Friday, 28 October 2011
Sunday, 23 October 2011
Wednesday, 19 October 2011
Peter was a good friend to Five Leaves. He was particularly keen on our New London Editions series - in fact he liked our emphases on London, on Jewish literature, and on Nottingham - all of which were important to him, representing his upbringing and his home the last few decades. Our condolences to Barbara and the family.
There will be a celebration of Peter's life at the Derek Randall suite at Trent Bridge at 3.00pm on Friday November 4th, which is open to all those who knew him.
Monday, 17 October 2011
But that is to perhaps miss the point. Why should the Arts Council fund those of our books that are not what you might call creative non-fiction or fiction, and have a left-wing stance? Any reader of this blog will have realised that Five Leaves is hardly a contributor to the Adam Werrity Travel Fund.
The Arts Council currently funds Five Leaves through its Grants for the Arts scheme, a competitive scheme, where we submit a programme of activity for, in our case, three years. We receive a modest annual grant towards that modest programme ("Year One - bring down the Tory Government; Year Two - elect a Labour Government; Year Three - oversee the withering away of the state"??) but it can be rather difficult to ascertain how many square feet of our office are devoted to, say, social history, and how many to introducing new young adult fiction writers, or organising States of Independence, so rather than applying title by title, event by event, we apply for the press as a whole. The irony is of course that our social history titles in general do better than the "creative" stuff, so rather than the Arts Council subsidising social history, it is the other way round as our successful social history books enable us to put in smaller bids than would otherwise be the case. This is also a hedge against the day the Arts Council can no longer fund us, or does not wish to fund us. We intend to survive, which would be less possible if our backlist comprised poetry, young adult fiction and other slower selling items. We can see how an Arts Council logo on a book of clearly left-wing provenance might be a red rag to a right wing bull. But wouldn't taking the logo off such books indicate subterfuge on our part?
Finally - a reasonable test of our "objectivity" - would Five Leaves publish writers from the right? Yes, I am sure we do already. In general I would not ask someone's politics before publishing them, but I know that, for example, Colin Wilson, whose second novel we republish next month is hardly a foaming lefty. Would we publish, say, some pastoral poems about the deserts of Dubai by Liam Fox (who will now have some time on his hands to write a sonnet or two). Probably not, but if Ken Clarke ever offers us a book of his writing about jazz (an area we are moving further into next year)? Now you're talking.
Saturday, 15 October 2011
I'm not sure if there is a moral in this rounded tale other than we are connected to history by very small steps. Which we all know.
Friday, 14 October 2011
Wednesday, 12 October 2011
You don’t have to admire them, but you might as well;
they receive so little attention. They are causing a ruckus
at The Oblivion Tea-Rooms. They are steadfast
in their uncertainty. They believe they are following
an ancient set of instructions found in a cave.
The instructions are badly translated and partially eaten
by sheep. They have seen the darkness. Their desires
are works in progress. They have no sense of sin.
They bathe in metaphorical waterfalls.
They meet in private and read each other to sleep.
Like everyone else, they stand at the edge of the water
and watch for a sail. They make a noise like an animal
trapped in a sack. They make a noise like a library
in the very early morning. They look like lanterns
swung in an underground cavern. They sit on benches,
saying the light is quite like beaten gold.
They try but they can’t help being slightly annoying.
They are not terrorists or Apollos or aircraft carriers.
They are frequently humbled by the need to earn a living.
They will make a fuss over nothing. They join hands and dance
like ceiling-fans. They love rivers and hares and hatstands.
They climb ladders of grammar to find the perfect view.
Their exaggerations are indistinguishable
from the truth. They feast on thoughts and air
left over from the previous century.
They harvest thunder. They wander. They smell of tarpaulins
and adhesive corners. They know how to pull the wool.
They luxuriate in epigraphs. They miss the point.
They dream about wolf-whistling the Furies.
They have no idea what they’re doing. This is their secret.
CJ Allen, 2010
Poets was first published in Assent 64/3 and will appear in Clive Allen's next collection, At the Oblivion Tea-Rooms from Nine Arches Press in summer of 2012.
Monday, 10 October 2011
But they have done pretty well with e-books... Later a writer announced that it is perfectly easy to crack the encryption in e-books that prevents the equivalent of file sharing. He said that as an experiment, he downloaded the complete text of the Booker prize longlist in half an minute, for free. So... soon all e-books will be free. Can't make money by printing books, can't make money by making e-books. There's not a lot left. But still, it was not such a bad day, the number of book sales was slightly higher than the number of manuscripts offered to us.... I rather fear that when the last publisher in the UK closes, attending the closing sale of the last bookshop, those attending the party will be mostly made up of people waving an unpublished manuscript, quite oblivious to everything else. Happy Monday.
Thursday, 6 October 2011
The event is free, on October 13. Full details on:
Tuesday, 4 October 2011
I was a little surprised by one of the other speakers (and I don't mean our Andy Croft) who wondered whether there would have been so much interest had it been the "Norwegian Civil War" because of the romantic nature of Spain and the Spanish people. Would 2,500 British people have travelled to fight in Norway? Yes, actually, had the situation and times been the same. Anti-fascism is not determined by the number of fjords a country has.
