When Bristol West MP Thangham Debbonaire recently made an impassioned speech during the second reading of the Homelessness Reduction Bill, she reminded the House of Commons that homelessness is about real people, not just numbers.
‘Underneath the numbers, every one is an individual in an impossible situation, a person, cold and frightened, who has been let down or got into a mess and does not know how to get out,’ said Debbonaire during her attack on government policy which she claims has led to a sharp rise in homelessness.
The speech reminded us of Graham Walker’s book Unsettled which Tangent published almost 10 years ago. It’s one of the most revealing insights into homelessness that most readers will ever experience.
Graham has been homeless most of his adult life. His story is a journey from the very bottom to self-accomplished heights. Unsettled is a powerful book that will have the reader laughing and crying in equal measure and ultimately begs the questions; what is a home and what does it mean to be homeless? Does living in temporary housing indicate that that person is homeless? Does being in danger of losing your home classify as being pre-homeless? Or do the bailiffs need to have already visited?
As is often said; you’re only ever three payslips away from being homeless in today’s climate. So with everyone on the precipice of homelessness, it’s important to remember that it could happen to any of us.
Most people who are concerned about the homeless (including Thangham Debbonaire) would consider themselves to be sympathetic to rough sleepers. But Graham makes the point that we all stereotype homeless people, particularly when we see a figure huddled in a sleeping bag in a shop doorway.
We probably see a drug user or someone with addiction and mental health problems, we don’t see a mother, a father, a son or daughter or someone with a sharp sense of humour or a particular talent for drawing, writing, or perhaps cooking.
Unsettled is an entertaining and educational book and it’s also a very moving story. Graham’s experiences as a homeless person and Big Issue seller make a real impact on the way in which people think about homelessness, particularly young people.
Here’s what one Primary School pupil from Newton Abbot said about Unsettled after Graham visited his school to give a talk: “Thank you for showing us not to take the piss out of homeless people and we now realise that homeless people are there for a reason and not just there because they want to lounge around, be lazy and claim on benefits…”
David is currently a full-time student at UWE studying English with Writing. He's using his time here to help create blog posts of interest to discerning punters, as well as honing his writing skills. Not sure what the future holds, so long as it involves words.
Thanks for all your shares and comments about the Banksy Bristol Trail app. I’m Richard Jones, the publisher at Tangent Books and I wrote, rewrote and edited most of the text for the app. I’d like to tell you a little bit more about the app and also to focus on the comments here and on the Bristol 24/7 page commenting that the app should be free.
About 10 years ago, I commissioned Steve Wright (who was then Venue magazine’s art editor) to write a book about Banksy. Mark Simmons and Pete Maginnis provided a lot of the pictures and we were also sent shots by Banksy fans and people who worked with him and given permission to use them.
Steve did a brilliant job and Banksy’s Bristol: Home Sweet Home was an immediate success. A lot of the money from sales went into funding other projects such as Children of the Can, Bristol Black and White, Art & Sound of the Bristol Underground, Wild Dayz and others which wouldn’t have been commercially viable without the revenue from Banksy’s Bristol.
Banksy’s Bristol is now in its fourth edition and continues to sell well, though nowhere near as well as in that first year or so.
It was in this climate that we decided to explore transforming the book into an app. I’ve worked with Jon Rolfe at Cactus for many years – we co-published my first book in 1992, Court in the Act: A History of the Ashton Court Free Festival 1974-1992 – and over the last few years Jon has developed an app engine based on map locations.
We’ve got three apps on the go, Banksy, Bristol Cider Trail and the Treasure Island Trail. Cider and Treasure Island are being upgraded and Banksy is being converted to Android.
The plan is that Cactus provides the technical expertise and Tangent provides the content. That content is original and has been written by professional authors who are paid for their work. We are confident that a combination of the technical expertise provided by Cactus and the writing excellence from Tangent will make the apps great purchases. Several people have commented that they expect the apps to be free. I’m sure that these people don’t expect their food or clothes to be free and they certainly don’t work for nothing.
The payment goes a small way to covering the production and writing costs. Yet still people expect digital content for free. This raises an interesting point and highlights a dilemma that became apparent in the mid 90s when magazines and newspapers began to move their articles and pictures onto the internet and those finely crafted bon mots and expertly constructed photographs became known as ‘content’.
I was working for Future Publishing at the time as the editor of Total Football magazine and Managing Editor of The Official Manchester United Magazine, Glory Glory Man United and The Official Chelsea Magazine, so I observed the birth of internet publishing at very close quarters and quickly became aware of the threats, opportunities and the internal power struggles between on and offline publishers and advertising executives. There was an absolute lack of any coherent philosophy about the direction of online publishing and the consequences for traditional magazine and newspaper publishing.
At Future we were always told that a magazine is just two things.
Virtually overnight editors were expected to give their content to the online teams so that they could use it free-of-charge on the internet. We had given away 50 per cent of our unique selling point.
TotalFootball.com had its own sales and marketing teams and it’s own editorial team. The problem was that the print magazine had developed a very strong brand as an intelligent fans’ mag. We weren’t too laddish but were certainly heavily influenced by the brilliant magazine editor James Brown and the Loaded phenomenon.
Over a number of years we had clearly established our brand as being for the football fan who enjoyed the culture of football (the pies, the folklore, the rivalry, the stats) as much as they enjoyed the game itself. Total Football identified with this sort of fan regardless of their sex, colour creed, age or race.
Incidentally, at the time Future was owned by Pearson whose chief executive Marjorie Scardino said in a major interview that her favourite magazines were Total Football and The Economist – Marge is a Nottingham Forest Fan, as is former Justice Minister Ken Clarke and James Dean Bradfield from the Manic Street Preachers.
