3,000-4,000 people attended the twelfth Lowdham Book Festival, which runs over four weeks in June and July. Five Leaves is the joint organiser of this successful festival, which this year featured writers and musicians including Stella Rimington and Barbara Dickson and specialist events ranging from a session on the Moomins and philosophy through to an introduction to anarchism. Five Leaves writers taking part included David Belbin, Stephen Booth, John Lucas and Mark Patterson as well as a number of those loosely defined friends of Five Leaves - writers we know well but publish irregularly. Literary Nottinghamshire takes a short breather then moves straight into Southwell Poetry Festival, which includes the launch of our latest poetry pamphlet by Adrian Buckner, and a reading and lecture by our Andy Croft, as well as an appearance by Simon Armitage. Full details on our events page.
Around 400 people attended the second States of Independence event for readers, writers and publishers of independent presses. The best attended of the 26 sessions included a panel on sex and sensibility, a talk on the Moomins and philosophy and an introduction to anarchism. We were pleased to jointly organise the day event with the Creative Writing Team at De Montfort University. We are now talking with Nine Arches Press about a similar event in the West Midlands.
Another hugely busy year comes to a close with a scattering of reviews - John Lucas’ Next Year Will Be Better: a memoir of England in the 1950s was one of Blake Morrison’s books of the year in the Guardian, our reissues of Roland Camberton books have been picked up steadily on the blogosphere while the newsletter of The Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park have given a great review to our King Dido. We reach the parts…
Other assorted unusual highlights of the year include sections of Michael Rosen and Baruch Simons’ The Golem of Old Prague appearing in “Monsters and Miracles; a journey through Jewish picture books” at the Eric Carle Museum, while Mike Gerber’s Jazz Jews has enabled him to have a monthly (with online repeats) radio programme on UK Jazz Radio.
In 2011 we relaunch our Crime Express series, publish a new Anita Klein art book, second young adult novels from Dan Tunstall (who was shortlisted this year for the Branford Boase Award) and Maxine Linnell, publish two more Catalan books… and five books for the 75th anniversary of The Battle of Cable Street. We’ll be running another States of Independence Day, promoting indie presses. Another busy year looms.
You can keep up more regularly by reading our Five Leaves’ blog.
Thanks for your support in 2010.
In October 2010, Five Leaves initiated and co-ordinated a day celebrating the life of Alan Sillitoe. Over 200 people attended the day, which included contributions from John Harvey, DJ Taylor, John Lucas, David Sillitoe and many more covering many aspects of Alan Sillitoe's life including his interest in mapping, film, his children's books, his poetry, his place as a regional writer and more.
States of Independence I (March 2010) was a great success, with around 400 attending the 21 sessions and spending their hard earned at the 40 or so stalls from small publishers. We were pleased to organise this event jointly with the Creative Writing Team at De Montfort University. About 70% of those attending were from Leicester, with others from the East Midlands as well as Birmingham, Manchester and Newham. Many of the events were packed and many of the stalls reported excellent sales and new contacts. Thanks to all the writers and stall holders for making a great day.
We are also pleased to announce the first three titles in our Richard Hollis imprint. These are now available. You can find more about Richard Hollis in our News section. Other New titles out this month include Swimmer in the Secret Sea by William Kotzwinkle and 40 Years in the Wilderness: inside Israel's West Bank settlements, details below.
We welcome to Five Leaves. He will run his own imprint under our umbrella.
Richard Hollis has been in publishing, or on its fringes, for 50 years. He has worked as a printer, art editor, production manager, teacher and lecturer. His first complete book designs were for Weidenfeld and Andre Deutsch. This was in the early 1960s, a time when he went on to design a series of covers for Penguin and, after a year in Paris in Galeries Lafayette's publicity studio, became art editor of New Society and later of the monthly New Middle East.
As well as teaching at the London College of Printing and later as a Senior Lecturer at the Central School of Art and Design, he was art director of Pluto Press and for a short time design and production director at Faber and Faber. In the 1970s he designed a reading scheme for Macmillan Education and worked with John Berger on several books, which began with his Booker-winning G and included his best-seller Ways of Seeing. He reckons to have done about one hundred covers for a variety of publishers.
