Saboteur Awards Shortlist 2018: Spotlight on the Best Wildcard Category

Last but not least, our final spotlight focuses on the Best Wildcard category! Remember, you have until 9th May to vote here.

Afflecks Creative Space

Afflecks Creative Space

Joy France, Spoken Word Artist, is Creative-in-Residence at Afflecks (Palace) in Manchester. She set up and runs a unique Creative Space that records, celebrates, encourages and promotes creativity in all its forms.

Based in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, Afflecks is renowned for being “an Emporium of Eclecticism – a Totem of Indie Commerce” and the Creative Space has become its gem.

That’s the official practical description but what has happened in the the Creative Space is truly magical…..

It’s not funded. Joy is not paid. No money is involved, yet it has been open 6 days a week for over 2 years with the only rule being “Be Nice”. Everything has been donated by shoppers (chairs, paint, guitars, typewriters etc) and anyone can call in and use it. Nothing gets stolen or destroyed even though it isn’t “staffed”

It has become the “must go to” place for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities across the region and way beyond. People are encouraged to put on events, run workshops and shape the way the space operates.

Joy says: This may sound like a bold claim but not only is it the weirdest place in Afflecks (itself the home of the gloriously weird since 1982) but I believe it to be unique in the country. It is now in its 3rd year and flourishing. People of all ages, backgrounds come together and connect on a real level. It is rare to see anyone using a mobile phone.
There is no catch. Simply always free to use & always open.
It is a proud example of “Manchester, we do it differently here”

100s of people have reconnected with or discovered the power of creativity. Literally 100s have changed their lives dramatically after using the space (lots have escaped abusive relationships, come off drugs, found ways out of homelessness, found the courage to get into university, get dream jobs, embraced their gender identity, escaped loneliness etc)

….  it’s all happened organically and you really have to go there to understand it.

Find out more about Afflecks Creative Space here, and follow it on Twitter here.

Why voters think it should win:

Joy’s name is very apt. She has literally spread Joy to everyone who has been lucky enough to enter the Creative Space at Afflecks. The Space, and Joy, are one of a kind.

This place is so important for young and old people. It has introduced peopel to creativity & encouraged development & confidence. This is a model that should be fully funded and repeated in every town and city inn the UK.

I am not a silent poet

Reuben Woolley at Newcastle Stanza

Reuben Woolley is the editor and founder of I am Not a Silent Poet, the online magazine for poetry of protest against abuse of all kinds, and its associated Facebook page.

Follow Reuben Woolley on Twitter here.

Why voters think it should win:

Poetry needs to be contemporary and IANASP is the most contemporary UK webzine today. In these troubled times we need editors like Reuben Woolley to reflect these times with poems published quickly giving art that immediacy that shows poetry is present not absent

Reuben has made this a vibrant, warm and compassionate site, filled with great, relevant poetry. It’s really something special.

Poetry Prescribed

Welcome to Poetry Prescribed- where we do just that, prescribe you poetry! We deliver therapeutic workshops promoting poetry as a self healing tool; and an effective way to manage mental health and wellbeing.

Poetry has the ability to inspire thought, expression and creativity. Our founder Esi Yankey began writing poetry as a child, and carried her love of writing into adulthood. Upon learning more about the therapeutic benefits of poetry and creative writing, she realised that she had been unknowingly using poetry as a therapy tool for many, many years.

Combining her love of poetry, with her knowledge of holistic therapy, and passion for mental health awareness; Esi founded Poetry Prescribed in 2017, with the primary aim of improving people’s mental health and well being using poetry.

The only requirements for attending our workshops are an open mind, and a willingness to explore your own creativity.

Please visit to find out more.

We look forward to prescribing you poetry!

Why voters think they should win:

Poetry Prescribed really is a very much needed uplifting and inspirational experience. It’s a safe space that brings people together and makes you aware that you are not alone.

