When it comes to literature, Nottingham is absolutely spoilt for choice. Stoney Street in the Creative Quarter is home to the Nottingham Writers’ Studio, started in 2006 by IMPAC winner Jon McGregor. A few doors down is Writing East Midlands, a writer development agency that sits opposite St. Mary’s Church, which, incidentally, was the setting for Robin Hood and the Monk, the oldest of the Robin Hood ballads. Then there’s independent arts and culture magazine LeftLion snuck away in The Corner, which is next door to Mondo Comico. It’s the closest we have to our very own Fleet Street and with Broadway Media Centre down the road, the former lodgings of a certain Shane Meadows, you can see why we’re a smug lot.
Elsewhere in the city we have the legendary Page45, a fixture since 1994 and one time winner of the Diamond Comics Award for Best Retailer In The UK. We’ve got poetry publishers in Shoestring Press and the innovative Candlestick Press. We have that absolute rarity in publishing, Pewter-Rose, a publisher of short stories, and if you want sci-fi and fantasy then head to Angry Robot Books. Five Leaves is your starting point for radical social commentary. There are other publishers too. But this will turn into a book rather than a blog if I don’t stop bragging.
You will have noticed that I haven’t bothered mentioning the holy trinity of Byron, Lawrence and Sillitoe, nor our Betty Trask winner Nicola Monaghan or Booker shortlisted Alison Moore. I haven’t got time to tell you about our very own MBE, playwright Michael Eaton, who brought the myth of Charlie Peace to Narrowmarsh in a recent production at the Playhouse, which, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Do you need reminding about the Alan Sillitoe Committee, a voluntary organisation promoting the work of a true rebel with a cause or is your head still dizzy after the fantastic Memories of the Future festival, put on by Kirsty Fox and the Bees Make Honey Creative Community. And this blog is not the place to begin harping on about the incredible voluntary work put into creating February’s Festival of Words, the first city-wide literature festival in the city since the 1970s.
Although we have an independent bookshop in the Bookcase in Lowdham, run by Jane Streeter, the former President of the Booksellers Association, the missing link in our literary equation is an independent bookshop in the city. Not anymore. At the third time of trying Ross Bradshaw has finally ended this horrific absence of 13 years and set up shop at 14a Long Row. Only in Nottingham could a bookshop open opposite a bookies.
Neil Gaiman recently wrote “a town without a bookshop doesn’t have a soul” suggesting independent bookshops are absolutely vital to the lifeblood of a community. Dawn of the Unread aims to raise awareness of local literary history and in doing so support libraries and independent bookshops. It may seem odd to be up for a scrap when Nottingham has such a thriving literary scene but we’ve always liked a good fight and the point here is ensuring we hold on to what we’ve got. Think of it as a pre-emptive strike.
In America independent bookshops have grown by 300% because they offer a unique experience, something Ross Bradshaw will emulate by providing a more diverse selection of reading, an intimate relationship with customers that can be tailored over time, supporting writers by hosting events and forging meaningful links within the surrounding community. A real community, not one with a fancy avatar.
I hope Dawn of the Unread can be a part of this by directing people to books in his shop promoted thoughout the project. But the measure of success here is respect and already Ross Bradshaw has demonstrated this quality by not stocking graphic novels (as he doesn’t want to take trade from Page45). It’s this selflessness – the antithesis of Amazonville and supermarkets – that will ensure their survival. Now stop reading this and go and buy some fiction. And if you fancy a flutter in the bookies put a fiver on Jon McGregor to win the Booker for his next book.
- The Sandman: Overture #1 (annikisbookcase.com)
- Neil Gaiman on Libraries and Literacy (rtrube54.wordpress.com)
- Books, shops and genteel black holes (aburgeoninglife.wordpress.com)
- Amazon sending independent bookshops a trojan horse? (sott.net)
- 10 Inspiring Bookshops around the World (worldobserveronline.com)
- Five Leaves Book Shop is Coming to Town strangealliances.wordpress.com)