LeftLion 59: Scab City

cover59Nottingham’s had a fair few labels over the years and where possible we’ve tried to confront these head on. When we were described as ‘Shottingham’ we went with a cover in Issue 23 that read ‘another shooting in Nottingham’, referring to our thriving film culture and the emergence of the likes of Shane Meadows et al. Our current issue addresses a label we’ve been given at more than one point in history: Scab City.
Within seconds of the mag going out the mithering started on Facebook with some ‘readers’ refusing to even pick it up. I can only presume this is because it is a weighty issue in more ways than one – it’s a 64 pager, our largest ever. We went for 64 pages because we got 23 adverts in (we usually aim for 20) and so the extra content was needed to stop it turning into an advert wank mag.

You cannot ignore nor rewrite your history and Scab City is part of our heritage whether we like it or not. If you want a glossy reality full of pretty pictures pick up a copy of City Life. If you want a bloodied nose and a toothless grin, pick up LeftLion.

198459The Miners’ Strike was a complex mess that divided communities as well as the nation. That’s why I commissioned Harry Patterson, author of Look Back in Anger: The Miners’ Strike in Nottinghamshire 30 Years on to write a 2,000 word feature addressing these issues. He’s an incredible writer and the reason I didn’t bother with the usual Q&A as every word was gold. I think it’s one of the best articles we’ve ever ran.

The cover is a mock-up of Sin City and something I’ve wanted to do for ages so I was delighted with Video Matt’s artwork. The only editorial quibble I had was with the strapline ‘Why we crossed the line’. Although this is relevant to the strike I wanted ‘Ger over yersens’, because I was anticipating the mithering.

An incredible turnout for Chris Richardson's Chartist walk in Nottingham on 1 June.

An incredible turnout for Chris Richardson’s Chartist walk in Nottingham on 1 June.

This issue was a real historical beast, offering an alternative to jingoistic WWI celebrations through our interview with Brick and his WWI anthology To End All Wars and an interview with Chris Richardson, author of City of Light, who has researched Chartist movements in Nottingham from the 1830s as well as the development of Operative Libraries. Nottingham had 13 Operative Libraries at one point which I think may have been the largest amount in the country. These were open on the Sabbath in pubs, enabling working class people to read supposedly salacious literature and determine culture on their own terms.

On WriteLion we ran reviews of the seven nominees for the East Midlands Book Award which was won by Alison McQueen. We’ll be following this up with interviews over the next few weeks. Katie Half-Price has had a slight make-over, though she’s still Nottingham’s orangest reviewer. She now has ‘Katie’s Tales of the Ales’ which explores literary history of Nottingham’s boozers. Although I love writing book reviews from her unique perspective I haven’t had time recently due to the volume of reading for Dawn of the Unread. Elsewhere, Readers Wives got a new illustrator, and if the first offering is anything to go by, I’m a very happy bunny.

Finally, you may have noticed that the magazine now has more full length features instead of Q&As. This is based on a reader survey where we found a large majority of readers take the magazine home to read. We had previously presumed it was just read in pubs and so had to keep it simple. Now we can really get our teeth into issues. The addition of Mark Patterson to the editorial team, a great writer I previously commissioned for the Sillitoe Trail, means we have the staff to do this.

Ali Emm and me

Ali Emm and me

And well done to our new editor Ali Emm who has started to stamp her identity on the magazine. The future is bright. The future is orange…

LeftLion 57

boogie57225(1)LeftLion 57 announced itself to the world on 1 Feb with a cover that split our readership. Those who loved it admired the bubble handwriting and were able to make the connection with the relevant articles inside. Those who didn’t like it have been staring at mobile phones for so long they can’t deal with anything unless it has an emoticon in it. *Der* It says ‘Koolie oown Nitts’ or is it ‘Budgie Aown Notts’ …;-)

To get everyone in the mood for the seventh World Book Night we had a lit frenzy. Clare Cole explored the books that shaped her childhood and asked some other writers (David Almond, Catharine Arnold, Paula Rawsthorne and Wayne Burrows) which books were important to them.

Robert Nieri told us about a Nottingham lace-maker who would travel 900 miles from his home of 129 Mansfield Rd and help form AC Milan. It’s another truly odd connection with Italy, particularly given Notts County’s association with Juventus. The book’s taken 6 odd years to write and Nieri is now looking for a publisher. If you’re interested, contact him via @lordofmilan.

Machinist (Ink Drawing) by Rosemary Wels

Machinist (Ink Drawing) by Rosemary Wels

Robin Lewis (who is slowly being ushered in as the Dep Lit Ed) interviewed Nicola L Robinson, author and artist of the fabulous The Monster Machine. I came up with Raving Loony Monster Painter as the headline, and was a little worried Nicola might take offence at this pun but fortunately there’s been no reports of a mard. Some people who were very definitely offended were WoLan (Women’s Liberation and After in Nottingham) when we ran a two page feature on their incredible historical project. Surprisingly, it wasn’t for another of my headlines (I may not be a lady, but I’m all WoLan) but because we forgot to credit artist Rosemary Wels for her beautiful black and white machinist drawing. Big Oops. This is somewhat inevitable when things come in so late but still shouldn’t happen. The drawing was for a box-out feature about the history of female libraries. 

Paul Kaye and Damon Albarn were up in Nottingham for the 170th anniversary of The School of Art & Design at Nottingham Trent University. Paul Kaye gave a fantastic opening speech, discussing his life here as a student and the approach of lecturers ‘back in the day’. Afterwards I caught up with him, commended him on his ace beard and crazy appearance and asked if he’d like to write anything for us. The result was Anarchy in the Paul K, celebrating the 35th anniversary of the death of Sid Vicious, Paul’s childhood idol. I’m hoping he’ll write some more for us at some point which I think may be music orientated as he’s currently working on an album. Look at that for a career trajectory – Dennis Pennis – Game of Thrones – Band.

Sid Vicious by Si Mitchell

Sid Vicious by Si Mitchell

WriteLion saw an interview with Pippa Hennessy, arguably the busiest female poet on the planet, and four reviews of female authors to celebrate 2014 being The Year of Reading Women. These were: Sarah Dale’s insight into life for women over fifty, a fictionalised account of Mary Howitt’s diaries, a guide to making Steampunk paraphernalia and Roberta Dewa’s memoir. Content wise it couldn’t have been a more diverse mix.

Finally, I wrote a much needed 10 point ‘fun’ guide aimed at our self-published authors because recent communication with some of them has verged on harassment. And as I smugly stated the importance of employing a proofer and editor, and laughed at one unforgivable typo (June Austin), sure enough, when the page got laid out, the wrong cover was placed next to two of the reviews. So my advice to smug editors thinking of warning others about their failings. Don’t. It will inevitably end up booting you in the face. Humility, etc.