#MondayBlogs Paint a Vulgar Picture with DH Lawrence – D.H. Lawrence: A Digital Pilgrimage

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A friend of mine recently splashed out on a painting by the Nottingham-born artist Paul Waplington. Naturally, this gave me an excuse to photocopy a short essay by Lawrence called Pictures on the Wall and post it through her letterbox. ‘The human race loves pictures,’ declares Lawrence, ‘barbarians or civilised, we are all alike, we straightway go to look at a picture if there is a picture to look at’. This is perfectly true, although my first port of call for distraction and stimulation is the contents of a bookshelf. I remember once being shown around a house I was interested in buying, and being put off by the seller’s book collection. I just couldn’t bring myself to live in a space that had housed such a shabby collection of fiction. My partner at the time was appalled by what she perceived as my lack of sincerity. But I was deadly serious. The space had been polluted and I didn’t want to catch anything. We split up a year or so later.

Lawrence is fascinated by the pictures we hang on our walls. But needless to say they bring as much pleasure as pain. He takes particular offence at painting that have been hanging around for a long time as they represent ‘sheer inertia’ and a ‘staleness in the home is stifling and oppressive to the spirit’. He uses an analogy of fashion to explain these sentiments. Fashion in clothes changes because ‘we ourselves change, in the slow metamorphosis of time,’ consequently it is hard to imagine ourselves in the clothes we bought six years ago because we have since become different people. This is true, although fashion is also a process of aesthetic obsolescence that keeps the greasy wheels of capitalism turning.

Our reason for buying paintings, he argues, is that the painting somehow reflect or respond to some feeling in us. But as we grow (or age) these feelings change. If our feeling for a picture are superficial, our feelings for the picture wears away quickly. This is definitely true and I witness this every year when there’s a poster sale outside Nottingham Trent University for the latest batch of students. There’s only so long you can have a poster of a ‘doh’ing Homer Simpson, Bob Marley toking on a joint, or Tupac ‘God rest his soul’ Shakur on your wall before you feel a bit silly.

Lawrence, as subtle as a flying brick, has a simple solution for dealing with unwanted unfeeling pictures: Burn them.

Now this might seem extreme at first, and it is, but that’s because Lawrence doesn’t like art that’s reduced to materialism. ‘It is fatal to look on pictures as pieces of property. Pictures are like flowers, that fade sooner or later, and die, and must be thrown in the dustbin and burnt’. A picture, therefore, is only useful when it is ‘fresh and fragrant with attraction’. Once the aesthetic emotion is dead, the picture is no more than ‘a piece of ugly litter’.

And there’s more…

It’s a fallacy to see a picture as part of the architectural structure of a house, as somehow opening up the walls and functioning with the same purpose as say, the fire. Oh no. ‘The room exists to shelter and house us, the picture exists only to please us.’ Pictures are decoration, nothing more.

It’s at this point that a lot of readers probably pack in reading this six page essay. Life is too short to be scalded for having a painting on your wall for a decade. Some, good to his word, may even set Lawrence’s essay on fire. But try to have the one thing that Lawrence lacks, patience. He’s toying with you. He’s slowly building up to a bigger idea on how to make art more accessible to the masses. And to do this he brings in the example of public libraries.

In the 18th century books were very expensive. If you asked a gentleman whether he had read so and so he would most likely reply ‘I have a fine example in folio in my library’. Books being expensive rendered them a form of property, thereby overwhelming ‘any sense of literary delight’. It was only the development of the lending library system that changed the direction of the conversation to the contents of the book, the pleasure of reading for readings sake. ‘The great public was utterly deprived of books till books ceased to be looked on as lumps of real estate, and came to be regarded as something belonging to the mind and consciousness, a spiritual instead of a gross material property’.

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Lawrence argues that the same principles apply to art as long as a ‘picture is regarded as a piece of property, and not as a source of aesthetic emotion.’ He suggests that we need a Circulating Picture scheme that follows the principles of the library, where we can hire pictures as we hire books until we’ve ‘assimilated their content’. Obviously he doesn’t offer any practical advice on how to implement such an arrangement, but the sentiments are honourable.

LORD-BIRO
In 2010 Lord Biro and me created a ‘recession-busting’ Hirst skull covered in jelly tots. You can read about that here.

