Dawn of the Unread started life as a literary walk around town as part of the Festival of Words a few years ago. Then it became a reading flashmob, 58 Youtube videos, the placement home for 120 NTU students, an interactive App, a computer game, music video, Guardian Education Winner, zombie dolls, a manifesto for the digital humanities, and, of course, an online graphic novel serial. 16 issues later it’s finally become a gorgeous glossy book published by Spokesman Books in collaboration with the City of Literature.
We launched the publication at the inaugural Festival of Literature on 11 November at Antenna. Antenna is quite a significant location as this is where the first conversations took place about the project. It’s a nice space for a book launch because they have a mixture of small tables and leather sofas that can be arranged in an informal setting. My ideal literary event is always something that resembles an underground 1930s jazz bar, with dim lights, casual seating but shit hot visuals. Screens are littered around on various walls, meaning the audience can view the talk from wherever they are sat.
Although I did a quick chat on the Verity Cowley Show, one for NottsTV and a lovely feature on East Midlands today, I barely had time to promote the event other than a late email panic on Thursday evening. The key to a successful event is direct personalised marketing and after ten years of journalism in Notts, I have a lot of contacts. I just didn’t have time to talk to anyone on a meaningful level. I intended to write to all of the librarians, to schools, to all of the partner organisations who helped support us, but… Having said that, we had a turnout of around 50-70 people. That’s not bad, but it deserved to be a lot more.
One bit of promotion I did really enjoy was creating the Nottingham This is Your Life video which you can see at the top of the page. It was shot in one hour with the LeftLion designer Raph Achache. If nothing else it proves my lack of vanity, as nobody in their right mind would shoot a video with such an awful dad haircut. It enabled me to be Richard Ashcroft for the day, cutting my own ‘bittersweet harmony’ through town and thankfully not getting lamped as I entered the Thurland…
I wrote my script a few hours before the event started. Sadly, this has become the norm now. But this is only because I was script editing Lucy Brouwer, one of the featured writers in our follow up project: Whatever People Say I am.
I themed the book launch around ‘the making of’ and used it as an opportunity to bring in all of the little stories people may not know about, the hidden references in the comics that may have slipped people’s attention, and the rationale behind the editorial decisions. Different contributors were invited up, but we didn’t have time to look at every comic in detail.
Dawn of the Unread continues to live on. As I write, it is being used by NTU students for an animation assignment, a filming module is using it to create a mock Kickstarter campaign, I’ve just read a script by one of our contributors who is turning one of our featured literary figures into a full length graphic novel, and our book is being sent out to every school in Nottinghamshire as part of the City of Literature’s drive to support schools and help raise literacy levels. I also in negotiations with Canvas, the home of the UK’s art scene on YouTube to see if we can get more exposure for our work and reach new audiences.
This is a project which has continually supported and promoted other organisations from Joanna Walsh’s #readwomen2014 campaign to the lack of Black representation in the Arts. It has created opportunities for aspiring and up-and-coming writers rather than drawing from the same repetitive palette. It has pushed the boundaries of the comics’ medium through our innovative use of embedded content – as far as I’m aware nobody else has provided such contextual reading for all types of readers before. It may also be the first ever graphic novel to explore a city’s entire literary history. It is a project with genuinely legacy, particularly in terms of education. And it was carved and crafted with spit, blood, guts and love to help raise awareness of this little old factory town, Nottingham.
Now, I want a week off. Then it’s time for part II…
Dawn of the Unread (2016) James Walker and Paul Fillingham. Spokesman Books. £14.99
Dawn of the Unread is a graphic novel celebrating Nottingham’s literary history. It was created to support libraries and bookshops. It began life online and won the Teaching Excellence Award at the Guardian Education Awards in 2015 and has since been published by Spokesman Books (2017). All profits go towards UNESCO Nottingham City of Literature.