Sunday, 17 June 2012

"Not the culture of power but the power of culture"

This slightly misquoted apercu from Edward Said ends the film documentary Shatila Theatre which documents the second tour of Britain by the Palestinian children's theatre troupe set up by our writer Peter Mortimer (the first tour, the background and the establishment of the troupe is outlined in the Five Leaves book Camp Shatila). Showing the film in Nottingham on Saturday, Peter outlined the plans of the Shatila Theatre Trust - organising exchange visits by street artists from the North East and Shatila camp, a joint choral project with singers from Shatila and the North East, and, thinking big, the possibility of a permanent theatre in Shatila. Peter is aware of the problems, aware that not everyone in Shatila welcomes this work and is mindful of the murder of Juliano Mer-Khanis, the late director of the Jenin Freedom Theatre. Yet seeing the transformation of a raggle taggle group of early teenagers into a troupe of actors and dancers, performing under the direction of a choreographer must make it all worth while. You can contact the Trust at The planned visit from the North East by street artists has had to be postponed because of the trouble in Syria spilling over into Lebanon, but later this year Shatila street artists are definitely coming to the UK.
Peter was in town to launch Made in Nottingham at a sodden and windswept Sherwood Festival. The weather conditions and the racket from the rock musicians an entire field away stopped the planned readings, but Peter will be in the Nottingham area again on 30th June at Lowdham Book Festival.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Five Leaves 2012 publications catalogue

Email us on info(at) if you would like an emailed copy, or a printed copy, or several.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

New from Five Leaves: 1948 ebook edition

Nineteen Forty-Eight"An intriguing reworking of 1984 – in sonnets... Fine indeed; very fine, really, perfectly precise and commanding."

Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian
Illustrated by Martin Rowson.

1948 is a comic verse-novel, audaciously rewriting George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four in Pushkin sonnets. Set during the 1948 London Olympics, it offers a radically alternative history of the Cold War, in which Britain has a Labour-Communist coalition government, the Royal Family have fled to Rhodesia and the US threatens to impose an economic blockade on Britain.
Featuring cartoons drawn especially for the book, 1948 combines hard-boiled detective-novels and Pushkin sonnets, film-noir and Ealing comedy.

Andy Croft's books include Red Letter Days, Out of the Old Earth, A Weapon in the Struggle, Selected Poems of Randall Swingler and Comrade Heart. He has written five novels and forty-two books for teenagers, mostly about football. He has edited many anthologies of poetry. His own collections include Ghost Writer, Sticky and Three Men on the Metro (with W.N. Herbert and Paul Summers). 1948 is his second novel in Pushkin sonnets.

Martin Rowson is a multi award-winning cartoonist whose work appears regularly in The Guardian, The Independent on Sunday, The Daily Mirror, The Morning Star, Tribune and many other publications. His books include an updated version of Gulliver's Travels.

 1948 is available now as an ebook, for the weird price of £4.12 at

New from Five Leaves: Made in Nottingham, by Peter Mortimer

Made in Nottingham: A Writer's ReturnThe Tyneside writer Peter Mortimer is used to writing about difficult places. Against Foreign Office advice he wandered round Yemen. He set up a children's theatre group in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon and, over one summer, walked the length of Britain with one dog and no money, dependent on the kindness of strangers to provide accommodation and food.
In this book, part memoir, part documentary and social commentary, he undertook a shorter journey, taking up residence in the same street he grew up in, on the Sherwood council estate in Nottingham. It was a journey of only 160 miles, but one which involved revisiting his previous Nottingham life, some fifty years back.
Often feeling like a ghost, or disembodied spirit, Peter Mortimer stalks the streets of his past, attempting to put it into the context of how he lives now, trying to make sense of the two times.His sojourn makes for an unpredictable, often comic, sometimes painful journey.
Themes of changing times, class and society are universal. Anyone who has returned to their childhood home, however briefly, will immediately identify with the feelings and contradictions so vividly portrayed.
Peter Mortimer is probably best-known for his book Broke Through Britain, recording his walk through Britain with no money and nowhere to stay. His has written other extreme travel books including Camp Shatila and Cool for Qat. He lives in the North East, where he runs Cloud Nine theatre company and Iron Press.
Made in Nottingham is available from bookshops soon or, post free, from:

Friday, 8 June 2012

Five Leaves - the Buddy Holly connection

Remember Don Juan by Byron? That long and funny poem that attacked William Wordsworth, Robert Southey and, well, look it up. Byron published Don Juan between 1819 and 1824, so it is time for a new version. But who has that time? It's a massive work. So, Andy Croft has asked a total of twenty poets to write between 50 and 100 stanzas each, with their own take on Don Juan today. We'll come back to this at a later date - the book won't be published until late 2013 or, more likely, as a birthday present for Byron in early 2014. A sort of modern Don Juan then. So, to whet your appetite is Buddy Holly,, with his Modern Don Juan.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Call the Kops

