Inferno: In the Fifth with Irene Lofthouse

Irene Lofthouse is a writer introduced to me by Alyson Faye and from the quality of her submission is definitely one to look out for in the future. She joins us in the Fifth Circle with her story, ‘Food for the Gods’.

Infernal Clock: What was the inspiration behind your story?

A trip to Saltburn-by-the-Sea after lockdown had eased, its stories of the pirates, its mortuary on the sea front. In addition, the falseness of many artist statements I’ve heard/read as well as the many experiences (not just my own) had of creatives who leech ideas from others and present them as their own, with no credit to the originator of the idea. The ‘hell of lockdown’ – being confined, not being able to find a space of one’s own – and the anger that accompanied that gelled with the Saltburn location.

Infernal Clock: What is your idea of hell on earth?

So many. Surrounded by English demanding a British fry-up in the wilds of Spain, France, etc; caught in the middle of chattering classes braying (think Abigail’s Party, Brideshead Revisited); having to watch as trees and land are uprooted and cleared for greed and being unable to do anything to stop it; ethnic cleansing happening now; reprogramming of our brains to delete any creative ideas – happening now; incompetent governments – also happening now… Seems I’m actually living my hell on earth… 

Infernal Clock: The Inferno was created on old ideas of sin. If you had to label the nine levels how, what would you call them? Would you keep it at 9? Increase or decrease?

All the ‘sins’ are still with us magnified by the increase of technology – though misuse of all technology has been with us through time.

The ‘sins’ are created by a Western Catholic viewpoint, so I’d look to other cultures to see what was/is acceptable before looking at redefining – after all human sacrifice was acceptable for thousands of years before becoming unacceptable cf The Lottery/Shirley Jackson

Infernal Clock:They say the Devil has all the good tunes. What song would you recommend as an accompaniment to your story?

That’s a poser! Really can’t think of one – but would be in early blues genre, a Ma Rainey or Leadbelly… 

Infernal Clock: If you were able to visit the Inferno, what level would you want to go to and who would you want to see there?

Fourth – Greed. Rupert Murdoch, Apple & Facebook founders and all social media platforms for not policing effectively; big brands that rape the environment and people; banks that launder money; all brands/marketing that mislead (the majority); businesses that use animals for cosmetic testing; deforesters; arms dealers – I could go on, but you get the drift

Infernal Clock: What is the hottest food you’ve ever eaten. Can you share a recipe?

One of my own veg chillis when I had a cold and wasn’t able to taste things properly. It was OK to eat when I had the cold, but when I defrosted to eat a few weeks later, it took my head off! 

Infernal Clock: Who is your ‘favourite’ villain in history or fiction?

I think many of my favourite ‘villains’ actually aren’t at all, they’ve become ‘evil’ due to their treatment. I’m thinking Medusa, Clytemnestra, Boadecia, Eve. 

Infernal Clock: What is your long-term ambition for your writing?

Difficult question. I write in many mediums (children, plays, memoir, educational, adult) and genres; they all have different audiences and levels of success. Like most writers, it would be great to make enough money to pay the bills… 

Infernal Clock: Top-tip for other writers

Write, write, write; read, read, read; explore and experiment until you find a ‘voice’ that works for you. Work out how many different ways you can use your work and make money from it (eg written, spoken, audio, stage etc)


Irene Lofthouse is author of over thirty plays, writer/editor on 26 Characters projects. Work appears in The Understory‘Transforming BeingArmistice 100 DaysStories from StoneTyto AlbaAll This amongst others. Her short stories If That Happens’ and ‘Pomegranate Seeds’  were broadcast on BBC Radio Leeds in 2020 and in the 2019 Waterloo Festival competition she was a selected winner. Her children’s collections include Strange Tales in the Dales, Strange Tales in Bradford Dale and she’s the editor of the Stories from Stone anthology. Irene’s appeared at Edinburgh Fringe, in films, on radio and theatres across the UK; she’s adapted stories and hidden histories for stage and radio. Co-founder of and Artistic Director of Fresh Aire Productions with Pete Aveyard. Their ‘Queens of Dawson City’ radio sitcom Series has aired on many local radio stations, and Torrent’‘hard-hitting, disturbing but important’ verbatim audio play on domestic abuse/violence was broadcast on Chapelfm in 2020.

Latest publications

A Bloomsbury Response, 26 Writer in Residence, Bloomsbury Festival, 2020

The Gower Street Beat, EYE:SPY 26 Characters, 2020

‘White Wedding’ and ‘The Threshing Field’ in All This’, Comma Press, 2020

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