If words are your thing, our city is the place to be. Full to the brim with places to go and things to do, Nottingham is built for the bookish, laid out for the lyrical, and pruned for the poetic. Here, we’ve bashed out a little guide to get you started on the road to the literary community in all its scribbled glory...
Nottingham Writers’ Studio
Since 2006, the Nottingham Writers’ Studio has been proving a bloody fruitful crop of literary figures. A creative retreat located at the tail end of Hockley, the NWS supports both existing authors and fosters those newly developing. Whether you find yourself prosaically inclined, a playwright, poet or just general scribbler of all things wordy, here is the writing community for you. With an impressive alumni including Man Booker shortlists and Dublin IMPAC awards under their belt, they clearly know their stuff. If you’re looking for a refuge to home those lexical chops, then there’s few better places to grab yourself a membership for.
Five Leaves Bookshop
If the revolution is not to be televised, then it might as well kick off at Five Leaves. Nestled behind Primark and down a dark alley opposite a bookies, it’s the kind of place that worries folks the first time you take them down, but therein lies half its charm. Where else are you going to find shelved sections dedicated to feminism, anarco-politics and graphic novels based on the life of Egon Schiele? Following on from Nottingham’s own history of radical literature – see Lawrence, see Sillitoe – FLB has been fuelling radical fires since 2013, proving ad-hoc grieving sessions post grim election results, as well as supporting as many local poets, authors and literary practitioners as they can fit underneath their protest tote bags.
Bromley House Library
If Notts’ new literary status and DIY poetry scene is all a bit too “now,” then recline back in time in one of the few subscription libraries left in the UK, with the centrally-located Bromley House Library. In existence since 1816, it holds a stonking 40,000 books, which is enough to challenge even the most voracious of page twisters. It also provides a rather fine collection of reading rooms inside its grade II listed Georgian townhouse to disappear into and unleash your inner Byron. Just don’t bring the domesticated bear with you. Now, strap on some breeches and get comfy.
Look, corporate culture is what it is, and if you’ve got to shake the devil’s hand you might as well pick a slightly more benevolent one. While they’ve been criticised for aggressive tactics towards independent book shops in the past, it's still true that Waterstones are a solidly reliable source for both recognisable and slightly obscure literature. I would be lying if I didn’t admit to occasionally being lured in with the promise of spending a good hour nestled on a leather sofa reading books that I definitely intended to buy afterwards. That, and they’ve got some cracking author talks and guest lectures from time to time. Margaret Atwood came by our Notts branch, so that softens the deal a bit.
Writing East Midlands
Few get involved in reaching out to young, emerging writers quite like Writing East Midlands do. Doesn’t matter if you’re in school, at university, hiding in a library or being shushed in a museum, they’ll find you. Involved in too many supportive projects to mention, they run writing seminars and courses, offer mentorship and critical aid, build spoken word tours, and even provide one-to-one guidance, they’re just that bloody supportive. Dedicated to staging a platform for young, budding authors, they’ve even got themselves tucked in with the National Arts Awards, so that's another useful way they’re helping young writers up the ladder, the thoughtful sods.
There’s been a number of literary opportunities sprouting up in Notts’ council libraries of late, including Henry Normal’s free poetry readings around the city, which are set to continue for the 2017 Nottingham Poetry Festival. There’s also reading groups with specific focuses such as crime fiction, literature on mental health as well as non-english reading groups, if Bengali Literature or poetry in Urdu’s more your turn of phrase. Oh, and there’s ties with local writing groups too, with the likes of the DIY poets and the Nottingham Poets Society all getting stuck in. There’s even language classes held all through the week, to practice yer enunciation and verbal articulation.
Ideas on Paper
Keeping abreast and well informed is all but vital in these trying information times. Find out what is arguably the most impressive range of weird and wonderful magazines in the city at Ideas on Paper. Not only stocking magazines like Monocle, Tapas and Positive News, the Cobden Chambers store also stocks a some of the most beautifully jacketed books and stationery available. Book groups will also be gathering there in the near future, offering up word-based discussions and lusting over gorgeous literary illustration.
