Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Some Things I Said I Wouldn't Blog About 

There's an update on the Save The Maze campaign in the post below this one.

I haven't had time to write here much lately, a state of affairs that will probably continue until after Easter, because I'm spending so much time writing. Now and then an idea for an entry crosses my mind but I tend not to do it because either a) I haven't got time or b) it's too self indulgent. But I really ought to write an entry every so often, so here's a few things I haven't had time to blog about . Is that a good title? Maybe I'll use it. Or not.

My friend Nigel Pickard published his first novel One, and very fine it is too. Martin's written about why the book's so good on his site and he puts it very well.

Nigel was at REM in Sheffield last night and, unlike me and most of my gang, got to see Michael and Peter do four acoustic songs after apologising for cancelling the gig due to Mike Mills' illness (get well soon, Mike). We arrived a bit late. I'd seen the support band two nights before and was meeting up with a long standing internet buddy who I'd never met in real life before. Hank got into the show. We didn't. REM were taking the stage as we arrived, half an hour before showtime. The security staff were told to keep those arriving after 8.30 out because the rest of the audience would be leaving then. The fact that they weren't, and the band were coming on stage, and it was snowing, and loads of us were there with valid tickets, didn't deter them from sticking to their instructions. Oh well, unlike the rest of my friends and family, I'd seen REM at Hammersmith the previous Saturday, so can't really complain, but that acoustic set sounded like something special.

I've just bought and read 'Flimsy Rockets', a beautifully self produced first comic (every copy is individually produced, hand stitched with a unique fastener, mine being a toggle from a duffle coat) from Paul Walker. The story is excellent, an intricately executed, fully realised, intriguingly naive fantasy that's well worth a look. It can be had for six quid from Page 45 in Nottingham.

The one good thing about the delay of our flight to Dublin recently was reading a proof copy of Graham Marks' new novel Zoo, a 24 type YA thriller with loads of hooks and an interesting theme, eugenics, which was also the theme of the play we saw in Dublin, Brian Friel's 'The Home Place'. It wasn't one of Friel's best, but Tom Courtenay and the rest of the cast gave it their all and we had a lot of interesting discussion about it afterwards. Thanks to Maurice for treating us.

And if this entry was a bit dull, sorry, but Mike is doing his annual which decade is top of the pops thing, with linked MP3s. It's lots of fun - voting's over, but you can read the results, along with his bloggers' disco red nose thing - my vote is (surprise surprise) for REM's 'What's The Frequency, Kenneth?'.

Oh, and my favourite new band, the Arcade Fire, have just announced their first UK tour, in May. The nearest they're playing to me is Birmingham, but I'll be there. Check them out. They're something.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Last Night Of The Maze 

I've been going to the Forest Tavern on Mansfield Road for more than twenty years. One of the back rooms used to be where the Nottingham East Labour Party general management committee drank after their monthly meetings. I remember one evening finding a red faced drunk in a badly stained suit talking to our agent. He was going on about Northern Ireland in an authoritative but boorish manner and I, an unemployed graduate, asked him how he knew so much about it. 'I am chairman of the Northern Ireland Committee' he announced. And, indeed, he did turn out to be the MP for our neighbouring constituency (which was abolished shortly afterwards).

The back of the Forest Tavern, built by world champion bare knuckle boxer William Bendigo (it still holds the world's only bare knuckle boxing ring, though it isn't used as such) was converted into a venue some time in the nineties. The owners, Tyne Mill, have a good line in pubs that serve a wide range of fine beers. The Maze hosts many poetry and theatre performances. I've also been to loads of gigs there, from Ryan Adams to Slaid Cleaves via the Willard Grant Conspiracy. Nearly all of them were promoted by Cosmic American Music. Last night, however, was the last one, featuring a fine young Welsh singer/songwriter called Jack Harris and the redoubtable A.J. Roach, from Tennessee via Oakland, California.

Why is the Maze closing today ? (to be more precise, the name is moving - the venue name will continue downstairs at the Old Vic, otherwise known as Cabaret 2, a venue I know well, having organised stuff there myself. However, I can't walk home from there in 15 minutes after the last bus has gone and it's a less welcoming space) Because Tyne Mill is selling the place off to create yet more student accommodation. For more info, this is how the Nottingham Evening Post covered the story on Monday. Now, Nottingham is student city and I take part of the blame, since I work part time running a Creative Writing MA course for NTU, which has its main base in the city centre. But there's no shortage of places for students to live, whereas there is a shortage of great, intimate, music venues, especially such a historic one on my side of town.

So I call on Tyne Mill to change their mind (evidently they've not yet got a definite buyer, nor have they tried to flog the venue as a pub, as otherwise it would compete with their other pub on the same street). Failing that, I call on the City Council to reject planning permission for a change of use. If you want to help this campaign, you can write to the directors at "The Directors Mega Close Ltd, 120 North Sherwood Street, Nottingham, NG1 4EF" and the campaign can be emailed at Savethemaze(remove this bit)@aol.com

Update - March 7th Mega Close Ltd (the company that were planning to turn the Forest Tavern into student flats) have pulled out of the deal. This is largely due to letters of objection to the development, coverage in the press – letters written to the Nottingham Evening post have been a great help (whether or not they were published_ and objections to Mega Close's plans to turn the property next door into student flats. So is there anyone out there willing to buy the place and reopen it as a pub and venue?

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