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Writer Of The Month: Amber Hall

Introduced by Jilly Henderson-Long

I’m Jilly Henderson-Long and am delighted to introduce Monday Moments editor, Amber Hall, as our Writer Of The Month for March. A London-based writer with a creative finger in a number of different pies, she’s an associate editor for Write On! Magazine. She is also a Writer In Residence at the Islington Centre for Refugees And Migrants and a member of the Working Class Collective, which does exactly what it says on the tin: encouraging and inspiring ‘working class work’ from ‘working class creatives’! Her work consists of poetry and creative non-fiction which explores themes of identity, community and culture.

Amber’s first piece is Masquerade, which looks at how we – as women – often feel the need to show most people what they expect to see and not who we actually are.


I spend my money on sticks of dark kohl
So that I can look at you
Wide-eyed and mysterious,
Over candle-lit dinners
Hoping you get lost in pools of them.

It’s nothing but masquerade
Piece-picked from films and magazines
And rooted in playground lore
When we stuffed our bras with loo-roll
Hoping the change would come, too soon.

Now grown, we slice ourselves open
Tear out flesh and put it somewhere else
Stretch our skin like a balloon
Then drop in domes of silicone
For pairs of eyes that are not our own.

I wonder if the just-so swell of my face
Makes the candlelight hit in just the right place.

© Amber Hall, 2024


Amber’s rural upbringing is often present in her work and the next two pieces provide different views on parental roles and how they can help shape us as adults, starting with Mearbeck.


When I was nine, my mum and I lived in a single room at her friend’s house. It sat at the end of a long dirt road that wound its way through a working farm and our window overlooked verdant fields that were forever damp with dew or rain droplets.  Squat houses nestled in the folds of the undulating landscape and smoke plumes rose from them, wafting the scent of burning wood through the air. The building was old, with heavy stone walls and floorboards that creaked. A faint smell of damp clung to the furnishings and there were silverfish in the carpet, but it had the warmth of a thousand log fires.

We moved constantly, at least once a year, sometimes more. Mum and I would make our way up the A65, our possessions loaded into the back of a friend’s car. We settled briefly in remote villages, attempting to find greener pastures in unknown places. We rented rooms and timeworn terraces, which were always left neater than we’d found them, and kept boxes folded behind sofas or under the stairs in preparation for the next move.

The place near the farmland was my favourite, though. It felt safe, hidden in a clearing amongst the trees. I had more space outside than I’d ever had to roam and acquired two substitute siblings overnight – the children of mum’s friend, who were a similar age to me. I didn’t mind; I hated being an only child. My new-found comrades and I explored the fields and farmland that surrounded the house, scaling old agricultural machinery and collecting bits of scrap metal that littered the land. When we were stung on the shins by nettles, we picked dock leaves and spat on them to soothe our tingling skin. We built dens in buckthorn bushes and made potions out of wildflowers, creating makeshift kitchenettes on tree stumps in the shade. I made perfume from rose petals and dabbed it on my neck and wrists, like I’d seen Mum do with hers.

My mum has magic in her bones. She has the wisdom of a sage and an unmatched resourcefulness; she turned heads in hand-me-downs and made miracles happen time and again. With the grit and instinct of a lunar wolf, she kept us alive. She taught me everything I know and I inherited the same stubborn willingness to carry on, in spite of all the chaos we were both lumbered with. With each move, she strove to provide a slice of rural idyll, which we found for a moment, in that house at the end of a dirt road. But no matter where we were on the A65, she was – and always has been – my home.

© Amber Hall, 2024


Next, we have The River.

The River

My dad taught me how to tuck my jeans into my socks, like he did, before sliding on my welly boots. We lived in our scruffs, forever outdoors. The tang of the farmlands seeped into our hair and our pores, leaving us ruddied and ready for rest. We spent a lot of time down by the river, which ran through the Dales and out into the Irish Sea. We occupied a small bit of land on one side by making dens and a sign to stake our claim. Bambie’s Beck it said, in childlike scrawl edged with stickers. Stars, smiley faces, hearts and butterflies. The iconography of youth.

