Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Locks by Ashleigh Nugent - Book Tour

LOCKS: A Story Based on True Events

“1993 was the year that Stephen Lawrence got murdered by racists, and I became an angry Black lad with a ‘chip on his shoulder’.”

Aeon is a mixed-race teenager from an English suburb. He is desperate to be understand the Black identity foisted on him by racist police, teachers, and ‘friends’. For want of Black role models, Aeon has immersed himself in gangsta rap, he’s trying to grow dreadlocks, and he’s bought himself some big red boots.

And now he’s in Jamaica.

Within days of being in Jamaica, Aeon has been mugged and stabbed, arrested and banged up.

Aeon has to fight for survival, fight for respect, and fight for his big red boots. And he has to fight for his identity because, here, Aeon is the White boy.

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LOCKS is based on a true story. It's 1993. Aeon, our protagonist (based on me), is a mixed-race teenage boy from a leafy English suburb. Having faced racism in his home-town, he visits Jamaica in search of roots and belonging, and to define his identity as a Black man.

Once there, however, Aeon discovers that he doesn’t fit in there, either. He is mugged and stabbed, arrested and locked in an underground dungeon called the strongroom. There he is beaten unconscious while a group of boys chant: ‘Fuck up the White man.’

 Aeon is now out of the strongroom but still being held in the detention centre.

 Following many challenges, Aeon has made a good friend in Shepherd. The following scene happens the day after both Aeon and Shepherd turn 17. They and a group of other boys have wandered out of the detention centre to go swimming in a river.

 Aeon refuses to go in the water due to his open knife wounds. From the bank, he watches as his friends disappear.

 I chose this extract because it demonstrates how cheap life can be when people become too accustomed to its loss.

Excerpt from LOCKS Part 4 – Gehennna

I can’t say which one went first – Red Douglas then Raphael or Raphael then Red Douglas – but one after the other they both slid smoothly through the silver-blue surface of the river, and never came back.

The ripples from their raggedy hands and feet subsided almost instantly, and the river rippled slowly like a melting mirror.

Like nothing ever happened.

I stared at that one spot until my brain caught up with my eyes.

I scanned other parts of the river where the reflections of the overhanging trees shimmered with almost as little movement as their other selves.

They’re trying to trick us, I tried to trick myself.

I imagined them popping up somewhere under the trees, giggling. But that was not gonna happen. Raphael and Red Douglas were not the giggling types.

My eyes darted about where the sky bounced its blue illusion back up to itself from the cool, uncaring surface of the river.

How much water, how much time passed before me as I stared?

The black bandanna bobbed up at the nearside bank.

Trader shouted up at me, ‘Where dem go?’

My stomach was tight.

Ganja Baby pivoted around on the jetty, shouting up at me, his voice going up in pitch every time he shouted, ‘Where Shepherd and Douglas go? Where Shepherd and Douglas go? Where Shepherd and Douglas go?’

My eyes were hot.

The other lads joined in, shouting at me like I was supposed to know something, like I was supposed to do something.

I couldn’t move.

Trader screamed up at me, ‘Where the fuck dem go, White Man?’ as if I’d done something to them. He turned away from me – I was too pathetic – and shouted at Saddle: ‘Where dem go?’

Saddle looked up at me with desperate eyes and said, ‘Shepherd?’

Saddle and Ganja Baby paced up and down the riverbank, shouting.

Trader and Straw Man turned in the water, bobbing round and round.

Raphael’s staff tingled in my hands.

‘Before the hero can return,’ Miss Elwyn used to tell me, ‘he must seize the magic sword, the holy chalice, the enchanted staff.’

But Raphael was gone.

And this wasn’t my staff.

Darka was still on the jetty. He raised his hands to the sky and shouted, ‘Dem dead, mon.’ He sounded excited. ‘Dem bomboclaat dead.’

The two old fellas were still sat on the veranda of the old wooden house drinking Red Stripe as we walked back up the embankment. ‘You lose your friends?’ one of them said.

‘Yes mon,’ said Straw Man. ‘You see dem?’

‘Dem dead, mon.’ He smacked his lips together with exaggerated indifference.

‘Yeah mon,’ the second old fella piped up, puffing on his ciggie. ‘Nuff people drown in dat river, mon, ptts, cho.’ His words lingered like he was deliberately drawing them out. ‘It have a spinning undercurrent. You no see it from de surface, eh-eh. Ptts, but dangerous,’ he said, looking directly at me. ‘Very dangerous to swim in.’ He took a sip of his Red Stripe and sighed, ‘Eeeeeh.’

Author Bio –
Ashleigh Nugent has been published in academic journals, poetry anthologies, and magazines. His latest work, LOCKS, is based on a true story: the time he spent his 17th birthday in a Jamaican detention centre. LOCKS won the 2013 Commonword Memoir Competition and has had excerpts published by Writing on the Wall and in bido lito magazine. Ashleigh’s one-man-show, based on LOCKS, has won support from SLATE / Eclipse Theatre, and won a bursary from Live Theatre, Newcastle. The show has received rave audience reviews following showings in theatres and prisons throughout the UK. Ashleigh is also a director at RiseUp CiC, where he uses his own life experience, writing, and performance to support prisoners and inspire change.

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