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Nottingham's Small Press Publishers

13 October 15 words: Robin Lewis
Unbeknown to many, we've got a thriving local publishing scene in Nottingham so LeftLion has broken down the creme de la creme
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Candlestick Press
If you’ve been in a bookshop over the last seven or eight years, you’ve almost certainly seen the beautifully presented publications from Candlestick Press. Founded in Beeston in 2008, now located in Arnold, it has been dubbed the “most original way of delivering poetry since Poems on the Underground.” Each piece contains a pamphlet, an envelope and a bookmark, and the whole thing is presented as, in the words of Jenny Swann, founder of the company, “an alternative to a greetings card.”

Each pamphlet is usually themed around a particular subject, and if you can find a better way of buttering up your old dear on Mother’s Day than giving her Ten Poems About Mothers, I would like to hear it. Swann sees the role of her company as “helping poems reach an even bigger audience than they perhaps would do if hidden away in a full collection that will only be read by the dedicated poetry community.”

Often giving already-published works a new audience, their pamphlets are aimed at “absolutely anyone who can read, and particularly people who are ignorant about or nervous of, poetry. We want to give them a nice surprise!” You can find their stuff all over the place, not just in bookshops, but also in museums, art galleries and farm shops. The gift card aspect of their pamphlets gives them a flexibility and accessibility poetry collections don’t usually enjoy. Someone put off by the idea of getting stuck into a book of poetry, convinced it’s not for them, can probably be sucked into poetry via the gateway drug of a Candlestick Press pamphlet.

Not only are they a big, national success story, but Candlestick Press only use local Nottingham printers, biodegradable cellophane wrappers from another Nottingham company and, where possible, local Nottingham illustrators. Even the paper they use is Forest Stewardship Council approved, making their publications as environmentally friendly as it’s possible to be.

With all their focus on local production, it’s surprising that they haven’t made a pamphlet about Nottingham. But that’s about to change, as Ten Poems about Nottingham will be launched at Five Leaves Bookshop, on Tuesday 13 October. Swann says that “half of the poems in the pamphlet are by contemporary Nottingham poets. The pamphlet was edited by John Lucas, himself an author, publisher and academic who probably knows more about the history of poetry in and from Nottingham than anyone else in the world!”

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Shoestring Press
Set up in 1994 by John Lucas, the grand old man of Nottingham poetry, Shoestring Press has published more than 300 titles. Mostly putting out poetry, the press also releases a small fiction list and some literary criticism, and Lucas proudly notes that “the press is known for its translations from Dutch, Russian, and (especially) Greek.”

We asked Lucas to recommend something he’s put out in the last year or so, and he told us that he was “especially pleased to have published Nicolas Moore: Selected Poems. Moore was born in 1918, died in 1986, and was, in the forties, very famous before dropping below the horizon. Now, thanks largely to this selected collection, he is being rediscovered.” Though, if you wanted something to celebrate England absolutely thrashing Australia and thereby winning the Ashes at Trent Bridge for the very first time, you could pick up a copy of Lucas’s own The Awkward Squad: Rebels in English Cricket.

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Arundel Books
Set up in 2008 by Alan Dance as a way of getting his own historical novel, Narrow Marsh, into print, Arundel Books has now expanded to publish works by other writers. Their latest book, Canary Child, is a collaboration between Dance and David Field. The book is based around the enormous explosion on 1 July 1918 at the Chilwell Shell-Filling Factory. More than 100 workers, mostly young women called ‘Canary Girls’ because of the yellow tint to their skin they gained via chemicals in the factory, were killed.

As Dance says, “The cause of the explosion remains a mystery to this day, and at the time there was talk of spies and German saboteurs, but Canary Child offers a new theory as to what might have been the cause. It can best be described as a supernatural, genealogical mystery drama, and follows the lives of two Canary Girls, fun-loving former lace hands Lil and Mabel.” Also forthcoming are books about Nottingham during the time of the Luddite Riots and a novel about William Thompson, aka Bendigo, Nottingham’s own nineteenth century bare-knuckle boxing champion, called Right Fist Of God – Bendigo.

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