International Brigade... Cable Street... There are a number of good reports and photos on line. A good place to start is http://stevesilver.org.uk/blog/battle-of-cable-street-75-anniversary/. And then back home in time to pack for a Leicester Trades Council event celebrating the Dirty Thirty, with David Bell speaking to the Five Leaves' book of the same name and Alan Parry singing, including the song he has written about the group. Eight or so of the Dirty Thirty were present including Malcolm Pinnegar and Darren Moore who spoke, and Johnny Gamble, who got his own special cheer for being the only man in his pit to have gone on strike. Jane Bruton, a nurse, who used to be involved in the women's support group also spoke, reading out old minutes and letters from back in the day. This was the second evening in a row that ended with the Internationale - though in this case not the Billy Bragg version, but the full strength original version, standing, with clenched fists aloft.
Finally, today I attended a meeting of local UNISON members who were taking up the Six Book Challenge as part of their Union Learning. It became a Seven Book Challenge as they were presented with copies of the Five Leaves' Nottingham anthology Sunday Night and Monday Morning. A printer we had dealings with found 400 copies of the book in their warehouse which we had not accounted for and we have been steadily finding ways of giving them away to good homes. Why is reading so important to trade unionists? Apart from its intrinsic value, and the value of building a reading culture in the workplace, as the number of veterans of the Spanish Civil War and Cable Street - and even the 84/85 NUM pass on - we can find out what they thought at the time, what they believed in, find their stories, their tall tales, and find what they can teach us through books. Reading allows us to meet remarkable people doing remarkable things. UNISON is doing a great job working with the Reading Agency to promote reading in the workplace.
Sunday, 2 October 2011
Among the first people to visit our stall was a man with a photo of his father treating one of the injured at Cable Street. Crikey - all the publications about the day recycle the same images. This was completely new to me. He was one of many people sharing family memories of the day, though the number of actual Cable Street veterans able to attend is now limited. At our later book launch I was pleased to see Max Levitas (who spoke at the rally), Beatty Orwell and our own Bill Fishman. There were many stalls including from our friends at Brick Lane Bookshop, Housmans and Freedom and we were well entertained by street theatre and music, including by strolling actors in period costumes rallying the crowds "to Aldgate".
The march - initiated late - passed by. It was led by a number of Bangladeshi groups and our friends from the Jewish Socialists' Group. The Indian Workers Association was strongly represented, as were local trade union branches, the Woodcraft Folk with a brilliant hand made Cable Street banner, and the Connelly Association contingent was a reminder that so many of those at Cable Street were London Irish dockers, who used their work tools to prize up paving slabs to make barricades in 1936. The stall was too busy to leave to see the young musicians of the very multicultural Grand Union Youth Orchestra though I'd sneaked in for their rehearsals.
The next event was the book launch of our five Cable Street books. Maggie Pinhorn of Alternative Arts, the main organiser of the day, had said it would be busy and perhaps 300 people attended. Jil Cove of the Cable Street Group spoke first, followed by Andy Croft who had written the introduction to the late Frank Griffin's October Day. He was followed by Frank's daughter, Josephine Clark, who read from the book. David Rosenberg, who is doing more events based on his book Battle for the East End than anyone thought possible, read next. Alan Gibbons was unable to attend because of family reasons, so I read a little from his young adult fiction book Street of Tall People. Fittingly, Roger Mills ended the launch by reading from his Everything Happens in Cable Street. By now our piles of books - over two stalls - was going down fast. This was the best day of bookselling we have had. Period (as Americans say).
Astonishingly, about 125 people came to our panel discussion on rebel writers from the 1930s, to hear Mary Joannou, Andy Croft and Ken Worpole have a friendly disagreement of the impact of the literature of the 1930s. There was no time for audience participation, though Stephen Watts managed to chip in. Stephen was one of those reading (from our AN Stencl book All My Young Years at the previous night's Cable Street party organised by Jewdas. Leon Rosselson had the next set - I was on stall duty but I got his latest four CD collection and agreed to put on a Rosselson gig sometime in Nottingham. We used to talk about publishing a Leon Rosselson songbook, but somehow that never happened. My fault, not Leon's.
At six we turned into pumpkins and the stall was packed away, or what remained of it. It was time to be civilians, and attend the evening gig. The excellent compere was Ivor Dembina followed by Michael Rosen (one of whose poems had its first book outing many years ago in a Five Leaves/Jewish Socialists' Group book). I can't list the whole cast of those appearing on the magical old music hall stage at Wilton's but the people who stood out for me were the comedian Shappi Khorsandi, the band The Men They Could Not Hang and, finally, on great form, in front of a packed and appreciative hall, Billy Bragg. All of the artists performed gratis, all events were free, and the bucket collection will be used to shore up Wilton's and to pay for all the publicity and other costs. Anything left over will be used to further honour those who fought to defend their area on that extraordinary day on 4th October 1936 under the slogan of No Pasaran! They shall not pass! Five Leaves was thrilled to be part of such an extraordinary day, marking the 75th anniversary of such an extraordinary event.
Map by John Wallett