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The Dig Street Festival

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It’s 2006 in the fictional East London borough of Leytonstow. The UK’s pub smoking ban is about to happen, and thirty-eight-and-a-half year old John Torrington, a mopper and trolley collector at his local DIY store, is secretly in love with the stylish, beautiful, and middle-class barmaid Lois. John and his hapless, strange, and down-on-their-luck friends, Gabby Longfeathe It’s 2006 in the fictional East London borough of Leytonstow. The UK’s pub smoking ban is about to happen, and thirty-eight-and-a-half year old John Torrington, a mopper and trolley collector at his local DIY store, is secretly in love with the stylish, beautiful, and middle-class barmaid Lois. John and his hapless, strange, and down-on-their-luck friends, Gabby Longfeather and Glyn Hopkins, live in Clements Markham House - a semi-derelict Edwardian villa divided into unsanitary bedsits, and (mis)managed by the shrewd, Dickensian business man, Mr Kapoor. When Mr Kapoor, in a bizarre and criminal fluke, makes him fabulously credit-worthy, John surprises his friends and colleagues alike by announcing he will organise an amazing ‘urban love revolution’, aka the Dig Street Festival. But when he discovers dark secrets at the DIY store, and Mr Kapoor’s ruthless gentrification scheme for Clements Markham House, John’s plans take several unexpected and worrisome turns… Funny, original, philosophical, and unexpectedly moving, The Dig Street Festival takes a long, hard, satirical look at modern British life, and asks of us all, how can we be better people? Chris Walsh grew up in Middlesbrough and now lives in Kent. He writes both fiction and non-fiction. The Dig Street Festival is his first novel.


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It’s 2006 in the fictional East London borough of Leytonstow. The UK’s pub smoking ban is about to happen, and thirty-eight-and-a-half year old John Torrington, a mopper and trolley collector at his local DIY store, is secretly in love with the stylish, beautiful, and middle-class barmaid Lois. John and his hapless, strange, and down-on-their-luck friends, Gabby Longfeathe It’s 2006 in the fictional East London borough of Leytonstow. The UK’s pub smoking ban is about to happen, and thirty-eight-and-a-half year old John Torrington, a mopper and trolley collector at his local DIY store, is secretly in love with the stylish, beautiful, and middle-class barmaid Lois. John and his hapless, strange, and down-on-their-luck friends, Gabby Longfeather and Glyn Hopkins, live in Clements Markham House - a semi-derelict Edwardian villa divided into unsanitary bedsits, and (mis)managed by the shrewd, Dickensian business man, Mr Kapoor. When Mr Kapoor, in a bizarre and criminal fluke, makes him fabulously credit-worthy, John surprises his friends and colleagues alike by announcing he will organise an amazing ‘urban love revolution’, aka the Dig Street Festival. But when he discovers dark secrets at the DIY store, and Mr Kapoor’s ruthless gentrification scheme for Clements Markham House, John’s plans take several unexpected and worrisome turns… Funny, original, philosophical, and unexpectedly moving, The Dig Street Festival takes a long, hard, satirical look at modern British life, and asks of us all, how can we be better people? Chris Walsh grew up in Middlesbrough and now lives in Kent. He writes both fiction and non-fiction. The Dig Street Festival is his first novel.

27 review for The Dig Street Festival

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nastasya

    A vibrant, life-affirming read with characters I didn't want to close the book on. The protagonist ponders life as if he's in a Tolstoy novel, while interacting with a vast Dickensian ensemble, through Kafkaesque plot twists in a thoroughly modern British setting. This was fun but also thought-provoking, and I will be recommending it widely. A vibrant, life-affirming read with characters I didn't want to close the book on. The protagonist ponders life as if he's in a Tolstoy novel, while interacting with a vast Dickensian ensemble, through Kafkaesque plot twists in a thoroughly modern British setting. This was fun but also thought-provoking, and I will be recommending it widely.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Julie Morris

