Currency $ USD
Still funding
4% funded
9 backers

Adopted son of the town butcher, Ged Aldridge is on a mission to change history.

With the Peak District’s last bull-baiting festival ending in chaos and violence, a group of unlikely allies must navigate lies, magic and impossible odds to rescue the sacrificial bull.

What do you do if your worst nightmare is everyone else’s idea of a good time? If your happy ending is going to be everyone else’s unhappy ending?

This is the dilemma that faces Ged and Renny in The Rebels’ Riot Feast. They are Peak District boys from opposite ends of the social spectrum who, in normal circumstances, would have crossed the road to avoid each other. The action is set in 1837 during the age of social and moral reform, and the nightmare the misfit friends want the world to wake up from is Buxton’s bull-baiting carnival. Their plan is to rescue this year’s sacrificial animal, and get the event banned forever. But how do you bring an iconic public festival to an end? And how can you enjoy victory if it involves ripping out the heart and soul of the town itself?

The bull chosen for the 1837 carnival is no ordinary animal. Ged and Renny, marvelling at the magnificent beast, decide that it must be an aurochs, one of the ancient wild bulls of Europe. It’s other-worldly origins seem clear when its owners, the witch-like Baalien and Tallim Troy, appear in town. They are here on a mission of revenge, a plot in which Ged and Renny are soon messily entangled.

The obstacles facing the boys are formidable. Otherworldly assassins, magic, prison, MPs, town butchers, bull-whisperers, 5000 bull-baiting fanatics, the Derbyshire cavalry, and a rogue highwayman masquerading as the town mayor – all these stand in their way. And the monstrous bull itself is hardly going to trot to freedom without disembowelling everybody first.

Assistance in their seemingly impossible task comes from unexpected places. In return for the boys’ help, Baalien reveals to Ged the magical art of bull-whispering, which will enable him to control and free the bull… or so he hopes. The friends are fully aware that the bizarre, witch-like Troys are highly untrustworthy, but with time running out they do not have the luxury of choosing their allies.

Another challenge facing Ged and Renny is to somehow make peace with their brutal childhoods, and to unearth the shocking truth of Ged’s parentage. With everything he knows of the past apparently based on lies and deceit, what will be left when this suicidal bull-rescuing mission over?

Paul Sullivan is an author and copywriter. He has written for umpteen businesses, along with the likes of the Fortean Times, History Today, the Sunday Express, Radio 2, Bloomsbury Publishing and The History Press. Born under the dreaming spires of Grimsby, he now lives in Oxford with his wife Magda and two sons (a third one having flown the nest), after a long residency in Buxton and the Peak District.

Following a childhood apprenticeship writing stories in the vein of Willard Price and Richard Adams, Paul eventually made it into print with the pun-packed history, folklore and customs compendium Maypoles, Martyrs and Mayhem (Bloomsbury, 1994), written with the inestimable Quentin Cooper of BBC radio fame.

In the 2000s Paul began to write local history books for the dedicated non-academic. The most successful of these, A Secret History of Oxford (The History Press, 2013), went into a second edition. Paul blotted his copybook in all polite circles with the appearance of his most recent title, the daft-names-in-historical-records compendium Frogley, Cockhead and Crutch (The History Press, 2015).

In his spare time Paul pretends to be a musician, having toured in numerous folk outfits in the ‘90s and 2000s. His CD with ace fiddler Tom Kitching, Another Door Closes, was sadly prophetic. He now uses bouzouki, piano and guitar to illustrate his gratuitously quirky local history lectures in and around Oxford.

A key clanked in the loose lock on the gate. The bull snorted, and rammed its head against the bars at the back of the shed. Its horns struck a grinding musical note that seemed to madden it further. It lashed out again and again, the notes ringing like a broken bell. From outside, it sounded like market day, when the temporary pens and stalls were taken down and the metal bars chimed over the cobbles of the cattle market.

The two boys halted in the yard, listening to the metallic song coming from the shed.

“Sounds like there’s someone here”, said Renny, “Maybe we should come back a bit later…”

“No, that’s just him”, said Ged. “He’ll calm down when he sees me.”

Ged opened the shed door, and Renny pushed past him, eager to get a look at the animal. The bull ran to the full extent of its short chain, until the ring pulled painfully at its nose, and roared. It roared like Renny imagined a lion or tiger might roar – wild and terrifying. The sweet smell of hay blasted him as the beast bellowed, just a few feet from his face, and on pure instinct he turned and ran, hitting Ged head on and sending them both sprawling to the floor.

“That’s not a bull!”, gasped Renny, “It’s a monster!”

Read more...

The madness of tradition

Friday, 4 March 2016

Blog 5

The word ‘traditional’ has positive connotations for a lot of people. Applied to food, beer, pubs, architecture, English hamlets, village greens and annual festivals, it’s tourist-friendly fodder, the kind of stuff that stops us thinking about nasty things like conflict in the Middle East, social inequality and the prospect of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.

And then there’s traditional music…

Your Novelist Needs You! Your chance to become a character in The Rebels’ Riot Feast

Friday, 26 February 2016

When you support The Rebels’ Riot Feast, you’re part of something unique.

This is the first ever novel written about the ancient, guilty pleasure of English bull running. It’s also the first novel set in 1830s Buxton. But the most interesting part of its uniqueness is that you, my subscriber and future reader, can shape it, and even step into the pages as one of its characters.

This…

Your Novelist Needs You! Your chance to become a character in The Rebels’ Riot Feast

Friday, 26 February 2016

Blog 4a

When you support The Rebels’ Riot Feast, you’re part of something unique.

This is the first ever novel written about the ancient, guilty pleasure of English bull running. It’s also the first novel set in 1830s Buxton. But the most interesting part of its uniqueness is that you, my subscriber and future reader, can shape it, and even step into the pages as one of its characters.

This is a…

Birthdays and the Janus effect

Friday, 19 February 2016

Blog 3

Today’s my birthday. And, hey! I’ve just thought of the perfect birthday present: make a pledge if you haven’t already, and spread the good word if you have.

I’m sure it’s not just me who has a Janus moment every birthday (Janus the two-faced god – look him up if you’re not sure what I’m on about), looking forwards and backwards at the same time. Squinting ahead, I sincerely hope to be whooping…

What happened to all the music?

Friday, 19 February 2016

Someone has asked me about the background music in the Rebels’ Riot Feast promo video. That got me thinking… I’m wondering now if I should make the novel more musical. I don’t think there’s a single note of played in any of the scenes I’ve written so far. And yet, when I look back on my years in Buxton (1996-2006), the music drowns out pretty much everything else. I blame music for ending my first…

Why all the bull, I've been asking myself?

Monday, 15 February 2016

New aurochs 2 web

My original intention was to write a novel about the last bull running festival in England. This isn’t it. It’s a novel about the unlikely friendships that arise in hard times, and the alliances you’re forced to make when there’s no time to choose. It’s about where you turn to when love has been stripped out of your life – about where those misplaced affections fall, and how they manifest. It’s about…

Welcome to the Rebels' Riot Feast Shed

Friday, 12 February 2016

Blog pic

Thanks for dropping by my shed. Make yourself at home. The kettle’s boiling on the solar-powered Aga, and I’ve just cleared the wild oxen from the vegetable patch, to prevent them disturbing the Great Auk hibernating in the compost.

The shed is still receiving a few finishing touches, as you can see from the photo above. But it’s a shed, I hope, like no other. A little untidy, but that’s how…

Join in the conversation

Sign in to ask a question