Small Hours: John Martyn’s Hard World

For the last three days, I’ve immersed myself in Graeme Thomson’s excellent new biography Small Hours: the long night of John Martyn, and Martyn’s music, which I’ve been listening to for 46 years. If you don’t know John’s work (though why else would you reading this?) here’s a playlist I made shortly after he died, aged sixty, in 2009. I discovered John Martyn in the mid-70s, when I was sixteen, and met him when I was 18, at a benefit gig for Liquorice. Writing for this fanzine had led to my studying in Nottingham, where I was in my first term at uni. I was on general hosting and recording duties. Martyn sound checked with a solid electric guitar, which he’d never used on stage…

Easter Lockdown Reading, April 2020

Normally at this time of year, I write about my holiday reading on my blog. This year, while I haven’t had a holiday, I’ve done loads of reading, if not in quite the same way. So here’s this Easter’s reading, which I’m also sharing on the Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature website. Nearly everyone I know is having trouble concentrating for long periods. A case in point. I have a long standing reading rule which is: when I’m not enjoying a book after fifty pages, I give up on it, if I haven’t already, but if I get past the fiftieth page, I always finish it. The first week of lockdown, I broke this rule, pausing my reading of Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the…

Life during Lockdown

The Coronavirus crisis poses existential questions for The Arts as for so much of society. Everyone at NUCoL is doing what we can to adapt to the new situation. Our mission remains the same, building a better world with words, chiefly by fostering literacy and well-being through creative writing. In particular, we’re supporting our young people and our city’s writers, whose work was recognised by Nottingham’s UNESCO status. Reading and writing are crucial tools to help us through these times. I have three books on the go, a challenging novel, a huge, fact-filled biography and, my bedtime comfort read, an omnibus of 60s novels by the great US crime writer, Ross MacDonald. Most of the creative writers I know are, like me, not finding it…

Geoff Nicholson in Conversation

Getting used to the new normal is going to be testing. It’s hard to concentrate on writing at the moment but moving what can be moved online is keeping me busy. Meanwhile NUCoL is gearing up to meet this challenge and work out how best we can continue our mission of building a better world with words. Tomorrow’s launch of the MyVoice book at the Council House has had to be postponed, which is very sad for the students involved and our staff who have spent so much time working on it. But the book will be available soon and we’re making new plans. Talking of which… Next week I was due to meet one of my favourite novelists, Geoff Nicholson, a Sheffield born author…

David Baddiel – Nottingham Playhouse 1.3.20

David Baddiel’s a busy guy. Already this year he’s made a powerful documentary, Confronting Holocaust Denial (available on BBC iPlayer until March 19th), as well as debuting tonight’s show, about social media. The gig sold out so quickly that a matinee was added. That sold out too. He’s preceded by three minutes’ worth of onscreen tweets, one describing his look at an awards show as ‘Aldi Jeff Goldblum,’ a gag that he, naturally, embraces. How much you like this show will depend partly on how much you like Twitter, which Baddiel happily confesses that he is addicted to (I can relate). If I were trolling him, I’d be tempted to point out that tonight’s generous two hours must have been one of the easier shows…