LeftLion still Needham

sexcock1All great things must come to an end and they don’t come much greater – or sadder – than waving goodbye to Al Needham, the esteemed LeftLion Editor of the past five years. Editorial meetings at his house were always fun as the first thing you’d see on being let in was a pair of false breasts. These were a sex toy he’d reviewed for a magazine which now found use as a letter holder. As you made your way into the front room you were greeted by a golden cock with wings, his award for Todger Talk which was voted blog of the year at the Erotic Awards in 2008.

Al lives and breathes Nottingham and has a very distinctive accent you can hear a mile off. He created Nottingham’s very own version of ‘the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain’ and would spend hours on seemingly pointless pursuits such as making the best lines of Coppers in Nottingham available on SoundCloud or starting up a campaign to have a town named Willis because we’ve already got a Kimberley and an Arnold. My favourite memory, though, is when he told people he was the “LeftLion Editor, duckeh”. It was said with such pride it had the effect of making you feel completely inferior.

The Royal Hunt: Al Needham in a Tesco carpark, the site of a former pub. Al was my second commissioned writer for The Sillitoe Trail

Don’t interpret this as meaning Al is arrogant. The very opposite is true. His biggest weakness is not realising how talented he is. He simply loves his home city and editor of LeftLion was as good as it gets. But I’m talking about him like he’s dead. He’s not. You can still find him online at May Contain Notts.

Al is not very good at taking orders or advice – particularly from anyone he doesn’t respect – and so the change in environment will do him good. LeftLion became a bit of a creative rut for him and now he has the opportunity to run wild with his ideas. I have no doubt about his talent. His biggest test will be channeling that creativity into the right medium, being disciplined enough to meet deadlines, and creating and following a workable business plan. It’s the perfect moment for Al to venture into something new as the Creative Quarter is really starting to take shape now. There’s a genuine buzz around the city with investment opportunities for those with a sustainable business plan and Pop-Up shops to test-ride ideas and merchandise.

Al went out on the perfect note at LeftLion. Not only was his last column in our Decade issue 54 but he finally got around to interviewing his idol Su Pollard. On a more positive note his absence means that other writers will get more opportunities and new voices will be allowed to emerge. Ali Emm, our new editor, is full of verve, wit and sarcasm and wrote my favourite ever LeftLion piece. These are qualities LeftLion needs more than ever with such an incredible void left to fill.

I’ll be working with Al Needham and his partner Rikki Marr very soon on Dawn of the Unread where I’ve asked them to bring Bendigo back to life.

Scribal Gathering of Poetic Dissent

Our Scribal Gathering events are few and far between but when they happen, they’re special. On Friday 4 November we put on a Scribal Gathering of Poetic Dissent to mark the two hundredth anniversary of the ‘Luddite’ rebellion in Bulwell and to show respect to the ‘Occupy’ movement who are currently residing in Market Square. As is often the case with events you are organising yourself, they bring little joy on the night as you’re running around making sure things are going alright and that performers know what they’re doing.

I kicked off the event with a fifteen minute introduction with Motormouf, a young beatboxer from Nottingham who’d previously impressed with performances with Nina Smith and Maniere de Bohemiens. It’s really important when you’re dealing with political content that you don’t start lecturing on the obvious and so we went for a simple format whereby I’d discuss current events and then when I asked Motormouf what he was ‘mad as hell’ about or his opinion of Alessio Rastani – the City Trader welcoming the recession, he’d break out into beatboxing. Then, just when you expected him to continue in this vane, he freestyled a poem about Rosa Parks that was outstanding. Contrast is the key; mess with expectations. I planned this routine in one meeting with Motormouf and it’s so good to work with someone who listens and trusts your judgement. The purpose of the routine was to make him look amazing and me the talentless ‘dumb blond.’ Tis a humble life.

The Lambhorse Cabaret performance was a theatrical masterpiece, creating fake explosions courtesy of balloons and party poppers to bring down the system. They were joined by Stickman Higgins – who I wrote about in my last blog. Stickman is joy personified; he has so much energy it’s like he’s swallowed the sun. He played the part of an elderly Jamaican man and walked around greeting the audience before freestyling as the Lambhorse played on.

The key to large events is variety or else you overdose on the written word. Johnny Crump offered this by scratching on the decks with film visuals projected behind him. We also needed a variety of poets. Aly Stoneman was short and sweet, teasing the audience with her Ms Hood poem – in my opinion the perfect formula as then the audience want more. Joe Coghlan and Jonesy bounced an electric set off of each other, complimenting their differing styles. Debris Stevenson had the audience joining in which got everyone in a great mood whereas Scruffy Dave and Tokin’ John went for more traditional readings. And of course our joker in the pack was Al Needham who has not only made swearing socially acceptable but an art form in itself.

Chester P was our final act and proved that you don’t need a stage persona to perform. Simply exuding personality and being yourself is enough. But who is he? He looked like a crazy old man with autism as he nervously shuffled back and forth on stage on the tips of his toes as he delivered a stream of consciousness that washed over the audience like a tsunami. Every now and then you’d catch a phrase, a joke or a clever metaphor and before the beauty of this observation could settle, bang in came another. Wow.

Of course not everything went to plan. I’d spent ages recording Big Issue Sellers and Protestors in V for Vendetta masks and then recorded audios to be dubbed over the top which related to the film. But these weren’t edited together properly and so our hopes of having an anonymous production didn’t work. This, however, is inevitable when you’re relying on the goodwill and free time of various people to help suture everything together. The event was a collaboration with Dealmaker and LeftLion, photographs were kindly taken by Ralph Barklam with Adrian Towell filming proceedings and Stupeflix made the brilliant video to promote the event. The night was dedicated to Peter Preston who recently passed away and although a free event, we left buckets on the bar for people to donate to the Alan Sillitoe Statue Fund – or to be sick in.

Now we need a theme for the next event. I’m thinking Berlusconi’s Bitches or perhaps updating the Roald Dahl classic…the Fantastic Mr. Liam Fox. So much choice in a corrupt world. Thank goodness for villains, life would be dull.