After much reading and re-reading and writing of lists, I awarded the London Fringe Short Fiction Award to Alex Burger for his story London: Through a Glass Darkly. The theme of the contest was ‘London: Glamour and Grime’, and I thought Alex’s story explored the theme in a very innovative way. The story is narrated by a self-proclaimed “remnant” of an earlier London, a London of brown water, dead rats and cats rotting in the street, a London of rotten meat painted with blood to make it look fresh. The story really brings out the connection between the superficially ‘glamorous’ modern London and our grimy, diseased past.
We’re not so different really. Hell, I watch you come in the mornings, streaming to work. Then I see you in pubs after work, falling drunk and high in the street. You die in your houses, have your own plagues, but it’s the same death, just hidden away. At least we faced ours straight on.
I gave Alex his prize today at the Old Operating Theatre, a fantastic venue, the oldest operating theatre in Europe, with a scratched old wooden operating table in the middle and steep banks of seating all around. The runners-up and commended writers also read their work, and there were some stories I really liked. “Perspective” by Annabel Banks, a story about how city people come together briefly in a moment of tragedy, won 2nd prize, and “The Grand Union”, a dark story about resisting the urge to push someone in a canal, came 3rd.
If you’re a Londoner with an idea for an artistic, theatrical or literary event of any kind, check out the London Bridge Festival, of which this contest was a part. The main festival is now over, but the “Fringe” goes on all year, and they’re open to new ideas.