‘The Turd Tree’ by Kate Clanchy

I love this story (as I do much of the great anthology from Comma Press in which it resides). At its heart is a betrayal between two lovers, but it is set firmly in the overarching betrayal that so many of us on that protest felt weeks and months after our ‘biggest demonstration in British history’. I know the characters that Kate draws – the condescending more-political-than-thou boyfriend (yes, recognising elements of myself in there), the liberal, woolly parents with their Fairtrade coffee in the home counties, the rainbow-haired fire eater, the newish mum, Melissa struggling to retain her political commitments with a toddler in tow. I recognise the space, the feeling, the millions on the street. And I keenly felt the hope of political action fade as Melissa gets more isolated in the crowd. The Iraq War demonstration was a peak political moment for my generation and it took us years to recover and rebuild the motivation to engage with politics again. Clanchy’s story reminds me that we can never go back, but we must keep looking forward and try to imagine a different future that is still possible.

From Protest: Stories of Resistance, Comma Press 2017

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