Poetry Prescribed – Exactly what the Dr should order!  Supportive, cathartic, inspiring, and fun. Poetry Prescribed is a much needed advocate that highlights and addresses the need to support Mental Health and Wellbeing within our communities.  How refreshing and encouraging!  Just what Mental Health services and those that are supported by them needs!  Healing through creativity.May they go from strength to strength.

#WomenAloud NI 2018

Women Aloud NI 2018

Women Aloud NI 2018 was a one-day celebration of the women’s writing scene in Northern Ireland. On International Women’s Day 2018, 8 March, 11 literary events took place across Northern Ireland. The events were organised by women writers and showcased the work of traditionally published, self-published and yet-to-be-publisher writers: poets, novelists, short-story writers, genre writers and non-fiction writers all took part.

Women Aloud NI is a volunteer-run organisation, run by women writers for women writers. The core aim of the organisation is to raise the profile of the women’s writing scene in NI.

Follow them on Twitter! Find out more here.

Why voters think they should win:

Incredible organisation bringing NI women writers together and fearlessly supporting and promoting all they do!

A dynamic group of women writers in Northern Ireland. Their numbers are growing and the writing just gets better and better.

Yours Faithfully, Edna Welthorpe: a tribute to Joe Orton

Joe Orton

In 2017, Dr Emma Parker (University of Leicester) partnered with filmmaker Chris Shepherd to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of the legendary 1960s playwright Joe Orton.

As well as being a playwright, Orton was a prankster and a provocateur. Adopting the pseudonym ‘Edna Welthorpe’, he liked to send spoof letters of complaint mocking snobbery and sexual inequality (Orton was working class and gay when homosexuality was still illegal).

To honour Orton’s subversive spirit, Parker and Shepherd commissioned new Edna Welthrope letters from top comedy writers including David Quantick (The Fast Show, Veep), Arthur Mathews (Father Ted, Toast of London), Jesse Armstrong (Peep Show, The Thick of It) and Caroline Moran (Raised by Wolves). Emmy Award winning actor and satirist Alec Baldwin – a huge fan of Orton’s work – also contributed an Edna letter. Their letters, which mock social conservatism in Britain today, were read by Frances Barber at The Little Theatre, Leicester, on 9 August 2017 (the 50th anniversary of Orton’s death).

In addition, Shepherd and Parker ran a national Edna Welthorpe writing competition of post-16 students and made a 5 min animation inspired by Orton’s original Edna Welthorpe letters.

The letters and film are available on this website along with information about Joe Orton: 

This project was funded by the University of Leicester and Arts Council England.

Follow the project on Twitter here.

Why voters think they should win:

Great way to celebrate the work and legacy of a working class gay writer.

Love this website – it got me into creative writing again. Had fun using the worksheet to write my own Edna letter.

Saboteur Awards 2017 – The Results

It’s been another incredible year, with nearly 4,300 people voting in the second round in the hopes that their favourite indie literature would win. As always, the shortlist has had a huge amount variety, but as we saw at Abi Palmer’s special preview night, there is far more that unites them than divides them. They represent literature at its most activist, fierce, and tender, and I hope you will go forth and discover each and everyone one of them. Each category header is hyperlinked to the spotlight so that you can discover the shortlist for each in full.

Thank you

It’s also important to thank those who have made this year’s awards happen. Sophie and Jain at Vout-O-Reenees of course, for their generosity with the venue, Danielle Nearey at Sacred Gin for the prize donations, and Literature Wales, as part of International Dylan Thomas Day for sponsoring the Best Wildcard category.

Outside of sponsors, a special thanks to Anna Jamieson, Marianne Tatepo, and Tori Truslow for their help in organizing these awards. Abi Palmer deserves a medal also for organizing a wonderful preview of the awards, as well as performing ‘Nobel’ all night at the awards. Huge thanks to Lucy Ayrton for emceeing last night’s awards, and also to Heidi James, Kathy Pimlott, Karen Goodwin, Paul Davidson, and Rachel Buchanan for their support on the night and in the run up. Finally, a huge thank you to the supporters of Sabotage Reviews, without whose kind donations, these awards would not have happened – you can find their names here (and why not join the gang?)

