MIRLIve: Abi Daré and Louise Hare


 

Elinor Jones rounds up MIRLive Arts Week Special with Abi Daré and Louise Hare

 

Our last MIRLive was a great success. We had a variety of performers and two wonderful headline acts in Louise Hare and Abi Daré, whose debut novels are both out next year. Look out for “This Lovely City,” and “The Girl with the Louding Voice,” which promise to be great reads.


First up on stage we were treated to a sensitively written piece, set in Poland. Alicia Mietus’ story, “Third Party Female,” explored the relationship between a mother and daughter. The narrator comes out to her mother. Ironically, her mother demands that her daughter should be tolerant of the community’s prejudice against lesbianism. It was a beautifully detailed piece of writing.

 

 

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Next, Lauren Miller presented an amusing short story called “Chandler” which reminded the audience of what it feels like to be an adolescent, fixated on celebrities. This merged effectively with the narrator’s experience of an unfulfilling relationship with her first boyfriend and ended with a blurring of the lines between fantasy and reality.

 

 

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“After the Party” was intriguing. Laurane Marchive’s story seemed to be set in a near future, one dealing with the after-effects of global warming, though this was not initially apparent. Laurane wrote convincing dialogue and shaped her story expertly, juxtaposing the ordinary with the extraordinary, surprising the audience. Lurking beneath the banal preparations for a trendy party is a sense of doom. Slowly, we become aware of the strange triffid-like, toxic plants which surround these young artists, and which, it seems, are threatening humanity itself.

 

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This was followed by two poems by Rushika Wick. The first called “Table Settings” was inspired by an attempt at writing a will. The poem forms a series of rhetorical questions linked rhythmically through repetition, creating an accumulation of philosophical questions, within a stream of thoughts. The second poem “TNT” indicated a depth of emotion between two sisters whose relationship is played out against the horror of the backdrop of war. To intensify the threat, each verse is given a subtitle which is part of the chemical formula.

 

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Emily Critchley’s story “Crabs” was based around two telephone calls. The first was a short exchange between two friends, indicating confusion about the narrator’s sexual feelings. This was then linked to the phone conversation with the narrator’s mother in which the minutiae of life was discussed alongside the death of the mother’s ex-boyfriend, a man whom she hadn’t seen for many years. The unexpected effect of this news was conveyed through the phone call. Yet, there was a gap between the mother’s ability to express her emotion and her daughter’s struggle to understand. This was very well- handled and the dialogue was both believable and amusing.

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Louise Hare then read to us from the beginning of her fascinating, poignant novel, “This Lovely City” which she developed from a writing unit during her MA at Birkbeck. Set in Brixton in the 1950s, the novel revolves around two characters, Lawrie and Evie and is structured so that each chapter alternates in viewpoint. The novel begins with Lawrie, a musician by night and postman by day, leaving a Soho nightclub, and reminiscing about his arrival from Jamaica. The novel is a social drama, focussing on the Windrush community and the rippling effects of a tragic discovery. It is a novel that shows that new arrivals have always been the prime suspects, but also that there is always hope. The extract read was a masterclass in setting up a sense of context and character, succinctly and convincingly.

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Finally, we were thrilled to listen to Abi Daré read from her novel, “The Girl with the Louding Voice.” Set in Nigeria, this novel focussed on the character of fourteen-year-old Adunni. Her drunken father wants to stop her schooling, so he can, instead, marry her off to the local taxi driver, selling her for the price of the apartment’s rent. It was clear from both extracts read to us, that Adunni is aware of the significance of education. Her dead mother’s legacy is her instruction that her schooling is her voice. The novel is written in dialect and was performed authentically by Abi Daré so that we were fully engaged with this feisty female character who will not allow her identity to be subsumed by the patriarchy or the struggle against poverty. It was a story that vibrated with energy and emotion and it was clear why this novel has already been translated into many languages and is to be published in both the UK and the US. Both our headliners made the evening memorable and a real joy to experience.

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Don’t miss our next MIRLive on July 8th which is a Folk tale themed evening with prose and music! Catherine Menon will headline with music from Bity Booker. Admission free, as usual, at the Harrison, King’s Cross.


Elinor Johns was a teacher for twenty years before giving it up to spend more time out running with her dog. Elinor completed the MACW at Birkbeck in 2017 and is still focussing on the three Rs, reading, writing and running.