    Let’s get this out in the open right from the off. This book is bonkers. Totally off the wall, a crazy ride, bizarre characters and a series of increasingly unlikely and out of control events might make you think this book is not the one for you. Do not be fooled. In the midst of all the mayhem and madness, at the very heart of this book, is a core of charm and delight that runs through it like words through a stick of Blackpool Rock and it makes this book one of the warmest, funniest and sweete Let’s get this out in the open right from the off. This book is bonkers. Totally off the wall, a crazy ride, bizarre characters and a series of increasingly unlikely and out of control events might make you think this book is not the one for you. Do not be fooled. In the midst of all the mayhem and madness, at the very heart of this book, is a core of charm and delight that runs through it like words through a stick of Blackpool Rock and it makes this book one of the warmest, funniest and sweetest reads I have picked up this year so far. At the centre of the book is John Torrington, a man who has found himself on the fringes of life, largely ignored by almost everyone and scratching away an existence on the margins of society. By day he collects trolleys and mops floors at his local DIY superstore, at night he lives in a rundown building full of sad bedsits, inhabited by other lonely, forgotten men, mooning after the bright, young barmaid in his local pub, reading secondhand stories about Scott of the Antarctic and scratching away at his poetry (mainly haikus) and his unfinished novel. A less prepossessing character to carry a book it would be hard to imagine, but John has hidden depths, or so he likes to believe. Almost everyone, except his equally strange friends, Gabby and Glyn, disagree. I absolutely adored every single character in this book. This author had created some of the most memorable people you will every meet in a novel, and then placed them in equally memorable situations and watched what they do. (I say watched, because it is very clear to me from reading this that each of the people in this book have very individual minds of their own and have done their own, quite bizarre things on the page which I am sure the author had little if any control over in the end.) There are some really memorable scenes in the novel – the one involving the journey to the DIY store on Gabby’s first day at work is a particular standout (parts of which made my slightly gyp to be honest) – and many real laugh-out-loud moments. You can’t imagine a group of people who get into so many mad scrapes as this trio, but in the context of this novel you can completely believe they are happening, and it is quite a ride to take with them. At the same time, there is so much tenderness within this book. The relationship between the three men is oddly touching. They all look out for each other and clearly care for one another in a way that most of us would be lucky to find in this life. This care extends from their small trio to the other hopeless residents of Clements Markham House, despite the fact they are largely unpleasant, ungrateful and undeserving. John Torrington has a big, soft heart, and lavishes his care around, even to his bullying, sadistic boss, OCD-impaired supervisor and any other waif and stray he comes across in life. But his own vulnerability is really thrown into sharp relief in his relationship with Lois, much younger than him and way out of his league both in terms of social status and intellect. Despite this fact, we long for her to see the qualities he has lurking beneath us outwardly awkward facade and give him a chance. This book is a really different read, but all the more appealing for that. My favourite thing about blogging is coming across these hidden gems of books that are outside the mainstream and outside your reading comfort zone. It is within these novels that we find something new and exciting, that speaks to us of things we may never have considered before and takes us places we have never been. Loved it, loved it, loved it. Funny and moving.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Arlene

    I really enjoyed reading this. A really odd book, with odd dysfunctional characters, and a spectacularly surreal plot. But for all that, it's more relatable and real than all the books I've read about high fliers living in trendy regenerated East London. This on the other hand is set in the (ahem) 'fictional East London Borough of Leytonstow' in 2006, and is all the more colourful for it. I really enjoyed reading this. A really odd book, with odd dysfunctional characters, and a spectacularly surreal plot. But for all that, it's more relatable and real than all the books I've read about high fliers living in trendy regenerated East London. This on the other hand is set in the (ahem) 'fictional East London Borough of Leytonstow' in 2006, and is all the more colourful for it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Emma Peskett