Hollis has designed more than 150 catalogues for art exhibitions, several for Bridget Riley, and over nearly a decade he designed catalogues and publicity for the Whitechapel Art Gallery. This summer he worked on a book for the British artist Steve McQueen at the Venice Biennale and is preparing another on McQueen as official war artist in Iraq. For forty years Richard Hollis made the layout and covers for Ted Hughes and Daniel Weissbort’s quarterly Modern Poetry in Translation. He does the typesetting for his wife Posy Simmonds’s graphic novels – the most recent, Tamara Drewe, is now being filmed by Stephen Frears. Richard Hollis has given talks on book design, and will be lecturing at the Centre Pompidou in December.
The list of three books appear under his own name, but under the umbrella of Five Leaves Publishers. Two are connected with Ted Hughes and with a single London house. The memoir of Ted Hughes is written by the tenant of the flat where Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath stayed. Richard Hollis lived in the flat on the floor above, succeeding as tenant Jim Downer, the begetter of the recently published children’s book Timmy the Tug for which Ted Hughes wrote the words. Susan Alliston, the author of the second book, for which Ted Hughes wrote an introduction, at a later date, also lived in the house. The third book, a memoir of his experiences in the Holocaust is by Romek Marber, designer responsible for the basic style across most of the Penguin covers in the early 1960s and in the following twenty years.
Ten years in the making, 7,000 names in the index, 1.15kg in weight… Jazz Jews arrived with us on January 7th. We launched the book at SOAS in London, complete with Claire Shaw singing jazz standards (see events listings). Thanks to all who have helped in making this book, especially Andy Simons, the dozens of people who’ve been interviewed in many parts of the world, Jewish Music Institute for giving the author a grant to visit America, Darius Hinks for his fab Blue Note style cover, Ruth Lukom - a jazz widow for the last ten years…
Congratulations to , winner of the Five Leaves prize at Nottingham Trent University MA in Creative Writing. She wins a modest sized box of Five Leaves books.
Shatila project has come to an end, at least temporarily - it is hard to imagine the project not continuing. What began as a writer’s residency in Shatila, a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, with Five Leaves producing the travelogue (Camp Shatila: a writer’s chronicle - now available) ended with ten Palestinian children and four teachers coming to the UK with their children’s play, written by Peter, touring the North East for a week, ending at The Sage in Gateshead. Audiences ranged from good to packed, from children only to mostly adult. The ten 11/12 year olds grew in confidence as the tour developed, adding a Palestinian dance to the end of their performance.
Reports from some of the performances were of the majority of the audience in tears at the end, while, on their second last night the cast sat nonchalantly signing copies of Camp Shatila for admiring audience members. That the cast had barely left the refugee camp before, that they had limited English and normally lives as part of 17,000 in an area little bigger than a cricket pitch brought something to their performance of the author’s play. Not least that the girls, whose own life is so circumscribed, asked that the play’s ending be changed to allow mercy for a cruel king and underling. I doubt many people will forget the performance, or whether any of the girls will be able to forget such a dramatic experience in their lives. What is also outstanding is how many people and businesses from the North East went out of their way to raise money to make the tour possible or to provide practical support. Five Leaves is proud to have been involved in the project.
It has been a dangerous time to be a Five Leaves writer, with going to the great poetry reading on the other side. Berta appeared in one of Five Leaves’ early books, The Dybbuk of Delight, an anthology of poetry by Jewish women, but her own first collection, Flood Warning, did not appear until 2004. Her collection was well received and she went on to further success elsewhere, particularly with her short stories. Berta was a Londoner, a patrilineal Jew, radical in her politics, a lesbian, an adult education teacher. Her work appeared in many places and publications that reflected her varied interests. I only heard Berta read once, her first reading while dealing with the effects of Parkinsons. We kept up a sporadic e-mail correspondence but I was pleased to have published her collection. It was also fun whenever Berta sent a postcard announcing a new success. A quick google search will take you to a good article about her and tribute to her on the LGBT History Month blog spot.
, Nottingham’s Booker Prize winning author, died on Saturday 25th July.
Stanley Middleton would have been 90 on 1st August, but he didn’t quite make it. His death was not unexpected as he had been pretty ill for some time, but it will still be a shock to those who knew him or followed his long career, his latest novel, “Her Three Wise Men”, appearing only a year ago. This was, I think, his 44th book, in a career that started with “A Short Answer” in 1958. Apart from national service he lived all his life in Nottingham, working as a teacher, writing in the evening, until he retired in 1981. His father had been a railwayman locally.
