Five Leaves two big March projects were the Lowdham Book Festival Winter Weekend and the Leicester States of Independence day. No offence to the rest of March, but I'd like to catch up with my sleep now. Lowdham hasn't had a winter weekend every year, but returned to the idea to fill the gap left by Flicks on the Sticks. After ten years our successful, but loss-making, film weekend, was put to bed - at least for a while. The winter weekend's theme was Local Heroes. It's not on the same scale as the summer festival, but 600 attendances over the weekend was encouraging and, unlike Flicks, we turned a modest profit which will help towards the summer funding. The highlight for me was the evening with the screen writer Billy Ivory (as in Made in Dagenham), who used to empty the bins in Lowdham in an earlier life.
The Five Leaves staff is, however, most in need of a few zzzzs following States of Independence, run jointly with our friends of the Creative Writing Team at De Montfort University. This was not a good year to run it for any of us due to other commitments but we worried about losing momentum, especially within DMU, and decided to run a "full strength" States rather than cut back. We were pushed but we did it. States is a celebration of (small scale) independent publishing - somewhere between a book festival and a convention. And it's free. This year attendance was a bit down, around 420, but people stayed for longer, usually several hours, attending the performances and discussions, buying books or just networking. The initial idea was to focus on the East Midlands with some help from Our Friends in the West (Midlands) but this year there were stalls from CB Editions in London, Shearsman in Bristol and Inpress from Newcastle as well as our home grown publishers. Poetry was well, possibly over, represented in the programme but that also meant excellent sales at some poetry presses (Longbarrow from Sheffield for example) which specialise in crafted publications in unusual formats - the kind of material only seen at such book fairs.
I was stuck on admin/Five Leaves duty all day but I heard very good things especially about the future of the book industry panel (chaired by Pippa Hennessy from Five Leaves on her first outing as a panel chair in any setting) and the discussion about small press comics run by the Leicester enthusiasts from Factor Fiction. The level of co-operation in the day was shown by several poets deciding to run Candlestick's session after the editor had to pull out at the last minute due to illness. None of the readers have been, I think, published by Candlestick and they had little prep time but it was lovely that they ran an emergency reading service rather than just let that session lapse. Another couple of presses ensured that Candlestick's stall was delivered and returned, with DMU students staffing it. I like also that this event is always younger and more multi-cultural than any other literature event I go to.
Events like States involve hard work from a lot of people but they are a way that independent presses can showcase their work and talk to their friends and relations. Friends in Birmingham are discussing how best to move forward with their own States of Independence, while on September 8th CB Editions is organising their second Free Verse, see: http://www.poetrybookfair.com/.
The programme for our States of Independence is still on http://www.statesofindependence.co.uk/.
ps An important part of the day comprises publishing workers buying from other publishers. My purchases were the latest issue of Dream Catcher, to pamphlets from the Nottingham "People's Histreh" group (though as one Nottinghamian said, if they really want to mirror the accent it should be 'istreh), a David Morley poetry collection from Templar that I'd not seen before and Jack Robinson's Days and Nights in W12 meditation (CB Editions). My Five Leaves colleague Pippa bought most of the other books on sale judging by the weight of her rucksack.