Short stories grounded in Tottenham

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Pub Date 03 Dec 2020 | Archive Date 05 Nov 2020

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Welcome to Broadwater Farm, one of the most well-known housing estates in Britain. A place where post-war dreams of concrete utopia ended in riots, violence and sub-standard housing.

In this collection, Tottenham-born Jac Shreeves-Lee gives voice to the people of Broadwater Farm. With evocative language and raw storytelling, she compassionately portrays their shared sense of community. A community with a rich cultural heritage, comprising over forty nationalities, generations old.

Welcome to Broadwater Farm, one of the most well-known housing estates in Britain. A place where post-war dreams of concrete utopia ended in riots, violence and sub-standard housing.

In this...

Advance Praise

A voyage both unforgettable and searing.’ — Onjali Q. Raúf, activist and author of The Boy at the Back of the Class

The truth and humour in this intensely fine and lyrical short story collection shines a light that is ultimately uplifting.’ — Martina Evans, poet and novelist

Shreeves-Lee has a keen eye for the poetry of everyday life.’ — Julia Bell, writer, academic and Course Director of MA Creative Writing, Birkbeck

No sensationalism to create a false dramatic effect, just real people going about their daily business, which gives the reader a great sense of true ‘life on the Farm’' — Dawn Ferdinand, Headteacher at The Willow Primary School and Broadwaters’ Children’s Centre

A voyage both unforgettable and searing.’ — Onjali Q. Raúf, activist and author of The Boy at the Back of the Class

The truth and humour in this intensely fine and lyrical short story collection...

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ISBN 9781912054572
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Featured Reviews

Short stories based in Broadwater.Short stories that brings the estate the people alive.Characters living their lives their daily struggles ,relationships.The estate comes alive drew me in highly recommend.these short stories .#netgalley#fairlightbooks

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As a child in the 1970s, Broadwater Farm looked, to me, like a strange, isolated castle when viewed from Lordship Recreation Ground. However, this collection of ingeniously dovetailed stories widens the focus to show it as a vital part of a community with heart Often ignored, often demonised, rarely understood by the mainstream, it's a community which, for the most part, lives the other side of the glossy adverts. These are stories of broken people, breaking people, people wondering what happened to their youthful dreams, and people forging new dreams. People who have to face that moment, as we all do, when they take a long, hard look into their own eyes and see what they have become and, perhaps, choose to become somebody else. Above all, these stories refuse to reduce the community to a monochrome, zooming in instead on the intricate human detail of an unfairly maligned area. Thanks to Fairlight Books and NetGalley for the ARC.

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Broadwater is a collection of short stories, told through a variety of different perspectives from the inhabitants of Broadwater Farm, an area in Tottenham, North London. The area is home to multiple generations and nationalities – all sharing a common experience of living in the high density housing that regularly graces some of London’s most deprived areas. Each story, told through a different inhabitant, features the struggles of everyday life – be that the lingering impact of Windrush and the hostile environment policy, economic struggles, difficulties in family life and relationships, living with mental health problems, and the ongoing battle to just stay afloat. Every story is told in such a raw, human centered way, that the reader cannot help but fully empathise with each individual. It truly reveals the sense of the “cope and hope” style of life that the many individuals included in this book, seem to subscribe to. Written in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster and during the Coronavirus epidemic that has highlighted the ongoing racial inequality in the UK, Broadwater is a collection of stories so suited to this time and one that will always be relevant. The promises of regeneration projects across deprived areas of London in recent years, have consistently failed to live up to expectations, as echoed by the portrayal of living conditions in these stories and by the characters themselves, “Look, however you dress it up Ricky, so-called regeneration is just a pretty word for social cleansing.” After a series of riots in the late 1980s, Broadwater was given a bad reputation, but in recent years has been revived. Despite the hardship woven throughout this book, told through a myriad of different stories and perspectives, what unites them all is the shared experience of community. Every character is connected to the next and there is a common bond of solidarity that defines the feeling of this book. Each story is short and sweet, but connects to the larger picture, which is the commonality of human experience. The book largely centers on the struggles caused by long term racial inequality, as Broadwater is home to one of the most ethnically diverse areas in London. Each story and the variety of character experiences, really reflect this in such a harrowing and eye opening way. In light of recent events in the US, and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, these stories feel all the more important and relevant for everyone to read. But the stories also speak to everyone regardless of race, on a human level. In her writing, Jac Shreeves-Lee demonstrates the beauty in the everyday which corresponds so jarringly with an unavoidable sense of suffering. In the many stories featured in the collection is the sense of lost dreams, but channeled beautifully with a sense of hope and wonder for life. Broadwater is a community joined together by a variety of backgrounds, races, ethnicities and the individuals that tell its story are amalgamated by a shared sense of commonality due to the endless strive for hope and the promise of a better life. It lingers with an unavoidable sense of the harsh realities of life that so many people living in deprived areas of London face, despite the endless promises of something better to come. But on the flip side, reveals the power in the shared community, which ultimately, is the driving force that keeps so many individuals afloat. A powerful collection of short stories that enlightens the mind and soul – it is as honest as it is captivating, and the characters will linger with you long after you finish the final pages.