    Slightly bonkers and very funny. An enjoyable read made even better as it’s my era and my old stomping ground!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Welcome to the fictional East London borough of Leytonstow. Through the eyes of mopper, trolley collector and part-time poet/novelist John Torrington, Chris Walsh takes us on a rather surreal adventure through the highways and byways of this corner of London in the company of John's faithful, if sometimes reluctant, sidekicks Gabby Longfeather and Glyn Hopkins, and introduces us to a whole cast of vibrant and intriguing characters. John, Gabby and Glyn live a somewhat below par existence in bedsi Welcome to the fictional East London borough of Leytonstow. Through the eyes of mopper, trolley collector and part-time poet/novelist John Torrington, Chris Walsh takes us on a rather surreal adventure through the highways and byways of this corner of London in the company of John's faithful, if sometimes reluctant, sidekicks Gabby Longfeather and Glyn Hopkins, and introduces us to a whole cast of vibrant and intriguing characters. John, Gabby and Glyn live a somewhat below par existence in bedsits at the decrepit Clements Markham House, along with their elderly neighbours, at the mercy of their dodgy landlord Mr Kapoor. Wannabe rock god, and hopelessly sheltered, Gabby lives on the largesse of the council, but Glyn and John work as the lowest of the low at the local DIY store, and they all do the best they can to get by, occasionally trying to recreate Scott's expedition to the South Pole in their leisure time - when they are not drinking at the local pub, where John gazes from afar at the glamorous barmaid Lois, Glyn hides his magazines of a certain genre under the chair in not quite opaque carrier bags, and Gabby puts his not so hard earned cash into the juke-box. They may be a unusual bunch of misfits, but their hearts are in the right place, so when John discovers shady dealings both at work and on the home front, it looks like it is going to be up to him and his friends to put things right - especially if he is to win the heart of the lovely Lois. Using an unexpected windfall, John sets about organising the Dig Street Festival as a big urban love-in and way to improve the lot of all the deserving on his home turf, and inadvertently sets in motion a series of madcap events with very unexpected consequences... The Dig Street Festival is the zaniest and most hilarious book I have read for a very long time. Imagine a weird mash-up of Withnail and I; Only Fools and Horses; the mostly improvised stage shows of Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmonson's Bottom; the irreverent and guffaw inducing Tom Sharpe books; and a Tolstoy novel - but with a lot more hugging. However, strange this sounds, you come up with something full of the most wonderful characters, and the kind of story lines that give you barrels of laugh out loud moments alongside those deep and memorable in the feels scenes that you hold in your heart for ever. There are times here where you feel there is a bit too much going on, and although I can understand exactly why Walsh has crammed so much into his novel, I feel that he might have been better off taking a leaf out of John's book and covering a bit less ground in his debut - holding a bit back for another Leystonstow novel perhaps, or even some short stories set in the same borough. There are lots of lovely themes to engage with in this book, which Walsh explores beautifully, and I would be interested to read a bit more about some of the characters on the side-lines whose stories were not shown in full in these pages. My favourite theme is the way he shows you should never make assumptions about people from what you see on the surface - very good advice indeed! This really is one of those books where you are sorry to get to the final page, even though the ending is a triumph of lovely, touching gorgeousness, because you feel like you have been on an all encompassing journey of discovery alongside the characters, and have made firm friends of them. I am nowhere near ready to let go of John, Gabby and Glyn and their frequent hugs yet, so really hope that Walsh will regale is with some more tales from Leytonstow in the future. If you are looking for something that will induce laughter and tears, fill you will life-affirming joy, and make you think really hard about what lies in the secret hearts of those around you, then this is definitely going to be the book for you!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Michael Jarvie

