Indie Spotlight: Paradise Press
By Caitlin Morgan and Amy Tighe
As we know, representation in the media is vital. Knowing that our lived experiences are valid and real helps us to feel comfortable in our skin and our own authentic selves. The effects of representation in TV and film are well-known, as are the effects of representation in literary spheres. By literary spheres, this can mean within the books themselves, i.e. the characters and lives that are described to the reader. However, what’s important to remember is that publishing as an industry, whilst no doubt improving, still suffers with a lack of diversity.
We thought it was an apt time to celebrate a fascinating independent press that is truly LGBTQIA+ in and outside the books they publish: Paradise Press.
Paradise Press is by no means your ordinary press; it is clear they are willing to do things differently in order to fight the mainstream idea of what a publisher is and what they can and can’t do, making them all the more exciting. As an imprint of the Gay Authors Workshop, founded and established in 1999, Paradise Press works with LGBTQIA+ authors (who must be a part of the GAW) to publish “in the face of indifference,” showing that they are dedicated to stand up to the publishing industry and help change norms that have been set in stone for far too long.
Publishing fiction, non-fiction and anthologies, Paradise Press looks to cover all sorts of ground, to be the representation that has been sorely needed in the industry for so long. Texts ranging from masculinity in Victorian theatre to a fictionalised account of how life will be for those outside of the cis-hetero norm in the year 2284 feature in this press’ collection – a fascinating assortment that guarantees high-quality work.
As an imprint of the Gay Authors Workshop, Paradise Press have strong connections to the LGBT Consortium, a national specialist infrastructure and membership organisation that works to build stronger LGBTQIA+ communities by providing information on meet-ups, sharing resources that groups need to thrive and offering a range of practical support for people who run LGBTQIA+ groups, networks and projects.
The non-fiction titles include Amiable Warriors written by journalist Peter Scott-Presland, detailing the history of The Campaign for Homosexual Equality, an organisation which has been fighting for the rights of LGBTQIA+ people since 1969. It is “a story of humour and anger, ruckus and rumpy-pumpy, told with wit, elegance and style.”
A Life’s Tales by Joseph Hucknall is a fascinating memoir beginning in 1935, when the author was six, and covers his life in a “vanished age” until its publication in 2013. It details a life fighting against discrimination against gay people, after his own adolescent awakening of homosexuality and coming out, as well as his conscription into the army until he was discreetly “paid to take early retirement.”
Amongst its anthologies, Paradise Press published a short-story collection by John Dixon, which includes the eponymous The Carrier Bag, a story which earned him the Bridport Prize, where a group of wine-swilling elitists loudly discuss a down-at-heel man nearby, laden with a carrier bag.
Paradise Press offers over forty books and e-books that are as varied as the writers themselves, and their colourful and lively biographies leap off the page. The writers offer an important, honest and varied insight into the different experiences of growing up queer from the 1940s into the present day. What is remarkable is that Paradise Press continues to adapt and refuses to conform; another recent anthology, A Boxful of Ideas, is a multi-voiced smorgasbord, covering poetry, short stories and novel excerpts, with refreshing and honest opinions on current events.
There’s a large social element to this press, with book launches held at pubs and the Gay Authors Workshop pirouetting to online during the pandemic. Some of their writers have also enjoyed acting careers and one (Peter Scott-Presland) hosted the Homo Promos Zoom Play Readings via Zoom, which featured an erotically charged take on Jekyll and Hyde.
“The Gay Authors Workshop is an association of LGBT people who are creative writers – poets, dramatists, fiction and non-fiction writers. [Their] aim is to support writers by providing opportunities for them to meet, to read, to discuss and develop their work. [They] hold monthly meetings at different places around London and the South East for that purpose. Some meetings are accessible to wheelchair users. Membership is open to all LGBT writers, beginners as well as published authors. The subscription is £8 a year (£5 unwaged).”
“GAW remains a non-profit organisation. Its aims are to:
support LGBT+ writers by providing opportunities for them to meet, read, discuss and develop their work;
exchange information between members about how to get their work published and/or performed, including outlets, competitions, style and presentation issues, and production techniques;
promote the public enjoyment and appreciation of LGBT+ history, literature and philosophy;
ensure that the work of past and present GAW authors remains accessible to future generations.” (www.gayauthorsworkshop.uk)