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Austerity Horror

Twisted Tales of Austerity: Friday 24th October 2014 @ Waterstones Deansgate

In Coalition Britain an extreme neoliberal consensus is forming around permanent austerity, worsening living standards, and privatization of the few public assets that have thus far evaded liberalization. With the three largest UK political parties all backing further cuts in 2015, a bleak future stretches before us. The late Joel Lane and Tom Johnstone’s Horror Uncut: Tales of Social Insecurity and Economic Unease (Gray Friar Press) is an anthology that explores the dark depths into which twenty-first century disaster capitalism is dragging us. Twisted Tales, Manchester Metropolitan University and Waterstones Deansgate are teaming up to run Twisted Tales of Austerity as part of the Gothic Manchester Festival later this month, an event featuring readings from authors who contributed to Horror Uncut, followed by a panel discussion about austerity horror and a chance for the audience to participate in the debate. Here is Twisted Tales’s David McWilliam in conversation with Johnstone about the politics of Horror Uncut.

DM: In 2014, we find the financial crisis still being used as the pretext for massive welfare cuts in order to pay for lowering the taxes of oligarchs and multinational corporations. How important do you consider stories to be when selling the austerity narrative?
TJ: First of all, it’s interesting, isn’t it, that in recent years the word ‘narrative’ has taken on a specifically ideological meaning, as in your use there: the ‘austerity narrative’, suggesting that the proponents of a particular world-view want to tell a story, and make that fiction into reality. However, it would be foolish to suggest that fiction can change things by itself. On the other hand, popular resistance often draws on popular narratives, as a source of both inspiration and imagery. As an example, take the use of the mask from the graphic novel and film V for Vendetta by the Occupy and Anonymous movements, though the Situationist-inclined among us might be tempted to see a cynical marketing ploy in this, the Spectacle recuperating and commodifying dissent. Sometimes, though, those facing particularly repressive regimes use it as a kind of code to communicate ideas that people can’t express openly. Recently, there were reports of protestors against Burmese military rule using the three-fingered salute of the rebels in The Hunger Games. As we don’t live under military rule and can express things a little more openly, I like to think of Horror Uncut as more of a two-fingered salute to the powers that be! In general, there is a history of fiction and drama acting as a means of challenging authority and discussing suppressed or subversive ideas. Those in power also know the potency of popular narrative and get rattled when it’s used against them: take the Tory outrage at Hilary Mantel’s story ‘The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher’. George Osborne’s paraphrasing of Trainspotting’s ‘Choose Life’ sequence at the Tory Party conference shows what can happen when they fail to subvert fiction for their own ends…


DM: Horror has been labelled by some as a conservative genre that punishes transgression. How do you see Horror Uncut as challenging that perception?
TJ: As a committed socialist, my late co-editor and author of the story ‘A Cry for Help’, Joel Lane, could hardly be accused of conservatism. Indeed, his work on the anti-fascist anthology Never Again (also Gray Friar Press) was his way of challenging the very perception of horror fiction that you describe. However, he wouldn’t have felt the need to do this, if there weren’t a strong current in horror suggesting that those who step out of line suffer hideous fates. I don’t know if it’s that simple though. Take Frankenstein, usually seen as putting across the moral that ‘there are some things that Man was not supposed to know or meddle with’, but written by the daughter of a radical and a feminist, married to the poet who called on the workers to ‘Rise like Lions after slumber, … Ye are many ― they are few’. You could see Victor Frankenstein’s creation as a metaphor for the newly emergent industrial proletariat, ‘created’ by the expropriation of the landed peasantry. Certainly, the narrative punishes Frankenstein for his transgression, but if this seems conservative, the narrative is radical in showing us the world through the eyes of the dispossessed monster. Frankenstein the character also represented the Enlightenment ideals that Mary Shelley and the Romantic poets she mixed with rejected, ideals that informed the birth of European capitalism.


