Life Chances (Close and Remote, 2016/17) is an experimental novel published in February 2017, as a direct outcome of the Productive Margins research project undertaken with University of Bristol, University of Cardiff, Single Parent Action Network and South Riverside Community Development Centre.
The novel is a roman-à-clef, detailing the lives of people entering and living in the UK during the political turmoil of 2016. It is also an experiment and investigation into what it would be like to live in a novel and imagine change outwardly from a position without political power.
We (Close and Remote) worked with researchers to create an environment in Bristol and Cardiff in which real people described their circumstances, either as recent migrants or occupying the margins in inner city Britain and literally wrote the novel from this perspective with them as co-authors, using their real stories.
The novel tracks the journey of an aspirant journalist as she explores ‘Broken Britain’ and encounters ‘Deep Hole’ – the Universal Credit mainframe computer – and ‘The Centre for Weasel Logic’ – a right wing think tank that manufactures language to describe poverty and its remedies.
Diane, the journalist persuades her editor to listen to a pitch:
“That’s ok Diane, but keep it short. I’ve got five minutes before I need to slide into the editorial meeting. I’ll warn you straight away though, budget is tight and I’ve already over-commissioned for the next two weeks. I’ve read your pitch but you need to sell it to me,” he says.
“Ok, it’s about life chances. About different places and people and how there can never be an even playing field. It’s about how the political establishment always aim to control the language and by doing so bring their own ideological agendas to bear. It’s about real people and how they fail to fit these agendas and then get excluded…and how poverty is actually a construct of the state…”
Within the novel we encounter personal stories of refugees and migrants dealing with the UK authorities and discover that it is not easy to gain a foothold on the economic ladder or find security for your children. In the background Ivan Dunhouse-Jones (Secretary of State for Work and Pensions) grapples with his suppliers – G4N (Great For No-One) to get the Universal Credit system rolled out across the UK. They struggle to make things work and pressure mounts, as we see both ends of the system at play.
Life Chances is available from Amazon – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1527203743
Further information on the project at – www.closeandremote.net/life-chances
Life Chances was commissioned by Productive Margins, University of Bristol and University of Cardiff.