iamhyperlexic

Contemporary short fiction, poetry and more

A 5-minute introduction to the contract law of England and Wales for writers and other creative workers

Before we start, I need to explain that I am not a lawyer.  My father was a law lecturer, and my mother was a very eminent solicitor.  One of her main specialisms was contract law.  But I am not a lawyer.  I am offering general information, not legal advice. 

I have been interested in law for a long time, and I do know the basic elements of contract law. 

The purpose of this article is to deal with a hypothetical situation in which a freelance writer is selling a piece of writing or other service (proof-reading, editing, teaching, and so on) to an outlet. It will include analogies with other kinds of transaction in order to make some legal concepts as clear as possible. 

A contract is a legally binding promise (written or spoken) by one party to fulfil an obligation to another party in return forsomething called a “consideration”. A basic binding contract must comprise four key elements: offer, acceptance, consideration and intent to create legal relations. 

“Intent to create legal relations” means that if you say to your Derby County supporting friend that you will eat your hat if Derby beat Leeds on Saturday, and they do, your friend cannot take you to court over the matter. It means things to do with buying and selling.

A contract often begins with something called an “invitation to treat”.  An invitation to treat is less serious than an “offer”.  Words like “offer” and “acceptance” are potentially binding.  Here is an example to illustrate some of the terms.

I go into a branch of Currys to buy a flat-screen TV.  I find a model I like, and it is advertised for sale at 99 pence.  I ask the assistant if I can have the TV for 99 pence.  She says no.  I say, “But the price label says 99 pence”.  The price label is an invitation to treat.  It is not binding.  I go to the desk, and am told that the price is £499.  (“Offer.”)  I say that I will have the TV for £499.  (“Acceptance.”)  That means that I have to pay Currys £499, in return for which, I will get that flat-screen TV. 

On the basis of information which is very scant, because of the constraints of social media, I will now try to run that past you again, based on a recent example to do with writing.  Most of what follows is made up, because I don’t have the full case history.

A body concerned with the arts, called Indulgent Projects, advertises for a copy writer, to write 3000 words in a forthcoming brochure.  The advertisement says that the recipient of the work will be paid “the market rate”, and asks for 50-word proposals, from which the selection will be made. 

A writer, called Harriet Struggler, responds to the advertisement with her 50 word proposal.  She receives an email which does not explicitly say that she has been selected, but asks her to provide the full piece, of 3000 words. 

Harriet books time in her schedule to write the 3000 words.  She sends an invoice to Indulgent Projects for £995. 

Indulgent Projects then email Harriet to say that they are not going to pay her anything, because they have found someone else, who will do it for nothing. 

What is Harriet’s legal position? 

It comes down to whether a contract has been formed.  The details of offer and acceptance may depend on the wording of individual emails or messages. The point is that there does not have to be paper and ink for the formation of a contract. 

In my example, the request for the 3000 word piece is the offer, and the sending of the invoice is the acceptance.  After that, it is not up to Indulgent Projects whether they want to pay, or not: they have to pay. 

Lawyers, writers, publishers are welcome to contribute in the comments. 

The next stage, having established a grievance, is how we go about prosecuting it, and what remedy we seek.

BBC Radio 4 drama: Escape Kit, 14:15 Tuesday 5 November 2019

My debut radio drama will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 as the afternoon play on Tuesday 5 November at 14:15. It will be immediately after The Archers.

For anybody who is interested in the process of adaptation of the novella, copies of it are still available for GBP 4 each, which is a discount of GBP 1.99 on the cover price.

Review: Black Teeth And A Brilliant Smile, Freedom Studios, Cluntergate Centre, 16/06/2019

The venue was packed.  There were 7 rows of seating, with 18 on each row, and there were a few people seated on tables, at the back. 

There was no stage.  The set was as the same level as the seating.  The set consisted of a pub bar, with pumps on it for drinks such as Castlemaine XXXX.  There was pub furniture in front of the bar.  This, like just about every other element of the production, was re-used for more than one purpose.  Not only did all the re-uses work, they enhanced the production. 

The main driver of the narrative is Andrea Dunbar, played by Emily Spowage.  She plays the character of Andrea, and acts as narrator, and plays Andrea playing the character of the London producer.  This part includes the most direct confrontation with the self-destructive elements of Andrea Dunbar’s character. 

Whatever it is that passes for lager in this production, Emily Spowage has to drink at least 5 halves of it, some of them in quick succession.

