Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Nottingham 2023

It has just been announced that Nottingham is bidding to become the 2023 European Capital of Culture. If successful our city would be designated this title by the European Union for a period of one calendar year, during which we would host a series of cultural events with a strong European dimension. For Nottingham, a city ready to take off, its legacy would be life-changing.

Following Glasgow (1990) and Liverpool (2008), another UK city is set to land the prestigious title in 2023, a significant anniversary in the evolving UK-EU relationship:

1963 - Britain’s attempt to join the Common Market is vetoed by Charles de Gaulle. 
1973 - Britain joins the EEC with the instruction that “we should avoid creating a new, semi-permanent rift in British society, between pro and anti Europeans.”
1983 - Michael Foot promises to withdrawal from the EEC, after Labour’s pro-Europe wing splits off to form the SDP.
1993 - The European Union is formed. John Major faces down back-bench rebellion over the Maastricht Treaty.
2013 - David Cameron promises an in-out EU referendum, not anticipating a leave decision.
2023 – A UK city becomes the European Capital of Culture.

It’s a story in itself, with conflict and passion aplenty. The winning destination would not be the first non-EU city to win the title but our responsibility would be unique. What an opportunity to show our European family how much they are loved and appreciated, and to reaffirm that we are still a big part of Europe, and proudly so. In ’79 and ’80 Nottingham were the European Champions. In 2023 we would become a champion of Europe.

So why Nottingham?
We are creators of culture with a large underground scene of crafternooners, writers, artists, poets and musicians, many of whom are producing in private. However, our culture is built on expression and social justice, so it must be experienced. What makes Nottingham unique, and underrecognized, is that we create for purposes other than fame. We are the antidote to celebrity culture because we don’t court it.

We’ve a story to tell, we just need the permission to tell it. Why permission? Because we have an ingrained tradition of underplaying our achievements. In expressing our thoughts, we have been banned (DH Lawrence), ridiculed (E Darwin), called angry (A Sillitoe) or labelled mad, bad and dangerous… (GG Byron). And we are our own worst enemies. The conspicuous are the targets of our tongues and satire, so we tend to hide our talent and it need not be so.

Take Frederick John Westcott, heard of him? Fred was raised on Nottingham’s overcrowded streets in the 1870s. A plumber’s apprentice, he once worked a job at Nottingham Prison and became fascinated with some of the prisoners and their fitness-training, feeding his interest in gymnastics. Fred harnessed his gymnastic skills and performed his first pro gig on Fletcher Gate, as a tight-rope walker’s assistant. He then joined the circus, learning as many acts as he could and, after changing his name to Fred Karno, ended up touring music halls with his large, record-breaking repertoire of comedy acts.

As Charlie Chaplin recalls in his autobiography, “The outstanding company was Fred Karno’s.” Everyone wanted to work in our Fred’s enterprise. With over 30 companies Fred was the man behind a variety of acts that included pantomimes and musical comedies. He was the man that signed a young Chaplin and promoted him to a principle role despite early mixed reviews. Chaplin performed in Nottingham many times before Fred packed him off to Hollywood. It was because of Fred’s tutorage that Chaplin was the most supple and precise of comedians. His film The Kid reflected elements of his mentor’s/Fred’s life.

Our impresario had hit shows across the world and gave big breaks to many other famous performers including Max Miller and the Crazy Gang. Arthur Stanley Jefferson was another of Fred’s boys – you’d know him as Stan Laurel - and said of him, “Fred Karno didn’t teach Charlie (Chaplin) and me all we know about comedy. He just taught us most of it.”

The most ‘Nottingham’ of Fred’s achievements is that he popularised the custard-pie-in-the-face, that traditional act of humiliating and bringing down a man of self-perceived superiority.

But,'Google' Fred Karno and Nottingham barely gets a mention. Yet it’s here that he came of age as a performer. Several of his children were even born here. We have been reluctant to praise our show people, seeing them as show offs. Nottingham is full of people like Fred Karno. People who inspire greatness in others. Innovators who break and change the rules. Unappreciated geniuses like Erasmus Darwin whose poetry provided a theory of evolution years before his grandson. People who leave authority with a pie in its face.

