Flashmob: A reading celebration. 12 July – Old Market Square

flash-crop1I hate Nottingham because there’s always so much going on it makes it impossible for me to leave and get that dream house overlooking the Yorkshire Dales that my heart claims I desire. This Saturday sees the Waterfront Festival bring a host of musicians to bars down by the canal as well as the beginning of the Sneinton Festival. There’s also a massive sandpit being erected in Market Square so that Dad’s can get pissed and pretend they’re in Skeggy while teenagers make phallic shaped sand sculptures in the rain.

At 12 noon I’ll be offering my contribution towards distractions from shopping in the form of a mass flashmob to celebrate reading. This is partly to promote Dawn of the Unread, an interactive graphic novel that brings back to life 12 writers from Nottingham’s past, and partly to show a bit of appreciation to the many authors, bookshops, libraries and publishers who have brought us joy over the years through the written word.

Reading is often a solitary process and usually takes place alone on a bus, in a bath, behind a desk at work when the boss is out the office having an important meeting. But for five minutes I want people to be alone together, reading in one designated place: Old Market Square.

Inspiration for this can probably go to Martina Conti’s choreography A Reading Sculpture, which celebrated the interaction between the human body and the book. She created this as part of WEYA in 2012 and is still the best artistic performance I’ve ever seen. A group of readers simply got out their books and then moved around a given space, reading in various positions. A Kama Sutra for book lovers if you like.

The flashmob is a joint collaboration between Dawn of the Unread, John Mateur and Robert Squirrell. We don’t want anyone to do anything contrived. Simply to turn up with a book, sit down on the first strike of 12 and then start reading. We’ve contacted all demographics from Mumsnet to asylum seekers to students and asked them to bring along a favourite or current book. My hope is to turn reading into a visual act, a kind of physical sculpture which hopefully will remind those who need to be reminded of the importance of stories in our lives.

BookedWe will also be yarnbombing the Cloughie statue to celebrate the launch of ‘Booked’ the fifth comic in the Dawn of the Unread series. This is written by poet Andy Croft and illustrated by artist Kate Ashwin and tells the tale of a monstrous but charmismatic hybrid called Byron Clough,

Please join us. Bring your Beano, Fifty Shades, or dirty Italian phrases handbook for that imminent summer holiday. We don’t care what it is as long as you’re reading.

And if you miss the event you can catch me on NottsTV on Monday, around 6.30ish, waffling on about the beauty of books.


dawnoftheunread website

You’ve got mail…from a bear.

One of the delights of editing the literature section of LeftLion is the random emails you get. This can be anything from an angry publisher with regards to a review (particularly when Katie Half-Price is concerned) or a novice writer learning their trade. Sometimes it can be from bears. Here’s two of my favourites from this year…

Context: A bear with poetic musings…

Hello, I like to write short stories about bears and I was wondering if you’d like to publish some of them? Here are three by way of example. If you want any more you’ll have to pay me in honey. 1. A small bear was trying to reverse park her car. She got confused and ended up pushing it into a cave for safe keeping 2. Bernie drank too much coffee in the morning and ending climbing too high in his tree. He got scared and Malcolm had to help him down. 3. Brandon was cleaning his windows. The fur on his back was a very effective shammy.

James, I plan to start hibernating for winter in late September so I hope to hear from you before then.


Mr Bear.

Mr Bear,

I think it would be better if you hibernated for a very long time so that you are able to properly nurture that talent. What exactly is it you want? Other than honey…


Hi James,

I’d like you to publish my stores in your paper. Do you not like them?

I thought a peice called “10 short stories about bears” would be a

real page turner for you humans.

I’d appreciate your feedback but warn you that I can get quite angry.

It’s nothing personal, it’s just in my nature.


Mr Bear.

Mr Bear,

You’ve spelled ‘piece’ wrong. I hope that you’re not that sloppy with the rest of your writing. Perhaps it’s those big hairy paws. Send me a story through and I’ll read it, although it would need to be slightly longer than your first drafts.



P.S You’ve spelled stories wrong as well.

Verdict: I suspect that these emails could go on forever so I’ll have to draw a line at some point. But at the moment he has my interest. The key now is to actually deliver something before I lose my patience or don’t have time to indulge him. But, I like to be pestered by oddballs every now and then. (That isn’t an invitation – see email number two)


Context: Self-published poet asked me to buy his book from Amazon to review it. I explained the etiquette of submitting reviews.

Hi James,

I can’t help but think you’re a bit of a cock for that email. Your attempts to sound seasoned and mature only make you sound like a rotting sequela of youth. You work for Left Lion, maybe keep that in mind the next time you attempt to climb to shit.


Hi Poet,

I took the time to respond to your email when 99% of people would simply have deleted it due to high workloads. I also offered you some good practical honest advice when I didn’t have to. If you decide to insult an editor on a magazine again (thereby guaranteeing you will never be published in it, even one as ‘insignificant’ as Leftlion), at least take the time to ensure that your insult is either witty or logical. I’m not entirely sure what ‘climb to shit’ means but I shall certainly bear it in mind next time I’m confronted by a very high step leading to a toilet.



Verdict: I find a lot of self-published writers find it difficult to take criticism or advice. Best to end this correspondence quickly as it just becomes a slagging match which doesn’t really help anyone