Pottle Poetry

We caught up with Jen Pottle, to see how the micropub’s monthly poetry event is going…

Waaaaay back in July 2018, in micropub The Pottle, ‘Pottle Poetry Open Mic’ was born. This gave Beeston its very own regular poetry event, taking place on the first Sunday of every month. Those of you who organise your social lives using our Poetry Round-Up will already be familiar with the event, but for those of you who may not have come across this brilliant little gathering of poets, fear not.

The event was originally set up as a response to the fact that Beeston used to be a prime location for poetry events, often welcoming poets from outside the town to come here and perform. The Pottle Poetry may be ‘micro’ in location, but has been a big hit since it started.

I popped into the micropub to catch up with Jen, and find out how it’s been growing over the eight months that it’s been running.

“There’s a solid regular group of poets that come, some of them every month, which is nice,” says Jen. “But there’s also been some of the pub regulars who have come to listen to bits of poetry. One of our regulars, who isn’t really the poetry type, was even inspired to write their own poem!”

The Fighting Nightingales

When I originally spoke to Jen before the very first event, she anticipated that by having it take place on a Sunday afternoon would make the perfect slot to read and hear poetry. So, was she right?

She says: “They’ve been relaxed, comfy afternoons, with a friendly crowd of people who are very accepting. I’ve been quite surprised by how many people are interested in poetry, and it’s nice to see people just wandering into the pub.”

Jen starts to tell me about one of the regular performers who does autobiographical poetry. “He asked if he could have musical accompaniment, so then for the next event he came with his dad and brother, and they did a musical poem. There was Spanish guitar and interesting percussion instruments involved.”

After this, they asked if they could do a longer performance at the next event. As a group, they’re known as The Fighting Nightingales, and describe themselves as delivering ‘progressive jazz/funk chit chat and tall tales set to strange music’. Jen says: “They came back and did a fantastic afternoon of music and poetry, and a huge crowd came to see them.” She also tells me that the group teamed up with regular poet Will Kummer, who comes to every Pottle Poetry event.

I got in contact with him to ask him what it is about the Open Mic that he loves. He said: “I would recommend Pottle Poetry because it’s a small and welcoming event. It’s actually where I did my first open mic performance and I think it’s great for those who are new to the poetry scene. A wide range of people attend and Jen usually opens with a piece of her own. It’s a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon and an event that I’d be sad to miss.”

The next event will take place on Sunday May 5 as part of Nottingham Poetry Festival and has the theme ‘My Younger Years’ attached to it. “Someone challenged me to do this,” says Jen. “I was looking at my childhood poetry from when I was a teenager and thought it was awful. We are asking people to bring in childhood poetry to read it, or to write poetry about their younger years, if they want to!”

Even without the theme, Jen tells me there’s all sorts of types of poetry being performed, including: funny poems, light-hearted poems, limericks, serious and silly poems.

So, whether you consider yourself a poet or not, it’s worth wandering in.

JM

The Future’s Write: Amateur authors invited to write the next chapter of Beeston

If you’re reading this, you *probably* live in Beeston (although if you read the rest of this issue, you’ll find that’s not always the case). But, for those of you who live the majority of your life in this town, you’ll no doubt have thoughts and opinions of what you’d like the future of Beeston to hold. After all, this is the place we call home, it’s pretty important.

So if you’re a budding blogger, willing writer and far-sighted futurist as well as a proud Beestonian, you could see your name in print as part of a competition to write the next chapter in the rich history of Beeston.

To celebrate their 120th anniversary, the family owned, family run business CP Walker & Son commissioned local historian and writer David Hallam to help them to tell and celebrate the story of Beeston over the period 1896-2016. The book is organised with chapters covering each decade from the 1890s to the 2010s. Now, having chartered the history of Beeston, Rex and Dan Walker have created this competition to look at how the town might develop in the 2020s.

As Rex explains, “We are keen supporters of community projects and initiatives that benefit the local population. Our book charts the ups and indeed the downs that Beeston has faced during its history. However, we then thought, what happens next? We were chatting about the future of the town with the various developments going on and realised there’s a whole new chapter to write, perhaps even a couple. Who better to write them than local people like us who love their town? That’s where the competition idea came from.”

