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Realistic Utopias - A Collection of New Writing

  • By Free Word
  • 19th January 2017
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Read a new collection of five stories and poems from emerging writers that take a personal look at our rapidly changing world. All five pieces are inspired by discussions that took part during our Weatherfronts event, and aim to spark further change.

Writing about climate change is hard. On the whole, readers do not want to be lectured and most don’t want yet another dystopia. There are, of course, no definitive answers to these challenges for a writer and this collection presents five very individual approaches to the problem. If there is a common theme to these powerful pieces of writing it is that their scale is domestic. This most abstract subject is experienced at a very personal level. It is played out in the way we live and share our lives with those around us.

Peter Gingold, TippingPoint
Extract from foreword

You can read the new collection Realistic Utopias: Writing for Change here.

Learn more about the stories and poems:


Rainfall, Fell – Sarah Thomas

A washed out birthday celebration during the Cumbria floods of December 2015 brought Sarah closer to her local environment and community. Sarah was drawn to how the community’s shared experience of the floods allowed people to be vulnerable together.

“Later, I attempt sleep. In my attic bedroom, my body is coiled tightly under the duvet. I stare at the two skylights: raucous squares of black. There cannot be any more water in the sky, but there is. Unaware of having gone to sleep, in the middle of the night I am awoken by the sudden silence of the rain’s ceasing.”

Thrift: A Love Story – Emma Howell

A quiet environmental revolution happening in the back streets of Southend in the 1970s. Emma’s story is an intentionally optimistic imagining of a rich and loving community.

“But for my grandparents, the garden was more than the veg for the evening meal or the fruit for a pot of jam; it was a declaration of love.”

Doggerland Rising – Justina Hart

Known to some of us only through the shipping forecast, Doggerland was once a vast area connecting the east coast of England with continental Europe which was then swallowed up by the sea. Justina’s poetry reanimates these people from this distant past and brings their hopes, fears and loss into our present.

Float above the North Sea,
part its thick skin, peer through.

On the bed: flint blades, ancient seeds,
rotted wood carved as a hull.

Imagine voices. Listen for voices.
Laughter, shouts. A splash!

For the Greater Good – David Thorpe

One family struggles with strict climate immigration laws and fights to stay together and start a new life in a chaotic Barcelona. David confessed that he normally writes dystopias but felt it was important to visualise a positive future in order to help create one. His story explores the consequences of ecological footprinting and asks who gets to benefit from the greater good.

“The Eye had followed her there and it followed her away. As if it knew what she was thinking. She told herself it was just algorithms that drove the Eyes, like everything else.”

Thumbelina Jellyfizz and the Elephant in the Bathroom – Darragh Martin (Illustrated by Euan Cook)

Thumbelina, the shortest private detective of her school, and her sweets-focused, scientist best friend land the case of a lifetime. But is the friendly farting elephant in the bathroom really the cause of climate change? David’s beautifully illustrated story aims to appeal to young readers and empower them to act as citizens not just consumers.

“An elephant fart is about one squillion billion times smellier than a human fart. Imagine all the smelly things that you can think of […] and you are still nowhere near as close to how smelly an elephant’s fart is.”

You can read the new collection Realistic Utopias: Writing for Change here.

Weatherfronts: Climate Change and the Stories We Tell

This is a collection of new writing on our changing world commissioned by TippingPoint, Free Word and Durham University. In May 2016 we brought together writers and climate change experts to explore one of the most urgent issues of our time. All five pieces are inspired by discussions that took part during our Weatherfronts event, and aim to spark further change.

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