LeftLion celebrated its 50th birthday on 1 December and to celebrate we sunk a few beers in the ridiculously expensive Orange Tree. We decided not to milk this in the magazine because it’s not really our style. We’ll save that for 2014 which will mark our tenth year of surviving on wits alone in the brutal realm of print media. Instead we celebrated our latest significant anniversary by interviewing Shane Meadows who appeared in the first ever issue. It made for a nice bit of symmetry while also giving us the excuse to break our number one rule that you only ever get one interview in the magazine.
The front cover was shot in my front room but you wouldn’t be able to tell as the background was blurred out to focus in on the main image of a Quality Street tin which would later become ‘Clumber Street – an unsavoury assortment of chattiness and trainer shops’. Dom Henry popped over to take the image and brought an array of Christmassy treats with him – wine, smelly cheese, chocolates, to be used in the shot which was wolfed down shortly after.
The Quality Street tin was painted white for the photograph so that it would be easier to draw over when it was handed over to our illustrator. Now when people pop over the house for a glass of mulled wine they look at the tin and think that I’m some kind of minimalist who likes chocolate but has a Naomi Kleinesque aversion to branding.
WriteLion saw the return of a bumper book reviews pages, with reviews of Graham Joyce, Alan Sillitoe and Zoe Fairbairns as well as NottsLit Blog stepping in to review three books from Pewter Rose. I really like the idea of featuring guest reviewers looking at specific publishers as it offers a little bit more promotion for both. Our poetry page also included three bonus reviews of Sue Dymoke, Kathryn Daszkiewicz and Alan Baker. Katie Half-Price was given a Santa’s hat courtesy of our wonderful illustrator Rebecca Hibberd and got stuck into E.L.James, Naomi Wolf and Graham Rawle. It was great fun to write as always and a scary reminder of how easy it is to get into character. My girlfriend always looks a little puzzled when she reads it.
The literature interview was with Alison Moore who was recently shortlisted for the Booker Prize for her debut novel The Lighthouse. The illustration came from Michelle Haywood and as always is an example of getting your work (and brief) in early to allow an illustrator time to work on their design. The Lighthouse is a wonderful book, full of subtle warnings that become clearer on a second read. It also has a wonderful rhythm to it, a little like John Banville’s The Sea. Alison is a genuinely lovely person and will go on to be a very significant writer. Salt are definitely my publisher of the year for having the bollocks and faith to submit the novel, given all of the financial risks this entails.
I first saw beatboxer MotaMouf performing at the Riverside Festival with Maniere des Bohemiens, a gypsy swing-jazz band from Nottingham. Then a few months later with Nina Smith on the LeftLion stage at Spendour. I was blown away by this teenager with the elastic mouth who was able to adapt his style to any kind of rhythm. I asked him if he would be interested in performing on stage with me at a spoken word event called Gunpowder, Treason and Pot. The conceit was simple: I’d ask him a question and he would make all of these weird noises. Then when I gave up trying to communicate with him and motioned to walk off stage he would burst out with an amazing poem about Rosa Parks (which is published in Issue 49 of LeftLion, out today.) It worked brilliantly and was the latest example of his incredibly versatile talent.
MotaMouf’s inclusion on The Space was not planned and was completely inspired by Kate Tempest’s outstanding performance video for Tongue Fu. I realised we had to diversify our text heavy content and that it would also be great to see him given a voice on such a prestigious stage. As always he was excited and prepared to try anything. A fitting lesson to other performers out there…
The theme for Event Four is ‘Solitude: Is it possible in a digital age?’ I met up with MotaMouf a few times at Broadway and we worked on various ideas. I asked him to think about the electronic noise of modern life such as vehicles telling you that they’re reversing, elevator musIz, Tesco self-service tills, and city buses asking you to join their Facebook group every five minutes. He then went away and worked on a narrative.
During these meetings MotaMouf confessed that he felt kind of typecast as a beatboxer and was currently the front man of a new band called Just James. He was also more in to rap and grime music now. I told him to combine all of these things and to go with what felt right as I had every confidence he’d produce something fantastic. At the time I was writing accompanying essays about how Alan Sillitoe hated being labelled as a ‘working class writer’ and an ‘angry young man’ and so it seemed a bit hypocritical to limit MotaMouf in a similar manner. The whole purpose of the Sillitoe Trail is to broaden the reach of literature and make Sillitoe’s novel accessible to audiences who may otherwise never have encountered it. Rap and grime are such audiences. Tick.
The video was shot by NG64bars and is absolutely beautiful. My only instruction was that it had to be near a canal to link to the essays. A really important element of The Space is building up partnerships with other organisations and trying to support and promote each other. Robert Freeman Cooper has done a brilliant job and I’m delighted to be able to bring his organisation in as a partner and promote yet another great organisation in Nottingham as well as an incredibly talented beatboxer. I mean rapper. I mean poet. You know what I mean.
Please note: MotaMouf used to be spelled MotorMouf. He has very recently changed the spelling of this as it is not quite as unique a name as you might imagine.