He continues: “Lots of people make New Year Resolutions to start writing or to rekindle their hobby, but getting published is too often out of reach. This a chance for people to share their ideas and their love for Beeston and to start a debate that will play a part in forming the next chapter of our town’s tale, perhaps even the next century.”

If reading this has got your brain stirring with thoughts of what the future could hold or how you could implement your brilliant vision on the town, and you’re just itching to get writing, then here’s what you need to know before you put pen to paper:

  • The competition is open to anyone with three age categories: Primary School, Secondary school and 16 plus.
  • There’s no word limit per se, but you’re advised to try and stick to around 1000 words maximum if possible.
  • Try and look to the future with a positive outlook, write something to stir the imagination and get people thinking about what comes next and how it can happen (We’re not talking pipe dreams here!)
  • Entries will be judged by an independent panel of local people, chaired by Rex Walker and featuring Editor in Chief of The Beestonian Matt Turpin, Phillipa Dytham-Double from Double Image Photography and David Hallam, author of ‘The Story of Beeston’.
  • The deadline is April 23rd and entries are preferred via email to nextchapter@cpwalker.co.uk
  • If providing a hard copy entry, please post them to CP Walker & Son or drop it in to their office.
  • Entrants must consent to having their work published and to taking part in any publicity around the competition should they win.
  • For more information, visit https://www.cpwalker.co.uk/pages/nextchapter or the dedicated Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/beestonthenextchapter.

This is a fantastic opportunity, so once you’ve extracted all the inspiration possible from reading the rest of this issue, get your future-thinking in gear, because you never know what it might lead to. Good luck, Beestonians!

JM

Lianne and family

Lianne’s Life in Beeston: Korean poet writes about her time in England

Towards the end of the year, and during the festive season, we often think about the people close to us.

We meet family members that we don’t see very often, and think about people we miss. Earlier this year, I met two Beeston residents who have re-connected with a Korean friend (and poet) in a delightful, but unexpected, way.

On 31 July 2002, Lianne arrived in Nottingham with her son, her sister, and niece, but moved to Beeston just under a year later, in July 2003. Her prolonged stay in England was for the benefit of her son, Harry-Kim, and niece Nicky, as the sisters wanted them to study, get their education here and experience the English culture.

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They moved to Highgrove Avenue in Beeston, and soon connected with their neighbours Sue and Malcolm Turner. “We take people into our hearts when we see them,” says Sue. “We treated them like family.”

“We got to know them very quickly,” adds Malcolm. “They were out on a limb and if there were any problems we would help them.”

A close friendship quickly formed between the two families, so much so that the sisters weren’t shy about knocking on Sue and Malcolm’s door to come over for a cup of tea, or watch a football match, as they were always welcome and didn’t need an invitation. “It can be very difficult coming to a new country and in some other areas it might have been different for them, but not here,” says Malcolm.

“…she wants to share her experiences with the people of Nottingham.”

The family stayed in Beeston until July 2005, but during their time here they went out on lots of day trips, both locally and places further afield like London. Sue and Malcolm would often take them out on day trips, including visiting their son’s narrowboat. When they left, it was because Lianne’s son Harry was about to start senior school.

“In their house everything the children did at school went on the wall, the whole visit was about giving them the best education possible, and because they are only allowed one child everything goes into doing the best for that one child,” says Malcolm.

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Earlier this year, 13 years since they last saw Lianne, they received a letter from her, sent with a set of three books. The books are a series under the title: Korean Poet Lianne’s Life In England With Her Son. The books are written in Korean, and are based on the letters that Lianne sent to her husband while she was in England. Sue and Malcolm were overwhelmed to hear from her, and they had no idea she’d had the books published. In her letter to them, Lianne highlights the page in which she mentions them. When I met with the couple, we had a look, and found fragments of English words, including their names. “It’s a start!” says Malcolm. “We’d like to get this section translated.”

In her letter, Lianne asks them to donate the books to Beeston Library, as she wants to share her experiences with the people of Nottingham. In the back of the books, there are English notes thanking the ‘English friends’ she connected with, including other Beestonians who she has also sent copies of her books to.

