‘Letters Remember’ Light Night (6 Feb)

light nightLight Night is without a doubt the best event in Nottingham’s increasingly busy calendar. This year I’m putting on an event at the Nottingham Writers’ Studio that takes Light Night back to its original routes by opening up creative spaces to the public and inviting guests in. The event is loosely themed around letters and memories and is an opportunity to learn about some exciting local projects that will take us from the tunnels of Welbeck Abbey to Uganda.

Each talk will be a maximum of ten minutes so that we can finish bang on time and get out and enjoy other events. I’d expect this event to be rammed because the talks are so diverse, but you never can quite predict who’ll turn up in Nottingham. There will be refreshments available on the night and the opportunity to carry on discussions afterwards. And yes, you can bring a light sabre along with you if you want to…

That’s enough rattle, here’s what you’ll get for giving up an hours worth of oxygen.

prt_400x268_1363110975SUNIL SHAHUganda Stories is both a subjective journey to recollect the past and a study in photography’s documentary potential to reassemble history. In the current New Art Exchange exhibition, Sunil Shah explores very personal themes linked to his family’s roots and heritage as Ugandan Asians, and offers wider narratives around exile, displacement and dispossession.

loudwalk_v-nightingale_mg_93581Letters to the City In 2013 Nottingham Contemporary invited the artist Polly Brannan to join The Loudspeaker project to develop a piece of work that would extend the project into the city and bring the women’s voices to the wider public. The result is the beautifully powerful and poignant ‘Letters To The City’. I met Polly a few times when she started the project (she’s based in Liverpool and wanted to know about local female literary figures) so I’m really looking forward to this one.

Dawn of the Unread is my baby and the reason this website has been given the cold shoulder recently. One of our featured literary figures for this Notts-based graphic novel is the 5th Duke of Portland, an eccentric aristocrat who built a vast labyrinth of tunnels under Welbeck Abbey to hide away from society. Andrew ‘Mulletproof’ Graves explores the possible reasons for this strange subterranean preoccupation, and in particular, a mysterious letter he received from his distant father years before. Larkin was right, they do fuck you up…

white dolFalse histories Matt Shelton discusses a paid opportunity for writers to fabricate histories for local craft beers he is promoting. The beers are: Ghost Rider, Twisted Genius, American Saviour and English Rebel. He will be joined by White Dolemite creator Reverend Video Matt, a master hoaxer who has created a cult around false film posters.

letterspagemainThe Letters Page Offers an alternative to the immediacy of digital culture by taking us back to the basics of communication in the form of pen, paper, envelope and stamp. This literary journal edited by NWS Patron Jon McGregor explores what letter writing means to people – and has meant since writing was invented – in their literary cultures and their personal lives.* (tbc)

No need to book places but you are advised to arrive early to get a seat. Friday 6 Feb, 2015 (6-7pm) FREE Nottingham Writers’ Studio, 25 Hockley, NG1 1FH.  


Review: A Modern Don Juan by Andy Croft/N.S Thompson (Ed)

moderndonjuan3Tales of the fictional libertine Don Juan have been told many times and date as far back as the 1630s with Tirso de Molina’s play The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest. Over generations he has transformed into the hero-villain of countless plays, novels, poems and, of course, Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni (1787). But it is Lord Byron’s epic satirical poem (1819-24) that has become most synonymous with the exploits of the legendary lothario. In this latest outing, 15 poets, including T.S Eliot prize winners George Szirtes and Sinéad Morrissey, give the tale a thoroughly modern setting, as skunk-puffing night-club DJ Donald Johnson stumbles from one romantic disaster to the next in a “drunk arcadia”. Along the way ‘Donny’ is transformed into everything from a Brussels Eurocrat to a reality TV celeb. His travels take him on a swanky yacht, into prison and most surreally, into outer space. When he heads into Europe he finds the Greeks need help with austerity rather than independence, though this is nothing compared to the pain he receives from a ‘holistic’ dentist…

Co-editor of the collection, Andy Croft, brings Donny into the ‘unheroic age’ where celebrities are fodder for the unforgiving gossip pages of tabloids, and fame is as transient as ever: ‘how quickly reputations all unravel,/From Cameron and Clegg to Jimmy Saville.’ He discusses our obsession with superheroes and warns that to understand the world of economics you need more ‘than someone in a mask from Marvel Comics’. This humour is brutally contrasted with social commentary on modern warfare, where returning soldiers face a very different battle as they adjust back to ‘normal life: ‘‘but there’s now twice as many in the can/ As there are serving in Afghanistan’.

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but in this case you can. It’s a beautiful illustration by Martin Rowson that sees Byron’s ancestral home of Newstead Abbey replaced with a metropolitan cityscape and, of course, he’s on his mobile phone, no doubt lining up local conquests on Tinder. But it’s more relevant to judge a book by its readers. Five Leaves, the publisher, offered the book first ‘on subscription’, harking back to the way books were often sold in Byron’s time, demonstrating that there are many people out there who were eager to see this hapless seducer have one more outing.

 £14.99, Five Leaves

This review was originally published in the Morning Star on 20 December 2014

See Andy Croft’s poem about ‘Byron Clough’ in issue 5 of Dawn of the Unread