Our chum and writer Bernard Kops's career is finally taking off, with his most recent poetry collection being reprinted, a new novel, a do at the Jewish Museum, a play being revived, something coming on the BBC soon, featured in Spitalfields Life... and as young as ever at 84. David Paul has now become his regular publisher (with our blessing) but Bernard still keeps flogging our Bernard Kops' East End and The World is a Wedding at his assorted readings.
The Norwegian magazine Klassekampen asked us for a copy of this picture, to go with an interview, from the East End book, so I thought it might be nice to reprint it here. The picture first appeared in Encore: the voice of vital theatre in September/October 1958, being a line up of promising new writers. Clive Goodwin, the editor, was clearly a good picker.
Back row: Arnold Wesker, Errol John, Bernard Kops, David Compton
Front row: NF Simpson, Harold Pinter, Ann Jellicoe, John Mortimer

Clapham Omnibus and the mystery of Aeronwy Thomas

We are pleased to reprint an article from the Clapham Omnibus newsletter about the recent Pamela Hansford Johnson exhibition. The exhibition is now closed - though available for elsewhere if anyone has any ideas. For more information on Clapham Omnibus, see Thanks to Clapham Omnibus for hosting the exhibition, the nice photo and permission to reprint the article.
The last hurrah for Omnibus before the fate of the Old Clapham Library is known was the launch of an exhibition about local writer Pamela Hansford Johnson. The exhibition, timed to mark the centenary of her birth on 29 May 1912, was opened by her daughter Lindsay, Lady Avebury, on Thursday 10 May.

Born in London, Pamela lived with her mother’s theatrical family at 53 Battersea Rise until she was 22, the year that she wrote her first novel, This Bed Thy Centre. (Her father, who worked for the Baro Kano railway on the Gold Coast, now Ghana, died when she was 12.) She attended Clapham County Girls’ Grammar School, and had her first poems published while still a pupil, continuing to write while later working as a stenographer for a bank. As a teenager, she was briefly the girlfriend of the poet Dylan Thomas but went on to marry first Neil Stewart in 1936 and then the novelist C P Snow in 1950.
A prolific writer, her lifetime output included 27 novels, seven short plays for the theatre and radio, short stories, critical works, sociological studies and a memoir. The exhibition includes family photographs, documents, hand-written manuscripts, original copies of some of her books, posters advertising them, and even her own typewriter, a vintage Imperial Good Companion.
Some 60 people attended the opening, many taking advantage of the discounted price on copies of This Bed Thy Centre, which has just been reissued by Five Leaves Publications. A story about adolescent love and sex (which Lady Avebury explained her mother had imagined, being a virgin still when she wrote it), the novel caused a stir when it first appeared – for its content, its title (endowed by Dylan Thomas) and the author’s young age – and was banned from Battersea Rise Library.
Curiously, the visitors’ book for the exhibition includes the entry: “Aeronwy Thomas, May, North London. Thanks for the pleasure of seeing my father’s photo, circa 1934”. As Dylan Thomas’s daughter Aeronwy died in 2009, Omnibus is intrigued to know who signed the book in her name.
Omnibus has submitted its bid to run the Old Library as a community-led arts centre. Lambeth Council is now considering all the shortlisted bids for both community and commercial proposals, and expects to announce the successful bidder in early to mid-June.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Poets in Beeston returns

The illustration here is of the cover of one of our earliest books, from 1996 (and, yes, it is still available) - an anthology celebrating the 15th year of Poets in Beeston, a series of readings in Nottingham organised by Robert Gent, who edited the book. The anthology includes poets including Danny Abse, Fleur Adcock, James Berry... through to Ken Smith and Charles Tomlinson. The book was launched with Jackie Kay as the guest poet. Over the years everybody who was anybody in the British poetry world (and a few overseas guests) read at Beeston, the series being very generously supported by Nottinghamshire County Council. The series should have closed when Robert moved on, but was passed to my tender mercies and was wound down after a couple of years for all sorts of reasons, including the development of other readings elsewhere in the County.
Well, life moves on, and sometimes back in circles so, after some discussion between Five Leaves, Nottingham Poetry Society and Nottinghamshire Libraries, Beeston Poets returns in the autumn. For months we'd been talking about a series "something like Beeston Poets" before realising that what we really wanted was to re-establish Poets in Beeston. That is exactly what we will do, in the same venue as of old, which has been recently renovated. Robert thinks it is a good idea too! Pippa Hennessy will be leading on the project from Five Leaves, together with our sometime author Cathy Grindrod, their fellow NPS member Jeremy Duffield and Sheelagh Gallagher and Gill Rockett from Notts Libraries. Because of course it takes five or six people to do the work that Robert did on his own.
Times have changed - Notts County Council can't put in the money of old, but we'll have a dedicated website and email list as our main publicity (which features had not been on the go last time round). We might not have the money this time to put on some of the biggest names and some of the old Beeston favourites - UA Fanthorpe, Jon Silkin, Adrian Mitchell and others are no longer with us, but there will be some new kids on the block. And we'll have a cafe atmosphere.
The opening programme will launch this October with, appropriately, Jackie Kay, followed by Neil Astley from Bloodaxe in November and Five Leaves' Andy Croft in December. Dates and details will follow.