The results

Without further delay, here are the results of the Saboteur Awards:

Best Wildcard  – this category is supported by Literature Wales, as part of International Dylan Thomas Day

Winner: Women Aloud NI
Runner up: I am not a silent poet

Why voters thought they deserved to win:

  • Border-crossing, trans-gendering, genre-busting, ego-eroding mass-participating revolution in women’s voicing in the making.
  • A women’s group who from a standing start have reached over 200 members in one year, going on to produce events in every county of Northern Ireland and forging precious links across the border when they are most needed.
  • Because they are amazing! They have brought together people from all parts of NI, including many writers who felt very isolated before, and created a vibrant community. They have given women writer’s a voice and platform in Northern Ireland – and further afield that simply wasn’t there before. And they have created community links across both communities, something that is often hard to do. I’ve seen posts in Gaelic and Ullans/Ulster Scots, and people reading everything using Google Translate if need be, and commenting. I’ve found a voice through it, and found support in submitting poetry and advice on how to do that. It’s just amazing – sorry to repeat myself, but coming from NI, to have done all of this in such a short time is brilliant and life affirming and should encourage other areas to do the same.

Best Anthology

Winner:Remembering Oluwale, ed. SJ Bradley (Valley Press)

Runner up: Half Moon: Poems about Pubs, ed. Peter A. White (OWF Press)

Why voters thought they deserved to win:

  • This is an important anthology about social exclusion and racism, which has important resonances with today’s society. David’s story is one that needs to keep being told, especially with the recent rise in racism and jingoism.
  • A great city of the north really owning and owning up to its diverse and difficult histories. Art and articulacy. This *is* the best of modern Britain, in the face of Brexit and all other meanness and stupidity.
  • It is timely. Bridges gap between foreignness and native through recounting a real person’s story, deploying combination of poems, fiction and nonfiction. Societies are as welcoming as oft reminded to be; as we see today in Britain, it takes a short period for native feelings to rise.
  • Remembering Oluwale is a unique and powerful anthology that brings together voices new and more experienced, from around the world, expressing a collective will to hold power and authority to account. David’s story reminds us that issues of racial segregation and violence are still very much live and the range of writers and writings in this anthology demonstrates the bravery and importance of speaking up and keeping stories like David’s alive. A significant and relevant collection.

Best Spoken Word Performer

Winner: Dominic Berry

Runner up: Hollie McNish

 Why voters thought he deserved to win:

  • A hero of spoken word! An amazing performer for adults and children alike and hugely supportive of the whole poetry scene. Dominic truly deserves to be recognised as one of the greatest spoken word artists in the country.
  • Dominic is a real talent and puts his all into everything he does. His audience range is so eclectic and within all of his work there is something for everyone! I didn’t really care for poetry before meeting Dominic and from that point forward began attending various events. Manchester is full of a vast array of talented artists, and Dominic is one of the best I have encountered! This would definitely be well deserved!
  • Dominic is the most generous, hardest-working poet out there. He puts all his energy into his performances, and always risks something of himself, making his live performances unforgettably thrilling for the audience.

Best Reviewer

Winner: Freya McClements
Runner up: Jessica Traynor

Why voters thought she deserved to win:

  • Does great work for the Irish and Northern Irish literary community. Reviews both trad. published AND self-published books [rare].
  • Freya is a writer with a true journalist’s thirst for truth coupled with an innate sensibility for the creative process. Her reviews have credibility stamped all over them.
  • Freya’s writing is exceptional , engaging the reader in a most interesting and entertaining style. She is a gifted wordsmith and reviews with great truth and compassion .
  • Her reviews are the main reason I read more. Thanks Freya.