Things are changing. We are getting better at displaying a shared pride in our culture. Nottingham has momentum. We are now a UNESCO City of Literature. We have a vibrant music scene. Our actors are achieving international recognition. And best of all, we are becoming comfortable with this success. To paraphrase Jake Bugg, we are sticking two fingers up to yesterday. Our new working-class heroes are finding their voice. Our digital creatives are innovating new pathways for others to appreciate the next generation. A youthful, cool culture. Nottingham has a personality that’s coming of age.

Most of all, we are sons and daughters of Robin Hood. Regardless of class, we are on the side of the strugglers, wary of the motives of the privileged. Nottingham folk, by nature, have an almost innate duty of artistic protest. It comes so naturally we think nothing of it. From Robin Hood to Jason Williamson we highlight social injustice and often face the oppressors’ wrath for our troubles. Our creations are not manufactured for the man, we are too alternative and important for that. Through our culture we challenge convention, spring radical ideas and change the world. As a European capital of culture we would flower under Europe’s spotlight and inspire an unprecedented future of creativity, one of inclusion, tolerance and justice.

If, in 2023, we become the European Capital of Culture, it will be our people’s hunger for the title that wins over the judges. We want it the most. It’s out chance to finally blow away the last of our modesty, releasing a wave of creativity and radical ideas. Are they ready for us?

Monday, 24 July 2017

Notts Book Clubs

I am in the process of compiling a list of book clubs (or reading groups) based in the county. If you know of any such groups that are missing from the list below please email me via the Contact link (above left) or tweet to @NottsLit 
Nottinghamshire Book Clubs / Reading Groups

Arnold Library Reading Café

Ashfield U3A (Kirkby-in-Ashfield)

Contact Len & Sally Hill via

Barnstone Book Group

Beeston and Chilwell Book Club

Contact: Gillian Mather. W:

Beeston U3A, Readers Rendezvous


Bengali Reading Group (Nottingham)

Bilsthorpe Book Club

Bingham Library Reading Café

Book Kin (Caythorpe)

Books Fizz (Balderton)

Bottesford Book Club

Broadway Book Club

Bulwell Riverside Library, Library Club and Book Group

Bulwell Riverside Library Crime Readers’ Group

Burton Joyce and District U3A

Carlton Library Reading Café

Classic Book Club (Selston)

Cotgrave & District U3A

Charnwood U3A book Group

Children's Reading Group (Newark)

Clifton Library Reading Group

The Coffee Hideout Book Club formally known as Busy Bees (Woodthorpe)

Crime Cafe Reading Group (Eastwood)

Crime Cafe Reading Group (Kirkby-in-Ashfield)

Crime Cafe Reading Group (Selston)

Crime Thriller Reading Group (Balderton)

The Crossing Reading Group (Worksop)

Eastwood Book Club

Contact Janette Martindale. W:

Edwinstowe Library Open Reading Group

Forest Town Library Reading Group (Mansfield)

Gujarati Reading Group (Nottingham)

The Hucknall Library Crime Cafe

James Joyce Reading Group (Nottingham)

Keyworth & District U3A

Kneesall Book Club

Contact Merrinda Lissman via

Lee Rosy’s Book Club (Hockley)

The Listening Chain (Nottingham)

The Lowdham Six

Contact: Manon de Moor. W:

The Malt Cross Book Club

Mansfield Library Crime Reading Cafe

Meadows Reading Group

Misterton Book Club

Nottingham Book Lovers Society

Nottingham Central Library Book Group

Nottingham Central Library Crime Readers’ Group

Nottingham Central Library Readers’ Group

Nottingham Central Library Reading for Mental Health Book Club

Nottingham Central Library Reading for Pleasure

Nottingham Culture & Café Scientifique Book Group

Contact David via

Nottingham Readers

The Nottingham Reading Circle

NWS Book Group

RavensheadU3A  Reading Group

Redford Library Reading Group

Shared Reading Groups (Lenton)

Sherwood Library Pageturners Reading Group

Sherwood U3A (Mansfield Woodhouse)

