philip-hancockPhilip Hancock – poet, short story writer, painter (and decorator) – talks about some of the inspiration behind this work, the stories in Old School Ties, his career as a decorator and the development of his poetry from stage to page.

Q: What’s the background to the stories in the collection Old School Ties?

A: They were originally a selection of short pieces that I couldn’t find a place for. Two of the stories: Apedale and Strawberry Jam are accounts of events I experienced whilst working for Stoke-on-Trent city council. Spilt Ale and Standing up Julia are tales of my youth and Dinky is fiction in a style I would like to further develop in future short stories.

Q: There is an overwhelming sense of Stoke in the stories, and a current of emotional sadness running through the whole collection. What is your relationship with the town now?

A: I left Stoke in 1989. My mother’s still there and I often visit her when I’m not working. My best mate is also there, as is my old work mate, Stanway, who appears in some of the stories. I take my mountain bike or spend afternoons walking, retracing my steps. A mate tells me that in doing so I’m almost reliving my life, which is not always a good thing, but it’s enabled me to answer a lot of questions – especially in the early poems, about things that troubled me. Although I spent seven years working throughout the city, I never felt a great affinity with the place. Maybe this was because I was brought up on the extreme northern borders. I’d like to write something contemporary, but would hate to come across patronising or end up with another clichéd idea. We’ll see. Despite all this, I’m proud of my roots and of Stoke-on-Trent in general.

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