Doin’ our bit for lit: LeftLion Magazine #79

LL CoverI haven’t blogged about LeftLion for a while so this post is well overdue. The timing is important too as I’ve recently resigned as a director of Nottingham City of Literature. No mardies or drama. Just time to give up my seat so that someone else can sit down. The City of Lit team is comprised of representatives from 8 organisations and I was representing the Nottingham Writers’ Studio (I was Chair from 2012-15). But to be perfectly honest, I always thought of myself in terms of LeftLion and as an individual digital storyteller.

LeftLion played two crucial roles leading up to the bid. The first was through a series of magazine articles called the Nottingham Essay which focussed on key literary figures. These have since transformed into photoessays courtesy of some very talented NTU placement students for Dawn of the Unread. Secondly, we created a literature podcast so that all of our wordy propaganda could be felt in broadcasts as well as in print. This is produced by NG Digital and is broadcast once a month.

The June issue of LeftLion epitomises LeftLion’s commitment to literature. The sheer volume and variety of topics we’ve covered in one issue is staggering. The LeftLion editor Ali Emm should be given particular credit here for being so supportive and encouraging. There aren’t many editors who would let me get away with being such a potty mouth in the name of art, such as the ‘Is Lady C worth a wank?’ article. Ali also had the intelligence (and guts) not to delete ‘cunt’ from my article about D.H Lawrence and censorship. It would have made us look a right bunch of c***s given it was being used appropriately within the context of the article.

poets 3

Elsewhere in the mag I did an interview with the supremely talented Abigail Parry, the poet-in-residence at the National Video Game Arcade and our Poetry Editor Aly Stoneman interviewed Becky Cullen, the poet-in-residence at Newstead Abbey. Our Deputy Literature Editor Robin Lewis spoke to John Lucas, a poet, emeritus professor, publisher and jazz musician.

The Dilettante Society are an art collective “that’s about creativity and historical interest, a little bit of mischievous activity and writing” said founder Lady C. “Our aim is to encourage imagination and local interest, with a little bit of absurdity thrown in for good measure.” They produce lovely gazettes which can be found in various cafes across the city and we’ve since given them a regular slot to promote what they’re doing. Supporting grassroots culture was one of the key aims of the City of Literature bid and LeftLion have been doing this since we formed a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. This issue they look at one of Lord Byron’s lesser known relatives.

BYRON and deb

The Mouthy Poets were another central part of the UNESCO bid and founding member Debris Stevenson is featured discussing her innovative contribution to NEAT16 that will see an infusion of grime, rap and poetry. I remember interviewing Deborah five years ago when Mouthy Poets were still in their nappies. Now Mouthy are the highest funded poetry collective by the Arts Council, have a load of live shows under their belt, and are quite simply the most energetic and aspirational group of poets on the block.

DHL1 and 2

NEAT16 was one of the events the City of Literature team promised to deliver in their application so we’ve giving this as much coverage in the magazine as possible. My Lady C article relates to the Novel Trial performance at the Galleries of Justice on 2 June, Debris Stevenson’s Poet in Da Corner is on 11 June, and there was also room to have a natter with Midlands Theatre Company LaPelle’s Factory whose Cloudcukoolanders  celebrates all things dysfunctional on 5 June. Neatly rounding up theatre related articles was an interview with Rachel Young. I, Myself and Me is the result of a BBC Performing Arts Fellowship that’s been touring the country and stops back off home on 9 June.

neat and rachel

LeftLion also creates space for writers to promote their books or plans for books. Wayne Burrows’ Advertising Sectioned was originally conceived as a means of giving him the opportunity to sift through various cuttings and put together a themed collection exploring local advertising which he can then pitch to a publisher when complete. Likewise, Street Tales draws attention to Joe Earp and the Nottingham Hidden History Team. I met Joe a few years ago and was delighted when he agreed to do the column. Now he’s got a couple of books out, hopefully his presence in our monthly rag will help him shift a few copies.

street tales and zombies

And last but not least is our ‘choose your own ending’ zombie serial (#ZombiesinNotts) which has been determined by our readers and written anonymously by some of our fulltime in-house writers. This feature is a nod to the Choose Your Own Adventure serials started in 1976 by Edward Packard and is just meant to be a bit of daftness.

