LeftLion 56: Knittingham

LeftLion issue56LeftLion 56 went to press today with a funky knittingham jumper on the cover to get you in the festive spirit. Which also meant the obligatory tea towel so that readers can get some Notts around their pots. This year it consisted of 12 random things made in Nottingham. Don’t ask me why but Robin Hood was one of them. That’s right. We actually told people from Nottingham that the bow-firing, rich-robbing, tight-wearing forest-dweller is one of our own. I wanted to include the Eiffel Tower and claim it was designed by a brick layer from Clifton but I was over written.

Our literature feature focused on Ross Bradshaw, the Five Leaves Publisher who’s made the brave decision to open up an independent bookshop in the middle of a recession. Given that people can barely afford to put their heating on at the moment, this decision took balls as well as books. This lent itself to a corking pun: Ross on Why? Robin Lewis put together an interview with Ross but I decided to run with a feature using quotes from the interview as it enabled a brief potted history of indie bookshops and why opening up was so important.

madeinnotts450WriteLion had a slight revamp. On the poetry page we said goodbye to the black and white illustrations of Rum Lad creator Steve Larder and welcomed in colour illustrations from Ian Carrington. Two of the poetry book reviews came courtesy of Shoestring Press Kinda Keats by Deborah Tyler-Bennett and A Hook in the Milk Shed by Robert Etty. The third was West North East by Matthew Clegg from Longbarrow Press. Across the page Kate Half-Price returned and got stuck into the Booker shortlist. Our four ‘normal’ book reviews were themed around history and included two from Amberley Books about Stilton Cheese and Lowdham, Colin Bacon’s latest novel Spibey and Christy Fearn’s debut novel Framed about the industrial riots of 1811/2.

rwsmallSix Degrees of Strellyation has now moved to the back page, taking its rightful place next to Notts Trumps. This freed up room for a new feature called Readers’ Wives. I’ve wanted to do this for a few years now but have never got around to it. It’s basically about a woman married to an obsessive reader, so partly autobiographical (except the marriage bit). The artist is Helen Nowell who works with children’s novels and so we’ve had to temper the humour to protect her working reputation. Always a challenge in LeftLion. The first doesn’t have any text so getting the visual directions right was essential. I think she’s done a brilliant job and I’m looking forward to seeing the male kitted out in Gyles Brandreth style jumpers. There could only ever be one fairy on a book lover’s tree and that’s the winner of this year’s Booker. If the cartoon strip is well received then we’ll look at selling the cartoons as cards, calendars etc and splitting the profits 50/50.

AYEUPDUCK-1 smallHaving never written a cartoon strip before it made complete sense that this issue would see me do two. The other is with Rikki Marr and is called AYE UP Duck, a kind of Nottingham version of Andy Capp. Rikki is one of my commissioned artists for Dawn of the Unread and so it’s no coincidence that comics are on my mind at the moment and that such collaborations should form. We used the first one to have a go at Nottinghamshire County Council for dropping their funding to the Playhouse

Helen Nowell’s website

Rikki Marr’s Hawk and Mouse Facebook page

Derrick Buttress

As part of the Space project I’ve enjoyed spending time with Derrick Buttress. Derek, at the tender age of eighty, has just had his first short story collection published by Shoestring Press although he has five poetry collections, two memoirs and various scripts for radio and television under his belt. Derrick is our first commissioned writer and will be taking us from the 1930s up to the publication of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning in 1958. He’s going to take us on a personal journey through the market square – a key location in the novel – and share his memories of when it was filled with GIs, communists, and folk doing a celebratory conga in celebration of VE Day.


Going to Derrick’s home was a little bit like stepping into one of his short stories in that I knew everything about his relationship with his wife Joan though a couple of comments. Joan was in the front room watching Casablanca, ‘for the seventeenth time’ Derrick informed me. I wasn’t sure if he meant that day, week or the duration of his sixty years of marriage. Later on Joan pulled me to one side and said, ‘you know he spends all of his time up there tapping away on that computer’ and shook her head, like I must be in agreement with her that this was ridiculous behaviour and I’d be better suited sitting down with her watching Casablanca.


As part of our public engagement for the Space project, Derrick kindly allowed me to piggy back on to his book launch Sing to Me and we chatted about his market square memories. The event was held at Lee Rosy’s on 11 April which is a lovely little venue – although if you’re planning a similar event there, make sure you keep the door shut upstairs as the noise quickly filters downwards. It was a lovely event with a highly respected audience including John Lucas, Ross Bradshaw, Wayne Burrows, Nicola Monaghan, Michael Eaton, David Belbin, Tony Roe, Al Atkinson, Cathy Grindrod and Aly Stoneman. Derrick then went on to share a story about working as a teenager in a factory full of women where a big breasted bully would deliberately pen him in to a corner and make him blush, much to the amusement of her cackling comrades.


After explaining the Space project to Derrick he said he wished he’d known me when he was younger. I can’t wait for new audiences to experience his writing and I hope that at eighty, he gets the wider recognition that he deserves. I can think of no better validation for the arts council than offering this writer a platform into the digital age.


Preview of Derrick Buttress’ book launch

Twitter: Arthur Seaton for more info on events

And of course The Space…coming 1 May.