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.

MondayBlogs: How to create a literature radio show

writelion logoThe WriteLion Literary Podcast is now broadcast at the end of each month when LeftLion magazine is published. It’s recorded in the NG Digital studios, a wonderful cavernous building that feels like a cross between a Manhatten Apartment and a squat. NG Digital is the brainchild of Jason Loftus, who I first met a while ago when he was running Trent Sound. Like lots of things that happen in Notts, they’re really open to suggestions for themed programmes. So if you’ve got an idea, just say hello and I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to accommodate you.

If you’re thinking of putting together a literature show, here’s how it works. First, get a variety of presenters. This means you don’t have to do everything, the listener gets to hear a variety of voices and approaches to interviewing, and the marketing takes care of itself as people and guests are usually keen to plug their own work.

One of our presenters is Chris McLoughlin. He’s a member of Mouthy Poets and a lot younger than me, so he’s able to bring in audiences and guests I’ve probably not heard of. Mouthy Poets are an incredible collective of young people who, uniquely for a literature organisation, both mentor each other in terms of creative output but also offer professional and business development so that they can make money out of doing the thing that they love for a living. I’ve mentioned in previous blogs my disappointment at attendance of literary events in Nottingham. Mouthy are an exception. Their events always sell out way in advance and so there’s a lot we can learn from them. Hopefully some of that audience will come our way too…

Chris is one of our presenters because he had the balls to email me and offer to be the resident LeftLion poet. As is often the case in life, his timing was perfect. I couldn’t justify a resident poet in LeftLion magazine but he was welcome to have free rein on air.

Our second presenter is Stacey Wylie, a second year Creative Writing student at Nottingham Trent University (NTU). I advertised this through NTUs Humanities at Work placement scheme and had to positively discriminate to ensure we got a female presenter. I’ve asked Stacey to try a kind of literary Bridget Jones style approach to her slot. In the Bridget Jones novels (I have read them. I did enjoy them. So there), each chapter starts with a list of cigarettes she’s smoked, weight she’s put on etc. This could be adjusted for literature in terms of books read, rejection letters for submitted work, etc. She’s just done an interview with Dr.Teika Bellamy, who recently won Women in Publishing Award for Best New Venture for her niche publishing concept Mother’s Milk Books. This will feature in our March podcast.

I also spoke to four writers from Nottingham Playhouse and offered them a bespoke spot exploring writing and drama but so far they haven’t recorded anything.

With regards to planning shows, it’s easy. Jason sets aside a few hours each day. I check availability with guests. We book them in. I try to book in as many guests at once, preferably so that I’ve content for three shows in one sitting. This means it doesn’t eat too much into my time which is the reason the original show stopped after nine episodes.

Once in the studio I have a little chat about what we’re going to cover but nothing too prescriptive. It’s more a case of focussing on a particular theme and checking the guest is happy to cover certain subjects. Then we sit down and chat. My aim is always 10 minutes (making the overall show 30 minutes)  but it always spills over (usually 45 mins).

My approach to interviewing is simple. Let the guests speak. They’re the ones who have something interesting to say and given our time restraints, listeners don’t need to hear me waffling on like it’s The Late Show. If there’s something urgent I want to say I wave my hand about, enabling the guest to bring their comments to a natural conclusion, rather than butting in. And I am waving, not drowning. This is a simple technique to control the flow of conversation without turning into John Humphrys.

When the show is recorded, NG Digital top and tail it and then stream it through their website. The audio is then sent to LeftLion and someone uploads it through our podcast channel. Independent radio stations are gagging for content. The more diverse their output, the more listeners, the more you can charge for advertising. Simple. This is why it doesn’t cost me anything, other than a few hours of my time each month.

Selecting a variety of guests is important as is subject matter. I want the show to provide advice from experts in their respective fields in order that listeners might try similar. It’s important to dispel the myth that writers were born writers and only kryptonite can stop them producing bestsellers. It comes from hard graft and occasionally serendipity.

Here’s what we’ve done so far or have lined up for future shows.

  • Writing for computer games
  • How to create a digital audio trail using fremium software
  • Kickstarting a project
  • Life of a freelancer
  • Writing historical fiction
  • Setting up a publishing house.

WriteLion 10

In our latest broadcast Christopher Phelps talks about his co-written, political book Radicals in America, that looks at the history of left-wing movements. The ever so charismatic Miggy Angel gives us some prose poetry in the form of Kiss of Death, and talks about his weekly creative writing workshop for people suffering from drug and alcohol abuse. Chris McLoughlin introduces poetry from three of Nottingham’s Mouthy Poets – Beccy Shore, Patrick Spring, and LeftLion’s Bridie Squires.

Listen to WriteLion 10 here