About James

James is the Literature Editor of LeftLion magazine. He is also an academic and a writer who has been published in various magazines and books. This means he spends most of his time in front of a computer screen writing about life instead of living it. Therefore, do not trust a word he says.

Ray Gosling: His Life, Legacy and Archive

You need to be at the National Videogame Archive on 21 July and this is why…

Although Ray Gosling was born in Northampton and spent a large chunk of his life setting up youth clubs in Leicester, his heart was in Nottingham. ‘It’s a rough old city’ he once told me during a three year interview ‘and I absolutely love it’.

Gosling produced over 1000 radio documentaries and 100 television broadcasts in a career that spanned half a century or so. All of which was done in a provincial accent, helping to break down the boundaries created by the received pronunciation of the BBC. He epitomised Raymond Williams’ philosophy that ‘culture is ordinary’ by celebrating the everyday lives of the streets he walked through. His real skill was never mocking his subjects, no matter how bizarre or eccentric, and instead brought out the human in the man who collected garden gnomes and the people who loved their sheds. In his latter years he became the subject of his documentaries, describing the difficulties of growing old and facing bankruptcy. But for many of us in Nottingham he’s the community activist who helped St. Ann’s avoid getting entirely pummelled by City planners.

Ray was a hoarder and saved absolutely everything. But during his bankruptcy he dumped everything in a skip. Fortunately John Goodridge was on hand to salvage this and his archives now live in the Mary Ann Evans building at Nottingham Trent University’s Clifton campus. The archives were first sorted out by Colin Haynes and Ray’s sister Juliet. For the past year or so Clare Tebbutts, a research assistant at NTU, has lovingly continued the archiving.

Knowing the nature of Ray’s character – he was a self-proclaimed anarchist among other things – I doubt he would be very happy to know his life’s work was housed in an academic institution. But if NTU hadn’t have intervened his work would be on a rubbish dump somewhere. It’s with this in mind that NTU are hosting an evening at the National Video Game Arcade to celebrate the archives. It is vital that absolutely everybody that knew Ray turns up. Not just to pay homage and celebrate his incredible life, but to ensure that you have a say in how his archives are made more accessible.

Ray Gosling featured in Issue 12 of Dawn of the Unread where he applied his community activism to the afterlife...

Ray Gosling featured in Issue 12 of Dawn of the Unread where he applied his community activism to the afterlife…

I would personally like to see some of them go on tour, perhaps between his last three homes of Nottingham, Manchester and London. Or at the very least in public spaces. St. Ann’s Library would be an obvious choice, as would Nottingham Writers’ Studio. Then there’s those vacant spaces in the recently refurbished Sneinton Market

Nottingham City of Literature appoint an executive director on 1 September so it will be interesting to see how s/he approaches one of our most valued cultural assets. For what it is worth I have a suggestion: How about a Ray Gosling Bursary? Filmmakers, artists, writers and activists could take a theme from the archives and create a new response. This is how you create legacy, and this is how you create opportunities. Not even a contrarian like Ray could argue with that.

Ray Gosling: His Life, Legacy and Archive is at The National Videogame Arcade – 24-32 Carlton Street – NG1 1NN Nottingham. Get EventBrite tickets here.

This article was originally published on LeftLion on 8 July 2016

What the literature community can learn from Sherwood Art Week

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Origami book design, Haydn Road

Sherwood Art Week (18-26 June) has become a regular fixture in my diary for the simple reason that it happens every year at the same time. It’s now in its eighth year which means even those of us with a sieve for a brain know that we should be doing something around this time. This means I can add it to google calendar and set it to repeat yearly, so that I get a notification reminding me what that something is when I inevitably forget.

My favourite part of SAW2016 is the way that it brings an entire community together, often through very simple touches. Each shop along Mansfield Road has artwork in the window by an individual artist and a bit of blurb about who they are. This means that the minute you get to the main hub (this year it was The Secret Garden Craft Fair and Music Festival at Sherwood United Reformed Church on 18 June) you have a pretty good idea of who to look out for. This also serves another function: it enables punters to view work from a distance without any social pressures. Quite often we get all shy and scared to approach a craft store through fear of being asked a question or being pressurised into buying something.

The festival is well marketed too. There’s a couple of hashtags (#SAW2016 and #artforeveryone) a phone contact and email address and a very ugly but functional website. But you can’t beat print media for marketing, so there’s a handy little brochure that slips easily into your back pocket. These have been distributed across the city in the usual cafes and bars. The cover for the brochure is designed by the ridiculously talented Corinna Rothwell, who I had the pleasure of commissioning for Issue 13 of Dawn of the Unread. You can hear her nattering about arty stuff in the video below.

Literature events need to be better joined up through all of the processes mentioned above. In particular, wider and longer events need to find some kind of identity that brings organisations and spaces together. It’s very easy to do this through art because it’s visual. It’s very easy to do this in one space such as Sherwood. But if any of these principles can be adopted, we might get more bums on seats.

There’s two significant events about to hit Nottingham. Towards the end of the year there should be a literature festival which has been rebranded to tie in with the UNESCO City of Literature. This is a very good start and I’m optimistic. I was one of the founding directors of the original Festival of Words, the first city-wide literature festival in Nottingham in 40 years. It got things started but it was done out of sheer determination and sweat. Grants, project leaders and some kind of themed curation will inevitably improve the first small steps we laid back in 2013.

Bookmarks by The Forgotten Library at #SAW2016

Bookmarks by The Forgotten Library at #SAW2016

Another key event is Journey to Justice, a kind of community-led initiative which is snaking its way down the country having stopped off previously at Newcastle and Sheffield. I attended a preliminary meeting at the Galleries of Justice on Monday and have lots of ideas about how this could work but I’m doing my best to avoid being on any boards or steering groups at the moment. I’ve done my time. But it certainly got my attention…

The mission of Journey to Justice is: to inspire and empower people to take action for social justice through learning from human rights movements and the arts. Nottingham has a shed load of history which could be incorporated into this such as: Reform Riots of 1831, Cheese Riot of 1765, Operative Libraries (which I explored, via Arthur Seaton, in issue 12 of Dawn of the Unread), Ned Ludd and Bob Hood, our trinity of rebel writers (Lawrence, Byron and Sillitoe), etc, ETC! I’ll hopefully be doing my bit with Dawn of the Unread part II and bringing some of these social justice stories to life via the graphic novel medium. Hence why I was having a nose.

Journey to Justice will stop off in Notts for about 3 months early next year, so it would be great if we were able to brand and link events with the same cohesion as Sherwood Arts Week. This could be done very simply by hosting events at different locations each week so that the audience has a sense of direction and purpose, rather than just cobbling together as many events as possible. Quality not quantity is what Nottingham is absolutely crying out for. But a curated journey heading in a particular direction can be a logistical nightmare. Organisations might not want to be shoe-horned into certain dates either. But it’s worth thinking about. As for visualising these stories, well the pen has always been mightier than the sword. Perhaps we could prod and poke a few people by putting words on the street, in windows, next to art. So many possibilities, so little time. I’m not getting involved. I’m not. No way…

Sherwood Art Week (18 – 26 June). For more info see their website.