‘Young Andrea’ is played by Lucy Hird.  But ‘Young Andrea’ is not one character, in the same way that Andrea is not just one character.  Both characters age during the narrative.  This is very expertly handled, in the way the characters are costumed and made up, in the script, and in the acting. 

Laura Lindsay, Claire-Marie Seddon, and Balvinder Sopal, all play more than one part, in the sense that they play different people, as well as people at different stages in their lives.  Their parts are difficult, for different reasons.  They have to portray characters of different social classes, and different speech registers, with hardly any time to enact the change.  It all works.    

The set is re-used, in a way that I can’t describe without giving away the story, but it works. 

And so, I got to walk 10 minutes from my house to a drama venue (the Cluntergate Centre in Horbury), pay £5 to get in, and sit 5 feet six inches from the dramatic action.  The dramatic action was a story which was both new and, in some ways, familiar.  I do not come from a working class background in the Buttershaw Estate in Bradford, but I am a writer who has come to writing via an unconventional route. 

I was captivated by the play.  If it were on at the same venue, tomorrow, for the same price, I would definitely go and see it, again.  But, as regards family planning, or providing a role model for aspiring, working class writers, it is completely useless.  This is not motivational propaganda: this is a depiction of a tortured genius.  You can come from the Buttershaw Estate, and still be a tortured genius, for all the good that will do you. 

Review: Glory by Red Ladder Theatre at Cluntergate Community Centre 22 March 2019

The set is a wrestling ring, some litter, and some lockers.  The play deals with the subject of wrestling.  It is not about wrestling. 

This masterpiece, which I’m guessing may have been produced on a limited budget, has, in my opinion, two very minor technical defects.  The first is that some of the monologues were backed by electronic samples that sounded like wind blowing.  These were in keeping with the tone of the monologues, but the monologues could have stood for themselves, and didn’t need the backing track.  The second is that one of the actors plays two parts.  The two parts he plays are dramatically at odds.  It is obvious how this works, but it would have been neater if a fifth actor could have been employed.  This is a message to Arts Council England as much as to Red Ladder.    

Apart from that nit-picking, this is the tightest dramatic script I have ever witnessed.  The drama includes anger, hate, frenzy, regret, despair, triumph, and many things, besides.  Every line depicts character, ramps up dramatic tension,  or resolves it.  I mean, every line.  One of the ways I measure live performance is by how many times I check the time while it is going on.  The time check score for ‘Glory’ is zero.

An even more extreme nit-picker might say that the plot line about the financial difficulties of the owner might have been recapitulated.  I am not saying that. 

The play makes you think there are three characters, but then a fourth turns up, and not as an afterthought. 

There are several fight scenes, but the play is not about fighting.  The fight scenes are masterfully handled, and, I cannot deny, homo-erotic. 

The character of Jim Glory occasionally resorts to meta-drama, and speaks directly to the audience.  This is also well handled and adds to the engagement.  The explicit comparison in the dialogue of Shakespeare’s “Wooden O” with a wrestling ring underpins the parallel between this piece and Elizabethan drama.  It is a play that intends to give the audience back themselves.  It is a play that intends to make the audience want to be better people, without any trace of preaching.  Was this play intended to educate, or to entertain?  We will never know, because it did both. 

If you are very short of time, then see this production before all others, because not a single second of it is wasted. 

I have deliberately not listed the characters, or the actors, or given you my opinion of their performances.  You will have to go and see it, and decide all that, for yourself. 

Review: Attrib. by Eley Williams

ISBN 978-1-9103121-6-2

@Influxpress

There is never going to be a good time to say this, and so it might as well be now.

Attrib. by Eley Williams is the most original short fiction collection by a British writer I have ever read. 

The recurring theme in Attrib. is narrators who have to filter their view of reality through some kind of cognitive thing.  For this reason, if no other, I felt immediately empathetic to the narrators in the stories. 

There are 17 stories.  I have finished reading 13 of them.  The reason I am writing this review, now, is in case I get run over by a bus, or something.  I am mostly full of regard for buses, and suchlike, but you never know.  Anyway, I want you to know about it, before something bad might happen.  Call it an insurance policy, if you like.  You don’t have to call it, that.  I am just saying.

I want it to be understood that there is nothing wrong with the 14th story, which is the one I am reading, now.  As to the fact that I have not finished it yet: I don’t want you to go getting any ideas.  I read the collection while I am on my way to work, or my way home from work.  On the way to work, I have to look up when the bus does that turn round the bit just after The Redoubt, because if I don’t look up, then, I might miss my stop, even though it is a while before my stop.  I read ‘This Sporting Life’ like that and it seemed to work.  I am finishing Attrib. quite quickly, when you think about it.  Sometimes I have to read it on the train to Leeds when everybody in the aisle is standing up and I have to send a message of complaint to the train company but I want to keep reading. 