Money is always a corrupting influence for Lawrence, and he suspects that a man who pays a hundred pounds for a canvas is doing it in the secret belief, or hope, that one day it will be worth thousands of pounds. The world of modern art supports these accusations, not least the vulgarity of Damien Hirst’s diamond encrusted skull. But I think Lawrence’s arguments don’t necessarily apply to my friend. She hasn’t purchased her Waplington painting for financial reward, she’s bought it because he’s a local artist and, perhaps, it helps her feel a sense of home, within her home. And she certainly wouldn’t burn it because that’s wasteful and she’s someone who thinks about her impact on the planet. I’m quite sure she didn’t bother to read Lawrence’s essay on paintings but this doesn’t matter. If we’re still friends in ten years and the Waplington is still on her wall, I’ll post another copy through her door.

In 2019 Paul Fillingham and me will be creating a DH Lawrence Memory Theatre. It will include artefacts that address aspects of Lawrence’s life. Perhaps ‘Pictures on the Wall’ will be one of these artefacts. If you’d like to get involved and have any suggestions,  please submit your ideas here.

Source: #MondayBlogs Paint a Vulgar Picture with DH Lawrence – D.H. Lawrence: A Digital Pilgrimage

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#MondayBlogs Nottm Council on the future of Central Library

The following Q&A was produced by Nottingham City Council. If you would like to respond with a separate blog, please get in contact.

Nottingham City Council has in principal agreed to explore the opportunity to redevelop the site working with a developer. If we are able to agree a sale, this would include investment to provide an updated central library facility which otherwise we couldn’t do. We understand people’s concerns about the sale and where the library will go – below is some information to provide reassurance that there is a commitment to developing a new Central Library and an outline of the early proposals to make that happen.

Is the council fully committed to keeping Central Library open?
Yes.
This council absolutely recognises the value of libraries, both as community hubs and to help improve literacy and provide internet access for many who don’t have it themselves – that’s why we’re committed to not just keeping the Central Library open, but to investing in it so it remains open, relevant and popular for many years to come. We’re proud of Nottingham’s great literary heritage and our status as a UNESCO City of Literature. Our track record in recent years shows investment in modern neighbourhood libraries including Bulwell, Hyson Green and St Ann’s, often in new joint service centres which encourages more people to use them. This is in contrast to some councils facing budget cuts which have carried out large reductions in library provision to make savings. Bucking that trend, Nottingham City Council’s ruling Labour Group has had a commitment in its last two manifestos to develop the Central Library, and this is now part of the Council Plan.

Is it true Central Library is closing and being turned into offices?
No. That’s only half a story.
We are investing in new Central Library facilities through a deal which will also see new offices developed. The council has approved in principal the disposal of the Angel Row library site to developers Henry Boot Developments Ltd which would provide funding for the council to reinvest in a new and updated library facility. It also paves the way for an increase in Grade A office space to be created, meeting the demand for top quality office space in the city centre and keeping office development in the city centre where it needs to be.

Isn’t this deal more focused on office space?
No. This deal means we can build a new library at virtually no cost to local taxpayers.
This is a good deal for Nottingham and local library users. At a time when we are facing huge Government cuts to our budgets, we have to find imaginative ways to raise capital to fund ambitious plans for Nottingham and without this deal with Henry Boot Development Ltd, we wouldn’t be in a position to develop new Central Library facilities. With it, we have certainty that we can meet our commitment to develop Central Library facilities to meet modern standards and expectations. It also helps to meet the demand for top quality office space in the city – and it delivers a new Central Library at virtually no cost to local taxpayers.

Why does the library need developing?
To create a library fit for the 21st century.
The current library is not fit for purpose. The needs of library users are changing but this site is tired and not very adaptable to those changing needs. Modern central libraries should be a destination which attracts large numbers of people not only to borrow free books, but to access a wide range of services including learning, business intelligence, job clubs, literacy development and access to PCs and wi-fi, research archives, get help using new technology and so much more. Our proposals will give Central Library users the 21st century facility they deserve.

Will Central Library remain in Angel Row?
That’s the plan.
Our focus at the moment is on providing upgraded Central Library facilities on the existing site, but there are other options we are exploring to see if better value and a better outcome can be achieved.

