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The Comedy of Errors

A Look Back at the Glory Days of the LeftLion Forum

17 April 18 words: Al Gilby

Back in the day, our forum was a HIT...

Why would you devote twelve years of spare time to producing a magazine and website without any financial reward? Good question. But that’s exactly what Jared and I did. We started off with a simple urge to big up Nottingham and prove the mainstream press wrong about the city. The term “snowball” comes to mind.

So much has changed about how we operate. We used to spend entire weekends preparing to go to print, working literally through the night and watching the sun come up as we tried to finish an edition and send it off to Morton’s, who’ve printed every single issue of the magazine. Back then, we’d lug 8,000 copies up a flight of stairs to the small flat in Carrington where Jared and I lived at the time. These days, it’s mainly done during office hours and put together with far less input from myself and Jared. Our new home in Sneinton Market is on the ground floor, too.

LeftLion was my opportunity to learn how to build a decent website. I wanted to be a web developer and used as my first big project, building a content management system from scratch before any good ones were available. Back then, our online offering was pretty cutting edge: we had articles, videos, commenting and events listings covered from day one, and that was two years before YouTube launched.

The site itself went through a number of redesigns and feature enhancements. We launched a discussion forum and saw traffic rise as the internet’s popularity grew. We did well in search results thanks to the amount of content we were publishing, and our audience just kept building. Going into print helped us generate some revenue, and pay for the hosting bills; back then, online advertising wasn’t a thing, and print was king. It’s come full circle now, with print publications steadily declining as the digital revolution continues unabated.

When I think about what helped to make us a success, there are a few things that stick in my mind. The council clamped down on fly postering pretty much at the point we launched, which made our online events system the de facto way to find out what was going on in the city. Mine and Jared's endless stubbornness ensured that, even when it got really hard, we still found a way to hit every deadline.

We roped in Dave Blenkey to design the early issues and learnt so much from him, like what InDesign was, and how to use it. Al Needham’s arrival as editor taught me, personally, a whole lot about how professional publishing outfits operate, and that being opinionated is a good thing. Even if it does cause endless arguments.

We really should have stopped this years ago. It’s never made much financial sense, and whatever we have made, we’ve ploughed straight back in. Jared and I finally joined the paid team a few years ago, eventually deciding that working day jobs really wasn’t helping us make the whole thing work as a business, or doing much for our personal lives. So we battle on, and keep our heads above water. Just.

We (briefly) talked about making this issue our last and going out with a bang; 15 years and 100 issues would be kind of poetic... but sod that. This city has more to shout about, and we, LeftLion, are to be the ones doing the shouting. I’ll sign this off with a thanks to every single person who has contributed over the years. Your generosity of time and passion never ceases to amaze me.

The LeftLion online forum ran from 2004-2013 and acted as a precursor to Overheard In Notts with brilliant people saying silly things. Here are some that still make us laugh...

”I met my wife on a blind date at the left lion in Nottingham nearly three and a half years ago. I have since moved to the sunnier climes of Songkhla in Southern Thailand. Songkhla, spookily is also derived from the Yawi word for lion.” Idma

”Graffiti for graffiti’s sake, that’s when it’s at its best.” Barry_Clava

“Don’t bitch about the students. They may be losers now, but one day they will all turn out to be like you and me.” Hipster K

“I’m afraid of being eaten alive by a giant octopus.” Pisces J

“I can’t shake the feeling that in a couple of years’ time, kids in Inglewood will be playing Grand Theft: Bestwood on their Playstation 4.” Lord of the Nish

“I wouldn’t get yourselves worried about CCTV in this city. At the end of the day it’s controlled by government and councils: you can have all the surveillance technology you want, but there’ll always be a pleb on the other end watching the screen, picking his arse and reading The Daily Star.” MrGeesBigCircus

“I love a good electrical storm. Unless I’m at an outdoor event or running one. Or stood on a flat open moor, wearing nothing but a C3PO outfit with a giant 50m rod coming out my head, having a wazz onto a railway line.” myhouse-yourhouse

“You can keep Rushcliffe, I’ll stick with the criminals.” oxygenthievez

Today in the toilet on my train to work, there were five whole stuffed olives floating, all in a row. The joys of public transport; I won’t be eating olives for a while. A few months ago I came across a pair of false teeth on the floor in the toilet at Nottingham train station.” madam ant’s pants

“I’m well scared of heights. Seriously, I can’t even sit upstairs at the Malt Cross.” Mouse

“Nottingham Eye would be a great medical condition: ‘What’s wrong with you?’ ‘I’ve got a nasty case of Nottingham Eye.’” Bass Rooster

“If it did all go tits up I’d just get in a fridge like Indiana Jones with a joint, my missus and my cat and wait for it all to calm down.” Shifter


“If you’re not seeing and hearing things that aren’t really there, you aren’t really a ‘coffee drinker’, more of an ingenue dabbling in the murky brown waters.” NJM

“Upstairs in Wetherspoons is the perfect place to keep an eye on the kids while they’re paddling in the water.” Ed

“Apparently Skeg are spending £8million tarmac-ing their beach in a show of solidarity.” Christmasatthezoo on the Nottingham Beach

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