I am not going to tell you what happens in any of the stories, because then you might just read what I had put and not read the stories. 

Some of the stories are strange, and that is a big deal coming from me.  But most of them are both strange, and satisfying. 

If you only like boring stories, told by boring people, don’t buy this book. 

If you like stories which make you want to know what happens next, then buy this book. 

If you like stories told from the point of view of a white man in a Pringle sweater, don’t buy this book. If you like stories told from a new point of view, then buy this book.

I borrowed it from the library, because I am poor. But I commend it to you, Those Who Command The Riches Of The Earth.

Review: ‘An Otley Run’ by Joe Williams

  • Paperback: 76 pages
  • Publisher: Half Moon Books (9 Nov. 2018)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0995764293

This book is in an experimental format which works. It is not a collection of poetry: it is a verse novella. It is a story, told from more than one point of view. It has, for better or worse, a beginning, a middle, and an end. The inciting incident, I would suggest, is the premise of the book, itself. What makes this different from everyday life? The fact that people go out in togas and cowgirl costumes to drink at 14 pubs. Is that really an inciting incident? Does that represent a departure from everyday life? The reader has to decide.

I am a person who was conceived and born in Leeds, who grew up and went to school in Leeds, talking about a book by a man who is from the North East, but set in Leeds, about a cultural phenomenon in Leeds that I have heard of, but never experienced. The main reason I never experienced it is that, although I have a degree from the University of Leeds, it is a postgraduate degree. I did my undergraduate course in Liverpool, where, it should be noted, I never did the Smithdown Ten, because, in those days, I did not drink alcohol.

One of the things Joe Williams achieves is to describe an Otley Run from the point of view of a character who is not a student. The whole event may or may not have become a cliché. The way Joe Williams examines it is certainly against cliché.

All this goes to the heart of the work: Joe Williams is an outsider, observing an insider event, but with the insight of someone who is only just an outsider. Part of the point of this work is how we decide what is worth doing, which informs who we are.

The insight and clarity of the social observations is something that could never be outdone, and could only be equalled with difficulty.

If you want to know what happens, you are going to have to buy the book.

This is the kind of poetry that I argued with Kirsten Luckins about. I would describe it as “urban”. She said, “Does that mean it is rap?” I said, “No.” She said, “Give me an example of a poet who is ‘urban’ who is not a rapper.” I said, “Brian Patten.” You don’t have to come from Leeds, or have been to university in Leeds, to understand this verse novella. It isn’t fundamentally about Leeds, though Leeds certainly comes into it. It is fundamentally about our desperation to be appreciated and loved, about how we decide to spend our time, and whether what we do has any meaning or purpose.

This is, certainly for a work of this length, a very rare thing. It is narrated in recognisable voices, and written by a poet who has undoubtedly found his own voice, and hence the ways to adapt his own voice. It has a narrative arc. The social and historical facts are well observed. The underlying point to the story is built up out of minute details, not foisted on the reader.

I have never read anything like it.

“Where there’s Muck, there’s Bras” by Kate Fox, Theatre Royal Wakefield, Thursday 7 February 2019

I first met Kate Fox to speak to when she performed at Seven Arts Centre in Chapel Allerton, Leeds. That doesn’t seem long ago, but it must be at least 3 years. Kate Fox is not the most famous spoken word performer I have ever conversed with, but she is the most famous spoken word performer I have spoken to for that amount of time, and who spoke to me as if she was not trying to get away, and might even consider speaking to me again, on another occasion.

During my doomed attempt to put together an alternative literature festival in Wakefield in 2018, Kate Fox was, again, the most famous writer and performer who said she might be available during the time in question. She quoted what seemed to me to be a reasonable fee. She kept telling me that she is “not Kate Tempest”. What Kate Fox meant by that was that she did not consider herself to be a safe bet to fill a large venue. That wasn’t a problem for me: I was looking for a top quality performer that people who don’t go to live spoken word events might have heard of. If you have had your own series on BBC Radio 4, then that counts as “might have heard of”. A review of one of Kate Fox’s programmes appears on this blog. My reaction to, “I’m not Kate Tempest” was, “Good.”

The purpose of the forthcoming tour is to broadcast the history of Northern women who Kate Fox thinks have not received enough – or, in some cases, any – recognition. It is a departure from Kate Fox’s accustomed “stand-up poetry”, because it incorporates music, film, and at least one other performer. It is more complex than simply standing next to a microphone and talking, to the point that it has its own director, Annie Rigby.