How long will the development take and will services continue while work is underway?
It’s too early to say.
It is too early to say precisely how long the development will take, given that plans have not yet been submitted. While negotiations progress we will be looking at options that enable us to continue providing some Central Library services, but it won’t be a like-for-like service during this interim period. A number of approaches could be followed, all of which will be looked at, and it is important that we consider how we can enable people to use their local neighbourhood libraries to gain better access to the Central Library stock.

Will there be consultation on the proposals?
Absolutely.
Proposals are at a very early stage but we will of course consult with people in due course when our proposals are more refined.

Are there any details yet about the Angel Row development?
Yes.
The scheme will deliver a new Grade A office development of over 100,000sq ft. The proposal seeks to retain the existing façade facing Angel Row. It will also provide free space within the proposed new development, together with a £3m capital contribution, that can be used to provide a new Central Library within the Angel Row development. There will also be new retail units on the ground floor. A planning application has yet to be submitted.

Is there a chance the library element of the scheme is dropped?
No.
There is a clear commitment by the Labour Party and by the Council to provide a Central Library for the City.

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Today a meeting was held with Councillor David Trimble. Dawn of the Unread were invited but we were unable to attend. We will release more information soon.

#MondayBlogs Central Library Nottingham site sold off to Property Developer

esIn the opening issue of Dawn of the Unread we made some subtle observations about the state of British Libraries. Our intention was to ask whether libraries could still be a focal point of the local community. We suggested that on a political level, libraries weren’t valued. This was represented by a hideous hybrid called the Cleggeron (representing the then coalition government of David Cameron and Nick Clegg) whose favourite game was smashing up libraries.

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On an educational level we see a young teenager being dragged to the library, complaining ‘they’re boring and full of oldies.’ Our intention here was to think about how young people perceive libraries. When the teenager is given a copy of Dawn of the Unread and discovers that quite a bit has gone on in Nottingham he complains ‘My school is bobbins. They don’t teach us owt good like this.’ The implication here is that our cultural partnerships need to be better joined up and support each other. A thirst for knowledge at school leads to a thirst to learn more through books and engagement with extra curricular activities. According to an essay in Standing up for Education (2016),  50,000 teachers quit last year due to stress and the pressures of micro management. Teachers are vital in raising the aspirations of teenagers, so give them the time to do it!

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We included future predictions for libraries when our heroine Edith Slitwell has to check out her book using a Tesco style self-service machine which bleeps ‘unexpected genre in the bagging area.’ The slow erosion of humans from all areas of work is gaining momentum and libraries will be no different. Money is being saved through reduced opening hours. With this in mind we had our heroine informed that she would have to leave the building as it was shutting soon. Originally I’d wanted a sign on the library wall saying ‘opening hours 2pm -2.30pm’ but it was lost in the edit.

I mention this as it has just been announced that the Central Library site has been sold off to a property developer for 4 million. The council have put out an ambiguous statement of intent and consequently it is leading to a lot of concern. The Nottingham Writers’ Studio have quickly reacted and created a small group of interested parties who will be meeting with Councillor David Trimble to express their concerns. We have been invited to join in this conversation and will report back once we have some solid facts on exactly where the library will live.

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I have long been highly critical of Central Library. It is an ugly and depressing building in much need of a makeover and may very well benefit from being embedded inside a new fancy pants building. But it is called Central Library for a reason, so I do hope that the Council remember this so that it doesn’t have to be renamed ‘tucked away in one of those Sneinton Market huts that nobody uses on the outskirts of town library.’

In our Gotham Fool issue I stipulated to writer Adrian Reynolds that his narrative must mention that Central Library is a one stop centre where you can also pay your council tax. Originally, I was disgusted by this. I felt it devalued knowledge. But three years on I’ve changed my mind. Proximity may very well be the best way to encourage access to books and computers, films and music.     .

Dawn of the Unread was always meant to be a dialogue about the role of libraries. The reason that we are donating one copy of our book to every library in Nottingham is to support them. To help create conversations. To celebrate the very many positive things that have come out of Nottingham. The book is published by Spokesman Press, part of the Bertrand Russell Foundation. It was important our publisher reflected values we believe in as well as having a local connection. We sincerely hope that issues raised in our 16 part serial are taken into consideration by the Council in these very difficult times. We’re already witnessing a high rate of homeless people back on the streets, will we start to see books made homeless as well? And what will follow after that?

