JO: I’m sat with Aaron in ..

A: The Bishop’s Finger, Canterbury

JO: which is not a bad choice because I think Shepherd … is it Neame

A: Shepherd Neame, yes

JO: is they say the oldest brewery in the country ?

A: I wasn’t aware of that.

JO: And I think it’s Kent based.

A: I think so, yes.

JO: So, although you had a … that’s when we met isn’t it, at the bar … you said, “if you want something local” .. you recommended a micro … “there’s a nice micro-brewery”

A: “micro-brewery called the Foundry”.

JO: something that I’ve seen in evidence in a good number of places, actually, on my trip. And, Aaron … I can’t remember how we got to this, but we got to it quite quickly, you’re interested in being a political journalist ….

A: you mentioned that you were a writer and I assumed that you meant just writing as in fiction or something like that …. but I mentioned to you that I want to be a political journalist …

JO: that’s not what you’ve been trained to do yet, is it? It is not the path you have followed necessarily …

A: not specifically …. I studied psychology and criminology at Canterbury Christchurch University in Canterbury …

JO: Are you from Canterbury?

A: No, I’m from Essex originally

JO: ok

A: I was born in Colchester .. the oldest recorded town in Britain. I came here 8 years ago to study

JO: and it clung on to you … it’s a bit like me with Bath.

A: Canterbury’s a place that stays in your heart when you live here. …. So many people … there’s a lot of people who come here to study and stay after their studies. It’s somewhere that always stays home to you once …

JO: what is it you think … what gives it that quality?

A: It’s a city so it has a lot of vibrancy but it’s more on a town scale so it has the friendliness of a town with the vibrancy of a city. There’s an interesting social dynamic here because although it is a city and in cities you tend to get segregation ’cause people go into their own social groups … but you’ve got a constant tide of students coming in and out here so it keeps it fresh and people live in very diverse environments …

JO: Does that mean when you walk into a place like this you’ll find quite a good cross section of people?

A: Yes. The Bishop’s Finger is more of a local’s pub than a student pub but there’s plenty of pubs in town which students frequent .. and obviously you get different pubs like the Seven Stars is known as being one of the rougher pubs where you have the people from the underclass, if I can use that word.

JO: More deprived sections of the area?

A: yes. And it’s a sports bar as well so you’ve got the sort of lads on tour mentality … but in general in the pubs and bars here I’ve noticed it’s very friendly. I’ve made 90% of my friends in smoking areas. I noticed myself a few years ago when I went to Colchester, if you go up to someone and try to speak to them in a smoking area, they think you want a fight because in my home town, if someone asks you for a lighter, that’s an invite for a fight. But here, it’s like … “sure bro”.

JO: No, no. I want a fight.

A: Yes.

JO: Wow, I’ve never heard that before. And you said to me … I can’t remember exactly what you said you’d been up to since university … but it’s not journalism, is it?

A: ok, so .. no … I got sidetracked … so I studied psychology and criminology and during my studies I suffered a severe depressive episode … spent a good part of ..well up until a few months ago … struggling to defeat that … it was very intense to start with … I couldn’t even read a sentence on a page ….

JO: yes

A: I was paralysed on my bed 20 hours a day … all that kind of thing.

JO: that’s terrible. Sorry to hear that.

A: It’s a fact of life. It’s something that has made me stronger.

JO: you’ve come through it, yes?

A: yes. Very much so. Excuse me, my thought train is a little bit blurred. So, yes, I had to withdraw from my studies as I wasn’t able to continue and I fell in love with a Dutch girl and fell in love with Europe as a result of that and I want to move to Europe to be close to Brussels.

JO: you’re in Europe.

A: yes, geographically, but culturally and politically maybe not … so my idea was that I would work in hospitality … good hospitality … so I’d be able to pay for myself to be able to move to Europe because if you want to be an independent journalist then you need some kind of income …

JO: as I’m going to find out very soon.

A: so I got sidetracked for the last 4 years. I ended up working at a 4 star hotel – the Abode Hotel – in Canterbury … ended up working my way up to bar supervisor, fell in love with making cocktails

JO: I like cocktails.

A: I’m told that I am one of the best bartenders in Canterbury. Ended up managing a bar for someone else who was a customer. I moved over to there. I never had any energy for writing ’cause …

JO: it’s a long shift, yes?

A: yes … it consumes your time, and when you go home …

JO: what are the hours typically?

A: on weekdays when I was working …well … the Abode is .. it fluctuates but generally about 50 hours a week … unsociable hours.

JO: 50? Yes. It’s a big number, eh?

A: Yes and then at Teatro’s, I was working from 2pm to midnight each weekday, and possibly like 2pm or midday ’til 1am on Fridays and Saturdays …

JO: so, quite an onerous working life …

A: yes … I won’t go into too much of the detail of why I lost my love of cocktails and that sort of thing because my focus now is onto .. to begin writing .. ’cause that’s sort of immaterial now. I lost my interest in that …

JO: so your passion is really the writing …

A: for writing … for helping …

JO: that came out immediately ’cause I think you said you wanted to write about the homeless … homelessness in general and particularly in the local area

A: yes.

