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Nottingham Castle

Three Cities book launch

4 June 06 words: James Walker
I have a theory that you can work out the particular class of an event based upon the food provided

Three Cities book launch

I have a theory that you can work out the particular class of an event based upon the food provided. For example, nearly every wedding, funeral, and birthday party I have attended, the ‘smelly egg’ sandwich has been a compulsory attendee. This particular filling could be deemed as low brow due to its obviousness, that being, the contents can be determined through both sight and smell, and by anyone with their senses in tact. Here, in Nottingham Council House, the buffet is more highbrow - consisting of a wide variety of exotic pastries, canapés and hors d’ oeuvres.

This diverse selection of fantastical food is apt, perhaps even symbolic, of the event to which it celebrates. It is to be consumed by the various writers, poets and aesthetics who have contributed towards the Three Cities project. Only those with a vivid imagination and a fine eye for detail could possibly have a chance of deciphering the contents of this rather opulent spread. Fortunately, I have the eye of a very helpful waiter.

The ‘Three Cities Create and Connect’ project is a celebration of the cultural diversity of the holy trinity that is Nottingham, Derby and Leicester. Initially funded by £800,000 of National Lottery funding (via the Millennium commission and Arts Council England) it is good to see that scratch cards have served some other function other than littering the streets.

The culmination of this project is a finely produced book showcasing the best poetry and fiction from the regions, gleaned from months of creative writing workshops. The workshops were run by six local in-house writers; Karen Buckley, Rod Duncan, Jeremy Duffield, Rosie Garner, Kevin Fegan and Mike Wilson with the hope of creating new writing communities which would continue to flourish long after the project had finished. As well as putting writers in touch with one another, the workshops helped to connect a wide variety of people from brain injury patients to schoolchildren. For the more ‘traditional’ writers who prefer not to venture beyond the bedroom there was the virtual forum hosted by our good selves here at Leftlion, aimed at getting those creative juices flowing.

Three cities book launch

Over seeing the project, and giving an entertaining synopsis here tonight, was the elected Poet Laurette, Ian McMillan; aka ‘the 22nd most important person in radio.’ Now for those of you who have recently been engaging in Svengate, that being, should a ‘foreigner’ manage the national side, you may be wondering why’s a Yorkshireman overseeing a project about the Midlands? Ian addresses this in his commissioned poem HERE.NOW.THEN

'There's this bloke. Bloke from Yorkshire.
Poet. Makes a living from rhymes.
Coming here to depict our lives and times,’

He was selected because he has the necessary detachment to walk into each of the cities and offer unbiased observations of everything which is characteristic, typical or curious. As he goes on to say in the poem

‘Tell me about your city
And I'll tell you about your city
And let's meet somewhere in the middle’

Besides, can you imagine if a Nottingham poet had been selected over a Derby one? It would have been East Midlands airport all over again. The fact that the substantial prizes being awarded for the book have taken place in Hoodtown suggests Nottingham remains consistently at the pinnacle of this regional triangle.

The Midlands may no longer be covered in wild wood but for McMillan ‘it feels to me that the East Midlands is still a forest, a forest of stories, A forest of poems, a forest of tales not yet told, Waiting, waiting.’

The book explores the cultural identity of ‘place’ through a wide variety of people and situations. For example, the winning entry by Carol Beadle examined the city from the perspective of the river whilst another looked at alienation through the eyes of an asylum seeker. You really get a sense of the complexity and diversity of urban life. These sentiments are mirrored by the various speakers here in the Council House and through the slides of the projector, beaming Ian’s journey onto the far wall.

When the opportunity for ‘networking’ came I made a sharp exit, but not before shaking the Mayor’s hand and complimenting him on his bling. Once out of this beautiful building I made my way home, passing some drunks singing, watching a couple arguing and another kissing, down to where the 28 bus would dance me out of the city. This is my story.

A Tale of Three Cities was part of a wider Arts Council-funded programme called Create and Connect. Here are a few examples of other projects.

Under Scan (the world’s largest ever interactive video art installation)
• Images were projected onto the shadows of pedestrians’ passing by so that it looked as if they had come alive.
• The shadows were artificially created using the world’s brightest projector (110, 000 lumens of intensity) and featured randomly selected portraits of over 1,000 locals from across the region.
• How often do we walk past people without ever catching their eye or making contact? By placing a stranger into your shadow only to find you still can not communicate with them (as this is a recorded image) captured the anonymity of urban interaction, although I’m sure the artist responsible, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, has a different thesis.

Nanoplex (the world’s first mobile media centre)
• Camping in Skeggy will never be the same after entering this six birth caravan, converted into a state of the art micro-sized cinema.
• This Leicester based invention is the perfect accompaniment to our very own Screen Room, the world’s smallest cinema on Broad Street, proving that in the Midlands, size doesn’t matter.

Festivals of Fire and Light
• For those of us who couldn’t wait until the Goose Fair, a huge Ferris Wheel was created out of beacons and promptly set alight. Who ever said the council had money to burn…

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