NIFF BOOK ONE 'WHY ME?' By Sally Fairbrass
Compiled By Behind the X and David Fairbrass
Published by Behind the X
Printed at London Centre for Book Arts (LCBA), londonbookarts.org
Edition of 50. 'For Adults only!'
Publication available from Tenderbooks, X Marks The Bokship, Luminous Books
Introduction By Gareth Bell-Jones.
The collection of texts that make up Niff Book are unusual in their frank pornographic portrayal of sexual acts which remain shocking to us so many years after their writing. The fact that the author, Sally Fairbrass, was a young working class woman, in a male dominated environment surrounded by the decaying industry of early 1980s Barking only adds to their curiosity. These are not texts emerging from the avant-garde or from the cheap pornography of Mayfair and Escort, but from the mind of an ordinary teenage girl, from a fairly stable home environment, that enjoyed Top of the Pops and spent Saturdays meeting her friends at Woolworths. The texts, which are published here for the very first time, can be read as a disturbing insight of the imagination of Sally, and by extension, a portrayal of a young woman’s existential rebellion against the world. Sally Fairbrass was born in 1966 in Barking, East London.
All the texts gathered here were written between July-August in the summer of 1982 whilst Sally was sixteen and in a point of transition. Sally’s parents were newly separated and she was living with her father and two brothers. She had recently finished her O-Levels and was in a state of suspense during the summer holiday break, waiting for the arrival of her results. The texts are written under the alias of her older brother, the latterly acclaimed actor Craig Fairbrass. Gaining fame as the Brummie car dealer Mr Binny in Crossroads, Craig became renowned as Prince Phillip’s favourite actor and quickly gained the moniker ‘Barking Binny’. This portrait of a young Craig is one that is entirely unfamiliar. At this point in time, the young Craig had put his drama classes on the backburner as he struggled for work in the high unemployment of early eighties Barking, success arriving many years down the road. Of the rest of her family: her younger brother David was still at school at the time of writing; we know her father had a comfortable job at Dagenham bus depot; and her mother Linda was a singer on the working men’s club circuit, though her work also took her to some of the nightspots of central London. Linda Fairbrass’ occupation introduced a fairly liberal outlook to the family as stories from her work in Soho and West End bars introduced tales of remarkable characters to the family dinner table. One of Sally’s diary entries discusses her mother introducing the entertainer Cilla Black, then at the height of her fame, to a young Sally whilst they worked on a show together. But family life was not always so comfortable. In Christmas 1981, six months before the first of these texts, Sally Fairbrass’ parents were to separate, a situation that ultimately lead to divorce. Linda Fairbrass’ habit of regularly bringing unfamiliar women back to the house put a stress on their relationship and led to Linda leaving the family home.
Sally was left living with her father and two brothers, an environment she described as “surrounded by little boys wanking”. It was in this environment that most of the following texts were written. An attractive and intelligent young woman, Sally Fairbrass was relatively happy with her life but angry at the world. As a child, she had followed in her brother’s footsteps taking after school drama classes and had a further creative outlet dabbling in painting on leather. Over the summer of 82’ however she found a new creative output in writing. She would lock herself up in her bedroom smoking John Player Specials and drinking Smirnoff and Coke from the same beaker she used to use as a child. Written as a psudo-autobiographiocal account of her brother’s imagined sexual fantasies, this collection of texts actually tell us very little of the inner workings of Craig Fairbrass’ mind and more about Sally’s own.Of the texts included only two have previously been published, but not formally so. Binbag was written as a 1st month YTS feedback on behalf of her brother. It is unknown what the consequences or fallout for the young Craig Fairbrass could have been from this submission. Mr Taylor took as its subject Craig’s sixth form teacher and was sent to Look-In magazine’s agony aunt. For obvious reasons the text was not printed but is reproduced here in letter form. All other texts included in this compilation were sourced directly from Sally’s diaries.It is known that Sally did have at least one formal outlet for some of her writing. From the point of her parents’ separation onwards, every month Sally would visit her cousin Stewart Thomas in Birmingham to cruise the bars of Hurst Street. They discussed her writing and other creative outpourings and Stewart introduced her to the gay scene and filled her with outrageous anecdotes that went on to influence her writing. A chance encounter between Stewart and the founder of Capital Gay magazine Michael Mason allowed Stewart the opportunity to suggest a promising new writer. Sally went on to publish short stories for the magazine, initially under her brother’s name and subsequently under a range of male pseudonyms. Unfortunately it has been impossible to include these texts as part of Niff Book as they could not be traced in the Capital Gay archives.After the summer of 82’ and the writing of the texts included in Niff Book Sally was successful in her O-Levels allowing her admission to take A-Levels in English Literature, Maths and Science at Barking Abbey Sixth Form Centre. She went on to spend the summer of 1983 working with her cousin on the orange juicing counter at Birmingham New Street station. By this point she was happily living with her mother. Following the summer
of 1982 there is an abrupt change in tone and subject of her writing. Although she continued writing prose
in her diaries, these texts have not been included in Niff Book.Sally Fairbrass now leads a comfortable, settled life working as a set supervisor for Yorkshire Television. She lives with her businessman partner in
a stone terrace in Saltaire, Bradford, where she keeps a small allotment and tends her two tortoiseshell cats. She has not responded to repeated requests to discuss the publication of her writing for Niff Book. Craig Fairbrass has also declined to comment.