Although Ray Gosling was born in Northampton and spent a large chunk of his life setting up youth clubs in Leicester, his heart was in Nottingham. ‘It’s a rough old city’ he once told me during a three year interview ‘and I absolutely love it’.
Gosling produced over 1000 radio documentaries and 100 television broadcasts in a career that spanned half a century or so. All of which was done in a provincial accent, helping to break down the boundaries created by the received pronunciation of the BBC. He epitomised Raymond Williams’ philosophy that ‘culture is ordinary’ by celebrating the everyday lives of the streets he walked through. His real skill was never mocking his subjects, no matter how bizarre or eccentric, and instead brought out the human in the man who collected garden gnomes and the people who loved their sheds. In his latter years he became the subject of his documentaries, describing the difficulties of growing old and facing bankruptcy. But for many of us in Nottingham he’s the community activist who helped St. Ann’s avoid getting entirely pummelled by City planners.
Ray was a hoarder and saved absolutely everything. But during his bankruptcy he dumped everything in a skip. Fortunately John Goodridge was on hand to salvage this and his archives now live in the Mary Ann Evans building at Nottingham Trent University’s Clifton campus. The archives were first sorted out by Colin Haynes and Ray’s sister Juliet. For the past year or so Clare Tebbutts, a research assistant at NTU, has lovingly continued the archiving.
Knowing the nature of Ray’s character - he was a self-proclaimed anarchist among other things - I doubt he would be very happy to know his life’s work was housed in an academic institution. But if NTU hadn’t have intervened his work would be on a rubbish dump somewhere. It’s with this in mind that NTU are hosting an evening at the National Video Game Arcade to celebrate the archives. It is vital that absolutely everybody that knew Ray turns up. Not just to pay homage and celebrate his incredible life, but to ensure that you have a say in how his archives are made more accessible.
I would personally like to see some of them go on tour, perhaps between his last three homes of Nottingham, Manchester and London. Or at the very least in public spaces. St. Ann’s Library would be an obvious choice, as would Nottingham Writers’ Studio. Then there’s those vacant spaces in the recently refurbished Sneinton Market…
Nottingham City of Literature appoint an executive director on 1 September so it will be interesting to see how s/he approaches one of our most valued cultural assets. For what it is worth I have a suggestion: How about a Ray Gosling Bursary? Filmmakers, artists, writers and activists could take a theme from the archives and create a new response. This is how you create legacy, and this is how you create opportunities. Not even a contrarian like Ray could argue with that.
Ray Gosling: His Life, Legacy and Archive is at The National Videogame Arcade - 24-32 Carlton Street - NG1 1NN Nottingham. Get EventBrite tickets here.