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.

LeftLion Kickstarter Campaign


For the past ten years I’ve worked my nuts off for LeftLion for nowt because it is such an important publication in helping to change perceptions about Nottingham. The magazine was created for many reasons but mostly to offer an alternative to negative perceptions of Nottingham as ‘Shottingham’ after a spate of random shootings in the early noughties. My proudest moment was when we had the balls to run with the front cover ‘Another Shooting in Nottingham’ – referring, instead, to our thriving film industry.

As the Literature Editor I have hosted spoken word events such as Scribal Gathering (see the above video with Chester P at Gunpowder, Treason and Pot) at the Nottingham Contemporary, literature podcasts and created and developed the WriteLion brand which at present dedicates two pages to literature in its many myriad forms. With a readership of around 40,000 we easily offer more exposure to poetry than say specialist publications. We really do play a vital role in promoting your work.

Each issue I try to get a balance of reviews so that we feature a mix of genre fiction, self-published work, non-fiction as well as zines and emerging presses. We are the only publication that reviews the entire shortlist of the East Midlands Book Award as well as running interviews with all of the shortlisted authors. We also run illustrations of featured poems, have our own literary cartoon strip Readers’ Wives, and so that we don’t take ourselves too seriously, occasionally unleash Katie Half-Price, Nottingham’s orangest reviewer, onto the world.

We have been particularly keen to promote and support self-published authors, ensuring a minimum of one review every issue. Online we have run interviews as well as extracts from books. Knowing that certain bookshops refuse to even stock self-published novels and most magazines won’t even entertain reviews, we have become a vital platform for a new generation of writer prepared to go it alone.

Now we need your support. To celebrate our tenth anniversary we are running a Kickstarter campaign to help raise £10,000 so that we can go monthly. This will mean even more reviews and even more of my time given up for free. Not one penny of this campaign will go into my pocket or that of other writers. It is all for the additional cost of printing and distribution, as we aim to broaden our circulation by delivering to towns on the outskirts of the city.

This now all boils down to a very simple equation. If you support us we can support you. So put your money where your mouth is. I’d also like to thank Nicola Monaghan and Alison Moore for helping support our campaign by donating signed copies of their books.

More info on the Kickstarter campaign at LeftLion

Visit our Kickstarter page 

The Susannah Wright Room

The following is a Chair’s Blog written for the Nottingham Writers’ Studio

When it comes to naming a room at the Nottingham Writers’ Studio after a local literary figure we’re absolutely spoilt for choice. But as 2014 is the Year of Reading Women we’ve decided to name our Board Room after Susannah Wright, an incredible woman. But more of this fiery individual in a bit…

The Year of Reading Women was set up after alarming figures from Vida, the American organisation for women in the literary arts, found a huge imbalance in how male and female writers – and reviewers – are treated. Here’s a couple of startling facts for you. In 2012 16% of reviewers in The New York Review of Books were women, with only 22% of the books reviewed written by women. Things aren’t much better here in the UK. An investigation by the Guardian in March 2013 found that 8.7% of books reviewed in the London Review of Books were by women with the Guardian offering a more respectable 34.1%.

I’m proud that at the Writers’ Studio we are bucking these trends. Our Development Director, and beating heart, is Pippa Hennessy and on the Board itself women outnumber men by a ratio of 5:2. The emergence of the Studio itself was thanks to the likes of Nicola Monaghan teaming up with our patron, Jon McGregor. And of course our first ever coordinator was Aly Stoneman, who is now on the Board.

Susannah Wright was born in Nottingham in 1792 as Sarah Godber. Like many others in the city during this period she became a lace mender and embroiderer. She left her hometown in 1815 when she moved to London (some things don’t change) where she got married and met radical bookshop owners Jane and Richard Carlilie. But she returned back to Nottingham (some things don’t change) and in 1826 opened up an atheist and freethought bookshop. It was here that she reprinted some writings by Richard Carlile who, along with his wife and sister, were already in jail for printing seditious and blasphemous publications.

During this period Nottingham had a rapidly growing population as well as very restricted boundaries. You could walk around the town boundary in just under 40 minutes, with 50,000 people living in a tightly compressed area of what we would call the Lace Market, Hockley and west of St. Marys down to the Market Square. There were three main occupations that accounted for the majority of work: the lace trade, framework knitting and shoemaking, each of which had rudimentary trade union organisations. This meant that news spread fast and the city was becoming increasingly politicised to the extent that we burned down our castle in 1831 during the Reform Riots. Susannah Wright was pivotal in giving voice to the newly educated working classes by providing access to ideas and culture that for far too long had been defined from above rather than below as well as providing a platform for women to express their radicalism.

Illustration: Paloma Pedrera

                                     Illustration: Paloma Pedrera

Although there were hundreds who went to jail for either printing, publishing or distributing books that were considered blasphemous or salacious, Susannah Wright was unique in being the only woman who has been sent to prison on this charge. Her crime? Daring to expose the links between religion and state. She was arrested for selling salacious literature to an agent of The Society for the Suppression of Vice. Wright chose to defend herself and invoked the wrath of the judge for her refusal to be quiet in court. This only served to rile her sense of injustice, pointing out to the Judge, ‘You, Sir, are paid to hear me’.

She was pregnant at the time and was sent to Newgate Jail where she gave birth in horrendous conditions. On returning to court for sentencing on 22 July 1822 she still refused to accept the charges of ‘bringing the Christian religion into disbelief and contempt among the people’ arguing her conviction was invalid as Christianity had no place in the law. She was sentenced to 18 months in jail at Cold Bath Prison in Clerkenwell. When she was released from prison she returned to Nottingham and set up a bookshop on Goosegate that continued the fight of the working classes, identity politics and various paths to self-empowerment.

If 2014 is the Year of Reading Women then it seems fitting to recognise the work of a woman who started a very different fight: the right to read what you choose and as a woman, the right to be heard. We have seen this battle continue in the work of Alan Sillitoe who represented working class voices on their own terms and moved away from the sensibilities of middle class literature as well as D H Lawrence who, through the acquittal of Penguin Books in the Lady Chatterley Trial of 1960, made it possible for greater freedom of expression. As important as their contribution to literature has been, their path had been paved a century or so earlier by a defiant woman who simply refused to be silenced.

I would like to thank Christopher Richardson, author of City of Light, for it was reading his fantastic book on the history of Chartism and Atheism in Nottingham that made me first aware of Susannah Wright.

Interview with Christopher Richardson.