The editorial team at TotalFootball.com were perfectly pleasant people, some of them were football fans but they were mainly there because of their expertise in building and maintaining websites. They didn’t understand why Total Football magazine ran surveys to find the best pie in UK football, or why we ran features on football superstitions, animals on the pitch or the worst ever away strips (Coventry City’s chocolate brown monstrosity of 1978/79 season since you ask). In short they didn’t understand our brand. Also because the website was delivering content on a daily, even hourly basis whereas we published the magazine every month, the two products were bound to be different, yet the website used the Total Football name and logo – which looked terrible online, but fine in print.
After years of being told how vital they were, at a stroke Total Football had given away its content and its brand. Of course we weren’t alone, virtually all traditional media organisations got it horribly wrong in the rush to online publishing in the 90s and it’s taken a long time for the wounds to start to heal.
One of the consequences of all this is that many people expect digital content to be delivered free of charge. I firmly believe that well-researched and well-written articles, great photography and expert coding comes at a price.
We had great fun last week installing an exhibition of photographer Beezer's work in Trinity as part of the 6 Music Festival that took over Bristol this weekend. Below are some of the images of the exhibition, which features The Wild Bunch (before they became Massive Attack) and images of St Pauls Carnival from the 1980s:
Also, our glorious leader, Richard Jones Esq. was allowed on the radio. Not once, but TWICE.
Here he is chatting to Stuart Maconie (tune in at 1hr 38, if you're short of time).
And have a listen to him talking with the lovely Cerys Matthews on Sunday afternoon (1hr 23).
Johnna Darque, Assistant Publisher
Bristol's incredible music scene is getting some well-deserved attention what with the BBC 6Music Festival gracing our shores in a couple of weeks. The full lineup is looking good, especially with all the Fringe events taking place all over the city.
Gilles Peterson of 6Music has made a brilliant documentary, tracing the history of Bristol's underground music scene over the years. Have a listen here.
We've got the perfect book to go alongside Gilles' documentary, which explores and examines the history of the underground music scene in Bristol:
Art & Sound of the Bristol Underground.
This influential book looks at the art and music of the 80s underground scene in Bristol. Influenced by the New York hip hop scene -its DIY ethos, sharp fashion and gang culture- and which seemed a natural successor to the anarcho punk, weird funk and dub reggae mash that had prevailed on Bristol's alternative scene.
Featuring flyers advertising the secret parties of the Bristol circuit, as well as in-depth interviews with the people behind the leading hip hop crews of the day.
Our very own Richard Jones is installing an exhibition of Beezer's photography at Trinity Centre, especially for the 6Music Festival. Details here.
...And for those visiting our wonderful city for the first time, we've got the ideal companion for your adventures round Bristol:
The Naked Guide to Bristol
The Naked Guide to Bristol is a witty and informative guide to the sights and sounds of Bristol. Whether you're after a big sight-seeing weekend or out to uncover the secret spots in the city, this guide will have you there in no time.
Remember, not all guide books are the same...
We're proud to have a wonderful selection of fiction here at Tangent Books! Featuring local, national and international writers, our collection of fiction ranges from poetry, short stories and fictions to full length novels. Check out the full collection here.
My Mother Was an Upright Piano by Tania Hershman
A scintillating collection of 56 short fictions by one of the genre’s most daring exponents, whose economy of words cloaks her subtlety and power. Tania Hershman’s work is powerful, spiky and off-beat but with a distinct warmth and affection for her subjects. ﾠA Bristol-based writer, Tania is the chair of this year's judging panel for the Bristol Short Story Prize.
Catacombs of Terror by Stanley Donwood
This page-turning terror of a book is written by Radiohead artist Stanley Donwood, and features an amazing, 50s-inspired cover design by Chris Hopewell of Jackknife Prints.
Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology, vol. 8
A very happy new year to you.
We're really looking forward to the year ahead at Tangent Books, with lots of exciting projects in the pipelines and we'll be keeping you updated with all our Tangential News here, as well as on our Facebook and Twitter pages.
If you're in need of a little New Year's resolution inspiration, take a look at this gem from Ira Rainey:
Fat Man to Green Man is the tale of one forty-something man's journey from fat to fit, an honest and light-hearted chronicle of the trials and tribulations of going from couch potato to ultra-marathon runner.
Far from being an elite athlete with superhuman running abilities like the ones he read about in books, Ira Rainey was an overweight and unfit slacker who felt a bit sorry for himself because he had sore feet. Sure he ran a bit, but he also sat around a lot and ate and drank too much.
That was until a friend was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given months to live. It was to be an event that would push Ira to tackle his apathy towards life and take on the challenge of becoming an ultramarathon runner, pushing himself to go further than he had ever gone before.
Anyway, wishing you the happiest of years ahead!
Johanna Darque, Assistant Publisher
Unfortunately both Louis the Postman and Kylie Minogue were unavailable to do the honours in the Tangent Books Christmas Lights Ceremony. As consolation for this devastating news, here is a picture of the suitably dismal display here at Tangent Books:
Please check out www.tangentbooks.co.uk for the real festive display!
Welcome to the new, updated and spangly blog for Tangent Books!
Our blog sits alongside our completely redesigned website so please make yourself at home and have a poke around. We thought we needed a bit of an update and really hope you like the new design! Although we look quite different, it'll be the same quality books for the discerning punter (yourself) that we'll be producing and hope this blog will become a space for exploring the ideas held in our books in more depth.
We'll also be keeping you up to date with news, new books, events and local info so you can stay connected with what's happening here at Tangent HQ. Plus we'll be featuring regular guest posts from people with interesting things to say.
Do keep in touch and let up know what you think of our new setup!