Dad fished while I dreamt up imagined worlds, making potions in jars and pocketing debris from the riverbed. Sometimes, he’d fillet a catch for our tea. He sliced whole salmons with the dexterity of a surgeon, portioning them up to last a week or so in the freezer. With the incision came a muddied, metallic smell that lingered in our house for days afterwards. I stood on tiptoes to watch and asked what the little blobs were that came out of everything else. “Eggs,” he told me. “It’s called roe.”

If he didn’t take the fish home, he’d let me touch its slippery body before putting it back into the water. I’d watch, fascinated, as it returned to its silvery shoal. Minnows darted about, circling my ankles and I scooped them up in nets. In the shadows, the water was amber-coloured, like ale. Precious. Jewel-hued. It even foamed in some places, when the current was right, and I wondered whether it tasted the same as the foam on my dad’s beer. He’d always let me have a sip, just to see me grimace.

In my memory, it never rained, although I know that it did. The Pennines have always wreaked havoc on those nearby towns and villages, whether it’s January or June. Nostalgia is a funny thing; it leaves our memories sun-soaked.

© Amber Hall, 2024


What follows is an extract from a larger project Amber is working on. As someone who has suffered from anorexia, she has always found writing therapeutic and links it with her recovery. Writing, she feels, gives her a voice and her ultimate aim in relating her struggles, is to create something that celebrates life.

Notes From The Ward (Excerpt)

When I first arrived at the hospital, one of the healthcare assistants tipped the contents of my suitcase onto the bed and proceeded to rummage around in it, with the focus and precision of an archaeologist. I felt the red-hot flush of shame on my cheeks as she dug around in my underwear, thumbing the gussets for laxatives. The rooms on the ward were uncannily similar to the one I had rented during my first year of university. Both were furnished with a single bed and wardrobe, beech-coloured and flimsy. Although the furniture was fragile, everything else in the room was practically bombproof – necessary, I think, to withstand the pent-up rage of a dozen force-fed anorexics. The windows were sealed shut so that, on the hottest July days, the rooms would be sweltering. Luckily, we patients rarely felt the heat. But, in the midst of summer, the staff would wander through the wards dampening their brows, avoiding the stuffy sleeping quarters at all costs.

© Amber Hall, 2024


The next piece is an excerpt of a poem Amber wrote in collaboration with service users at the Islington Centre For Refugees And Migrants. Her work at the centre is rooted in community and the poems they create together are a testament to this.

Hands (Excerpt)

We use our hands to make, create
Knead soft dough and bake bread to break
My grandma planted seeds where gardens grew
And then I knew
In each bud her love did bloom.

We use our hands to communicate
Express, connect and celebrate
Each gesture, universally known
A story sown
Palm to palm a promise made.

© Amber Hall/Islington Centre For Refugees And Migrants, 2024


To close, here is Amber’s poem, Brassic Born, which also illustrates her love of rural life and how it continues to inspire her. Amber will be reading this poem at the upcoming International Working-Class Story Fest.

Brassic Born

Brassic born and raised in Bronte country.
Grass stained on the knees and knuckles
And forever on the cusp of something-
Some wild outburst or outpouring
Full of feeling and deep-rooted in frustrations
I didn’t know I had to keep bottled up.

Too much. It touched a nerve, caused a scene.
She won’t get far like that. Rein her in.

Then, trying to please, I appeased
Inhabited the smallness that had been set
Contorted to fit and learned all the tricks
The affectations of acceptability and the wit
Shedding my skin, I stuffed it all under the carpet
Next to bottles that were full to the brim.

Self-preservation can be a kind of violence.
But there’s always been haves and have-nots.

© Amber Hall, 2024

You can connect with Amber on Instagram: @amber.marie.123 and X: @amber_marie_123


Issue 19 of Write On! is out now or pick up a copy in local libraries and other venues. In the meantime, you can find previous editions on our magazines page here.

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Writing gives Amber a voice and her ultimate aim in relating her struggles, is to create something that celebrates life.