I’ve called this site ‘The Alcove’ because in George Orwell’s seminal novel 1984, Winston Smith began the bold and dangerous act of writing a diary in the alcove in his apartment. It seems a bit over dramatic now I’ve put it down on the page.

What I’m getting at though is this, although we’re lucky enough to be a long way from everything being like 1984, there are some elements of modern life which have started to feel like echoes of the book. They are the sort of echoes that silence people and make them feel they can’t speak freely. The sort of echoes that play havoc with words, language and understanding. The sort of echoes that make writers feel they can’t write what they want to – for fear of the consequences.

Like I say, it sounds a bit over dramatic but I’m describing something real. I’ve earned my living as a writer, in various jobs and guises, for about 20 years – but in the last few years things have started to change. You now need a great deal more bravery and courage to write and publish what you’ve written. Unless your words are the blandest, most crowd-pleasing tosh you simply can’t be sure that someone won’t take issue with what you’ve written and then decide to let the world know what a shit they think you are. By which I mean they will publicly rubbish you to anyone who will listen, including your employer, publisher or clients (which these days could lose you your job/work).

It might not have been anything you wrote actually. It might just be you and/or a view you hold about something and once expressed. It doesn’t matter what it is really. If a certain kind of someone decides they don’t like you, and if whatever they think their reason is for not liking you chimes with the present mood/trend, you run the risk of being metaphorically witch hunted with the judgement being about as fair as a witch trial of old.

I know some people reading this will think I’m crazy and exaggerating, but I swear I have witnessed the sort of thing I’m describing and met some of the people it has happened to. I’ve also had a small taste of it myself – some first hand experience of those echoes of 1984.

Hence this site – because there are some things I’d like to write about that I don’t feel I can safely put on a website which prominently bears my name. (‘Safely’ seems a strong word, but I don’t think it’s the wrong word. The danger, or risk, is from the stress and anxiety that bullying causes – both to a writer and their family. There’s also a real possibility that the mud of false accusation sticks and causes loss of livelihood, inability to pay bills and buy food etc. I hope the chance of actual harm or violence is much less of a risk, but hope doesn’t entirely quell the thought of it.)

If you don’t like what you find here, don’t read it. It is your right NOT to read it or anything that anyone writes. You don’t however have the right to stop the legitimate freedom of expression.

If, however, you think freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of speech are vital elements of a free and democratic society and you also like the idea that telling the truth and proclaiming, loudly, what is happening can be revolutionary acts – then welcome and thanks for reading.

Sophie Atherton, Alcove Editor, August 2021