The tour starts in Wakefield, at the Theatre Royal, which is less than 5 minutes walk from Wakefield Westgate station. You can buy tickets for the Wakefield performance here:

https://theatreroyalwakefield.co.uk/whats-on/where-theres-muck-theres-bras/

Kate Fox is a performer who is both capable of the unexpected, and also faultless in getting the basics of material, funny/serious balance, and delivery right. I am excited at the prospect of seeing and hearing her including other elements in her act.

Review: Strix #5

Strix is a magazine that features poetry and short fiction, published in Leeds, West Yorkshire. 

Issue #5 is the first one I have read.  I was surprised to hear that I get a free subscription to the magazine by virtue of gaining a place in the Northern Short Story Writing Academy 2019. 

This issue contains the work of 40 writers, approximately 19 of whom are female (going on the names, only).  The print version is in an unusual format.  The pages are the same height as A4.  When I spoke to Ian Harker, one of the editors, he told me that it was A4 folded in half, but it is wider than that.  It is still narrow enough to fit in the inside pocket of my coat, and so I have carried it around West Yorkshire for several days, to and from work, to and from pubs, on buses and trains, gradually getting to know it.  The pages are stapled, and placed inside a loose, brown paper cover.  The cover art is stylised, monochrome lino cuts. All good.   

The problem I have with nearly all literary magazines is that I don’t understand them, and they don’t understand me.  I understand most of issue #5 of Strix, and, more importantly, it understands me. 

Two of the contributors, I know personally.  A third is Wes Lee, who lives in New Zealand.  Since 2012, Wes Lee and I have been entering competitions run by the Grist venture, run by the University of Huddersfield.  In the short fiction competition in 2012, Wes Lee came first, and I came second.  I don’t mind coming second.  Except for the fact that Wes Lee’s story doesn’t have a recognisable narrative arc.  Be that as it may.  We were both published from the chapbook competition in 2014.  Wes Lee’s chapbook is called ‘Cowboy Genes and Other Stories’.  Mine is called ‘Escape Kit’, of which I have copies to sell. 

As to the content of Strix #5, I have not read every page, yet, but I have read most of it, and it is very good, indeed. 

The contribution from my friend, Joe Williams, I have heard him perform, live.  And so I cannot comment on it, except to say that it reads almost as well off the page as he performs it. 

Matthew Hedley Stoppard is someone that I have performed alongside.  I am still trying to make him out.  He is either a complete charlatan who is preying upon the working class, and the underclass, or he is a poet who is writing about people in marginal situations.  I have not made up my mind, but I incline towards the latter. 

What follows relates to writers I do not know, personally.

Arji Manuelpillai has two poems which articulate what it is like to be South Asian in the UK.  They are called Curry night at Brewers Fayre and Watching the game.  These pieces are succinct and hard-hitting. 

Rebecca Sandeman has a piece of short fiction called ‘Semiplume’.  That opaque title sits atop just about the most remarkable piece of writing of this short length that I have ever read.  I would describe it as an anti-fairy tale, but don’t let that put you off.  A piece of short prose which takes off with its own exuberance and never lets you know where it is going. I can generally tell when a classic story is being re-told (because I do it myself).  I know – only after having read it – what the story is, in this case, but I am not going to divulge it.  You will have to read the magazine, and decide for yourself. 

Review: Where The Road Runs Out, by Gaia Holmes, Part 2: The 7 Reasons

It was always my intention with my earlier review of Gaia Holmes’s third poetry collection that I would need to revisit it, as the appreciation of the poetry developed in my mind.

When I posted the link to the earlier review on Facebook, I said I could think of at least 7 reasons to buy the collection.  Michael Stewart has since asked what the 7 reasons are.  Some of those in the following list have already been touched on in the previous review.

