles written by Bristolians, Bristol will always be close to Arkbound’s heart.

Bristol is a beautiful, diverse and inspiring city. Fostering artists like Damien Hurst and Banksy, Bristol is known for it’s art scene. Celebrating Bristol’s creativity, we’ve got a list of Bristol-grown authors.

JK Rowling

JK Rowling | Medium.com

Born in Yate, just outside of Bristol. She lived just south of a small town called Dursley (sound familiar?). Her Harry Potter books have charmed an entire generation, and continue to spellbound new readers. Inspired by some of her neighbours, she told Newsround that the name Potter came ‘from people who lived down the road from me in Winterbourne […] I liked the surname so I took it, I didn’t take anything else from that family’. She wrote the infamous pages in Edinburgh, and is hailed as one the most successful authors of all time, and surely Bristol’s most famous daughter.

Amanda Prowse

Amanda Prowse | The Daily Mail

At forty, Amanda Prowse became a full time writer and penned Poppy Day, the story of an army wife whose incredible love for her husband gives her courage to rescue him from hostages in Afghanistan. Then came the Number #1 Bestseller What Have I Done? Now she has ten novels and four novellas published. Focusing on contemporary love stories with relatable female protagonists, this Bristol based author is currently working on her new series No Greater Courage.

Nathan Filer

Nathan Filer | Nathan Filer.com

Nathan Filer originally trained and worked as a mental health nurse, then later as a mental health researcher at the University of Bristol. Starting out as a writer, he performed as a stand-up poet and featured at many of the UK’s poetry nights and festivals. His poems have also been broadcast on BBC’s radio 4’s Bespoken Word and Wondermentalist Cabaret. In 2005 his poetry short film Oedipus won the BBC Best New Filmmaker Award and Berlin’s Zebra Poetry Film Award. His debut novel The Shock of the Fall describes the life of a young man with schizophrenia. Published in 2013, it received widespread critical acclaim, winning The Costa Book of the Year, The Betty Trask Prize, The National Book Award for Popular Fiction and The Writer’s Guild Award for Best First Novel. It is a Sunday Times Bestseller and has been translated into thirty different languages.

Google and the Daily Telegraph

Recently we uncovered a concerning link between the internet’s search engine giant, Google, and one of the UK’s dominant right-wing newspapers, the Daily Telegraph.

We were alerted to this connection after an unprecedented lifting of the Daily Telegraph’s malicious and inaccurate article that attacked our regulating organisation IMPRESS. Long a voracious opponent to IMPRESS, the Telegraph spotted a weak spot by taking advantage of our founder’s history and warped this to aid their campaign. The article went from appearing on page 8 of Google for searches of ‘Arkbound’ to coming near the top of page 1, in the space of only a few weeks. This also occurred over 10 months after it was published.

What makes this drastic lifting even stranger is that, throughout the entire article, there is only one mention of Arkbound. Moreover, all other search engines list it far from page 1 – in most cases, behind page 10. There is no clear reason for this based on Google’s own search engine policies, either, because there are a preponderance of other more recent and relevant articles about Arkbound, which also feature Arkbound rather than just being a passing mention. Many of these links are from authoritative sources, yet they continue to be placed below the Telegraph article.

We decided to do some digging and discovered some shocking correlations with other Telegraph articles during the EU Referendum and 2017 UK General Election. Over both these periods, articles from the Telegraph – campaigning for Brexit and attacking the Labour Party leader – were consistently placed high up on Google search results, usually at the very top.

We have reached the conclusion that Google and the Telegraph Media Group have an undisclosed agreement and have alerted other more neutral media outlets in an attempt to elicit the truth. What makes such an apparent link highly objectionable is that the Telegraph remains the UK’s most inaccurate media outlet, as found by its own ‘regulator’, and was fined for illegal political canvassing during the UK General Election. With editorial perspectives that often veer right of the Daily Mail, this newspaper has a track record of poor journalistic standards, as revealed by its own former employees. Its two billionaire-owner twins, the Barclay brothers, have also been implicated in serious tax evasion and even maliciously removed the sole doctor of a small British island because residents objected to their conduct. All these facts are widely reported and verified – although you may wish to research them using another search engine.

We call upon Google to end any agreements that impede upon search engine impartiality and Google’s own ethical policies to ‘do the right thing’.

To read more about the Google-Telegraph connection, visit https://medium.com/@boundless_50018/latest

 

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