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Broadwater Farm, originally conceived as a utopian ideal of inner city planning, has had more than its share of disruptive history, including riots, recent murders (July 2020), and the usual challenges faced by inhabitants of high rise project living. Jac Screeves-Lee has written her debut collection introducing a large, diverse community, stories which intersect and overlap, and results in a tapestry of humanity. In some, as in real life, there is heartbreak due to perceived hopelessness, but this reader came away with admiration for the result, particularly since it was written in present day, under the reality of a pandemic lockdown. The inequalities engendered by race are prevalent throughout. Highly recommended.

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My family’s from Haringey and I live in the area, so I was fascinated to read this collection of short stories about Broadwater Farm. Although each story is separate, some characters do link through them. They are beautifully written and each is a gem: it’s not a book to rush. It’s also such a timely book - it tells us about the reality of racial inequality and the strength of community. But it rarely preaches - the stories are heartfelt, like Zu Zu’s one of how she had to give up her kids after a life of adversity. I also loved the story about Mawusi and her lover Gladys who gives her money: such a complicated yet pure relationship. I’d really recommend these well-crafted and absorbing stories.

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In Broadwater, Jac Shreeves-Lee tells the stories of 14 fictional residents of the Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham, North London. The area is well-known in real life as a symbol of ‘failed’ post-war architecture - 1960s concrete tower blocks that were supposed to be the utopian neighbourhoods of the future, but instead became undesirable and neglected ‘dumping grounds’ due to their design faults - as well as the 1985 and 2011 riots. Rather than concentrating on the issues that have come to define the estate, though, the author zooms in on the everyday lives of a variety of individuals, to great effect. The one word I would use to describe Broadwater is ‘kaleidoscopic’. Turn the kaleidoscope once and you’re looking through the eyes of a young man who works in his father’s petrol station but loves literature and dreams of becoming a social worker. Turn it again and you’re looking through the eyes of an older woman who’s had a stroke and can’t talk, but is still the same perceptive, fun-loving person inside. Another turn, and you’re looking through the eyes of a middle-aged woman with a traumatic past who had her children taken into care when a tragic turn of events left her struggling to cope. All life is here. Many of the stories have sad elements. None of the characters are saints, and some of them are in tough situations due to dysfunctional relationships, difficult childhoods, illness, bereavement, and the rock-and-a-hard-place decisions they have been forced to make. People suffer from broken hearts, tell lies, and are tipped over the edge. Shreeves-Lee doesn’t limit herself to the present day, delving into characters’ histories to show us what they’ve been through and how they ended up where they are now. Reflecting the diversity of the estate, most of the characters are POC, and we gain an insight into the racism they have experienced, whether it’s the outright abuse that particularly characterised the 1950s-1980s, or the institutional racism that makes it hard for young Black people to succeed today. That doesn’t mean this book is unremittingly grim, though. Hope breaks through in the form of ambitious young people, inspiring teachers, loving relationships, improving fortunes, and humour. Shreeves-Lee also has a real knack for making the ordinary sparkle; her descriptions of everyday scenes at the petrol station shop, as well as the café, are especially vivid and had me craving pre-lockdown life. There’s just something warm and cosy about steamed-up windows, custard creams and life rolling on - although it does involve an inordinate amount of mopping for some of the characters. Broadwater is a kaleidoscopic collection of short stories that portrays a variety of characters and situations with sympathy, sparkle and warmth.

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