Hurrah for DIY: Stingray in The Independent

If you’re interested in DIY writing check out today’s article in The Independent online.  Stingray is proud to be on The Hot Lit List.  One of our writers for Issue 2, Niklesh Shukla, is also featured. 

READ: Notes from the Underground: A fresh breed of literary magazines


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Every 5 minutes, a Stingray dies

Oh no!  Why, I hear you ask?  Because of predatory hunting, global warming or in revenge of Steve Irwin?

In this case, it is more due to the slow speed of funding applications.  Issue 1 of Stingray has almost sold out, but we are keen to make the second a lush print-decadent affair to do justice to all the fantastic writing and illustration submitted.  Stingray is in the process of becoming a registered charity, with the purpose of printing high-quality writing from emerging voices.  In the meantime, this is an appeal to you to sponsor a copy of Issue 2 for a fiver, with the knowledge that as well as saving the world, you will have your own drawing in book shops all over town.

How to do it:

1. Draw a little picture of yourself 2cm x 3cm in black pen on white paper.  You could do one of a friend instead, or a pet, if you fancy.

2. Write a name on too if you like. 

3. Scan your image (don’t worry too much about resolution as it’s a small pic) and email it as a JPEG to  If you don’t have a scanner, please email to get the postal address, or to arrange for us to pick it up from you.  We will need to receive all pics by 19 June to guarentee publication.

4. Click on the Paypal button below to give your donation of £5.

Note: Steps 1 – 3 can be omitted if you’re not feeling artistic.  You’ll still be supporting a creative cause!

Your support would be very gratefully received.  Issue 2 of Stingray has a travel theme and is expected to be in print by the end of July.

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Jam Sarnies in Bihar

With the deadline for submissions for the Travel issue of Stingray at midnight tonight, we take a sneak at what to expect.

I’ve never been able to write about India.  Perhaps it’s because I feel like I should have had a life changing experience.  Or perhaps I did have on, and it’s the feeling of responsibility to express something great and profound.  ‘India… you must go.  It will change you forever.’  I’d never particularly wanted to go.  I just happened to be in love with someone from that country.  But then, love is the most neutralising of experiences.  A place is just a place; differences are erased in the desire to be with one person.

I could start with what you might imagine, and what was true.  The permanent screech of horns, cows with five legs lazily crossing the road, the sickly-sweet smoke of burning street waste.  And a layer deeper than you might expect, into the onion of the place – nights spent in earthen walled huts of my brother-in-law, lying hidden from sight in the shade of chilli fields, tug-of-wars with my nieces over who would wash my husband’s clothes.

But it was never enough.  The layers of thick skin never peeled away completely.  From train windows I watched three men operating a plough by hand, tugging back and forth at the rope in a rhythm practised for thousands of years.  Caught glimpses of women in their homes, eyes which remained hidden, and tried to imagine what their thoughts were.

Specifics: and here I don’t have much time for a land of epic tales such as the Mahabarata, stories which span several life times.  Mine is a short story, without the preamble which Indians love, the generosity of words that tied me to the place and made me feel poor in comparison.  Yes, the challenge I find is to be concise about India.

We were travelling to Lumbini, and we had run out of food.  Alice and I were hungry.  Our Jeep sped past restaurants, roadside dabbas that promised delicious meals.  But we couldn’t stop, not in Bihar.  ‘It’s too dangerous,’ said Jyoti, who had once been taken hostage on a bus in this most underprivileged state in the country.  Then the dabbas ran out anyway.  All we passed were tiny villages.  Through tinted window glass I watched a man standing stock-still, a tall stick in his hand.  I felt like we were in a metal time-machine, looking back into the past.  He could have been standing there like that for millennia.  If we met, would we be able to understand each other at all?  Women were scarcely seen here.

Alice was almost silent, ruminating on her stomach.  I wanted to tell her to be patient, embarrassed as I was by what I thought of as our Western appetites.  Wait.  We are in India.  Women do not make demands.  Look at me – I can be like that, too.  The Jeep suddenly came to a halt by a lake so still that it reflected the giant tree by its shore in perfect symmetry.  Ideas about duality flickered through my food-starved brain.  My mind is split, I can’t tell the difference between reality and reflection.

Jyoti prepared jam sandwiches in the boot of the Jeep.  White bread and strawberry jam – where had he gotten hold of that?  ‘You see, it is like an English picnic,’ and he laughed in his extraordinary way.  We wolfed the down.  The first seemed to stick in my throat.  I was resentful of this reminder of my nationality.  I needed to show that I could survive here.  But suddenly I realised the only way to do that was sticking by Alice.

