The Dig Street Festival by Chris Walsh

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?

“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.” Read Emily Quinn’s full review here:

“The Dig Street Festival is a 21st Century fable, and by far the best book I have read in a long, long time. Very, VERY highly recommended.” Read Richard Walls (@writinblues) full Amazon review here:

To whet your appetite, you can read the opening paragraphs below.

That afternoon pregnant clouds marched over Leytonstow. We three slackened our walking pace and regarded them lined up across the broken horizon. It felt like an omen, but I didn’t tell Glyn, or Gabby for that matter, pretty sure the former would accuse me of believing my brain was intrinsically linked to the weather. I didn’t see why it shouldn’t be.

Bathed in moving shadows and a palpable drop in pressure, the normal commercial drone of Dig Street was traded for an expectant air. Pigeons huddled on high ledges. Towerblocks cut the moving sky like great inverted dreadnoughts. At ground level, checkout staff stopped scanning baked beans and peered skywards from smudged shop windows. The normally endemic blare of car and truck horns became muffled and less frequent, and the pavement stank of late summer’s locked heat. Vision appeared to blur, and it was as if the senses had been infected by a species of cosmic déjà vu. Either that, or someone had spiked the water supply.

So thought I.

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Chris Walsh grew up in Middlesbrough and now lives in Kent. His debut novel, The Dig Street Festival, was published in March 2021 by Louise Walters Books. Chris was recently interviewed by the Philip Larkin Society about Larkin’s influence on his writing. He was most recently published, in May 2020, by Moxy Magazine @WalshWrites