After meeting Sue and Malcolm, they got in contact with Lianne to tell her about this article, and get her permission for it to be published, and she wrote the following to be included:

“This book is a love letter for people who have sent their family to England and have missed them. England is a place that gave our family the wisdom of life when we were in need of a change; a place where memories were made with friends despite the language barrier. I have written a story of our young children who have experienced English culture, and have brought a story of learning love in their pleasant and simple life, into these letters. It is an England life story that makes us feel attached despite the distance between us. I hope this story about us can bring a smile on every separated-family face. I dedicate this book to all of the friends in England and to everyone who knows me.”

This story is just one of many that will have been formed between people moving in and out of Beeston over the years, and how people from completely different cultures can become like family to one another over the space of only a few years. The friendship they shared will last for the rest of their lives, and the copies of the books in Beeston Library will be a legacy to the time Lianne spent here, and will provide comfort and solace to our current and thriving Korean community.

JM

A (brief) history of Beeston Poetry, with DIY Poets and One Plum Poem

A (brief) history…

Earlier this year in April, Henry Normal came to Beeston Library for his ‘Poetry Hour’ as part of Nottingham Poetry Festival. One of the first things he spoke about was that Beeston has had a history of being a poetry hot-spot, and that it was one of the places gigging poets would make sure they performed at. Phrases like ‘Have you done Beeston?’ would pass between poets, giving the town a national reputation.

This has sparked the need for a revival, and you can read our Poetry Round-up section to see the latest poetry events, including a new monthly open mic hosted by Pottle of Blues. But before we get to that, it’s worth having a look at the history of poetry in Beeston, and speaking to a few local poets to get a sense of what Beeston’s poetry scene had, and still has, to offer.

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The focal point of anyone considering our poetry history will undoubtedly always end up being the Poets in Beeston series which ran for ten years from Spring 1983, when Robert Gent organised a series of poetry readings at Beeston Library ‘with the aim of strengthening  the library’s role in literature promotion’.  This was before my time, but I have heard about it over the years, and seen their anthology Poems for the Beekeeper appear in Oxfam Books and Music a number of times.

The first series of events became so popular that they decided to put on a second series, and so on and so on for the next ten years. There are still people in and around Beeston who remember the series, and attended some the events, including Kathy Bell, who offered her insight on the series via  Beeston Updated after our editor-in-chief, Matt, shared the sentiments of Henry Normal:

“Highlights included Sarah Maguire, Amryl Johnson, Sheenagh Pugh, Catherine Fisher, U. A. Fanthorpe (reading with her partner, the poet R. V. Bailey) and the double-act of Michael Rosen and Leon Rosselson. I moved to Beeston just too late to hear David Gascoyne and had to be away when Benjamin Zephaniah performed. I was very sorry when the seasons ended as they were a great delight as well as an education in contemporary poetry.”

There was also a message passed to us on behalf of one of the main organisers of the Poets in Beeston series, Margaret MacDermott, who said: “Poetry readings in libraries are commonplace now but we were one of the first in the country to do them. They were the idea of my then manager Robert Gent. They were a huge success and I think we had almost every poet of prominence except Ted Hughes. We also had what were then promising newcomers, people like Jackie Kay. After Robert left our funding was withdrawn, I can’t tell you how many letters of complaint I received. I am so glad people remember them with fondness.”

Just from reading these comments, I can get a sense of what poetry readings meant to people back then, and although performance poetry has in no way disappeared, it is less common in Beeston now than it used to be. However, with the newly refurbishes library, there has been a lot more opportunities for events, and plenty of these have been poetry-oriented.

To try and get an idea of poetry’s place in Beeston today, I spoke to a few people about what they’re doing, and what poetry and Beeston together has meant for them.

DIY Poets

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The DIY Poets aren’t strictly a Beeston group, as they meet, perform and hold events mostly in Nottingham, but Beeston is home to a couple of members of the group, Martin Dean and Alistair Lane. The DIY Poets started fifteen years ago, with the creation of the first issue of their free A6 zine (they are now on issue 41).

Martin Dean, who has been a member of the DIY Poets for 3 years, describes himself as a ‘one-time Beeston resident’ as he’s lived here for just 6 years. He used to work at Plessy’s as an electronics designer, and liked the area. He says he’s always written in one form or another, but it was getting involved with the DIY Poets and having their support that has helped him with writing and performing at more events.