Stephen King has noted that a key, though not always acknowledged, theme of horror is ‘economic unease’, and this is certainly true of many of the stories in Horror Uncut, such as ‘The Ballad of Boomtown’ by Priya Sharma. The narrator of this story suffers for her transgression, while her ill-starred affair with a property developer mirrors the collapse of the Irish property market. Other stories suggest the opposite of the ‘punishment of transgression’ paradigm, as playing by the rules won’t save the protagonists from the cruelty of austerity measures, and their narratives also challenge the demonization of migrants and benefit claimants in much of the media. David Turnbull’s ‘The Privilege Card’ shows what happens once we start going along with the Coalition’s austerity ‘narrative’ and blindly following orders. Rosanne Rabinowitz’s tale, on the other hand, shows someone transgressing by fighting back against the cops when he gets caught up in a riot, suggesting that (Shock! Horror!) he might even get away with it…


DM: Do you see the publication of Horror Uncut as a form of political activism, an intervention in the debate about what sort of a society we want to live in, or a meditation on the current trajectory of UK politics?
TJ: Well, hopefully all three, with reservations. I’m suspicious of the term ‘activism’, which implies to me a false separation between politics and everyday life. I’d certainly love it if people started reading out some of these horror stories at rallies and picket-lines though! I doubt that’s going to happen, but it would be kind of fun. These stories aren’t sermons. What drew me to Joel’s stories was that he was able to put politics in them in a very clear way, without being preachy, as you’ll see from his story in the book. Some of the other writers in the book don’t see themselves as political, and I hope that it will be read by people who don’t either, but will recognize something of their daily reality in the stories.


DM: With references to radical politics in the collection, does Horror Uncut suggest that the anger generated by austerity measures is leading to a politicization of the dispossessed and a growing appetite to challenge the neoliberal consensus?
TJ: It varies according to the story. Some, such as Rosanne’s story, ‘Pieces of Ourselves’, which was inspired by the student unrest in 2010, seem to be suggesting this. In others, such as Alison Littlewood’s ‘The Ghost at the Feast’, the supernatural acts as a metaphor for the way in which politicians seem to ignore popular protest. This has been the story of the past few years, when mass struggles by students, public sector workers and others have gradually faded into the background, wilfully marginalized by the media (although there is a small resurgence in public sector strikes at the moment over the miserable pay offer, despite the union soft cops’ efforts to dampen the flames of discontent). In general, I’d say Horror Uncut suggests a more negative picture, I’m afraid (but then it is after all a horror anthology!). Many of the acts of resistance shown are desperate, isolated, individual ones. There’s definitely more emphasis on the suffering of the vulnerable than in the politicization of the dispossessed. If there’s an appetite to challenge the ruling consensus, it’s that of the editors, possibly the writers and, hopefully, the readers, who may wish to translate their horror at what they read into some kind of collective action.


Twisted Tales of Austerity will run from 12-2pm on Friday 24th October 2014 at Waterstones Deansgate. Tickets are on sale in store and via the dedicated Eventbrite page.


October 22nd, 2014 - 13:34pm

Inspired by Belle Vue

Friday 30th October 2014

Spend an evening at Chetham’s Library with artists, illustrators, and authors who are: Inspired by Belle Vue.

Livi Michael and Anna Mainwaring from the Manchester Writing School at MMU will be reading their stories ‘For one day only’ and ‘Maharajah: the elephant who walked to Manchester’.

Autographed copies of the short-story anthologies ‘Timelines’ and ‘Crimelines’ in which Livi and Anna’s stories can be found will be available for purchase. The original illustrations for these stories by Bethany Thompson and Nabihah Shireen will be on show. Wine, juice and snacks will be served.


Friday 30th October 2014. 6.30-8.00pm. FREE. Book your place online now


‘Timelines’ is available from Amazon and also direct here


October 15th, 2014 - 14:06pm

Voice Box – Open Mic Night

Upstairs at Dulcimer, 7.30pm, Thursday 16th October 2014

As part of an ongoing collaboration between the Manchester Writing School’s MA Creative Writing students and the MMU English Society you are cordially invited to the first session of Voice Box. A chance for you to socialise with fellow course members old and new, from undergraduates to alumni, in a convivial atmosphere. Bring along work-poetry, spoken word, prose-that you’d like to air to a supportive audience. Or if you’d just like to come along be entertained, enlightened even moved: feel free as it is free!

Dulcimer, 567 Wilbraham Road, Chorlton, Manchester, M21 0AE. Readings from 8, but sign up from 7.30.




October 15th, 2014 - 11:13am

Privileging the Unseen

A one-day symposium on the writing of Hilary Mantel

Tuesday 9th June 2015

International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester, UK


The wholeambience in which I was brought up was one in which the unseen is privileged

(Mantel 2005)


Hilary Mantel was until recently ‘curiously invisible’ (Vaux 1994) but since winning the Booker Prize in 2009 for her historical novel Wolf Hall, then making literary history by winning for a second time in 2012 with her sequel Bring Up the Bodies, she has finally achieved popular recognition and acclaim. However, the tension in her work between visibility and invisibility persists, and her corpus remains neglected within the academy. This symposium aims to redress this silence whilst also exploring it as a potential consequence of how her writing privileges the unseen – ‘It makes me feel unstable’ said James Runcie in his BBC interview Hilary Mantel: A Culture Show Special (2011).