Alot of things happened after we arrived in Lumbini.  I convinced myself I was a bodhisattva for a day.  I experienced the most intense bliss in a restaurant, of all places.  I thought I could read minds.  I cried for hours and persuaded Srinivas we should get married so that people wouldn’t look at me like I was a whore.  I got sunstroke.  Buddha talked to me.  I ignored American tourists.

It’s all over now.  Alice and Jyoti got married and had a baby girl, then went to live in Nagpur.  Srinivas got deported to India some time after we separated.  And I’m here in London Fields, smoking and eating poppyseed cake.  I feel like there should be something important learnt, but all I can say is that I’m happy to be back in London.  The reflection is real, but it comes from the mirror inside us.

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‘Every reader is a leader’

A walk in the park with Tim Caines, Conservative Council Candidate for Harringay Ward (London Borough of Haringey)

Walking around Clissold Park in Stoke Newington with Tim Caines, Conservative Council Candidate for Harringay Ward (London Borough of Haringey)we talk about abortion rights, tennis and girls.  When I first met Tim, at The Royal College of Surgeons of England where we both work, I learnt very quickly that he was the deputy leader of the Tottenham Conservatives Association.  Not knowing very many other 27 year old Conservatives, I asked him about his motivations for joining.  ‘Well, it’s a bit embarrassing, but I thought it would be a good way to meet girls,’ he told me as we strolled.  Of course.  Did it work?  ‘No, actually most of the association turned out to be gay men.’

With the general election coming up, I had decided to do more research into the parties.  Stingray is not a political magazine, but it does encourage discussion about social issues.  As a small not-for-profit venture, Stingray aims to promote both emerging voices, from both writers and artists, and those with a story who wouldn’t necessarily consider themselves either.  For grass-roots projects such as this to survive, society needs to value creative expression.  The Conservatives’ policies have historically seemed to put the economy first at the expense of the arts.  Shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has been doing his best to change this perception, but is it enough?

Tim had been to a classical music concert the night before we met to talk about politics.  ‘It was the first time I had heard Mozart’s Requiem,’ he said.  ‘It was amazing.’  In an interview with Charlotte Higgins in January (Higgins, C 2010 Arts funding cuts proposed by the Conservatives, The Guardian London, 14 January 2010 viewed 2 May 2010 Jeremy Hunt said that ‘there are too many children who do not have exposure to the arts. A new way to improve engagement is not by targets but by technology – such as the Royal Opera House’s experiment in broadcasting operas to 80 digital cinemas.’  Tim agrees this can be an economical way to promote the arts, and is also enthusiastic about a Conservative initiative ‘to set up a nationwide national music competition – sort of a ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ really!’  I suggest that ministers could get involved in this.  Perhaps the process of voting could be like X-factor with Brown crooning ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’ and Cameron trying to pull off Lady Gaga . This wouldn’t be so far from the reality – when voters do not know enough about policies, only the public personas of the politicians, it becomes a superficial contest.  ‘Well Gordon Brown did have an Elvis impersonator following him on the campaign trail, apparently,’ says Tim.

Tim Caines and the Conservative manifesto

Initiatives to make the arts more accessible to young people would be a great thing, but I ask Tim about what will happen with all of the children who have been so well educated grow up and want to start their own projects.  Will there be any support from the state?  ‘Well, unfortunately whatever happens in May, public funding including for the arts is going to suffer.  I recently met a stage director who told me that even at the moment, they’re being bled dry.  But it’s not all doom and gloom.  I think that if people build a network of people they will have a good chance of success.’  Private investors?  ‘Yes.  The Conservative view is that the state is there to support, but not there to command and control.  But it’s a blurred line – and I know it’s a competitive market, as it is.  That’s why I admire people who set up things themselves, like Stingray.’

So with the Conservatives wishing to bring back philanthropy in a big way, the message seems to be that the arts would need to fend more for itself.  Tim and I walk past the park’s massive paddling pool, empty of water until the summer.  I think of a world without art: dry, and shallow.  There is something beautiful about the pool, a wide expanse of sky-blue just waiting to be filled.  It’s closed off to the public, but we climb over the fence, Tim offering his hand and I holding his blue Conservative manifesto in turn.  ‘The arts can become so sophisticated and often fiercely critical of the state itself.  Art will never die.  The more it suffers, the greater it is!’  Tim’s view of art is optimistic and something echoes with me about the need for independence.  But I feel that the role of the artist should not be romanticised and we should never take for granted that we live in a society where we have freedom to express ourselves.

‘Society is made up of a collection of individuals.  Artists often view society from afar.  Perhaps the artistic life is a lonely life, or very difficult.  Art is a social diagnostician of society.  Artists are like doctors, they can know more about you than you do.’  We have moved on, to Stoke Newington’s famous Abney Park Cemetery.  ‘It’s rather sad, when you think of all the important occasions that must have happened here, that it’s been left to ruins,’ Tim says thoughtfully as we look into the remains of the cemetery’s chapel.  ‘It makes me think of Thomas Hardy, who wanted to be buried where his wife was at Stinsford, but after his death his body was taken to Westminster Abbey.  They kept his heart so it could remain at Stinsford but there is a myth that the surgeon’s cat ate it, and it had to be replaced by someone else’s.’