There are currently talks to hold a peaceful demonstration some time in December. Hopefully a silent sit in, like our reading flashmob a few years ago. We’ll post more information as and when this is confirmed through our Twitter account. @Dawnoftheunread.

FURTHER READING

 

 

#MondayBlogs Alan Gibbons on National Libraries’ Demonstration 5 Nov 2016

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Alan Gibbons was our featured writer back in Issue 11 of Dawn of the Unread when he brought Robin Hood and his Merrie Men back to life for a tub-thumping protest at the demolition of library services. Now he’s urging us all to stand up and walk in protest at cuts faced by public institutions that are integral to learning.   

“Public Libraries and Museums remain the lynchpin of communities, offering access to learning, reading, history, art, information and enjoyment. Libraries are, or should be, trusted public spaces for everyone. They play a crucial role in improving literacy, in combating the digital divide and in widening democratic involvement. BUT, in the UK since 2010, we’ve LOST:

  • 8,000 paid and trained library workers (a quarter of all staff);
  • 343 libraries (600-plus including ones handed to volunteers); and
  • One in five regional museums at least partially closed.

We’ve also seen:

  • Libraries’ and museums’ opening hours cut;
  • Budgets, education programmes and mobile/ housebound/specialist services slashed;
  • An escalation in commercialisation and privatisation;
  • A 93% increase in the use of volunteers in libraries;
  • Income generation become the priority for almost 80% of museums.”

So say the organisers of the National Museums, Libraries and Galleries demonstration on 5 November  in London, PCS Culture Sector, Unite the Union, Barnet UNISON & Save Barnet Libraries, and Campaign for the Book have initiated a national demonstration to save some of our most treasured public services.

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Words: Alan Gibbons. Art: Steve Larder. From Issue 11 of Dawn of the Unread ‘Books and Bowstrings’

Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of Labour Party says: “I give my 100% support to this demonstration. The Tories have devastated our public services using austerity policies as justification. I promise that a Labour Government will act to ‘in-source’ our public and local council services and increase access to leisure, arts and sports across the country. We will reverse the damage the Tories have done to our communities in the cities, towns and villages.”

I will be there, marching alongside service users, staff and campaigners from around the country. Will you please join me?

When: Saturday, November 5th, noon.
Where: British Library, Euston Road, London.
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#MondayBlogs: The Masked Booksellers

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Photograph: Mike Finn

For the last decade ExLibris, part of the Federation of Masked Booksellers, have been salvaging disregarded books and selling them to raise money for charity. In this guest blog Bob and Chris Cann explain that the wearing of masks is in homage to Victorian bibliophile Josiah Saithwaite and that books can really change people’s lives in many ways….    

For over ten years, Nottingham people visiting festivals and fairs, and sometimes even wandering Carlton streets, have encountered a stall selling second–hand books.  Maybe not so unusual, until they noticed that the books are very cheap and the booksellers are masked.  What’s going on?

ExLibris, the Masked Booksellers, are book-loving volunteers who can’t bear to see books thrown away.  And they’re aware that too many local good causes are under-funded, and that landfill isn’t infinite.  So, joining the dots, they began rescuing books – first, from libraries and charity shops that were disposing of them, and then also from increasing numbers of friends and well-wishers who had to clear houses or make space on their shelves.  Books were picked off pavements, out of skips, and on one occasion intercepted as they were being chucked, down at the dump. Then more were donated by friends of friends of friends.

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Photograph: Mike Finn

ExLibrisers stored all these books in their Carlton home.  Their home (which is also the home of their own very substantial book collections) filled up.  And still the books kept coming.  Sometimes ExLibrisers would return home to find boxes and bags of books piled up outside their house.  Visitors had to sleep wedged in between boxes of books, and relatives complained.

Eventually, for storage reasons, certain categories of books could no longer be accepted,  ExLibris naturally started by rejecting anything by Jeffrey Archer.  Outdated travel guides and computer manuals and tatty books were added to the list, but it proved impossible to predict all the unwanted books that would arrive.  The list now has to include books about Nazi regalia and cookery books with bits of food stuck to them.  However some wildly unpredictable titles have been welcome and aroused curiosity.  A favourite was “The Mastery of Sex through Psychology and Religion”.