When asked about what he’d like to see from an open mic in Beeston, he says: “I want to see it bring people in that wouldn’t necessarily go to a poetry gig, but for them to walk away saying ‘that was great!’ The extension to that is being able to nurture new talent and to be able to say ‘so and so: Beeston Poet’ and put Beeston on the map.”

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Martin has also been working on a collection of poems, that by the time you read this will be printed and in the hands of readers. It’s titled The Curious Dance Between Life and Death, and when asked what the themes of the collection are, he says, “It has a balance of life affirming vibrant pieces and the macabre. I’ve sifted and sorted bits that I’ve been writing over the last few years and got it down to a shortlist of 20 poems:  One hanging, one beheading, falling from a great height, dying a natural death, and a soldier being shot in the trenches…then it’s all uphill from there!”

Jenny Swann: Poet and Publisher

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Jenny Swann was one of our judges for the Buzzword poetry competition, and is a wonderful poet and publisher who has lived in Beeston for the past 13 years. Even before she moved here, she had one of her poetry collections published by John Lucas of Shoestring Press, which is why Beeston was on her radar when house-hunting. “It seemed a good place to head for because I knew there was poetry in Beeston,” she says. “Beeston is a fantastically creative community and very much supports its poets, writers and other artists. I feel that by moving to Beeston we got it spot on. It’s a natural home for writers and artists to flourish.”

Her creative journey in the region started when she was introduced to Ross Bradshaw, who asked her to be his poetry editor for Five Leaves. It was doing that job which made her realise how much she loved poetry pamphlets and publishing. “It was through discussions with Ross about how to give pamphlets a higher profile in bookshops that I founded Candlestick Press in 2008 and ran for 8 years,” she says. “I feel that if I hadn’t been in Beeston in the early days I don’t think I’d have been able to do that.”

Sadly, Jenny had to step down from Candlestick Press in 2016, but this has not stopped her creative drive and passion for poetry. In March of this year she set up a new project: One Plum Poem. The concept is that when you give someone a card, they get a poem inside it too, and she currently has 8 different kinds which include: Give Yourself a Hug (a poem to cheer your friends up), get well soon, a poem for mothers, and two designs for children featuring a hippo and dinosaur. They are all illustrated beautifully, and celebrate the idea of poetry as a gift.

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“My push has always been that poetry is this wonderful art form that is a treat people are missing out on, I’ve always had the same impulse for wanting people to engage with poetry,” says Jenny. She’s also got two more designs on the way, including a Christmas card with a previously unpublished poem by Carol Ann Duffy. The cards are currently for sale in Five Leaves Bookshop, Foyles in London, and on the website at oneplum.co.uk.

A Buzzword poem:

A poem for Beeston – Alistair Lane

Across the centre of this land,
From town to town I roamed
Till fortune shined its light on me,
And in Beeston found my home.

Not in shops or trams,
Or vaunted green-space treasure
But residing in the people
A simpler, honest pleasure.

Uncomplicated and direct;
Each spade described as such
But dig beneath the surface
And revel in their touch.

Diligent and dedicated
Strong and firm of heart.
Easier to love
Than an apiary work of art.

My wandering days are done:
No further shall I roam
Now fortune’s shined its light on me
And in Beeston found my home.

Poetry Round-up

POTTLE POETRY
Free, every first Sunday of the month, 4-6pm Pottle of Blues micropub
With plenty of open mic slots, this is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon listening to (or performing) poetry.

INSPIRE POETRY FESTIVAL 2018
Tuesday 25 Sept-Saturday 29 Sept, prices vary
The Inspire Poetry Festival is visiting Beeston for the first time! More poets are coming to Beeston Library following the success of Word! and the Poetry Hour with Henry Normal. For a full programme visit: inspireculture.org.uk/poetry-festival

A Pottle of Poetry: Beeston micropub to host poetry open mic

During this year’s Nottingham Poetry Festival, Henry Normal came to Beeston Library for his touring ‘Poetry Hour with Henry Normal’ events, and told a room full of people that Beeston used to be a poetry hotspot. 

Beeston was one of the places that gigging poets would have to go to, and it was a place firmly on the poetry map. Henry said that he’d like that back, so after an initial post in Beeston Updated, lots of interest, a few messages pinged back and forth, meetings had and calendars scribbled in…Beeston is set to have a regular poetry open mic!

