London Consequences 2 – a collaborative novel

Announcing a new and very exciting collaborative writing project: London Consequences 2.

London Consequences 2 is a collaborative novel being written from September to December 2022 by a collection of amazing contemporary writers (see below!). It is organised and curated by David Collard, Jonathan Gibbs and Michael Hughes, and is a creative response and homage to a little-known but very interesting book published 50 years ago called, yes, London Consequences.

London Consequences was a collaborative novel written for the 1972 Festivals of Britain and edited by Margaret Drabble and BS Johnson. Drabble and Johnson co-wrote an opening chapter, and then passed the manuscript on to a series of 18 writers (including Melvyn Bragg, Olivia Manning and Eva Figes) who each wrote one chapter before passing it on, until it returned to the editors, who co-wrote the closing chapter. The published book listed the contributing novelists, but each chapter was anonymous, giving readers the fun parlour-game challenge of trying to work out who wrote what. (There was a £100 reward for whoever could successfully do this – as yet we have no idea if this was collected!)

Original writers:
Paul Ableman
John Bowen
Melvyn Bragg
Vincent Brome
Peter Buckman
Alan Burns
Barry Cole
Eva Figes
Gillian Freeman

Jane Gaskell
Wilson Harris
Rayner Heppenstall
Olivia Manning
Adrian Mitchell
Julian Mitchell
Andrea Newman
Piers Paul Read
Stefan Themerson

The original novel features a middle-class London couple, Anthony (a journalist) and his wife Judith (a mother and housewife) on a single day – Easter Sunday, 1971 – as they navigate the capital, and their relationship with each other. It was published in 1972 by the Greater London Arts Association, with a cover price of 65p.

The idea for this new project came about in a strange and serendipitous way. In April 2022 I turned 50, and Michael Hughes gave me as a present a copy of London Consequences, which I read and very much enjoyed. I tweeted that it would be a fun idea to do a contemporary version, to which David Collard, who knew the original, responded by throwing down the gauntlet. We should do it, he said. 

(David, Michael and I have form on this kind of project. In 2020, when I started writing my poem ‘Spring Journal’ on Twitter, a response to the coronavirus pandemic and an explicit homage to Louis MacNeice’s Autumn Journal, David invited me to feature the poem in his weekly online literary salon A Leap in the Dark, where each canto was read by Michael.) 

So the three of us talked, and London Consequences 2 (working title!) was born. Very excitingly, the brilliant indie Bluemoose Books has agreed to publish the finished book, so you too will be able to play the guessing game of working out who has written what part.

Our book runs on similar lines to the original: it’s a novel featuring a London couple (Tony and Judy) as they navigate London and their relationship on a single day – the single day being, this time around, Thursday 2nd June, one of the central days of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations. Like the original, it will offer both a state-of-the-nation view of the capital, and an (inevitably partial) state-of-the-literature snapshot of who is writing now, and how. The book will have co-authored first and last chapters, with the intervening chapters coming from an amazing selection of contemporary authors. In alphabetical order:

Kevin Boniface
Marie-Elsa Bragg 
Ruby Cowling
Wendy Erskine
Tim Etchells
Shelley Hastings

David Hayden
Vlatka Horvat
Heidi James 
Toby Litt 
Linda Mannheim
Melissa McCarthy  

Sam Mills
Simon Okotie
Ben Pester
Devika Ponnambalam
Eley Williams

Michael Hughes and I will co-write the first and last chapters, with David Collard and I acting as ‘show-runners’/editors. The process has already started, with Chapter One written, and now Chapter Two, our first anonymous contribution, with the baton passed to guest author #2 this morning. The writing process will be similar to the original, albeit making use of contemporary technology – we have Google Docs, which Drabble and Johnson didn’t, so the contributing writers can see the manuscript grow in real time (though still without knowing who is writing what), in time for its completion in by the end of the year, for publication by Bluemoose in 2023. In a final twist on the premise, unavailable to the original editors, we will open up the final chapter, once drafted by Michael and me, to all contributors to add to and edit before printing, making it an entirely collaborative free-for-all.

We can’t wait to see how the book turns out, and hope that you’ll buy a copy when it’s done. Keep your eyes posted for more details!


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