Councillor Collins, for the past three years I’ve been following Ray Gosling up and down Mansfield Road, discussing his life over a pint or two for an article published in the current issue of LeftLion. It’s not been an easy journey at times but certainly an experience I will never forget. To be perfectly honest with you I didn’t know that much about Ray when we first hooked up other than he’d written a couple of books and spent a fair few years in broadcasting. I am now completely astounded as how much he has achieved in a life dedicated to fighting for the rights of ordinary people, be it in giving them a voice on the screen or ensuring they have some say in their everyday lives, as with St. Anns. Hence my title for the piece was: RayG Against The Machine.
I can think of no better person more deserving of being given the keys to Nottingham than Ray. This seems particularly fitting at the moment given that gay marriage has finally been given Royal Ascent, representing a lifelong fight by Ray to justify his sexuality. His documentaries on bankruptcy, pensions and old age are even more relevant today given the current economic climate and the difficulties faced by ordinary people. But my favourite documentary, and the one I think best sums him up, is the one about Whittingham Hospital Asylum, which he describes as “a community of very sensitive people”. Simple, compassionate, and absolutely on the nail.
The rebel city
I am led to believe that Nottingham is rebranding itself as the rebel city. Yes, that chap in green tights will certainly be useful for tourism – as last week’s Robin Hood festival proved – but a broader and deeper interpretation of rebellion would allow you to celebrate the many figures who have stood up and fought for the rights of ordinary people or against perceived injustices in the system. Alan Sillitoe did it in literature by creating an authentic working class voice. Ray Gosling has done it on screen by celebrating, and giving voice to, the ordinary lives of people, offering an alternative view of history to Ken Clarke’s Civilisation.
Gosling is a rebel. He’s a surrogate son of Nottingham who has fallen in love with the city and has the bruises to show for it. But he’s getting very frail and weak and now is the time to celebrate an extraordinary life dedicated to ordinary people. Yes, he’s a pain in the arse who likes a drink but as far as lives go, it’s hard to think of one more deserving of recognition.
It would mean a lot to Ray as well. As much as he claims he doesn’t need anyone, validation is important, particularly given the way his career has been reduced to a tabloid headline and those one thousand radio documentaries have been conveniently forgotten.
Nottingham is heading in the right direction at the moment, people have got dirt behind the fingernails and the Creative Quarter and other developments suggest that we’re slowly linking together and forging an identity that may finally put Shottingham to rest. Ray is an inspirational figure who symbolises what can be done with a bit of grit and self-belief. Nottingham needs to shout about such figures because he’s been shouting for us for fifty years.