The Nottingham Festival of Words blog hop
Strange Alliances is joining in the Blog-Hop to highlight the second Nottingham Festival of Words event in October 2014. The Festival is a celebration of the spoken and written word, and is an important part of the city’s bid to become a UNESCO City of Literature. The blog tour will be made up of people who write and live in Nottinghamshire or have some connection to the city or county. I have been tagged by book reviewer extraordinaire Pam McIllroy and you can read Pam’s post here. But as I am part of a double act, Write Creating, I thought I would rope in Lisa Shipman, the other half of Write Creating, to say something as well.
Lisa what’s your connection to Nottingham and it’s written and spoken words.
I was born in Nottingham and because I love the city so much have continued to live here. I grew up surrounded by stories – my great grandmother moved to Nottingham during the Second World War – and my earliest memories of her are of listening to tales of her life in London, the Blitz featuring heavily. My grandfather was a miner for most of his life and so as a fiction writer I have a rich vein of stories to draw from – always helpful. I suppose I have always had a passion for sharing stories and for enabling people to have the opportunity to share theirs. I am always involved in projects which have a community element, be it teaching creative writing in schools or running events for festivals such as Nottingham Festival of Words. Part of the reason for setting up Write Creating was to make sharing stories so much easier for community groups to do. Working on various projects and co-writing our series of non-fiction books are fulfilling what I set out to do when I decided to become a freelance writer.
What about you Elaine?
My ancestors were also miners and have a long standing connection with the area. My great-great-grandfather was a deputy at Shipley colliery. But emotionally my connection to Nottingham is through DH Lawrence’s stories, because his descriptions of the landscape and the people in them bring me closer to the world of my great-uncle Arthur who died in the Great War. Lawrence’s accounts of fictional Nottinghamshire just before the First World War resonate with the stories my grandmother used to tell me about her childhood. I’d always read a great deal, but only ever thought of myself as a writer of fact not fiction. I always make the joke I was an accidental creative writing student, because I became involved in creative writing only through curiosity and at a time when the University of Nottingham ran lifelong learning courses. Somehow I got absorbed, along with these courses, into the then newly formed BA in Creative and Professional writing. That’s how I met you and realised, while interviewing you for this blog, that your knowledge of running children’s workshops should be preserved. That’s when we began writing our series of practical books on how to run writing workshops for children and our business Write Creating was born.
What do you love about Nottingham and its creative scene right now, Lisa?
Where do I start? Nottingham has an amazing creative scene and I think this is in part due to being a diverse city and partly because of our love of grassroots organisations. The Jam Café showcases international spoken word artists. There’s the amazing Mouthy Poets who do so much for young people, alongside hosting popular spoken word events at Nottingham Playhouse. Sobar runs regular open mic nights and Broadway’s Mayhem film festival always has a ‘fright night’ showcasing Nottingham’s best storytellers. In fact you’d be hard pressed not to find a venue in the city that does not host some sort of creative event. Alongside this are organisations such as Nottingham Writers’ Studio who champion both emerging and professional writers. They too are responsible for supporting and nurturing creative entrepreneurs such as Bees Make Honey. In fact Nottingham is a very exciting place to be right now, especially if you are a writer or spoken word artist. I only wish this had happened years ago. If I could describe Nottingham as a person I’d say Deborah Stevenson, who runs Mouthy Poets. She is Nottingham personified.
What about you Elaine?
I would agree with you Lisa. This biggest problem I have with the creative scene in Nottingham is that there is so much going on it’s impossible to see everything. If you like writing, art and theatre, Nottingham is the place to be.
So Lisa, how would you describe Nottingham to a visitor coming to the Festival of Words?
Nottingham is a city of rebels. Friendly rebels. So be prepared to have your opinions challenged and your perceptions blown away! We’re quick with words, and witty too. Nottingham folk are kind and funny. We like a bit of banter. We also like to talk. But not about the weather, nor how bad Forest or County are doing. Please don’t mention Derby! But do mention how amazingly well our cricket team is doing. And always feed the writers. We are very fond of cake, aren’t we Elaine?
Yes we are Lisa, staple diet of any writer worth their salt. I live in the centre of Nottingham and love the energy of the place. It’s a very friendly city and easy to get round, with all its transport links, including a generous selection of cycle routes. The focal point of the city, the Market Square is an ideal place for events. The pedestrianisation of much of the centre, filled with a generous selection of cafes and restaurants makes it pleasant place to saunter through and linger. I spend a great deal of time sitting with a cup of coffee, a slice of homemade cake, my pen and notebook, jotting down ideas in between people watching.