Of course, books were not only coming in.  They were offered for sale at very low prices (to be affordable to all) on stalls at festivals such as the Nottingham Green Festival and Lowdham Book Festival, where they were delivered by Polo with roofbox, and displayed under a gazebo.  But this system meant that only a tiny proportion of the stock could be displayed at any stall, and so the Carlton megasales began.

Once a year, in Carlton all around the ExLibris home, the entire stock is offered for sale. The megasales have grown from using just the front of the house and the front of the garage, to using every nook and cranny. Now books are displayed in the garden, in the front porch, in the back porch, in the garage, in the purpose-built shed, in the car boot, under cold frames and in a specially-bought toilet tent – anywhere that a book can reasonably or unreasonably be sold from.  And all books are categorised and sorted, to make it easy to find particular topics.  Saithwaite House (that’s the purpose built shed), was bought to store more books, and is the venue of the booksale café “Josiah’s” as well as somewhere else to display books during the megasales.

This year’s sale will be the tenth. The first megasale in 2007 raised £189.  The ninth in 2015 raised £2023.  With prices starting at 10p, that’s a lot of books rescued, and a useful contribution to good causes.  Since ExLibris’s first ever stall (June 2006, Green Festival, £116), £10,500 has been raised and donated to good causes, mostly local.

Two charities have been the main beneficiaries – Nottingham & Notts Refugee Forum’s anti-destitution work has received over £5,800.  Hayward House, caring for people at end of life, has received over £3,600.  Other beneficiaries have included Stonebridge City Farm, the Sumac Centre, School for Parents, the Sparrows’ Nest, Nottingham Green Festival, other refugee organisations and local food banks.

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Over the years, there have been some very special book donations.  Bromley House Library donated some nineteenth century overstocks.  A local businessman and collector of first editions is a regular donor, giving away previous copies if he finds a better one.  The entire personal collection of the late Keith Leonard, Mushroom Bookshop co-founder, was donated by his daughter.  Many of the books belonging to Nottingham writer, activist and broadcasterRay Gosling were donated by his sister.  Some of these books are still in the stock.

This year the megabooksale becomes a megamegabooksale, and moves from autumn to spring.  The first was held on one day.  This soon expanded to a weekend, and then three days.  This tenth sale will be held over two weekends (seven days), so even books which can’t find shelf space to start with can be put out as other books are sold.

The 10th Annual Second Hand Charity Book Sale Weekends 2016 are again in aid of Nottingham & Notts Refugee Forum and Hayward House.

Since the last sale, hardly a week has gone by without a donation of quality books.  These include: books for children and adults; new, genre, unusual, modern and classic fiction; every non-fiction subject under the sun; local interest; books on leisure pursuits such as gardening, crafts and cookery; hardbacks and paperbacks and books in really beautiful bindings; superhero comics, music scores and maps; books in many languages; collectable books at much lower prices than online, and the odd really weird book that you wouldn’t believe could or should exist.

As it’s the 10th anniversary sale, there will be surprises and treats, such as a free raffle entry for people who come wearing a mask.  And again visitors will be able to take a break from their browsing to enjoy refreshments, including drinks and home-made cakes, in “Josiah’s”.  Budding artists will be encouraged to decorate the garden path with coloured chalks.  And anyone who wants is invited to bring a tin of vegetarian food, to be donated to local food banks.

Last year’s sale raised over £2000 for charities.  ExLibris hope to see the celebratory tenth sale raise even more.  There are certainly enough books to do this!

So, why the masks?  ExLibris follows in the tradition of maverick Victorian bibliophile Josiah Saithwaite, who, it is said, rescued and distributed books very cheaply to the poor workers of Manchester, but was always masked because he believed in “doing good by stealth.”

The tenth mega charity booksale started on Friday 29 April and will be at 16 Vernon Avenue, Carlton, Nottingham NG4 3FX, from 11am – 7pm. You can still catch it on these days:

  • Monday 2 May
  • Friday 6 May
  • Saturday 7 May
  • Sunday 8 May

ExLibris on Facebook
ExLibris website