Best Poetry Pamphlet

Winner: Glass by Elisabeth Sennitt Clough (Paper Swans Press)
Runner up: Waves on a boring beach by Emma Hammond (zimZalla)

Why voters thought it deserved to win:

  • Very accessible poems as well as striking imagery – a poignant collection with which most readers could identify. The best and most consistently rivetting poetry pamphlet I read this year.
  • I couldn’t put this book down. I even burnt the children’s dinner! Such a page-turner!
  • Strong, moving poems based around the Fenlands, reflecting on relationships and beautifully written. Sennitt Clough writes with true elegance.
  • This is by far the most riveting, engaging and well-written pamphlet I’ve read in the past twelve months. The poet deserves to win for her craft.

Best Spoken Word Show

Winner: Fat Girls Don’t Dance by Maria Ferguson
Runner up: How To Starve An Artist by Rose Condo

Why voters thought she deserved to win:

  • This show is revolutionary: it completely changed the way I think about myself, writing, poetry and my past issues around food. Maria teaches us it’s okay to be funny in a changing climate where so much poetry is focused on politics. She is an inspirational writer.
  • One of the most disciplined pieces of theatre and writing I’ve ever seen. Nothing superfluous in here, so tight, so powerful. And the performance stunning too. A masterclass in economy and exploring humanity. I don’t feel that’s overstating it. At once a deeply personal and very universal show, as old as time and yet very very contemporary, and urgent.
  • Maria Ferguson showed an ability to place words in the best possible place, filling gaps with music, dance, and silence. It was unique, yet relatable, and despite being a harrowing personal story, there was also her infectious dry humour.

Best Novella

Winner: The Night Visitors by Jenn Ashworth & Richard Hirst (Dead Ink)

Runner up: Portrait of the Artist as a Viable Alternative to Death by Ross McCleary (Maudlin House)

Why voters thought they deserved to win:

  • It’s really compellingly voiced, with an unpredictable, yet convincing plot, and a shocking – but brilliant! – ending. And the email-exchange is surprisingly effective as a form. It felt genuinely innovative as a ghost story.
  • Cleverly plotted, tensely written stuff. These authors deserve recognition and I’d like to buoy them into creating more like this
  • “The Night Visitors” is as intelligent and gripping as it is innovative in both style and structure. In short, a brilliantly written contribution to the current revival of the Novella.

Best Magazine

Winner: Into the Void

Runner up: Butcher’s Dog

Why voters thought they deserved to win:

  • Into the Void is a venue for stunning art, edgy fiction, and scrumptious poetry. The writing is clear, concise, and full of fresh imagery. I love reading the website and print issues.
  • These people care deeply about poetry and you feel you are really dealing with human beings. The process of submitting poetry can be daunting and make you feel anonymous but even their rejection letter is personal, encouraging and uplifting!
  • It is a beautiful magazine, both the work they publish and in how it is lovingly laid out. They have a spectacular feel for what is ‘right’ in literary magazines right now! Good luck!

Best Regular Spoken Word Night

Winner: Interrobang?! (Edinburgh)
Runner up: Evidently (Salford)

Why voters thought they deserved to win:

  • A constantly entertaining evening of great variety playing to packed houses in Edinburgh venues. Well worth the journey.
  • Interrobang is not afraid to take risks, they put on an eclectic mix of the brilliant, the strange, and the unique. It’s a fun night with a charismatic pair of hosts.
  • I have been going to this night from the very beginning. It started out small with plenty of volunteers happy to showcase their work. The calibre of acts has just got better and better and the night is made by hosts Ricky and Beth, whose own work is a delight! As a regular at this night I would say Interrobang is not only brilliant at supporting Scottish artists but it’s actually helping to promote spoken word in Edinburgh. It’s definitely a winner for me!

