I’ve known Ross Bradshaw for just under ten years now. He was the first publisher I met in Nottingham when I first started writing for LeftLion and is the person I turn to if I want to know anything about trade unionism, Jewish secular culture or the origins of whistling. I often bump into him at literature events (where he likes to hide at the back) or on the 45 bus where he always has an anecdote or story. He takes a little getting used to as he’s a dour Scot, but over the years I’ve grown very fond of his humour and intellect.
Ross had the balls (and the books) to open the Five Leaves Bookshop in November 2013, enabling Nottingham city centre to have its first independent bookshop since 2000. It has now become the focal point of local debate thanks to its varied public talks. For example, on September 17, the evening before the referendum on Scottish independence, he’s holding a celebration of all the literatures of Scotland, with readings in Gaelic, Doric, Border Scots, Norn – and Standard English. It’s £3, which can be redeemed against purchases made on the night, and includes either a tot of whisky or a glass of Iron Bru.
Ross appears in our current chapter ‘Booked’ which is written by poet Andy Croft and drawn by artist Kate Ashwin. In the comic, Lord Byron and Brian Clough are merged together in a 2-4-1 book deal which takes place inside Ross’s shop. When I informed Ross that he was appearing in a comic ‘for the first time’ he was quick to inform that this was not entirely correct. In the eighties, while running the Mushroom Bookshop, he was satirised in a cartoon strip as a ‘bourgeois capitalist pig’ (or something along those lines) in a local anarchist magazine. Apparently it can be found in the archives at The Sparrows’ Nest so if anyone comes across it, please scan us a copy.
Ross’s contribution to literature and various radical causes can’t be captured in a blog entry but I’m glad that we’ve immortalised him in our comic, even if it isn’t for the first time. So instead I’ll end with my favourite Ross story.
On the opening night of the Five Leaves Bookshop I was queuing to pay for a book when I overheard a woman behind me complaining how difficult it was to buy a book for her sister. Curious, I interrupted the conversation and asked for more details. After listening to a breakdown of ‘the sister’ for five minutes I knew the only cure was an Alice Monroe short story collection. The woman hadn’t heard of Munroe before so we went over to the relevant shelf and I gave a brief synopsis of the four books in stock. She ended up buying them all.
I proudly made my way over to the counter and informed Ross that in addition to the £12.99 I had spent on my book I had also secured £45 in sales through my Munroe recommendations. He got up from behind the desk, walked over to the Munroe section, and said: ‘Great. Now I’ve got none of her books left. I’ll have to order more.’ This is Ross’s way of saying thank you. I think…
- You can see Ross Bradshaw, Lord Byron, Brian Clough and many more in ‘Booked’, which was released on 8 July 2014
- There is a short article about independent bookshops embedded in the comic that you can read here.
- Fiveleaves website
- Fiveleaves blog
- Five Leaves Bookshop