The papers will consider any aspect of Mantel’s fiction and memoir, including Gothicism, the medical humanities and autobiography. This symposium marks an attempt, in the words of Mantel, to gain some ‘purchase’ (Runcie 2011) on Mantel’s writing and what privileging the unseen might actually mean.


Keynote Speaker: Dr Wolfgang Funk, Leibniz Universität Hannover

‘Spectres of Mantel: Haunted Epistemologies and the Nostalgia for the Irrational’


Abstracts of 300 words are invited on all aspects of Mantel’s writing, including but by no means limited to:

  • Narrative/form/short stories.
  • Body/bodiliness.
  • Illness/endometriosis.
  • Adaptations/plays.
  • Mental health/’madness’.
  • Medicine/medical humanities.
  • Gothic/Gothicism.
  • History/histories and the historical novel.
  • Sequels/Booker Prizes/literary celebrity.
  • Ghosts/haunting/the spectral text.
  • Ellipsis/gaps/ambiguity.

The proceedings of the symposium will be included in a book proposal for a collection of essays, to be edited by the symposium organisers, and presented to Bloomsbury for their Contemporary Critical Perspectives series.


The symposium will be followed by an evening reading by Hilary Mantel herself.


Dr Eileen Pollard and Dr Ginette Carpenter

Manchester Metropolitan University


Please submit a 300-word abstract as a Word document to by Monday 12th January 2015.





October 7th, 2014 - 14:55pm

An Evening with Hilary Mantel


Tuesday 9th June 2015, Manchester Metropolitan University


Geoffrey Manton Building, 5pm

The IHSSR are delighted to announce that Hilary Mantel, one of Britain’s most accomplished and acclaimed writers, will be visiting the Institute next year to deliver an evening reading to academics, students and members of the general public.

Mantel is the author of fourteen books, including A Place of Greater Safety, Beyond Black and the memoir Giving Up the

Ghost. Both her non-fictional and fictional writing, on modern representations of royalty and the assassination of Margaret Thatcher, have generated extraordinary media storms and widespread popular debate of her work. Her two most recent novels, Wolf Hall and its sequel Bring Up the Bodies, have both been awarded the Man Booker Prize – an unprecedented literary achievement.

The IHSSR greatly looks forward to welcoming one of the most high-profile authors writing in English today, and hopes that many staff and students will be able to join us for this exciting event.

Further details will follow.


September 27th, 2014 - 11:17am

Humanities in Public Festival 2014-15

Inaugural Lecture: Professor Andrew Biswell


We are just five days away from the first event of this year’s Humanities in Public Festival. There will be a wine reception and welcome to the new Humanities in Public programme from 5.00pm in Geoffrey Manton Atrium before Professor Andrew Biswell’s inaugural lecture, “In Time of War: W.H. Auden Reading Shakespeare’s Sonnets”.

Andrew Biswell is Professor of Modern Literature at MMU and Director of the International Anthony Burgess Foundation. He has written critical introductions to several novels by Anthony Burgess and edited the fiftieth anniversary edition of A Clockwork Orange. Professor Biswell’s book, The Real Life of Anthony Burgess, was awarded the Portico Prize. His research into W.H. Auden, which forms part of a larger book project, was supported by a Christopher Isherwood Foundation Fellowship at the Huntington Library in California.

All of the information for Andrew Biswell’s inaugural lecture can be found here.

September 24th, 2014 - 14:24pm

The Manchester Writing School

Poetry Inquisition: Jeffrey Wainwright in conversation with Martin Kratz


Join us on National Poetry Day for the first in a new series of FREE author events: special guest Jeffrey Wainwright in conversation with Martin Kratz at the Burgess Foundation.

At this event, Jeffrey Wainwright will be reading and discussing his poem ‘An Empty Street’, shortlisted in the ‘Best Single Poem’ category of the Forward Prize. The event is effectively a staging of the ‘poetry inquisition’ as called for by the chair of judges, Jeremy Paxman, in controversial remarks earlier this year. In light of these remarks, the conversation will give particular attention to the relation between poetry and the public, and invites thoughts and questions about the poem from the audience.