JO: And in fact I had just come from interviewing someone about that, in a homeless charity.

A: right.

JO: you may know the one down the King’s …

A: there’s Catching Lives ….

JO: yes … Catching Lives … Kelly I think at Catching Lives and then I sat down and spent 20 minutes with Martin who was sat on the street next to it.

A: what did he look like? Was he young?

JO: no he’s probably 50s … probably a face you would recognise …

A: I would imagine I’ve probably seen his face. I’m familiar with a few of them. There’s Warren who I’ve been speaking with for about a year or more. He told me the other day that doctors only gave him a year to live. I’m a Hare Krishna now … that’s something that really helped to save me from abusing drugs and alcohol and also moving away from the position that I had … the meditation I found really helpful to do … to deal with depression and this sort of thing .. . I’ve been trying to encourage him to join me to try and meditate because there are not many things that’s going to stop a life-long alcoholic from killing themselves and he’s only got a year left apparently. There’s Warren. There’s [Roly Brookman] … he was a teacher at King’s … not King’s … St Edmund’s Boarding School which is on the university hill … St Stephen’s Road … on the hill …

JO: don’t worry about detail like that …

A: he was a teacher of sport and, I think, English and he had a very bad situation with his family and break up and he ended up moving to Spain … came back here and ended up homeless on the streets for six months …. during which time I became quite good friends with him. I invited him to stay at my house one night when he was … it was like a storm and stuff and we have become very good friends off the back of that

JO: yes

A: he’s now living with accommodated living … I don’t know if I’m going off on a tangent …

JO: no …. it’s all fine. I’ll bring you back if I think it’s not helping …

A: the thing that sparks me to become a writer was a friend … my medium has been to Facebook post … I’ve always enjoyed language … I’ve always enjoyed communicating to people … a friend told me “oh, you should write!” and I always thought to myself .. I tried writing and I can’t do it because I tear it apart as soon as I put it on the paper …

JO: I can relate to that.

A: yes. So I decided that possibly I could be an observational journalist so I could just look at something and record it and I wouldn’t feel like I was involving my ego with it. And one thing that piqued my interest was the prolific number of homeless people in Canterbury and how it is ignored. Porchlight is massively overworked and also it hasn’t been covered properly.

JO: What’s massively overworked?

A: Sorry. Porchlight, which is a charity which helps to …

JO: ok

A: sorry, Catching Lives. Porchlight is the hostel and Catching Lives hands out free food …

JO: so they’re basically struggling with a problem, which is what Kelly was saying, which is just many times their size …

A: yes

JO: So, would you say … is it pushing it a bit far to say you have a sort of social justice motivation, or … is it particularly homelessness, or is it more general ?

A: No. Homelessness just seemed like an easy starting block for me because it’s not something that has been focused on …

JO: it’s a bit weird actually because it’s in your face, isn’t it?

A: yes, this is what I mean … this is what really sort of interested me about it was that Canterbury is quite a wealthy area and it’s not a big bustle like London so there shouldn’t be so many homeless here.

JO: It just strikes you as being something worthy of attention …

A: Yes … but, I mean … one thing that intrigued me … or one thing that drove me to want to write politically was my criminology studies … only a small amount of reading, I realised how crooked the system is and how slanted our media system is … like, for example, one thing I remember reading was ..so … I might have the figures slightly off a little bit …

JO: don’t worry about that

A: in the same year, as a rough approximation … £1.5bn is the amount … the cost incurred by benefit fraud … £105bn is the amount … cost incurred by corporate fraud … but who do you hear about? You hear about the scroungers on the street, not the businessmen who are raping society by filling their own pockets. .. say … no magic money tree .. really? But billions to give to the DUP. But you can’t pay a nurse enough to pay her bills.

JO: yes. Preaching to the converted with me.

A: so that’s what drove me to want to write as a journalist. … to try and … my original intention was to become a police officer but I thought my hands would be tied by the lack of budget, and the system …

JO: is that something you began to understand through your criminology studies, yes?

A: yes. It was very much an interest for me to see the way the media paints … encourages us to fear so we don’t question

JO: fear as a control technology.

A: 1 in 5 Muslims are extremists … or something … that was the Sun front page. 1 in 5 Muslims. Really? Where did you get … where did you pluck that statistic from? Mark Twain said “Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics”. It sickens me. I remember feeling that when I was reading it. This information is all here but again it’s restricted. Aaron Schwartz killed himself because he … I think it was Aaron Schwartz …

JO: yes

A: because he distributed … well, if you know the story, I don’t know if you want me to say this …

JO: yes … it’s all good stuff … I can’t remember the name … was it Reddit? Was he behind Reddit?

A: I think so.

JO: one of the big social media news platforms …

A: he made … illegally made JSTOR and all the big archives public source like millions of different journal articles and those archive companies didn’t want him to be prosecuted … they were happy to let it go. But it was the US Federal Government that wanted to push for him to have a life sentence in prison. What does that say about the philosophy or the approach of a government or what they want when you’re doing nothing more than distributing information among the public and you’re going to be sent to life for that and he ended up killing himself as a result.

JO: yes. I remember reading about that. I think he’s quite a revered figure in certain sections of the critical media world and social media world ….