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charlie parker

Charlie Parker stands by a wall with graffiti

Charlie Parker is loud, proud, Northern as you like and political to boot. Writing about the working class experience, including poverty, low pay, exploitation and rebellion, he explores the political structure of society and how trickle-down economics was never going to fall in the favour of the vulnerable. 

Hailing from Sheffield, his work has a distinct Northern twang; his poem Second-Hand Size 11s was featured in our own Ey Up anthology in 2022 and it was only a small taste of what was to come. It's Like This, his debut collection, is full of Northern grit with no hint of a victim complex - this is pride, political awareness and clout all in one neat package.

Read on to learn more about Charlie, his beliefs, and more about It's Like This:

Can you describe your work in five words?
 

  • Working-class

  • Northern

  • Nostalgia 

  • Scathing

  • England

You open your collection with a quote from The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists. Why is this relevant to your poetry?

The novel is still one of the most relevant I have ever read, and a strong recommendation for anybody looking to understand current English politics, despite being published in the early 20th century. The quote itself refers to the comical nature of having those most affected by the unequal societal system we live in also often being the most vocal and strongest defenders of the same system. While I oscillate between whether I truly agree with this quote or not, it was a great reflection of how I felt in the years writing this collection, especially in the time around the 2019 General Election.

 

Society and the arts have altered dramatically in the last few years. How do you think the working classes are coping with the current system?

 

It’s becoming much more difficult, and it was difficult enough to begin with. With the perfect combination of austerity, Brexit and Covid, the arts have been deemed surplus to requirements by a country seemingly constantly in need of fixing, and have in turn been cut financially. By extension, working class opportunity to work within the arts has shrunk dramatically. It is not just for working class artists, but those working behind the scenes, so to speak – photographers, directors, actors, producers, set designers, editors, etc.

 

The industry is dominated by those who can afford it, and for the worse, in my opinion. How many more period dramas about polishing the silverware can there be? How many more chisel-jawed leading men and flawless leading ladies? There’s a reason Coronation Street has lasted as long as it has, and is an English institution to be proud of. The trouble eventually comes when you are only given limited space to tell a story; it can only be the story that will receive most attention, as opposed to giving time to stories that are not heard so often. Thus, the risks of telling working class stories written and told by the working class become rare due to the perceived lack of viewership and danger of upsetting the Establishment.

 

I suppose, though, that is the beauty of being working class – there is always hope, and always a way to make the best of awful situations. The current system is bleak, but we’ll find a way.

 

Historically speaking, I believe the most poignant, memorable and timely art has its roots in the working class – Look Back in Anger, Kes, The Beatles, Only Fools and Horses, Trainspotting, and so on. The vicious cycle comes from having these voices ignored for a generation, giving them minimal exposure which often ends up ridiculing the working class voice, and thus reducing that exposure further due to perceptions of being crass and uneducated.


 

If you could alter one thing about the art world, and one thing only, what would it be?

Less representation from those who already have the power to begin with.

Who do you write for, and why?

Those who feel they have no voice, or are denied it. Be that the working class voice, or those who simply feel they have no say in anything anymore. It would probably be disingenuous to say that I do not write for myself, as poetry as a medium is very personal, but I think I speak some truth that echoes with other people I grew up around. I write for those who have to work ten hour shifts to make ends meet, or travel three hours a day on a bus full of those like them - not that I imagine they have the time nor energy to read poetry (I often don’t myself). The working class voice itself is complex, so I’d like to think I write for modern day working-classness.


 

There are lots of references to family and connections in your collection. We see lots of family ties (blood-related or chosen)  in the Bent Key books. Why do you think this is a recurring motif for working-class creatives?

Family is where a lot of warmth comes from in working-class homes – it is often all we have, for better or worse. To a larger extent, community looks after one another, as it were. The importance of family can never be overstated, and it gets us through the most difficult times, working class or otherwise. They are sometimes the only constant we have in a world that can be unforgiving and needlessly cruel, and there is comfort in returning to family, those we perceive as family for those who may not get along with theirs, or even fond memories, as I allude to in my work.

 

The essential question – what do you have on your chips? And do you buy them from the Broomhill Friery or are you a terrible Sheffielder?

It’s chips and ‘cake wrapped with salt and vinegar for me, please. And that’s fishcake, for you non-Yorkshire lot – tatter, fish, tatter, batter. I’ve never actually been there! Instead, Today’s Catch at the top of Halifax Road will always have my heart.

(Editor's note - we'll let you off.


What do you want people reading your collection to take away from it?

 

I’m happy enough if the people I write for appreciate what I’m trying to do. I won’t win prizes or anything like that, I just hope people find themselves thinking how I did when I found my inspirations - someone is writing exactly what I’d write if I had the time and energy.

 

You are a multi-platform creative – tell us a bit more about what else you do, and where you’re aiming for next.

I’ve had a phase recently of doing a bit of all sorts. I gave stand up comedy a go a few months back. I have been in a music video and short film too, so I do extra work when it comes up. Earlier this year I wrote a play, so I’ll be seeing what comes of that when I get it sent. The next thing I have in mind is a chapbook of essays and poetry focused specifically on football ‘lad’ types. Very slowly working on a novel too.

 

 

Where can we see other examples of your work?

 

Instagram would be the best bet - @charlieparkerpoet.

 

If you have one piece of advice for working-class creatives, what is it? 

 

Never lose sight of what you want to achieve. I work in cafes, and in every coffee I’ve ever made I can still mentally see the project I am working on in one form or another. Never let it go.

 

It's Like This arrived in January 2023 and is available to buy now.

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