Will You Be My Friend

On 1 December the Emma Press launches the book I edited for them, Best Friends Forever. It’s a book of poems on female friendship. I say I ‘edited for them’ but in truth I put my heart on my sleeve and asked them to publish it for me. It’s a book I had to will into being, not being able to find anything that does what I wanted it to do. From my intro:

“When I was younger, I wanted to be part of the cult of Best Friends. I wanted the necklace,  the endless telephone talk and the secret pact. I wanted to be able to name the girl in that coveted spot. I wanted that certainty both emotionally (my own dear heart) and practically (someone to eat my lunch with).

Then, when I was 14, the riot grrrl movement connected me to other women and girls and gave me a worldwide cohort of sisters. This was a massively emboldening thing for me and the idea of The One BFF became less important, as I began to understand friendships as more elastic, complex and various. While the count-on-one hand friends are steadfast and have become like sisters, there have been others who were very present in my life for just a little time – the right time – and who will always be special to me. Knowing this also makes me wonder about the friends I’ve not yet made, who will become important to me in future years.”

It’s with this in mind, it feels quite auspicious that in a few days time Julia Scheele will launch Double Da Ya – a riot grrrl inspired superzine. I contributed two pieces to it. For one of them I invited some women writers I admire (Katherine Angel, Chrissy Williams, Livia Franchini, Martha Sprackland, Sophie Mackintosh, Rebecca Perry, Francine Elena, Amy May, Kathryn Maris), to the pub to taste kids’ sweets and review them for me. I asked them to come along by email, an email with the subject line ‘will you be my friend’ (inspired by Kathryn Maris’s poem from Best Friends Forever). I’d not met one of the women I invited, a couple of others I’d only met a few times, some I invited are good friends already. We sat in the back of the Princess Louise, making ourselves sick on swizzle sticks and Haribo.

I organised it in the spirit of/it reminded me of when me and my sister Rebecca held a riot grrrl tea party, sometime in 1992 or 1993 probably. We made fairy cakes iced with spider webs and plotted the revolution. One of the girls that came along was in a band called Pussy Cat Trash. I remember seeing her play a song at a dingy club in Sunderland, a song for a friend. I forget what is was called but the essence of the song was a wish that her ‘arms could stretch to be there for you now’. It was a love song, a song of regret felt for not being there for someone, for letting them down, for being too far away. It’s always stayed with me and was in my mind when editing the book – especially the section called ‘I let your hand go’. 

Some of my ‘best’, most enduring friendships have at times made me very sad, or caused pain. It was important for me that Best Friends Forever wasn’t overly sweet, that it reflects real friendships and that is what I want to celebrate. We’re having a launch party on 1 December at the Vauxhall Teahouse Theatre. It’s free! Come along and hear some of the wonderful contributors to the book and raise a glass to friendship.

Meanwhile, I saw a group of my BFFs last weekend in Edinburgh and gave them all copies of the book, which I made in part as a tribute to them and I’m sending copies to my other BFFs.

Love you forever.

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