  1. It represents a much better treatment of poetry based on place than one is used to seeing.  Furthermore, the place in question is part of Scotland, which I regard as notorious, along with Yorkshire and the Lake District, for prompting mediocre poetry of place.  Holmes has not allowed the location to put her technique off balance.  Too many stanzas in poems of place might as well be struck out and replaced by the words, ‘It was amazing.  You should have been there.’  This criticism does not apply to any of the poems in WTRRO.  Holmes at all times applies the same craft to conveying the location as to any other subject. 
  2. The cover, by Hondartza Fraga, is a masterpiece, which suits the content of the book, perfectly.
  3. The treatment of the subject of dying, which is dealt with honestly and sensitively, but without sentimentality.  Holmes gives the feelings related to dying a personal identity, which is vitally important.  Feelings about death are useless if they are impersonal.  If I want to gain insight into how it feels to have a parent who is dying, then I want to read the impressions of another, real person: I want to know how you feel, to give me a bearing on how I might feel.  Anything which attempts abstraction is going to sound like a Hallmark sympathy card and be, at best, cloying, and at worst, oppressive.
  4. Even if you take away the body of poems of place, and poems about dying, there is a substantial range of other subjects.  The breadth and balance of subject matter is one of the collection’s outstanding features.  I am not going to try to convey this in a review: if you want to appreciate it, buy the book.
  5. It is yet another Holmesian masterclass in how to build the treatment of complex ideas out of the details of everyday life.  I am not merely repeating item 3: Holmes does this throughout. 
  6. The sheer skill and ingenuity in the use of language.  When a poet reaches the stage of publishing a third collection, and when the blurbs on the back are written by Sara Maitland and Helen Mort, it is easy to overlook how the poet does the simple things.  In spite of the fact that Holmes generally uses a wider range of vocabulary than I do, there are pieces in which she produces something quite remarkable out of next to nothing.  An example of this is ‘Leaves’. 
  7. Accessibility.  There are about 60 poems in the collection.  As I read them, they affect me in a variety of ways.  Not one of them has made me say, ‘What the hell was that about?’

Review: The Damned United by Red Ladder, Cluntergate Community Centre, Horbury, 17 November 2018

http://www.redladder.co.uk/whatson/the-damned-united/

This was the first time my wife and I had been to Cluntergate Community Centre (CCC) since it was extensively renovated. The last time we were there, we were performing, together. We did ‘Welcome To The Mad’, our joint performance about how we met, with prose, poetry, and photographs. That was part of Wakefield Litfest 2017.

The Damned United is a play, based on the novel of the same name, by David Peace. This has already been adapted for cinema (2009). David Peace comes from Ossett, which is next to Horbury. I spoke to him at Huddersfield Literature Festival in 2011. This production is by Red Ladder, the same company that produced Sex And Docks And Rock ‘n’ Roll, which I have also reviewed.

This was a homegrown, intimate production: a play about my football team; staged at my local community centre; by a theatre company run by people I am acquainted with; based on a novel by an internationally acclaimed, local writer. The big room at CCC has a stage, but Red Ladder didn’t use it. The actors were at the same level as the audience, only a few feet away from the front row of seating. During the scenes when Brian Clough is berating players in the dressing room, members of the audience are picked on as if they are players. It just so happened that, when the player in question was Billy Bremner, Clough addressed him as ‘William’, and he was pointing at me.

The staging was minimal, but ingenious and engaging, at the same time. Apart from a 1970s chair, two occasional tables, a phone with a curly cord, a bottle of Bushmills, and a glass, the staging included several tall, narrow storage units made of galvanised wire mesh. One of these held a hand-axe. The dominant feature was a giant screen, at the back, which seemed to be made of the corrugated plastic that is used to keep rain off driveways. The images projected onto this were synchronised with the action and the dialogue. Most of them were in monochrome, and sinister. Members of the Leeds United team were identified by having their names, in white, on their jerseys. The fact that they names were always visible indicated that they were facing away when Clough was talking or shouting.

The screen is also used to convey text. Some of the scenes are preceded by which day of Clough’s 44-day tenure at Leeds is about to be examined. This is one of those plays where, like a Greek tragedy, the audience already knows how it is going to end, but that only increases the tension and drama.
This version of the adaptation has five characters, but only three actors. I cannot find their names: this production has a different cast from the one at Leeds Playhouse. One actor plays Brian Clough, another plays Peter Taylor, and the third plays Sam Longson (chairman of Derby County), Manny Cussins (chairman of Leeds United), and a coach, called Sidney. The projection screen serves another purpose in keeping the actors out of sight while they are picking up or discarding props, or changing costumes. The degree to which the same actor, with minimal time for changing, managed to project three different personas, was remarkable.

For those who are not familiar with the story, this is not a play about football. Football is the background, but not the story. The story is about hubris, obsession, envy, love, and betrayal. It is also a powerful portrayal of the 1970s, when football players ate steak and chips, and the managers of top clubs had sometimes grown up in households that didn’t have a refrigerator.

Apart from the imaginative staging and consistently convincing acting, another excellent feature of this production is its length: it is a single act, lasting 65 minutes. It delivers a more concentrated version of the story than either the book or the film.

The tour continues until 31 December 2018. Highly recommended.