Tim is an avid reader.  ‘I might as well get on with the classics now.  My father has a crass expression which he got from a business development book, ‘every reader is a leader.’  I think that reading literature widens your mind – all art puts you in touch with social realism.’  Perhaps we better hope that whichever leader is successful on May 6, they are also a reader.  Wooing arts bodies is one thing, but let us hope the politicians do not remove their hearts.

Arts funding cuts proposed by Conservatives

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Stingray at IRP 12 launch 6.5.10

Stingray is proud to be featured in the next issue of IRP magazine, which is devoted to small-press magazine makers.  We’d be delighted if you join us at the launch party next Thursday, which will also include live performance from the likes of Stingray editors Simon Jablonski and Melanie Venables. Don’t forget to vote first, we’ll know if you haven’t.

6.30pm to 9pm 6th May 2010

Launch of IRP issue 12 at Matt Roberts Arts
Unit 1, 25a Vyner Street
London, E2 9DG (map)


20×20 Magazine,
A3 Hand drawn & Quartered,
An Endless Supply,
Impulsive Random Platform,
Ladies of the Press,
One Staple Magazine,
Preston is my Paris,
Ralph Dorey,
Sarah Bowker-Jones,
Stingray Mag^zine,
The Succulent L’egume,
Unrealised Projects.

London-based Art Zine, “Impulsive Random Platform”, is pleased to present its 12th issue at Matt Roberts Arts as part of openFORUM- a series of workshops, talks, screenings and performances presented by professional development organisations, artist-led groups, curators and publications in May and June 2010. IRP 12 will feature new work by a selection of fellow self-publishers and magazine-makers from the UK and abroad and will be available to buy at the event, in addition to copies of publications by individual participants.


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Found love in a graveyard

Review: Cedars of Lebanon, Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington 25.4.10

Yesterday in Stoke Newington’s famous Abney Park cemetery a group of young sculptors, philosophers, artists and poets met to ‘cast an art spell.’  As I made my way in the sunshine towards the derelict chapel at the heart of the cemetery I looked out for black-magic clues, but all I found was a tree strewn with many banana skins, as if some monkey ritual had taken place in the night.

After finding the group, and a young girl in a yellow dress who was in search of the perfect leaf revived with me with carton of mango juice, we made our way to a clearing amongst the tombs, near the grave of someone called Edward Leach.  Two old men sitting on a bench with a transistor radio and a plastic bag of beers stayed for a while but were mostly ignored, like a couple of ghosts.  ‘A famous poet died this week,’ one of them suddenly said.  No one knew who he meant.  ‘I heard it on radio four.’  After this they got up, presumably to find a peaceful spot undisturbed by ignorant young poets.

Llew Watkins read from his collection China, pacing back and forth on the impromptu stage (poor old Edward Leach no doubt shuddering from the 18th century).  Watkins, who hails from Hay-on-Wye, the tiny village on the English/Welsh border world famous for its summer book festival, writes about the desires and frustrations of a privileged youth.  The search for purity (‘we can sleep in the same bed and it’s OK’), beauty and innocence – in European cities, English lakes and the houses of daughters evokes a time when love was as simple as I-haven’t-got-any-money-and-can’t-come-to-Paris-to-see-you.  You get the sense that he is writing about a group of friends all in love with each other from their recent adoscelence.

A graveyard is probably a good choice to listen to this kind of thought.  The inscriptions on the graves, reminders that youth is fleeting, emphasised Watkin’s poetry to me in a way that made me more forgiving than if I had read it alone.  As a Buddhist, Watkins will know of the practice of visiting ‘charnel houses’ where the deceased are ritually burned, as an antidote to lust.  There is darkness in his poetry, insight into the nature of desire.  He write that ‘comfort is what I’m most afraid of,’ perhaps another Buddhist reference to the casting off of the home life and going forth.  Watkins is to spend five months this summer alone, in a hermitage in Wales.  With time away from the group, it will be interesting to see in his future work how he relates to himself.

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Stranded in the airport

Have you been stranded somewhere because of the eruption disruption?  Limbo is an unsettling feeling.  The uncertainty of when you will return is an unusual experience in our well-planned society.  Look upwards at an airport and you will probably find a few helium balloons, who never made it past the ceiling into the air.

If you have had an experience you wouldn’t have had if it wasn’t for the current air ban, we’d like to hear about it for our next issue of Stingray, which is deveoted to travel.  Send your ideas and thoughts to:

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