Jeffrey Wainwright has published five poetry collections with Carcanet, the most recent of which is The Reasoner (2012). He has numerous publications on the subject of poetry and translations to his name. Jeffrey retired from his post as Professor of Poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University in 2008. As a student himself, he was influenced by the many poets at the School of English, Leeds University, including Jon Glover, Geoffrey Hill, Jon Silkin and Ken Smith. ‘An Empty Street’ was inspired by Ottone Rosai’s painting Via San Leonardo. The full text of the poem, first published in PN Review 215, can be found here.

Martin Kratz is an Associate Lecturer in Poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University. His poem ‘The Man Who Walked Through Walls’ was highly commended for this year’s Forward Prize. He is co-editor of Mount London (Penned in the Margins).

Drinks will be available to purchase from the bar, and there’ll be a special Blackwell’s bookstall, with signing after the event.

Date: Thursday 2nd October 2014

Time: 7.00pm

Entry: Free. Contact to reserve seats.

Venue: The International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Chorlton Mill, Cambridge Street, Manchester, M1 5BY

Coming soon: Kathleen Jamie (6th November), Maggie Gee (4th December), Adam Thirlwell (16th February).

Visit our websites and follow us on Twitter for news:

The Manchester Writing School at MMU: @mcrwritingschl

The International Anthony Burgess Foundation: @misterenderby

Supported by the MMU Institute of Humanities and Social Science Research and MacDonald Hotels and Resorts


September 23rd, 2014 - 16:00pm

A Clockwork Orange: Restored Edition released on 5 December

A Clockwork Orange: Restored Edition released on 5 December alongside a new online resource featuring rare material from the Anthony Burgess archives.

Penguin’s A Clockwork Orange: Restored Edition – complete with a striking cover design from Barnbrook studio – hits the shelves on 5 December. To mark the paperback release of Burgess’s original text The International Anthony Burgess Foundation will launch an online resource of articles, images and podcasts covering everything you need to know about the novel and the film, and next year will host Day of the Droogs, an event offering new perspectives on cinema, gang culture and young masculinity.

A ‘terrifying and marvellous book’ (Roald Dahl), this fully restored edition reinstates the author’s original text, and includes a Nadsat glossary, explanatory notes, extracts from Anthony Burgess’s illustrated manuscript, author interviews and a foreword by Martin Amis.

The authentic, back-to-basics attitude of the publication is also reflected in the cover design from Barnbrook. Jonathan Barnbrook, the designer of David Bowie’s recent albums and the acclaimed Penguin Modern Classics cover for George Orwell’s 1984, describes his cover creation as ‘bold and uncompromising’ with Penguin’s Art Director, Jim Stoddart, stating Barnbrook’s design makes this latest edition ‘a book you just have to own’.

A Clockwork Orange Online Resource (5 December 2013)

In addition to the Penguin paperback release, the International Anthony Burgess Foundation will be unveiling a new online resource for A Clockwork Orange.

Visit on 5 December and you’ll be able to access everything you ever needed to know about the book and the film: myth-busting facts, full bibliographies, informative articles about the evolution of the novel and the film, a gallery of book covers, podcasts and much more.

Day of the Droogs (29 January 2014)

To mark the publication of A Clockwork Orange Restored Edition the International Anthony Burgess Foundation and Manchester Metropolitan University’s Institute of Humanities and Social Science Research presents Day of the Droogs, a free day-long event focussing on the critical views surrounding a A Clockwork Orange and its legacies, including new perspectives on cinema, gang culture and young masculinity.

Full details here:


About Anthony Burgess and the International Anthony Burgess Foundation

Born in Manchester in 1917, Burgess grew up in Harpurhey and Moss Side, went to school in Rusholme and studied at The University of Manchester. A prolific novelist, poet, playwright, composer and critic, he wrote thirty-three novels, twenty-five works of non-fiction, hundreds of musical works and vast quantities of journalism.

Based in Manchester, the Burgess Foundation has an extensive library, archive and study centre containing Burgess’s books, music and papers. It also has a performance venue where we present new work by writers, artists and musicians. The Burgess Foundation is an entirely independent charity that welcomes all individuals and institutions interested in Burgess’s work. Visit for more information.