Stanley’s novels, set in “Beechnall” - Nottingham, were never exciting, trendy, cutting edge, but rather they were solid novels about people who lived relatively ordinary lives in ordinary streets. That was their strength. He knew the City, the relevance of someone buying a “Bonington” (a card by one of Nottingham’s artists) and of the importance of chapel life to an earlier generation of working men and women. The location was never forced and simply allowed him space to concentrate on the relationship between people in his novels without having to spend too long in setting the scene. His books were full of references to music, theatre, the Bible, but he could use sex when it was necessary.
For his 80th birthday literary Nottingham made a fuss. At Five Leaves we published “Stanley Middleton at Eighty”, which was edited by John Lucas and David Belbin. The book included some uncollected stories by Stanley, an essay by him on the writer and old age and a series of essays by those who had important things to say about his work, including A.S. Byatt, Philip Callow and John Lucas himself. At the same time Five Leaves reprinted his 1974 Booker winning “Holiday”, which had astonishingly been dropped by his publisher. There was a marvellous party at Bromley House Library. For many writers that could have been seen as a full stop, but Stanley continued to publish a book almost every year into his 80s. But this tells you little so far about the man himself. He was good company, very well read, keeping on top of all the latest important novels. He was generous to new writers and, with his wife Margaret, was always happy to see visitors and to mooch in the background when Margaret proudly showed people round their garden. Stanley was pleased to see “Holiday” back in print, refusing royalties, insisting on buying copies at full price. He wanted to support the press. One small incident: round at his house, discussing books, Stanley casually picked up a magazine and suddenly shoved it in my face saying “Look at her, ain’t she gorgeous!” I thought he’d gone mad, until he said “Have you met my daughter, did you know she was a model?”, before returning to the literary anecdote he was telling.
Stanley influenced some local writers directly, giving great support to Michael Standen (who died last year) and to his school pupil Peter Mortimer, who realised through Stanley that working class people could become writers, and good ones. Although mostly published by Hutchinson, Stanley was no stranger to the small press scene. Together with Berlie Doherty he edited “Northern Stories Volume Three” for Arc Publications. The current issue of The Reader (issue 34) includes an article about him, together with rare examples of his poetry. Stanley hardly ever sent his poetry out, which is a shame. He also, incidentally, wrote an excellent radio play, “The Captain from Nottingham", which was broadcast in the early 70s. East Midlands Arts published an undated video interview with Stanley in their Writers in the Region series. Many people consider “Harris’s Requiem” to have been his best book, and it was re-issued by Trent Editions in 2006 with a long introduction by David Belbin. It is certainly a terrific book, first published in 1960, which is set in the classical music world in Nottinghamshire. This book includes one of my favourite scenes in local fiction, as the Blidworth Band is about to start.
The curtain went up and Marby walked in. The band all wore their military caps; we’ve paid for ‘em, you shall see ‘em. The front row applauded, the rest took to it noisily and with whistles and calls. Marby gave the signal and the audience crashed to its feet for the Queen and back with shifting of kit and rustle of comestible bags.
The Harris in question had been commissioned by the colliery band to write a new piece of work which swept the hall in a “great blaze of silver” resulting in a five minute ovation, as if from a football crowd.
- the actor, widow of the former Poet Laureate C Day Lewis has also died, after a short illness. I never met Jill other than over the phone, but had been working with her and her friend (and Lewis’ biographer) Peter Stanford to publish a selection of C Day Lewis’ poems on CD, introduced and read by Jill. The CD was due to be published on Lewis’ birthday in April next year, and still will be published. Jill Balcon had gone on tour with Peter Stanford on Lewis’ centenary year, Peter talking and Jill reading beautifully from the poems. Peter gave a talk at Lowdham Book Festival’s last winter weekend which included a recording of Jill reading. In conversation we decided, if Jill was willing, to produce a CD. She’d had a professional recording made, and it will be this recording that will become the CD. Jill had a career in her own right of course, in later years becoming a popular reader of audio books. An announcement will be made later about publication details.