Think you can spin a yarn? Fancy yourself adept at keeping your listeners gripped until the very end? Down at The White Lion in Beeston stands some of the finest storytelling you’ll find out there with The Beeston Tales. Events are regularly ran by Tim Ralphs and Mike Payton, but open to a plethora of guest speakers. On the ball for over three years, don’t head down expecting your average meandering ramble lined with plot holes and inconsistencies. Often drawing from audience participation and their overall gift of the gab, expect nothing of the usual from this craftspeople of the turning tale.
The Storytellers of Nottingham
Inviting stories without boundaries or borders, The Storytellers of Nottingham seek to revel in stories of all shapes and sizes. Doesn't matter if it’s lightest comedy of errors or darkest depths of horror, every narrative will find a home with these traveling troubadours of the spoken arts. Situated at the Malt Cross, and sometimes even in the caves beneath, get down for a leap into the unknown with these witty wordsmiths and leave those tired old tropes behind.
Nottingham Does Comics
See life as a series of panels? From the graphic novel to the humble superhero strip, NDC is a collaborative bi-monthly forum aimed at those gifted not only with the word, but image also. Whether interested in creating, selling, studying or simply reading comics, this group is an active and vibrant space for all enthusiasts. With interests ranging from demigods in revealing spandex getups, to underground zines and outsider art, there’s space for every speech bubble among this lot. One of the most open and welcoming groups on the scene, the NDC even run life drawing classes, though don’t expect the models to be too heroic.
Nottingham Poetry Festival
A festival of epic proportion, the 2016 festival contained more than fifty different acts of individual and group poetry performances all vying for our overstuffed attention. As the 2018 festival starts to gear up, there’s looking to be even more wordage coming our way, from the likes of DIY poets, Poetry is Dead Good, Speech Therapy and Crosswords as well as a whole heap of others. Alongside national poets, expect our new Young Poet Laureate Georgina Wilding to be lending a gifted hand, as well as poetic screenings, installations and a “random poetry generator” courtesy of Notts Uni. In short, the festival gets bloody bigger and better every year and shows no signs of slowing down. Get on wi’ it.
Need a print studio unashamed to be raw, a little bit edgy and oh so colourful? Dizzy Ink are an independent printing studio pretty much creative enough to work anything onto a page. By employing Risograph printing, letterpress and thermography, they can do all kinds of witchcraft. What is true is that through their work with Nottingham Trent University – they created the 2015 degree show brochure Are We Artists Now? – and the publishing lecture series METAZINE, in 2016 on their own RAW publication, they’ve made themselves a stand-out name in terms of creative printmaking. And in November last year they held Notts Zine Fest at Rough Trade, the biggest zine event in Nottingham, period.
Besides courses in literature, playwriting or poetry, and creative writing, both the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University play serious roles in the lit scene outside of the student presence. Nottingham Uni run the Nottingham Poetry Series, a monthly series of performance and poetic seminars. Alongside this, regular poetry and literary events take place at Nottingham Lakeside Arts, and there’s access to DH Lawrence typescripts and manuscripts exhaling the behaviors of tempestuous owd Byron. They too provide a writer in residence position to one of Nottingham’s most critically respected contemporary writers, Jon McGregor. From Trent, we recently saw the public-participatory Switchboard Events which examined the role of the telephone in human interaction for the Being Human Festival. Also, Trent’s got some students slogging the previous steps of DHL with James Walker and Co. in a project to create a memory theatre inspired by the beardy author.
Printing can be costly and time consuming, lucky for Notts we’ve got Russell Press, who since 1968 have been helping those tight of pocket to get them words on paper. Founded by the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, Russell Press have always maintained a leaning towards helping those in the charity sector and other less-than-profitable organisations. Can’t help but point out they also nicely sorted out the Dawn of the Unread graphic novel by James Walker and Paul Fillingham for March 2017’s World Book Day, which saw the gathering of Nottingham literary figures, albeit semi-decomposed and seeking brains. Not only will they help with your printing needs, but they’ll also help correcting proofs and catching errors. Fancy.
We have a favour to ask
LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?