Ey up, Nottingham.
I think it’s fair to say that things are a bit mental right now. A xenophobic, half-eaten bag of Wotsits is the president of the United States; 24-hour news networks make the world look like a set piece in Mad Max; and last month, the country of my birth had to make the difficult decision of whether our priorities lie in free school dinners or the murder of ginger woodland critters.
During times like this, with so much hubble, bubble, toil and trouble, we need art, literature and culture to guide us to a better version of ourselves. We need sci-fi to help us dream about the future, and we need the classics to help us understand our past. We need To Kill a Mockingbird to teach us about tolerance and prejudice; The Kite Runner to teach us repentance; and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin to teach us love. We need George Orwell to teach us how to spot bullshit, and we need Margaret Atwood to give us the strong-minded cynicism that we need to fight it. We need literature to escape, but not to run away. Sometimes, it’s more about what we are running to, rather than what we are running from.
It’s therefore vital that we protect and care for the institutions that grant access to great literature. Our libraries, long-maligned and left to waddle awkwardly into obscurity, should become beacons of enlightenment ready to be accessed by the young, old, and all those in between. Our bookshops should be many and splendid labyrinths of literature where we can lose ourselves for hours at a time. Our literary past, boasting some of the biggest and baddest names to have ever scorched the page, should be celebrated and revered, and our future should be encouraged and glorified. Our kids should know that reading isn’t something you do only if your PS4 is knackered, and our grown-ups should know that literature isn’t just something to talk about if you want to sound like a smart arse.
I can’t say that it’s all doom and gloom, mind. The poetry scene in Nottingham is a beautiful example of how anybody, no matter their background, education or postcode, can create something bloody amazing. Nottingham’s independent publishing scene is at its most wonderful when it gives voices to those who otherwise feel voiceless, and our proud literary tradition has always had a soft spot for the downtrodden and disenfranchised. We’ve forever been a city of writers and rebels, a city of sods and storytellers, and this has never been as clear as it is right now.
That’s why I’m proud to be from Nottingham, and why I’m honoured to work with institutions like LeftLion. If literature is supposed to guide us down the path to a better world, Nottingham has done a lovely job at printing off some roadmaps and sorting the packed lunches for the trip. We’ve been the birthplace and home for the who’s-who of literature, including D.H. Lawrence, J.M Barrie, Susanna Clarke, Alan Sillitoe, and everyone’s favourite wordsmith and wrong’un Lord George Gordon Byron. We are in an exciting present, with scores and scores of writers being nurtured and educated by our Writers’ Studio and Creative Quarter, and our future looks brighter by the minute as wave after wave of small press take to the streets with fantastic zines, poetry and prose.
This magazine right here first got me interested in journalism and has since pruned and guided me into the bumbling wordsmith that stands before you. My predecessor, James Walker, provided me with an appropriately wise and serene mentor in the time I worked with him as his deputy, and our current editor, Bridie, is one of the most reliably badass people I have ever had the pleasure of working for. [What you after? - Ed] Nottingham, you have no idea how lucky you are to have this lot; they’re properly mint.
Anyway, enough of my rambly, rallying cry. Thank you, Nottingham, for giving me the opportunity to gush about books every month. I can tell that this is going to be the start of something beautiful, and that between your brilliant minds and my words, we can give literature the respect that, like a forgotten library book, is long overdue.
Keep reading, you gorgeous bunch.
Lots of love,