Best Short Story Collection

Winner: Wild Gestures by Lucy Durneen (MidnightSun Publishing)
Runner up: Attrib. and other stories by Eley Williams (Influx)

Why voters thought it deserved to win:

  • Lucy’s work is nothing less than exceptional. Her words and content take my breath away. She is also a hard working full-time academic, single-mother of four, who somehow still finds the time to dream and write. This alone should be worthy of an award  
  • Lucy’s collection is a tremendous work of humanity at its best and worst, its strongest and most vulnerable. Every story is packed with beautiful, unexpected and original imagery – to the point of enabling the reader to perceive a fresh perspective on their own life predicaments. This is a rare achievement in recent times and must be recognised and commended in the wider arena.
  • Because this is one off the most exquisite short story collections ever published. It is funny, sad, tender, cheeky, insightful and so, so clever. Lucy Durneen may be a new star in the literature hall-of-fame but she is certainly there to stay.

Best Collaborative Work

Winner: WomenXBorders – Women Aloud 2017 & Irish Writers Centre
Runner up: 
Poetry on the Picket Line

Why voters thought they deserved to win:

  • This deserves to win because it shows the power of words and action to effect change. Women from both sides of the community joined forces to travel to Dublin on a train for events there and to speak on the train while travelling, which must be a novel idea in itself, but its the impact this cross border/cross community event has had on the women involved, creating deep friendships, offering support in what is often a lonely events that continues long after the event…
  • Dynamic. Inclusive. Daring. Wild and wonderful. We need this.
  • Collaborative work is essential on such a divided Island as Ireland. It promotes peace which is one of the greatest benefits of the creative arts.
  • Brought women together from all around the country – North and South to celebrate women and writer. The mass reading at the end of the event was incredibly powerful.

Most Innovative Publisher

Winner: Indigo Dreams Publishing
Runner up: 
Penned in the Margins

Why voters thought they deserved to win:

  • They should win because they totally 100% give their all to publishing poetry and they give complete support to their poets. They are generous and supportive and they listen to their poets and try to meet all their needs. They publish stunning books and that support is long lasting after the book is published. They also produce three fabulous poetry magazines, no publishers offer this many publishing opportunities to both known and unknown poets.
  • My vote is for IDP because they’re consistently good books, and Ronnie and Dawn are so endlessly supportive of their writers and readers alike.
  • Working with IDP is like becoming part of a great family. You’re welcomed, and worked with as a friend with everything worked at together. No them and us with these folk. Thanks IDP

The end of #pamphletparty: a round-up of the review-a-thon

Claire Trévien

This December I reviewed one poetry pamphlet a day – a challenge made trickier by the fact that it coincided with many holidays… It was all done to crowdfund for our next Saboteur Awards (you can contribute here). I gave myself the additional challenge to review one pamphlet per press, so that readers joining me for the ride might get a glimpse at the diversity of publishing out there.

There were perks to the challenge – having avoided reviewing for most of the year, going through an intense reading period felt wonderful. I remembered what’s great about the process: that pamphlets I dismissed on first flicking through, grew to be among my favourites by the end of the month.

With this in mind, here are a few ‘awards’ to celebrate the end of the process

Top 5 favourite pamphlets:

  1. Warsan Shire, Teaching my Mother How to Give Birth (Flipped Eye)
  2. Cynthia Marie Hoffman, Her Human Costume (Gold Line Press)
  3. Jaswinder Bolina, The Tallest Building in America (Floating Wolf Quarterly)
  4. Lynn Pedersen, Tiktaalik, Adieu (Finishing Line Press)
  5. Josephine Corcoran, The Misplaced House (Tall Lighthouse)

Top 5 most read reviews: 

  1. Reuben Woolley, dying notes (erbacce press)
  2. Warsan Shire, Teaching my Mother How to Give Birth (Flipped Eye)
  3. Inua Ellams, The Wire-Headed Heathen (Akashic Books)
  4. Jaswinder Bolina, The Tallest Building in America (Floating Wolf Quarterly)
  5. Josephine Corcoran, The Misplaced House (Tall Lighthouse)

