Three places that inspired my new book, Dark Arena

Dark Arena is a story about a boy and a girl who set themselves the task of working out why the building of a new football stadium in London is being dogged by problems and tragic accidents. 

I was reading about Spurs’ new stadium, which is being built in north London. Looking at the construction images made me think the building site looked just like an archaeological dig at an ancient Roman stadium. An amphitheatre.

That was when I had the thought: What if I could blend the two? What if I wrote a story about how the excavations for the foundations of a twenty-first century football stadium unearth a first- or second-century amphitheatre? Here, in London.

I needed to visit the Roman amphitheatre beneath the Guildhall in London. We can only view part of the amphitheatre now, as most of it is underground. But what we can see, the interpretation panels and the book about the site were really useful in helping me plan Dark Arena. What was it for? Who built it? How was it built?

I needed to know so much. I needed to understand better how Roman London worked. So, my next stop was the Museum of London, a fabulous place that traces the history of the city (and the UK) through artefacts found and reconstructions of how life would have been.

I found out that slaves were the most likely people to have done the hard work of building London’s amphitheatre. So that’s where Dark Arena begins. The ghosts of the slaves killed while building the ancient stadium haunt the building of the new stadium in London.

I hope the mix of modern spectator sports with the ancient works as a story that will appeal to children.

You can find out more about Dark Arena here.

Feel free to email me to ask questions, in particular about school workshops I am developing for schools about Roman Britain.