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The wonderful Jen Pottle, of the micropub Pottle of Blues on Stoney Street, will be hosting the monthly event, which is planned to take place on the first Sunday of every month.

Jen, who is a former English teacher, recently performed poetry for the very first time at Jam Cafe in Nottingham. “I was quite amazed at the sheer number of young people at a poetry night, but it was such a nice supportive group,” she says.

Putting herself forward to perform poetry is what has driven her to want to host a poetry night at Pottle, and she’s encouraged by the interest it’s received on the Facebook event page so far. For anyone thinking of coming to the event, Jen says: “It will be a cosy atmosphere because it’s not a huge venue, and it’s open to anyone who wants to come and join in.”

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She’s purposely picked a time frame that’s fairly quiet anyway, so there’s no chance of a bunch of poets disrupting the regulars! And you don’t even have to be a poet: if you’re interested in finding out ‘performance poetry’ is and hearing what the poets of Beeston have to offer, then come down and see what it’s all about.

Jen is no stranger to hosting these sort of events either, as Pottle already has a regular live music open mic/karaoke night which takes place on the first Wednesday of every month, and is quite popular among students.

She’s also planning on setting up a stand-up comedy night, as she’s currently doing a training course in comedy.

The first Pottle Poetry event takes place this Sunday 1 July, from 4-6pm and is free to attend. There will be five to ten minute open mic slots available, depending on how many people turn up and put their name down to perform.

You can find the event page here:  Pottle Poetry
Follow Pottle of Blues on Facebook, and Twitter.

JM

The Beestonian is: Jade Moore – Deputy Editor/Literature & Poetry Nerd

Jade joined The Beestonian almost by accident, but mostly through various acts of serendipity.

She studied English with Creative Writing at NTU, then, after flirting with the idea, decided to do an MA in Magazine Journalism. After somehow surviving it and graduating, she now spends 99% of her time meeting Matt in coffee shops or performing poems in front of people. She ran the Buzzword poetry competition, and is now preparing for other exciting projects and the much-anticipated revamp of the mag (alongside trying to make freelance life work). She can also be spotted shelving and selling books in Oxfam.

JM

ABC Art Trail: Celebrating Creativity in Beeston, Attenborough and Chilwell

This weekend the ABC Art Trail takes place in venues across Beeston, Attenborough and Chilwell, showcasing the work of 26 artists who live locally.

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The ABC Arts trail is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a trail of artistic works by creative people who are all part of our community and living in Beeston, Attenborough and Chilwell.

This year there are 26 artists taking place, with their work being displayed in 11 venues. They include painters, textile artists, a potter, glass artists and jewellery designers. This is a great chance to discover new artists and see for yourself the amount of creativity that this town and surrounding area can hold.

The trail is free to take part in, and will be happening across Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd of June, starting at 11am through to 6pm on both days. They’ve got a map pinpointing all the venue locations, which can be visited in any order, so you can plan the route that works best for you. Find the map here.

They include places like independent studios, houses, local schools and shops. Specific venues taking part are Beeston Dental Practice, Red Lion Pottery and Meadow Lane Infant School.

Painting of Beeston Lock by Janet Barnes
Artwork by Janet Barnes (Canalside Art)

The participating artists will be present at each venue with examples of their work available to purchase. So as well as discovering more art, you might end up going home with some!

Our Editor-in-Chief, Matt Turpin, will be taking part in the trial and visiting each venue, where he will be collecting pieces of artwork. These pieces will be individual letters made from a variety of art forms, and once put together they will spell ‘ABC ART TRAIL’ (11 letters for the 11 venues).

Matt says: “I got a G at GCSE Art, a grade that doesn’t even exist any longer. But while I may not be the best at making art, I’ve always enjoyed others’ work. Beeston is a great place for this, a hive of creative activity right across the area. I’m hugely looking forward to visiting all the venues and meeting those talented people who make this town such a treat for art lovers.”

This event is yet another example of why Beeston and the surrounding areas are such hubs of creativity. It’s also a way for people to show their support not only for the artists themselves but for the community as a whole. We’re all about supporting local businesses, but this is a way to appreciate individuals in their creative endeavours. The ABC Art Trail itself is supported by businesses such as: The White Lion (where they have their meetings), Yarn, Charlie Foggs, Artworks and Cycle Inn, to name a few.

