Seventh Circle  


September 2000, just after my final interview for a prestigious and much coveted job as a film examiner for the British Board of Film Classification, I’m told that there would be a week to wait for news. Frustrating. So I took myself off to the Royal Academy of Art to visit an exhibition of Botticelli’s drawings of Dante’s Divine Comedy – and the attendant circles of hell.  I learned that the 7th circle was reserved for those who waste their talent.  What talent was I wasting? Earlier that year, I had read my short story Jordan Meadows at the Hay Festival. OK, so I arranged the reading myself at the Hay fringe raising money for the charity I worked for. But it was well received.  I decided to go home and revisit the story – honing and toning it,  and starting work on another story – again based on fictionalised versions of children I’d known as a teacher in a children’s home 2 years previously.  A week later, I am offered the job of film examiner: great, 5 years sitting in front of film scripts, with good story telling seeping into my psyche, and working on my own stuff at weekends.  

It wasn’t like that.   I hated the job, which left my mind too full of rubbish to write anything of my own. The mental energy I had left was reserved for my young son.   Film censors are in their own circle of hell – at least this one was – and I resigned 6 months later. By 2010 I had published my first collection Fugues on a Funny Bone.   One of the stories, Soho Square, was based on the BBFC, as was a play, Porn Crackers performed at the Hackney Empire in 2008.  Circles of hell ‘indeed.’   But a job is a job, I don’t want to diss it, and it does important work – child protection work.  It just wasn’t for me.   If anyone wants a copy of  Fugues on a Funny Bone order it at


Jan Woolf

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