Snotrur - Old Norse Reading Group (Nottingham)

St Ann's Valley Library Book Group

The Star Inn Bookgroup (Beeston)

Sutton in Ashfield Crime Cafe

Talking Goat Readers' Group at The Peacock

University of Nottingham Students’ Union Book Club

Urdu Reading Group (Nottingham)

The Visually Impaired Reading Group (West Bridgford)

The Visually Impaired Reading Group (Worksop)

The Wellow Book Club

West Bridgford Book Group

West Bridgford Library Reading Café

Wilford Wanderers

Wollaton Library Daytime Reading

Wollaton Library Evening Reading

Saturday, 22 July 2017

A Frog Called Rod

A Frog Called Rod is a new story for Primary school kids. Its creators, known as the Ley Street Bunch, are so-named as they are all users of NottsCC’s social services project at  Netherfield's Ley Street Day Centre. 

The book, telling of a pink frog who makes friends with a multi-coloured elephant, explores differences and tolerance, something its authors, all adults with learning difficulties and physical disabilities, wanted to write about. All the storytellers and illustrators live in the Carlton-Colwick-Netherfield area of Nottingham.

The project came out of a group called Talking Shop, with encouragement and expertise from support assistant Julie Hampson and local author Julie Malone.  

With their debut set for bookshops later this year there is already a second book in the pipeline.


Sunday, 9 July 2017

Beeston Tales

Wednesday 12th July 7:30pm, Beeston Tales: Love in the Shadows by Sally Pomme Clayton
At The White Lion, Beeston

Love in the Shadows is sheer, magical delight and shadowy enchantment. Dark and gothic fairytales for grown-ups accompanied by Sally Pomme’s mesmeric shadow puppet theatre. Stories of  forbidden lovers, lonely lasses and passionate Goddesses are peppered with delicate images from a magical shadow theatre. These are stories of having and not having, of longing and losing, of making mistakes, and living to tell the tale, woven through with fragments of songs and sounds.

A night for all hot hearts – get lost in the dark, meet your shadow, and be entranced.

Tickets £5, £6 on the door, available from The White Lion, or online here

Writing for Performance

Thursday 13th July 5-6pm, Writing for Performance with Panya Banjoko

At West Bridgford Library

The wonderful Panya Banjoko will lead a workshop using the theme of ‘Relationships’ you will craft a piece with a live audience in mind. Participants will also get the chance to perform their work on stage later that evening, during  Panya’s performance in the library with Abii – ‘They, Them the Others and We’ - at 7.30 pm. 

Cost of workshop: £5, Tickets for performance: £6/£4. Click here to book

Poetry Pop

Poetry Pop & Cards Against Humanity Social
July 15 @ 3:00 pm - 9:00 pm
 At Nottingham Writers' Studio
The second on-the-spot competition for NWS members and friends.
Writers will be given a choice of 3 writing prompts and 3 hours to produce a poem (up to 40 lines) which will then be printed and stuck on the wall for the attendees of the social to vote for their favourite. Prizes of wine, chocolates and rosettes, plus a voucher for one summer taster session for first place.
Cards Against Humanity Social, 7pm
By popular demand the social attached to this competition event will be a cards against humanity competition.
Fun and friendly, let’s see which of our writers has the most disturbed sense of humour! We’ll start at 7pm sharp, with a half hour break around 8pm to vote on the poems from the poetry competition. We’ll finish round 9:30pm or later if everyone is agreed they wish to carry on.
Free event, booking advised, please email Holly via

Monday, 3 July 2017

Reading Well - Support for Long Term Conditions

Launch Event: Reading Well - Long Term Conditions

Tuesday 4 July 13:00 to 15:00 Nottingham Central Library
Whether you're a health professional, patient or carer, newly diagnosed or expert patient, come along to our launch event to be one of the first to see this exciting new collection from the Reading Agency, and meet representatives from organisations and services who could support you or your patients/family to live well with their condition.

Official launch with Councillor Nick McDonald, Portfolio Holder for Adults and Health at 1.30pm.
Drop in any time between 1-3pm to see the collection and browse variety of related stalls.