The Hay Fever Blog is delighted to welcome the brilliant Melvin Burgess to its pages, as he completes a whistle stop tour of the blogosphere to celebrate the publication of Kill All Enemies.
THE CORN EXCHANGE
Down by the Corn Exchange in Leeds was a place for teenagers to hang out for ages. They’ve been turfed away these days – the Corn Exchange has been opened up as a select shopping precinct and restaurant. The kids – as usual – get no where to go. Even hanging out is hard when you have no money to spend.
Still today you can see a few kids – oddballs usually, the Goths, the Metal heads, the punks – hanging around the steps, although the management don’t like it. Back when I was doing my research for KAE there were many more. You could see people hanging out there any day of the week, but it was on a Saturday that it really came into its own. On the steps, and behind the Corn Exchange, and along the Canal there, you’d get dozens of kids, from early teens to early twenties, talking, hanging out and parading up and down in all their finery and glory. Quite a sight back then.
My friend Debbie Moody, who works for Leeds Libraries put me in touch with Deeta, who worked at that time as a kind of mobile youth. Every Saturday she’d be there, walking up and down the streets behind the Corn Exchange, chatting and watching out for the young people who were out to socialise. She introduced to me a few of people who hung out round there, and in particular, she introduced me to Kill All Enemies – the band that gave their name to my book.
There were four in the. Big lads. Tough looking lads, in their late teens and early twenties. Long hair, jeans, tattoos. A dodgy looking bunch. If you met these guys on the street late at night, you might well cross the road and skulk by on the other side.
I’ve met up with a few people over the years to get stories out of them. Lawyers, researchers, teachers, care workers, lecturers – you name it. Most people are happy to chat over a cup of tea, but every now and then, it feels right to take people out somewhere. Almost always, this is a meal. It’s a relaxed setting, you have time, you can chat about this and that. But somehow, with KAE, the restaurant option didn’t feel quite right. I gave them the option and as I expected, they went for a drink. So – one Saturday night I took a fistful of money out of the hole in the wall and set off down Leeds for my meeting in a scuzzy pub in the town center.
The boys were unbelievably honest. I can safely say, I wasn’t at all prepared for the stories they had lined up for me when I arrived.
Kill All Enemies blog tour will continue tomorrow over at The Book Smugglers