LeftLion 48

LeftLion 48 officially declared summer open with the August/September Issue. Predictably we gave the Olympics a fair bit of coverage but with a Notts make-over. I chipped in with an interview with Mike Breckon who was the team manager of the Canadian cycling team at the ’72 Olympics when 11 members of the Israeli team were murdered by the Palestinian group Black September. Paul Fillingham (Think Amigo) knew Mike through his work with the National Byways and arranged the interview at Mike’s home. It was great to see all of his cycling mementoes and to learn he’d been involved with the Reg Harris statue campaign which is now at Manchester Velodrome. He told us his favourite Sillitoe book was Down From The Hill (an eighty mile cycle journey to find the elusive Alice Sands) and how his generation thought nothing of such journeys for love.

Mike said he’d never spoken about the tragedy before which I found remarkable given that it is the fortieth anniversary of Munich. He was, as he described it, ‘right in the eye of the storm’ as his accommodation was directly opposite the Israeli team. The press in Canada were hard on him for letting his team cycle in the backyard as things went on but as he explained, when you’re cooped up for 14 hours and with no real awareness at that time of what terrorism was, what was he meant to do? I suspect that they craved normality and the fact that they were outside at all just shows you how much times and attitudes have changed.

It was a tough interview that required sensitivity. I wasn’t going to push anything that would cause him distress, but he spoke openly and I suspect it was cathartic to confront what had been buried for so long. On occasion he welled up and had to catch his breath. Other times I watched his arm blister open with goose bumps as he recounted the ceremony held at the stadium the next day. He was overwhelmed at witnessing a German philharmonic orchestra playing tribute to dead Israeli’s in Berlin, so soon after the end of WWII.

Mike is currently writing an autobiography of his life through cycling and this episode will be chapter three. I have agreed to help him and so a bonus of this interview was a new friendship with an incredibly interesting and charismatic man. The only downside is that Paul Fillingham wasn’t credited as joint interviewee, as he should have been, and I would have preferred to have seen Mike inside the Berlin Olympic design rather than apart from it.

We covered six book reviews in the WriteLion section (S.C Maxfield, David Belbin, Megan Taylor, Peter Mortimer, Ian Strathcarron and Tim Cockburn) with a great balance across genres. Katie Half-Price, our ‘orangest book reviewer’ had a play with Jon McGregor, Robert and Edward Skidelsky and Dylan Jones. I recently asked Jon to be the patron of the Nottingham Writers’ Studio so I hope he takes the review in the good spirit in which it was written.

What should have been the crowning glory turned out to be a big disappointment. We ran a two page feature on Raleigh which included snippets from the testimonies I’m using on The Space but the reference to The Space was left out which was a waste of good publicity. Worst still, there was no context to the testimonies. None of the facts I provided about Raleigh were included nor the reason we were doing the piece – it is the 125th anniversary of the cycle manufacturer! Consequently the piece felt like a sensationalised tabloid piece that had selected all of the gory details and missed out the facts. On The Space I have balanced these testimonies out by speaking to management and explaining why the factory eventually closed down. This is missing from the LeftLion piece because I wasn’t sent the proofs and because I didn’t write the introduction. At our next editorial meeting we will have to find a way of ensuring this never happens again as mistakes like this could seriously damage my reputation as well as that of the magazine.The only positive was the cracking sell text: Really, with an illustration of the Raleigh heron in a cap smoking a fag.

Interview with Mike Breckon