I have been writing for LeftLion now for around 13 years. No magazine offers such complete freedom of expression when it comes to style of writing or topic of writing. Our June issue is an absolute kick in the bollocks for anyone who thinks reading is dead. Having said that, our editor in chief, Jared Wilson, is on the lookout for Vloggers and LeftLion is slowly edging towards becoming a multimedia channel. This will inevitably mean more videos and less words which will mean readers will become viewers. Let’s not get too smug. Let’s just enjoy the moment. For now, words rule. IDT. INDST.

Being Arthur and Raphael Hefti

Being arthurThis weekend saw Paul Fillingham and I produce the first ever live 24 hour Twitter presentation of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning for a project called Being Arthur as part of the Being Human Festival at the University of Nottingham. We billed this as The Sillitoe Trail II as it developed themes and ideas from our Space commission a few years ago.

being arthur then and nowThe presentation was split into two parts: Then and Now. The script for ‘then’ was a combination of the novel, the screenplay, a few other Sillitoe novels and a bit of improvisation. ‘Now’ saw Seaton working his way through ‘nine hundred and fifty-bloody-four emails’, playing fishing on his wii because the canals have now dried up, and using dating App Tinder to meet lonely women because it’s cheaper and more immediate.

arthur pintsIt took a lot of research and time and was pretty much last minute due to other deadlines vying for attention. Paul created some beautiful visuals. I particularly liked the ‘drinking contest with the sailor’ as he visually created the slow, demolition of a pint. We created Twitter accounts for some of the other characters too, which was a right headache to properly synchronise so that it got tweeted in the right place.

One of the most pleasurable aspects of the project was getting comments from people who weren’t aware of what we were doing. As I’d used my personal Twitter account (TheSpaceLathe) for the modern Arthur, a few friends got quite concerned about the content of my tweets and thought I’d had some kind of personality change. I haven’t explained to them yet that I am not having a string of affairs as I’m quite interested to see if any of them start gossiping to my partner or spreading rumours.

tinder arthurBut using my personal account did restrict some of the content and meant I was more cautious than I should have been. One person on Twitter (@monsterlander) commented that the real Arthur Seaton would have laid in to noisy neighbours who woke him up (this is how the ‘new’ story starts) but as far as I am aware, Seaton didn’t really go around lamping people. There was always the threat of violence but he didn’t really instigate it. When he gets caught out by the squaddies it’s them that catch him rather than the other way around. But I was able to respond to this later on in the schedule by sending Monsterlander a threat.

It was a pleasant coincidence that Raphael Hefti’s exhibition was running at the Nottingham Contemporary at the same time as Being Arthur. Hefti is fascinated by processes and experimenting with materials. For his current solo exhibition he visited industries in the East Midlands, such as Rolls Royce with the aim of learning about the composition and treatment of metals in different states.

Arthur Seaton is a factory worker at Raleigh who grafts all day at his lathe for “14, 3 and tuppence for 1,000 of these a day”. Raleigh, during the period in which the book was set, was one of the largest employers in Nottingham, alongside Players and Boots. Sillitoe worked at Raleigh too, describing the daily grind as “a thousand times a day I set the bar, spin back the turret, push in the chamfer, force the drill. Working two cutting blades till the brass hexagonal nut falls into my right hand and gets thrown into a tin.”

Photograph taken from Evening Post, Nov 6. Mark Patterson article

Hefti, if you like, has taken these offcuts, these pieces of industrial waste from the production process, and given them new meanings through his experimental art. Instead of nuts he has used aluminium, titanium, copper and steel poles and heated them up so that they produce ribbons of beautiful colour. The artwork is entitled ‘Various Threaded Poles of Determinate Length Potentially altering their Determinacy, 2014’.

Both Seaton and Hefti’s artwork share quite a few similarities: Neither can be easily classified, they are both shaped by the industrial production process, and they equally strive to transcend their material existence. Seaton described his lathe as ‘my everlasting pal because it gets me thinking’. His imagination enabled him to temporary escape from monotonous, repetitious labour while defying anybody to try and grind him down. Hefti’s incredible artwork refuses to be pinned down and transforms industrial waste into something quite magical. But the similarities end there. Seaton would never be seen dead in some poncy art gallery, not even for a free cocktail on opening night.

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