    For the first forty pages, Chris Walsh’s novel The Dig Street Festival meanders along without much purpose, like a desultory pigeon patrolling a stretch of pavement outside a branch of Greggs, and this sense of directionless movement is very much in keeping with the lives of its three main characters. The plot likewise ricochets around in the manner of a gaggle of subatomic particles in the Large Hadron Collider. To describe Gabby Longfeather, Glyn Hopkins and John Torrington as feckless indivi For the first forty pages, Chris Walsh’s novel The Dig Street Festival meanders along without much purpose, like a desultory pigeon patrolling a stretch of pavement outside a branch of Greggs, and this sense of directionless movement is very much in keeping with the lives of its three main characters. The plot likewise ricochets around in the manner of a gaggle of subatomic particles in the Large Hadron Collider. To describe Gabby Longfeather, Glyn Hopkins and John Torrington as feckless individuals would be wrong, since none of them ever had any feck in the first place. This motley trio (a kind of Freudian triumvirate comprising Id, Superego, and Ego) are life’s archetypal losers, the first a dole claimant, the latter two suffering regular workplace bullying in their zero status jobs as floor moppers and trolley wranglers at Amundsen Enterprises. As for the bullies, they tend to be older, working-class men who typically espouse reprehensible right-wing views. In the case of Stock Manager, Dave Lofthouse, this manifests itself specifically as adulation of that vile hag, Margaret Thatcher. This miserable old cant (I’m referring here to Lofthouse, not Thatcher, though the description applies equally well to the former MP for Finchley) deserves at the very least some no-nonsense euthanasia of the sort that used to be regularly meted out by NKVD operatives back in the day. Sadly, poor John just turns the other cheek, in the manner of that sandal-wearing individual whose equally bizarre exploits are recounted in another work of fiction, namely the New Testament. The Dig Street universe is far-fetched and somewhat whimsical in nature, with a dash of transvestism thrown in for good measure. For a tale set in 2006, porno mags are still in vogue, whereas I always assumed that free Internet porn had done away with such old fashioned and expensive publications. Having said that, the three bozos (Gabby, Glyn, and John) do seem to lack computer access so I suppose it makes sense in this particular story world. Besides, this is a fantasy world where, for instance, the security camera in the local NatEast bank can be switched off with relative ease, where the main character can suddenly obtain a £100,000 overdraft facility, and where there are no mobile phones to be seen at all, apart from the lads in the Chicken Hamlet takeaway in Chapter 56. It’s even set in a fictional London borough called Leytonstow. Benny the security guard from Sierra Leone seems a bit too fluent in the English language for my liking, but I’ll let that pass. As for Eric Beardmore’s transformation, or for that matter, Alan Povey’s, I didn’t buy either of them. It’s a shame that the delightful Lois went missing for a large chunk of the novel as I definitely wanted to see more of her. Mistakes are thankfully few and far between: “We three wound our away through a crowd…” [p. 167]; “…would consist of me bring able…” [p. 276]; “Do we have we a deal?” [p. 407] If you’re in the market for something to make you snigger, this might be it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Emily Quinn

    It’s been a while since I’ve properly laughed at a book, and I mean really laughed – this one has just topped the funny list for me! I’ve had so many thoughts throughout reading this; it’s peculiar and rather eccentric in parts, but it’s also incredibly deep, entertaining and full of life. Chris Walsh has to be one of the best writers of humourous fiction I’ve ever come across, and this book is all the proof you’ll need! He’s not only perfected British humour and succeeded in making me laugh out It’s been a while since I’ve properly laughed at a book, and I mean really laughed – this one has just topped the funny list for me! I’ve had so many thoughts throughout reading this; it’s peculiar and rather eccentric in parts, but it’s also incredibly deep, entertaining and full of life. Chris Walsh has to be one of the best writers of humourous fiction I’ve ever come across, and this book is all the proof you’ll need! He’s not only perfected British humour and succeeded in making me laugh out loud on numerous occasions, but his talent also covers phenomenal character creation and development, as well as the creation of an epic story line like no other. The book can get heavy in parts and there is a lot to take on board and process, but I urge you to give it time and attention. Despite The Dig Street Festival not getting the coverage I was expecting, I did really enjoy the unexpected direction the story took. This book will not only make you think about life in a whole new way, but you’ll end the book with the biggest smile. Thoroughly entertaining from beginning to end and completely immersing – an absolute corker of a book! You can read my full review over on my blog: https://aquintillionwords.com/2021/04...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nicola Smith

  9. 4 out of 5

    Henrike

  10. 5 out of 5

    Anon

  11. 4 out of 5

    Becky

  12. 5 out of 5

    Karen

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cath Barton

  14. 4 out of 5

    Karen Mace

  15. 4 out of 5

    David Hill

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lori

  17. 4 out of 5

    Polly Stephens

  18. 5 out of 5

    Silas St. James

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tom O'Brien

  20. 4 out of 5

    Gavin Hogg

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rhian Eleri

  22. 5 out of 5

    Geneviève

  23. 5 out of 5

    Debi

  24. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

  25. 5 out of 5

    Gavin

  26. 4 out of 5

    Carly Findlay

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

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