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Artwork by Rita Mitchell

Plenty of their work features the local area, such as paintings of well-known places, meaning that their art is truly personal, both from their perspective as artist, and the people who support them by buying their work or enquiring about commissions.

For more information, visit their website: ABC Art Trail

You can also like them on Facebook @abcarttrail, and register your attendance via their event page.

JM

 

Beeston Poetry

Spring has arrived, flowers are blooming, birds are chirping, there are more daylight hours to be had…and the poets are emerging.

This issue, we’re paying attention to poetry in time for Nottingham Poetry Festival. We’ve got a few Buzzword poems for you from our competition, a round-up of events and courses happening in Beeston, and the answer to the question: what do you get if you mix science with poetry? Read on to find out!

A few Buzzword poems…

Beeston Lock – Glen Bradford

Taste that rain-washed air,
forearms firm against the iron top rail,
and watch boatmen turn lock key,
prising open slime-heavy gates
for barges to make their way.

Walk where the roaring Trent
froths and tumbles over masonry steps,
past wild Sunday League encounters,
and solemn banks of anglers
guarding over The Hero’s place.

Look. Roots grabbed hold here,
spread north, each branch
eager as a child’s probing hand
reaching to the ice cream counter
for summer’s sweet nectar.

Take it in. Dig the honeyed layers
from gravel down to limestone bed,
sifting fragments of Saxon farms,
to trail history’s hard, glittering spoor.
Because this is the land.

These are the threads.

Salad Bowl  – Cathy Garrick

Beeston, a banquet of curious folk;
The Last Post, the librarians hula hooped with clouds of smoke.
In The Star, they peruse their books;
Patrons from Denison Street and Inham Nook.
The ghosts of Beeston flicker as bygone maquettes,
while the living cruise through on mobility scooters and cigarettes.
Charlie’s Barn, Pet Mart, The Lad’s Club knocked down;
But still a lovingly patchworked market town.
The high flyers fill their bellies;
While Fast Lane runs amok in odd wellies.
Chuggers, terriers, sots and tots,
A melange of Adidas and Birkenstock.
Gaelic tones ring out from the greengrocers nearby;
Beckoning buyers to brussels, beans and broccoli.
Occidental, accidental, academic and Eastern,
The beautiful salad bowl that is Beeston.

The Tattoo – Leanne Moden

If I could paint this town onto my skin
I’d load my brush with countless memories.
I’d struggle to decide where to begin.

After all, it’s hard to place a pin
into a state of mind: a reverie.
If I could paint this town onto my skin

it would take courage and some discipline;
a bravery not seen for centuries.
I’d struggle to decide where to begin.

You see, nostalgia breeds the saccharin,
and true reflection comes through lack of ease.
If I could paint this town onto my skin –

contemplating all that we have been;
the fleeting glance of all that we could be?
I’d struggle to decide where to begin.

Excuses wearing tracing paper thin
I guess I’m just not one for artistry.
If I could paint this town onto my skin
I’d struggle to decide where to begin.

POETRY ROUND-UP

ZINES EXHIBITION
Free, now until Sat 21 April, Beeston Library
Showcasing zines made by the public and school pupils, including anthologies of poems developed with poet Andrew Graves

FAMILY POETRY (Short course)
Free, 25 April – 23 May, 16:00-17:30, Beeston Library

THE POETRY HOUR WITH HENRY NORMAL
Free, Wed 25 April, 6pm, Beeston Library
Enjoy (and potentially perform) poetry with Henry Normal and Pete Ramskill, as part of Nottingham Poetry Festival

CREATIVE WRITING THROUGH POETRY (Short course)
£36, 5 June – 10 July, 10:00-12:00, Beeston Library

JM 

The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness: Graham Caveney in conversation with Deirdre O’Byrne

On the snowy evening of Wednesday 28 Feb, at Middle Street Resource Centre, Beeston residents were treated to a talk and exploration of Graham Caveney’s book The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness.

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His book, described as ‘a memoir of adolescence’ is a powerful recounting of Caveney’s life growing up in Accrington, from a working class Catholic background. It explores his love of music, literature, and brings to the fore issues such as class, religion, and the abuse he was subject to by his teacher and headmaster at his local grammar school during the 1970s.

