Derby Quad by Graham Lucas

Derby Quad by Graham Lucas

On Tuesday I attended #Gallerycamp14 at Derby Quad. Although I spend my entire life bigging up Nottingham I was delighted at being given an excuse to visit our noisy neighbour. Quad was the perfect setting as part of their remit as an Arts Council funded-NPO is to create space for people-led events such as this exploring digital participation and innovation. While there I bumped into one of my favourite poets Joe Coghlan and Alex Davis, who was editing work for his newly formed publishing house BooBooks. Neither were attending the unconference but using this beautiful space for work.

Derby appears to be a city slowly starting to form a much-needed cultural and digital infrastructure and this is largely due to an investment in gigabit internet connectivity. This has resulted in transmedia innovators such as Phil Campbell returning to the city which promises to herald a very bright future.

I remember the first Creative Quarter meeting in Nottingham when free high speed wireless internet was discussed and the debate seemed to focus on how this could be monetised through advertising rather than its primary function – ease of access – which would lead to collaboration and productivity. The return of Phil Campbell to Derby is validation for such investment and a reminder that businesses need to think beyond simplistic business models built around advertising, which, if anything, thwarts online engagement and just annoys users. I’m still recovering from the time Nottingham Train Station advertised on steps, meaning not even shoe gazers could escape corporate crap. Anyway…


The aim of Gallery Camp 14 was, very simply, to showcase work and meet and connect with people working in the digital and technology arenas across the broad arts and cultural sectors including curators, managers, directors, digital artists, designers, producers and technologists. In this it was brilliant and I discovered a lot. I was particularly impressed with the Tate’s digital learning programme to engage the public, the use of WeBeacon as a more nuanced development of the QR Code, and was absolutely blown away by The Malthusian Paradox which has taken gaming (and paranoia) to a different level.

Less impressive was the actual format of the Unconference, which are all the rage at the moment. Basically, you turn up at a location, pitch an idea, and then you’re given a time slot. It’s all very democratic, non-hierarchical and liberal, but the sceptic in me thinks it’s just a trendy way of saving money. I like structure, particularly if I’m driving a long way to attend an event (which it wasn’t this time, but last week the ‘unconference’ was in Newcastle).

My main gripe is that once you’ve pitched a session your event is written on a postic note and stuck on a board. Forgetting for one moment that postic notes fall off of boards, they don’t mean anything because there’s no context. What on earth is ‘Musomix’ or ‘adult entertainment’? This is especially a problem if you turn up late and have missed the pitches. There isn’t much room on a postic note for context.

What would work better, particularly given this was a digital unconference, would be for participants to upload a short 30 second pitch on the home website. These could then be voted on, moved around and then allocated a time slot. A simple touchscreen in Quad would enable late visitors to click on content and discover more. The use of tags on uploaded pitches would also more easily enable visitors to find relevant talks.

My talk with Paul Fillingham on Dawn of the Unread was held on the first floor in a room that was locked which meant some people turned up and then walked off. The devil is in the detail and such slips could have potentially ruined what was otherwise a really informative and inspiring day. But once we managed to break in we had a good natter with a group from the Black Country, and discovered a wonderful artist called Giuseppa Barresi (Ryuuza) But best of all, nobody tried to kidnap me as I left


East Midlands-based BME Writer needed for graphic novel

I’ve not been posting much on this blog of late because my life has been taken over by a graphic novel I’m producing/editing together. But it’s worth sharing this news here as there’s an opportunity for a BME writer from the East Midlands to write our final chapter. I’ve tried to get a balance between established and up-and-coming writers so far so don’t worry if you haven’t been paid £5 for a story yet. The only thing that matters is your idea. Anyway, here’s a copy and paste job to get you thinking…

Dawn of the Unread is an interactive graphic novel that is available across all media platforms (iPad, Android, iPhone, website) and aims to raise awareness of Nottingham’s literary history. The narrative is a loose twist on the zombie genre: ‘When the dead go unread there’s gonna be trouble. Writers from Nottingham’s past return from the grave in search of the one thing that can keep their memories alive: boooks’.

On the 8th of each month a new comic is released and is created by different artists and writers. These include: Alison Moore, Eddie Campbell, Hunt Emerson and Nicola Monaghan. Each writer explores one iconic figure from Nottingham’s literary past that includes: The 5th Duke of Portland, Slavomir Rawicz, the fictional hybrid Byron Clough, Alma Reville (Mrs Hitchcock) Alan Sillitoe, D.H Lawrence and many more. This is literature in its most diverse sense, exploring medieval ballads, black-letter verses, poetry, philosophy, literature, and reportage.

Dawn of the Unread was created to raise awareness of the importance of libraries and independent bookshops. We wanted to raise the question of what happens to writers if their work is not preserved and accessible. However, one thing that became pretty evident early on was most of the writers resurrected from the dead tended to be Caucasian males. This got us thinking: what happens to all of the stories of BME writers who never made it into the library in the first place. How can we celebrate their lives? How can we ensure their stories are preserved and celebrated?

Writer needed

We want you to pitch a small synopsis of a story that involves a real BME literary figure for our final chapter. Your story must address the following issues:
• Your synopsis should be no more than two paragraphs. It should also include an additional paragraph on your chosen literary figure. As a general guide, all the information should fit on one page.
• Your story must feature a library, bookshop or reading in some capacity. This doesn’t have to be on the nail. For example, in Nicola Monaghan’s story Psychos, a disused library is used for an illegal rave. That’s it.
• Your character needs to fight the cause for black/Asian writers, pointing out their absence from our story so far. One thing I am particularly interested in is a story that addresses the concept of ‘zombie’. This can be traced to Haiti and voodoo culture. Perhaps your literary figure is sick of other culture’s narratives being hijacked by the West…
• Your literary figure needs to be from Nottingham. Duh!
• Also include a small biog. Tell us who you are why you want to be involved in this graphic novel.

General information/criteria

• You will be given a script editor to help you through the process so don’t worry if you haven’t been published before. Your idea is what matters.
• You must be based in the East Midlands (we will cover travel costs for editorial meetings)
• You must be from a BME background. Age and gender are irrelevant
• The fee is £250 for 8 pages (remember this is a graphic novel so words are precious)
• The publication date would be 8 May 2015 but we need the approved script by 8 January 2015
• Closing date for your synopsis is 8 October 2014.
• The shortlisted writers will be announced at the Festival of Words event Zombie Mastermind (with Lydia Towsey), in the spoken word tent ‘Word Space Two’ at Old Market Square, 3 – 4pm on Sunday, 19 October
• Send your synopsis to info@writingeastmidlands.co.uk
• The successful writer will be notified via email on 23 October 2014

For further information on this project see the Dawn of the Unread website