Rough Trade x UNITOM: Raves, Hollywood, and Making Stuff Up

Rough Trade x UNITOM: Raves, Hollywood, and Making Stuff Up

Writing books by mistake, hunting the history of a northern counter-culture, and the serious art of making people laugh.

This April we welcomed Rough Trade Books to UNITOM for a panel talk with three incredible artists: Alex Zawadzki, Babak Ganjei, and Roy. Here’s a little taste of what they each had to say…

Alex Zawadzki (one half of Uncultured Creatives) has spent years carefully collecting a verbal history of Blackburn’s infamous rave scene. They interviewed the ravers, the DJs, the organisers, the police, and the politicians who were involved. The stories we heard are those of young lovers, activists, visionaries, and rebels, all dancing against a backdrop of Thatcherism with the simple shared goal of throwing parties for the people by the people. The collation of these stories functions as an archive of Blackburn’s raves; the partiers who made them, and the politicians who ended them. We got to hear Alex talk about the thrill of obsessively chasing a thread, what she has learned about the intensity of interviews, and the social and ethical challenges of building a body of work from such intimate personal narratives. Go back with her to the end of the 80s, and the start of something huge... in 'FLASHBACK: Parties For The People By The People'.

Babak Ganjei’s website states that he is “wildly disappointing in real life”, a claim that we absolutely can’t endorse! Babak was on great form, sharing his thoughts on imposter syndrome, how to navigate the art world, and what Hollywood should be shooting next. Ganjei read from his book ‘Film Ideas’ and had everyone laughing, he also talked about how humour functions in his work, and the importance of creating the things that you actually want to create (even if no one asks you to!). “Fundamentally, it was a joke. But it was real.”

Roy sat between Alex and Babak, oozing Scouse charm, and talking about how good it is getting paid to make stuff up. He was keen to emphasise that he became a writer by accident, that his book was a mistake, and that people should stop worrying about his brother because he doesn’t have one! Straight talking, effortlessly funny, and a natural storyteller, listening to Roy is a joy. He talked about using what’s familiar as inspiration, the boundary between fact and fiction in his characters, and what it’s been like writing scripts for a new show (keep your eye’s peeled for that one!). He read an excerpt of one of his short stories (involving an infuriating plumber, the horrors of small talk, and Jessica Pratt). You can read the ending of that story and loads more in 'Algorithm Party'.

Huge thanks to Rough Trade’s Craig Oldham for hosting the panel and for all his thoughtful questions. If you’re hungry for more Rough Trade Books then you’re in luck because we’ve just stocked loads of exciting new titles:

Milk Tooth – Martha Sprackland
Sweating Tears with Fat White Family - Adelle Stripe & Lisa Cradduck
Stressed Tested – Lily Blacksell
Counter Reform – Charlotte Newman
I Am The Mother Cat – Ella Frears
After Engine Trouble – Luke Wright
Egg and Spoon – Rose Blake
Do Your Own Thing – Richard Phoenix

Check out our full Rough Trade collection here.

Thank you to all the lovely folks that came along, and to Susan Ferguson for these great photos and the permission to use them!

People chatting
During the talk
Wine glasses
Babak and Roy
Craig and Alex
After the talk
Aggie the dog


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