Having kept his abuse quiet from his closest friends, and parents, his book comes at a time of recovery from years of mental anquish, drinking problems and trips in and out of rehab. At the start of the event, after everyone has settled with hot drinks, Graham Machin, chair of Beeston Community Resource (BCR), and one of our Beeston Heroes, speaks about the history of MSRC and its role as a mental health day centre.

Attendees of the event were encouraged to donate money towards a fund which helps people with mental health problems when they are in need of emergency support. This was done on a pay-what-you-can basis, and that Caveney agreed was a fitting cause for the event to raise money for.

Deirdre O’Byrne starts off the conversation by asking Graham about how his book came to be written in the first place, revealing a link to the hosts of the event, Five Leaves Bookshop, who had given Graham a job when he proclaimed himself as unemployable. It was then being surrounded by books that struck the right chord and enabled him to begin telling his story. What began as an attempt to rewrite Kafka’s Metamorphosis, became the courageous and endearing book that now exists as an object in the world (something Graham appreciates in books generally).

He’d sent paragraphs to his friend Julie Hesmondhalgh as a way to tell her about himself and his past, and she asked him if he’d thought about having it published. “When writing it, it never occurred to me that it would be published, and that was a good thing, otherwise I’d never have written it,” he says.

He had contacts that would be able to help towards publication, but, “I wasn’t prepared to cash in on those friendships,” he reveals. He then received an email from Julie with the subject heading ‘oops’ saying that she’d sent it to Jonathan Coe, an old friend and author in his own right, who got in contact with Graham’s former agent, who sold the book within 3 months.

The conversation is split up with a few readings, each of them read wonderfully, and eliciting laughs from the listeners. Deirdre picks up on this, and asks about the humour and presence of quite dark jokes in the book. Graham says humour can be a great way to express trauma and abuse, and that he didn’t want to write a sad, gloomy book which expressed how bad abuse is. He wanted the focus to be on the stuff he liked as a fourteen-year-old and his adolescence, which the abuse happened to occur and coincide with.

I wouldn’t have been able to write it without the education given to me by my abuser, and that’s something that I’m deeply grateful for.

The event as a whole gets into the heart of the story behind the book, and Graham provides listeners with many insights, such as the book’s publication leading to the un-naming of a performing arts centre which had previously been named after Graham’s abuser, something which Graham says is a ‘minor victory’. He also tells of a few instances of negative reactions, such as one person telling him that Graham, by writing the book, had just ‘pissed all over my childhood’ and another pointing out that he’d misspelt a teacher’s name, thereby throwing everything else into question. In reaction to this, he says: “People are eager to find ways to discredit it.”

He discusses class, memory and the issue of trigger warnings, which he says suggests that there’s a process to solving a problem. He reels off a list of seemingly insignificant things that can trigger him: a certain perfume, the texture of someone’s collar etc.

When receiving questions from the floor, Graham is asked what it’s like having the book out there being read and reviewed. ‘Strange’ is his main feeling towards it, but he says that the strangest part isn’t the book being reviewed by publications such as The Guardian , The Times and TLS, it’s actually when he’s in a coffee shop such as The Bean in Beeston, and someone comes up to him and says ‘I read your book’.

He says those are the moments he realises that the “book doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to the world.” He doesn’t regret telling his story, that he feels both “insulated and exposed” by it, but that ultimately its existence “validates something that I’ve carried around with me.”

The book itself holds a number of fascinating realisations in terms of Graham’s being able to write it in the first place. He says, “I wouldn’t have been able to write it without the education given to me by my abuser, and that’s something that I’m deeply grateful for.”

It’s also apparent that he couldn’t write it until his parents had passed away. His mother clung to her faith, and Graham believes that it was this that kept her going after his father had died. Revealing his abuse from his priest and teacher “would have been like telling her that God doesn’t exist.” So it was only after her death that he was able to write about it.

At the end of the event, the attention turns to his next book, which he’s 25,000 words into already, and which will be on the history of agraphobia. He says that he never made a conscious decision to write another book, he just carried on from this one.

A wonderful, insightful evening with plenty of books bought and signed by Graham, it was enough to make everyone want to get home and start reading (or re-reading) the book, with the added knowledge of all that he shared with us.

Read our interview with Graham Caveney.

JM

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