UNESCO Nottingham: Home of books, burgers and balls

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Football and literature featured in Issue 5 of Dawn of the Unread

I’ve left Nottingham five times but somehow always ended up back here. Now is a good time to be living in our little ode factory town because the place has absolutely transformed over the past two years. On one level, it would appear we’ve all grown four stomachs as we’re awash with restaurants. Where there was once a cinema on every street, now there’s a gourmet burger bar. It’s only a matter of time before the powers that be convert the Broadmarsh Centre into a giant vat of curry so we can swim and fart our way into the centre.

Three significant things have happened this year. We were named City of Football which will mean a lot of new sporting grounds pop up so you can burn off all of those burgers. The City of Football title also means a lot will be done to address gender equality in sport, something I’ve written about for their blog and linked to gender inequality in the arts.

On Friday 11 December, Nottingham was accredited as a UNESCO City of Literature. Instead of shouting at other people and telling them what they’re doing wrong, we’ve finally decided to stand up and shout for ourselves. The effect has been immediate and so I’m delighted to announce I’ve restarted the WriteLion literature podcast. It’s going to be co-hosted by Mouthy Poets, the Nottingham Playhouse and me and will be broadcast on the last Friday of each month to tie in with the publication of Leftlion.

Our new monthly literary podcast to celebrate the City of Literature accreditation.

Our new monthly literary podcast to celebrate the City of Literature accreditation. You can listen to it here

Finally, Dawn of the Unread won the Teaching Excellence Award at the Guardian Education Awards in March, further validating our literary history. I was also shortlisted for the Outstanding Individual Award at the Education Investors’ Award in November. But more of that in a future post if I get time.

To celebrate the City of Football and City of Literature successes I’ve created my dream literary football team for the December issue of LeftLion. I’ve been meaning to do this for ages but finally had a valid excuse. I didn’t include DH Lawrence because he would be ranting at the ref and would get sent off. There was no place for Byron either, those tight shorts would have been too much of a distraction and I can’t imagine he’d have been much use with that club foot of his. Sillitoe is absent, too, as he didn’t like football and his only football related story, The Match, sees a Notts County fan take his frustrations out on his wife.

One person I had to include was Ioney Smallhorne who produced the video above. I got really upset last time I met her as she shared her frustration of being unable to find work as a film producer in Nottingham after having great success in Jamaica. Ioney perceives this may be due to institutionalised racism and I think she has a point. Racial equality will be one of the key areas I’ll be addressing through the City of Literature board as well as in other projects next year, having learned so much through the final issue of Dawn of the Unread where we met George Powe, George Africanus and the Nottingham Black Archive.

Chris Richardson is the author of City of Light, one of the greatest historical accounts of Nottingham ever written and so he was another immediate selection in my literary team. I hope more people google this polite and unassuming man and pop a copy of his account of Chartism, Socialism and Trade Unionism in 19th century Nottingham into their xmas stocking.

So here it is. Notts very own literary football team with a typo in Sweeper. My captain is Michael Eaton, a real inspiration with an unbelievable knowledge of his home town.

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LeftLion Kickstarter Campaign

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For the past ten years I’ve worked my nuts off for LeftLion for nowt because it is such an important publication in helping to change perceptions about Nottingham. The magazine was created for many reasons but mostly to offer an alternative to negative perceptions of Nottingham as ‘Shottingham’ after a spate of random shootings in the early noughties. My proudest moment was when we had the balls to run with the front cover ‘Another Shooting in Nottingham’ – referring, instead, to our thriving film industry.

As the Literature Editor I have hosted spoken word events such as Scribal Gathering (see the above video with Chester P at Gunpowder, Treason and Pot) at the Nottingham Contemporary, literature podcasts and created and developed the WriteLion brand which at present dedicates two pages to literature in its many myriad forms. With a readership of around 40,000 we easily offer more exposure to poetry than say specialist publications. We really do play a vital role in promoting your work.

Each issue I try to get a balance of reviews so that we feature a mix of genre fiction, self-published work, non-fiction as well as zines and emerging presses. We are the only publication that reviews the entire shortlist of the East Midlands Book Award as well as running interviews with all of the shortlisted authors. We also run illustrations of featured poems, have our own literary cartoon strip Readers’ Wives, and so that we don’t take ourselves too seriously, occasionally unleash Katie Half-Price, Nottingham’s orangest reviewer, onto the world.

We have been particularly keen to promote and support self-published authors, ensuring a minimum of one review every issue. Online we have run interviews as well as extracts from books. Knowing that certain bookshops refuse to even stock self-published novels and most magazines won’t even entertain reviews, we have become a vital platform for a new generation of writer prepared to go it alone.

Now we need your support. To celebrate our tenth anniversary we are running a Kickstarter campaign to help raise £10,000 so that we can go monthly. This will mean even more reviews and even more of my time given up for free. Not one penny of this campaign will go into my pocket or that of other writers. It is all for the additional cost of printing and distribution, as we aim to broaden our circulation by delivering to towns on the outskirts of the city.

This now all boils down to a very simple equation. If you support us we can support you. So put your money where your mouth is. I’d also like to thank Nicola Monaghan and Alison Moore for helping support our campaign by donating signed copies of their books.

More info on the Kickstarter campaign at LeftLion

Visit our Kickstarter page