My Inspiration: Pip Fallow – Dragged Up Proppa | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Christopher ‘Pip’ Fallow will be talking about his book, Dragged Up Proppa, at the Durham Book Festival on Sunday 15th October. Pip was destined to join his father and brothers down the pit, but the closure of his County Durham village’s mine in the 1980s saw him at the back of the dole queue like so many of his contemporaries. His book looks at that lost generation who had prepared for a life in the mines that had disappeared by the time they were ready for it. It explores some of the most important issues affecting Britain today: from levelling up and the north-south divide, to social mobility and class.

Here, Pip, who was shortlisted for the Sid Chaplin Award for working-class writing, tells us more about the inspiration behind the book…

I was never actually inspired to write this book at all. The creation of this book is a strange tale of its own. In 2018 I submitted a story I had written about three very different but tightly knitted young  lads that left comprehensive school on the East Coast of Durham in the epicentre of Thatcher’s  Britain and just after the bitter 1984/5 miner’s strike had seen the miners crushed and defeated. The  boys find themselves joining the back of a dole queue that is four and a half million souls long before  they are summoned to the benefits office and told they must work for their giros on six-months Youth Training Schemes (YTS. Remember them?) We follow the three youngsters as they start getting into a work routine and watch as they gain fulfilment and even self-respect. Just before they are all sacked on the same Friday as their schemes come to an end and they are replaced by three new suckers from the dole queue. Disgruntled and disillusioned by Thatcher’s Britain, the three boys  use the skills they have acquired from their short stint at work to pull off a very ambitious robbery. It works, they land the loot and it appears they have beaten the system but then a strange twist of fate has them losing everything. 

 It won the competition! I won a grand, I was sponsored by the arts council and I was assigned an agent. The first thing my agent did was to sit me down and ask. 

 “So, where did this story come from?” to which I replied. 

 “Well, actually it was me and a couple of mates of mine,” 

 “I think you should write a memoir,” he suggested.  

 The big problem with the memoir was, I thought I was writing about myself. I’m not a vain person and had a true bee in my bonnet about writing about me. At one point I almost gave up but then came an awakening. I was sent to Scotland by the arts council to meet some new potential authors. I spoke to one guy and hung onto every word as he explained how he had suffered the most dreadful of childhoods living almost feral in the city whilst surviving on his wits, and dodging the care system after being orphaned. It was a true case of tragedy and lack of opportunity. To me, his life had been fascinating, yet to him, he struggled to understand how it might be of interest to anybody. I told him of my life and how I had grown up with a strong traditional style family around me and then went on to explain about the tighter-than-tight mining community I had grown up in the heart of. I  told him how everybody knew everybody and how everybody knew everybody’s business. I  described it like being part of a massive family. A tribe even. His eyes lit up. 

 “Wow, you must take me to see this!” he said. 

 “Oh, sorry I can’t,” I explained, “It’s all gone now!” 

 I found writing easier after that day, it had not been about myself. I was irrelevant, just a writer, with a duty to tell. It was about a time and a place that had come and gone and my job was to get on and document it.

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