In December 2008, my flatmate Elly King and I started Penguin Plays Rough in the front room of our flat above a convenience store on King St. It was a simple concept which had humble beginnings: five writers, comedians, musicians, playwrights and others read their short stories from a red velvet chair perched on top of a coffee table. In between each of the programmed story-tellers, anyone could get up and read.

The Big Room on King St room served us well while we were still allowed to live there. In it, we managed to squeeze book and magazine launches, held a special Sydney Writers’ Festival event, showcased trial theatre performances, and threw midnight gigs. But in May 2010, we were evicted, Elly moved on and I smuggled Penguin Plays Rough down the road to a warehouse in St Peters. 

2010 also saw the feverish compilation of our first book, the Penguin Plays Rough Book of Short Stories which was launched at the Sydney Writers Festival in May 2011. The book featured the work of twenty-three writers who had read at the monthly events, as well as illustrations from 17 local artists. The book was lovingly designed by Elise Santangelo and Stuart Hall and came with a free app which featured all the stories read by the authors, half of which were recorded live at the events, while the other half were scored by various local musicians.