Monday, 28 June 2010

Left Lion interview with Maxine Linnell re Vintage

Ken Coates

Ken Coates died on Sunday. This came as something of a shock as I had received a request for a review copy of one of our books for his excellent journal The Spokesman on Friday. The last few times we spoke he railed against the Blairite destruction of the Labour Party, not seeing a great deal of hope. Indeed Ken spoke at Lowdham two or three years back, a rare public meeting, and he was mobbed. It was a bit like an old time socialist revivalist meeting. Ken said he was steadily losing his eyesight. I replied that it must be difficult, given his life in books. He replied that the biggest problem was that he could not cross the fucking road on his own any more.
Broadsheet and labour movement obituaries will cover his life fully, but in Nottinghamshire he was responsible for Spokesman Books, Russell Press and the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, all of which will continue as important parts of the left. Ken plays more than a walk on part in our forthcoming re-issue of Ray Gosling's Personal Copy at a time when there was all to play for in the Labour Party in Nottingham.

Lowdham again

The big day at Lowdham was on Saturday. We managed to achieve our lowest attendance ever at one particular event, three, but we had to put up the House Full signs at more events than ever. These included Clare Dudman talking about her novel set in the Welsh community in Patagonia and forty people had to be turned away from a talk on the sandstone caves of Nottingham (a talk based on a book that first came out about twenty years ago!), so people voted for internationalism and parochialism. At the end of a baking day, in even more baking tents, one of the last sessions ran over, a packed house discussing ethics and philosophy while saner mortals were drinking shandies or eating cold grapes. During the odd quiet moment I helped clear tables in the cafe. An elderly person of my acquaintance, passing by, quietly said "So, it has come to this." At least it is a job.
Bright sunshine on the day helped, though it did produce some challenging results for those attempting to show pictures in the marquees - "if you could see this slide, it would show that..."
This was our first year without Arts Council funding. This was a challenge but we were still able to run a festival with 50 events over a two week period.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Home straight

Only three more days of Lowdham Book Festival to go. You can find the remaining programme on Today we went head to head with the footie with Daisy Hay talking about the "Young Romantics", Byron et al. She was wearing a rather nice dress with a daisy design. I wanted to ask if she always wears daisies. OK, our audience of 75 was a shade less than the tens of millions watching the football match, but still, not bad for an afternoon event. Maybe we need to make little Lowdham Book Festival flags we can put on our cars and bicycles. We also had our celebration of Alan Sillitoe. The biggie for this will be in Nottingham on October 2nd, but Alan was a great friend of the Festival and we wanted to mark that. We had a full house, and people were particularly pleased that David Sillitoe read some of Alan's work. Tomorrow we go Italian, Friday some Five Leaves irregulars, Berlie Doherty, John Harvey and Jon McGregor talk about their fave books. And then "the last Saturday" - 26 free events, a big book fair, cafe. I never get to see any of the speakers. My role is to stand in the one place and say "The WI is down there" or "No, I don't have any blutack" and "Right, I'll get more toilet roll". The cutting edge of literature.

Friday, 4 June 2010

New this month at Five Leaves

Old City, New Rumours is available, Poems of C Day-Lewis and The Tolpuddle Boy will be out mid-month, Scamp and Rain on the Pavements will be available in late June. Any or all can be ordered meantime from bookshops or from

Danger: Left-wing sensibility at work

Our friends over at the internet magazine The Recusant have published an interesting and long review of The Night Shift. A small sample is extracted below. You can find the full review on It is awkward to print out, what you do is copy it by covering the text and sliding down till it ends on the screen on the website, then simply pasting it into Word afterwards. But it is a bit fiddly. If reading on screen simply keep scrolling down.

"With so many contemporary poetry anthologies attempting to define a zeitgeist aesthetic of today via a relative handful of ‘academy’ graduates, it is heartening to read an anthology which takes a more diverse sweep of voices and styles to emphasize the timelessness of certain poetic themes. The Night Shift is an ambitious anthology – beautifully produced by Nottingham-based press Five Leaves in A5 hardback – themed around ‘night’, and comprised of three sections: ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ (night shift work), ‘In The Forests of the Night’ (nocturnal animal kingdom), and ‘The Crumpled Duvet’ (insomnia). This is not therefore an anthology with a literary agenda; politically, there is a certain welcome left-wing sensibility at work, particularly in the in the first section, but this is par for the course with radical presses such as Five Leaves; this is essentially an anthology in the original sense of the word, a collecting together of poems across the literary canon, past and present, all linked by theme of ‘night’. There is a thoughtful Foreword by Welsh broadcaster John Humphrys, and three introductions by the editors to their respective sections."

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Colin Ward, Anarchist, 1924 - 2010

'Think of others...'
Memorial and Celebration of Colin's life and work
Saturday, 10 July 2010, 2.00pm-5.00pm
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1
All welcome
Ken Worpole: Colin Ward and the anarchism of everyday life
"Colin Ward in conversation with Roger Deakin", introduced by Mike Dibb
Harriet Ward: On meeting Colin Ward
Stuart White: Colin Ward: making anarchism respectable, but not too respectable
Peter Marshall: Colin Ward in the history of Anarchism
Tony Fyson: Colin Ward at work
Dennis Hardy: On the margins