For further information, images and interviews, please contact

Clare Preston-Pollitt

Events and Marketing Officer

International Anthony Burgess Foundation

0161 235 0776

December 9th, 2013 - 18:00pm

New PhD Studentships in Arts and Humanities at MMU

New studentships now available under the AHRC North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership (NWC DTP)

The MIRIAD/School of Art Research /Degrees Programme and the Faculty of Humanities Languages and Social Science, Manchester Metropolitan University will welcome applications through the AHRC North West Consortium Doctoral Training Programme from potential PhD students interested in research in the listed areas. The scheme will be launched on 1st December and the application deadline is 21st February. For further details about the particulars of the AHRC scheme at MMU and informal enquiries, please email Professor Jim Aulich ( For subject specific information see the named contacts below.

Funding for these studentships is conditional on attaining a place in the MMU Graduate School and successful application to the AHRC North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership. The Consortium will be awarding 200 PhD studentships over a five year period to excellent research students in the arts and humanities. It will provide research candidates with the potential for cross-institutional mentoring, expert supervision including cross-institutional supervision where appropriate, subject-specific and generic training, and professional support in preparing for and developing a career. Full details will be available from the NWCDTP website from 1st December through the link found on the Graduate School website


November 15th, 2013 - 10:15am

Spirit of Theatre Exhibition

Spirit of Theatre Exhibition: Quays Bar, Lowry, Salford.  27th September – 12th October 2013.

To coincide with the opening of the Library Theatre Company’s autumn season of plays at the Quays Theatre, in the Lowry at Salford Quays, we present an Exhibition of The Spirit of Theatre research project, in which Library Theatre Audience members tell us what they value and enjoy about seeing a play and their memories of the Library Theatre Company’s programme since it began in 1952.  Featuring original drawings by artist and MMU PhD student Simon Woolham, the display will be on show in the Quays Bar for the duration of the run of Chris Honer’s production of Educating Rita.

The Spirit of Theatre is a project run by Manchester Metropolitan University and the British Theatre Consortium, in which researchers, and students of the Department of English interviewed Library Theatre Company audiences, actors and other staff.  Over a hundred audience members filled out our questionnaires, investigating how we remember and value theatrical performances.  Others took part in creative workshops to invent imaginary spirits or characters that might belong in the Library Theatre’s new home.   The findings reflect the importance audience members attribute to the Library Theatre Company’s role in the cultural life of Manchester and the North West, at a time when the company is on the move.  The Library Theatre is merging with the Cornerhouse to form a new organisation, Greater Manchester Art Centre Ltd., (GMAC), due to move into a brand new venue for the City, ‘Home’, currently under construction at First Street, off Whitworth Street.  The exhibition includes highlights of our interview with the Architect of the new building, Ernst Ter Horst of Mecanoo.

Julie Wilkinson, playwright, Senior Lecturer and leader of the research project has curated the exhibition.  Julie says, “The response from Library audiences to our questions has been amazing; we hope to give you a flavour of the range and depth of their answers in our exhibition.  Library theatre-goers are thoughtful, critical, enthusiastic and knowledgeable about theatre and the Library Company’s work.  For many audience members the company’s work links generations in the same family; some audience members saw their very first play at the Library as children or teenagers and enjoy being introduced to new plays and new writers in the company’s programme. They tell us that theatre could not be more important to them.  At a time when many arts organisations are under threat of cuts, our study demonstrates in the audience’s own words the true value of our unique regional artistic culture.’

Our project is still open for contributions from Library Theatre staff and audience members via our interactive website at

Some quotations from our respondents:

“…you’re asking me about the theatre, and theatrical experience and speaking about ghosts….You’re asking me about life and living because the theatre’s all about living life…”

“What really got me thinking is what the theatre ghost might look like…that’s going to keep

me thinking for a while as it’s about old and new coming together and making sure that

the trusted audience don’t walk away thinking it’s all new and it’s not for us. I think the

Library Theatre more than anyone can do this, to be able to retain the loyal theatre

support but bring in new audiences as well…”

Seeing Mother Courage and her Children:  “It has broadened my outlook. What could be more valuable than that to me?”

The Exhibition is designed by Johnny Clifford.  The research project is managed by Chris Bridgman.  Contributing academics at Manchester Metropolitan University include historians Fiona Cosson and Dr.Faye Simpson; artist Professor John Hyatt; and Dr.Jane Tonge of MMU’s Business School.

The British Theatre Consortium is a small co-operative of Theatre writers and academics based at MMU, Warwick University and Royal Holloway University of London.  More information about BTC and about the Spirit of Theatre project can be found at

Contacts: mobile:  07957 142109

Chris Bridgman:


September 30th, 2013 - 12:47pm