Top 5 most interesting uses of the pamphlet form:

  1. Sarah Hymas, A Dock is Not a Solid Thing
  2. Corina Copp, Pro Magenta / Be Met (Ugly Duckling Press)
  3. Lucy Furlong, Over the fields
  4. Adrian Sobol, Selfies with the Moon
  5. Kristy Bowen, Shipwrecks of Lake Michigan (dancing girl press)

Top 5 don’t judge a pamphlet by its cover and/or title, because you’ll like it a whole lot more than you expected:

  1. Sophie Reynolds, Theatreland (Indigo Dreams Publishing)
  2. Reuben Woolley, dying notes (erbacce press)
  3. Helen Evans, Only by Flying (Happenstance Press)
  4. Jake Campbell, The Coast Will Wait Behind You (Art Editions North)
  5. Neil Elder, Codes of Conduct (Cinnamon Press)

Special mentions:

dying notes by Reuben Woolley, Review #20

-Reviewed by Claire Trévien-

Untitled design (17)

The last time we reviewed an erbacce-press title, things went a bit pear-shaped in the longest comment thread we’ve ever had, and some off-website threats to me. The root of all this was reviewer Harry Giles praising the content, but finding fault with the design of the pamphlet, calling the presentation ‘cheap’, in ‘characterless paper stock, unconvincing typesetting and a slightly pixelated cover – which sells the poems short.’

I must admit I’ve not been too keen to review erbacce titles ever since (who would be?) but when Reuben Woolley sent me his pamphlet, it felt unfair to penalize the writers because of their publisher, so here we go.

At the risk of attracting more ire, Giles’ comments still hold true, the pamphlet’s design isn’t its strong point, the cover’s text belongs in an enthusiastic kindergarten project, and the poems inside are crammed in haphazardly.

None of this is Woolley’s fault of course, and his writing thankfully elevates the publication as a whole. dying notes reminds me of Zuihitsu Poetry, poems made out of fragments of notes, observations, diary entries and so forth. In that sense, the cramming of poems works, giving the sense of different notes being pegged up on a line to dry.

There are two main things that need to be pointed out about dying notes: that these are contemporary poems in the best sense, and that Woolley uses punctuation with a purpose. It’s great to see a punctuation device be used consistently throughout a whole pamphlet. The effect is to create poems that feel slightly off-key, they interrupt your reading and force you not only to look at the words but the phrasing too:

lighting preludes
. i stretch
for higher registers
, twisting cords
for gelded agreement

a deep beat
on dried skin , taut
. they’ve all
got rhythm

I think the punctuation works particularly well in the extract above, from the poem ‘breath’, where each beat of punctuation forces you to consider the rhythm of breathing. The ending makes clear that this poem is a reference to Eric Garner’s final words, ‘I can’t breathe’ before being chocked to death by an NYPD officer. Like many poems in this pamphlet, Woolley reacts to contemporary tragedies, and the punctuation and fragmentary nature of his poems feels like a respectful response to horror. It acknowledges that the poet hasn’t had that direct experience while also wanting to bring it to light.

There is a feeling of detachment in many poems, or at least a desire for it, as in ‘unreal’, where the narrator steps into his ghost, ‘no permanent / home / not here’. In ‘small is’, he declares ‘we’ll be small again’ concluding:

& no-one asks
what the grass thinks

which feels both resigned and hopeful. Perhaps that is what I find most interesting about dying notes: that there’s no easy resolutions in these poems, no soaring note of illumination. These are poems that allow themselves imperfect endings, unstitched punctuation, dichotomies allowed to co-exist.

This December, I have given myself the task of reviewing one pamphlet a day to raise money for next year’s Saboteur Awards. You can help by donating, or sharing the link using the hashtag #pamphletparty. I have given myself the aim of writing at least 300 words for each, a lower word-count than the usual reviews on Sabotage, in the hopes of making it more manageable! Here’s a link to the previously published reviews in this project!