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Author mourns death of the arts

Writer of Grief Is The Thing With Feathers slams government as a ‘death cult’ targeting culture

23 October, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

Max Porter will read his book at the Union Chapel, inset, on Sunday

A BESTSELLING author has issued a call for the public to protect arts venues from a government he says is a “death cult” targeting culture in the UK.

Max Porter will read his award-winning novel Grief Is The Thing With Feathers, which was adapted into a hit West End play featuring Peaky Blinders star Cillian Murphy last year, on stage at the Union Chapel on Sunday.

The ticketed event is being live streamed with the proceeds used to secure the future of the historic Highbury institution as well as fundraising for the Margins Project, a homeless support charity that operates out of the church.

Mr Porter told the Tribune: “I am honoured to be doing this in this beloved and special place. Culture is important. Going to see and hear music and gathering together to hear words being spoken and songs sung is a profound aspect of life on this planet.”

But he added: “Our government are a death cult. They would kill everything, culture included. We have organisations in this country who are ensuring there is access to the arts outside the incredibly dangerous social engineering which is part of the Tory ideological programme. I feel passionate about that.

“If we don’t have the venues or the spaces then art will just die and we will become a very, very sad country. If you take away our culture then we’re just a sad little git cut off from the continent.”

Union Chapel

Mr Porter had been due to run a separate event at the Compton Terrace venue in September which would have involved poets, musicians and singers but it had to be postponed due to the pandemic.

Being forced to strip everything back to just the author on the stage with a book, he hopes he can create a sense of “intimacy” over the live stream.

He said: “I wrote the book for my brother as an act of love. I never expected it to be published. If I can get back to that initial warmth I originally wanted to be in the book and get that out in the live stream I’ll be happy with that.”

Grief Is The Thing With Feathers is set in a family home where two young boys and their father try to come to terms with the death of their mother with the help of a mythic crow figure.

The novel is only about 100 pages long and it contains a mix of poetic and prose styles. Mr Porter thinks he should be able to “whip through it in about an hour-and-a-half”.

The book stems from Mr Porter’s experience of losing his father as a child.

He said: “During this pandemic death has become a political tool and a propaganda tool with people arguing over whose version of the truth is right. What this book does, is take it [death] back to the human level with two kids in pyjamas saying ‘where’s our mum’.

“In a way it’s kind of a hug, I know we can’t hug each other at the moment but I’m going to do my best to hug you all through this live stream.”

He added: “Death is not locked in newspapers or behind the TV screen. In this reading I hope to restore a kind of closeness to it. If you mourn well, you keep on loving the people you miss every day of your life.”

The Union Chapel performance begins at 7.45pm on Sunday.

Tickets are £10 and can be bought online at


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