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September 2014

THE story of LeftLion, which began in a flat on Mansfield Road more than a decade ago, runs backwards... and against the grain of magazine publishing trends.
In the beginning there was the website, in September 2003, followed a year later by a bi-monthly magazine.
After reaching a £10,000 fund-raising target through a five week Kickstarter campaign, the magazine will now be published monthly.
“We don’t plan on going weekly or daily,” laughs editor-in-chief Jared Wilson, who started LeftLion with two friends to celebrate Nottingham’s rich cultural offering.
 “It feels like it’s the right time to do this. A monthly magazine will be a lot better for Nottingham. And the team is ready for it.”
That team is six full-time employees and although Jared, 35, will soon be leaving his job as a copywriter at Nottingham Trent University to go full-time at LeftLion, drawing a salary for the first time, it has relied on voluntary contributions from writers, photographers, designers and other creatives for most of its life.
“When we started there was no independent magazine with an edge,” he says.
“FHP wasn’t a great magazine, City Life is for posh people.”
LeftLion prints 10,000 copies per issue, distributed around pubs, bars, clubs, shops and venues for free.
“They all go,” says Jared from Sherwood.
“If they didn’t we would print less.”
 The first edition featured Shane Meadows. Since then there have been interviews with Nottingham’s most famous musicians, actors, writers, designers, artists and more in 60 issues.
They include Sir Paul Smith, Carl Froch, Su Pollard, Torvill and Dean and Jake Bugg.
“My favourite ones have been Alan Sillitoe, we did the last interview with him, and Ray Gosling. They are the giants whose shoulders we are standing on.”
He adds: “Shane Meadows and Carl Froch are the only times we’ve done a cover photo,” highlighting the magazine’s principle of using an original cover design that incorporates a few of the key elements within each particular edition.

He adds: “There’s so much more to LeftLion than one interview. People will hopefully pick it up to read a number of features within it.
“For example, the next time we run an interview with Jake Bugg, in that same magazine will be two or three up and coming musicians. LeftLion is about promoting culture in the city, it’s not just the icons or the biggest names.”
 Early on they would interview the famous names coming to the city, like a regular entertainment guide, but its chief focus has been on local creatives.
“There’s enough to shout about in Nottingham as it is,” he says.
The Kickstarter campaign included items donated from a number of LeftLion’s ‘friends’, for readers to buy, such as signed Jake Bugg CDs (£100), a signed Paul Smith print (£1,000) and an original ‘Byron Clough’ canvas merging the faces of the two local legends (£500), to a gig or meal in your home.

The campaign, which ends tomorrow, still has a few items left.
“More than 200 people have donated to the campaign, all of who will be named in the first monthly edition,” says Jared, in the LeftLion office in Stoney Street, also home to Just The Tonic HQ and gig promoters I’m Not From London.
“It was started on my credit card and it was advertising that kept us going. The only funding we’ve had started last year and that was from the Nottingham Jobs Fund.
“We’ve just secured some more funding from the Arts Council to do interactive print, which is the sci-fi stuff I used to dream of as a kid. From November you’ll be able to hover your phone over the magazine and it will start talking to you, with videos popping up or audio.”
These sort of projects, part of LeftLion Extended, that has so far included a local music CD compilation called Notts What I Call Music and branded tea towels, are what Jared will be focusing on in his new full-time role.
“It's humbling that a free magazine like us can get such a great level of support from the Nottingham public.
“We would like to thank everyone for the support we have received on this campaign.”

LeftLion will be monthly as of the next issue, available from the end of September.

Alvin Stardust

September 2014

ALVIN Stardust will be back in his home county tonight for a gig that will span his 54 year career.
And it’s all down to an old friend who Alvin, born Bernard Jewry, used to watch on TV back in the Fifties.
“He was one of the original Oh Boy! rock ‘n’ rollers alongside our idols like Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran and Billy Fury,” says the 75-year-old of Vince Eager, who has organised the gig at Grange Hall in Radcliffe-on-Trent to raise funds for the RSPCA.
“Vince was great and he’s still got a great voice,” says Alvin, who grew up in Mansfield, where he formed his first band Shane Fenton and the Fentones.
“We’d play Mansfield Palais and Nottingham’s Odeon Cinema, before touring with Billy Fury, Joe Brown and Marty Wilde.
“We were playing 50s rock ‘n’ roll and a few American covers, before making a couple of records.
“We became household names before we’d even had a record deal because we played The Saturday Club, the TV show that had 25 million viewers. We sent a tape asking if we could go on it. It was that simple.”

By 1961, they’d signed to EMI, picked up by A&R man George Martin, who would soon begin his legendary role as The Beatles producer. It was during the 70sthat the renamed Alvin Stardust would become a household name, famed for the black quiff, leather jacket and gloves, with a string of hits including My Coo Ca Choo and the number one Jealous Mind.
“We will play such a cross section of stuff,” he says of tonight’s show.
“We do 50s rock n roll, a few 60s bits and bobs, the 70s hits and the 80s hits. I actually sold more records in the 80s than the 70s. It started with Pretend on Stiff Records, which was a street cred label.”
Over the years he has appeared in a number of West End musicals, including Godspell, David Copperfield, Phantom of the Opera and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

“But they became UK tours and I didn’t want to sign up for six months or a year of being away from my family,” he says.

Instead he has hopped aboard a wave of 70s nostalgia, which sees him playing his past hits right across Europe. “We do festivals and stadiums. Tens of thousands of people. But at the same time I’ll do little clubs, because I love it. I’m lucky that I can pick and choose.”

Alvin, who lives in Surrey with his third wife and 13-year-old daughter, is working on his first album of new material in 30 years.
He says: “We’ve recorded a few tracks but nobody knows for sure where it’s going to go.”

Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner)

September 2014

IT is one of the most-talked-about books of the new century, a harrowing tale of childhood friends, raised in Afghanistan, whose innocence is destined to be torn apart when their divided country begins to move inexorably towards war. Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner became an international bestseller, a hit film and also a stage success, the latest production of which opens a UK tour at Nottingham Playhouse tonight. Hosseini, who now lives in California, where the play was first performed on the stage at his local theatre in San Jose, was born in Kabul and grew up in a middle-class family. By the time he was 11, with war looming, the family fled Afghanistan for Paris, then sought political asylum in the US, where they settled in 1980.Hosseini studied medicine, which he practised for ten years. The Kite Runner, published in 2003, was his first novel.

Were you surprised at the success of The Kite Runner?

The success of the book continues to be an enormous surprise to me. I really worried that it wouldn’t find a readership. Partly because it was so intense and so sad, with a central character that was frankly unlikable for much of the narrative. And all the characters that you love meet their demise in horrible ways. The fact that it continues to be read widely more than ten years after it was published continues to be a surprise to me – it’s the antithesis of what a bestseller should look like.

Have you seen the stage production?

Yes, in my home town of San Jose. I went over the script with Matthew Spangler, a script he’d already written. He asked me to look at it and we tweaked it. And I attended one rehearsal session but that was it for my involvement.

How did you feel it translates to the stage?

I think it translates incredibly well.What I really love about the play is that so much of the book is preserved in it. You have freedoms with stage adaptations that you don’t have with film. One large chunk of the book is the main character’s Amir’s internal monologue, where he judges his own actions and has insights and comments about the people in his life. In the play the lead actor can break from the action, turn to the audience and share his thoughts. In film that can’t be done. That’s not to put down the film at all.

Did you like the film?

I’ve seen it a number of times because I went to different screenings with the actors and the director to introduce it. I like the film quite a lot. It’s sort of a break from the usual way that Hollywood treats that region of the world; political violence and terrorism. This was a simple family story – yes, with a political backdrop but the focus was on the intense human dramas and the themes are universal. 

You left Afghanistan aged 11. How vivid are your memories of your life there?

Surprisingly vivid and rich. I didn’t realise how vivid and rich until I set out to write The Kite Runner and I was suddenly able to mentally teleport myself back to that time and place, in those final few years before war broke out. I was surprised how vividly I remembered Kabul, the geography of it and the sights and sounds of it. And what it was like to be part of an upper-middle-class, somewhat Westernised, family living in Kabul. So the first third of the book I had no difficulty in writing.

How Westernised were your family?

Kabul is very different from the rest of the country. It has always been more modern and progressive and liberal. In the 1970s we had an influx of cultural influence from the West and the Soviet Union. So we had a huge influx of films, theatres opening, jazz clubs, cabaret clubs, books... and my family weren’t were devoutly religious. They enjoyed a cocktail and they liked The Beatles and Elvis. 

So your move to Paris wasn’t such a culture shock?

It would have been a much bigger culture shock if I’d have grown up in a village just outside Kandahar, you might say. But it was still a culture shock. One can’t compare Kabul and Paris. The technology, how convenient life was... all these things I’d only seen in movies. Those first few months I was in perpetual wonder.

When did you first return to Afghanistan?

I left in 1976 and returned 27 years later, the only member of my family to do so. That was in March 2003 and I went with my brother-in-law. We stayed in Kabul for two weeks. We’d been dying to go back and visit the place where we were born and raised. Man, that was a culture shock. I had an image in my head the way I remembered it and then to see how it was after various cycles of conflict... entire neighbourhoods I’d known as a boy completely razed to the ground, every building had bullet holes. It was really overcrowded, so many widows and orphans, a huge presence of guns and weaponry – it took us a few days to adjust to what we were seeing.

Do you still have family and friends there?

Most of my family and friends got out by the mid-1980s. We were one of the earlier ones – we left before any of the wars began. We lost family members and friends, some were injured. Very few stayed behind. I have a cousin who still lives there but she’s the only surviving family member who does. 

How long would it take for Kabul to be the sort of place you’d want to live again?

There are so many hurdles in the path of that happening. The country has enormous challenges to get back to the way it was in the 70s. 

The problems aren’t just security but institutional corruption, warlordism, the presence of militias, the constant intervention of neighbouring countries... it’s hard to put a timescale on it. 

“I guess the biggest question is what will happen when the foreign troops do leave? Whether the country will devolve back into the kind of internal conflict that really tore it apart in the 1990s? 

“That’s one scenario we are all hoping and praying doesn’t happen."

The Kite Runner runs at Nottingham Playhouse until September 6 2014. Tickets are priced from £9.50 to £28.50 from the box office, 0115 941 9419 or 

Due to adult themes and occasional use of strong language there is a 14 plus age restriction. 

KITE “fighting” is a popular regional pastime in which boys cover their kite strings with broken glass and try to sever the strings of opposing kites. When kites are severed from their strings, boys chase and retrieve them – these are the kite runners.
Amir and Hassan are close friends, even though the former comes from the dominant Pashtun group and the latter, son of the family servant, from the Hazara minority. 
The Kite Runner of the title is Hassan, who recovers the kites of his well-to-do young friend Amir. 
While chasing a kite, Hassan becomes the victim of a gross assault – innocently witnessed by Amir – with consequences for both boys.
After the Soviet invasion Amir and his father emigrate to California. Following his father’s death Amir, now married to Soraya, returns to Afghanistan, where the Taliban has had a brutal impact on Hassan and his family. Can Amir atone for a secret guilt by finding Hassan’s missing child Sohrab? 

THE 2014 UK tour features two new actors Bhavin Bhatt (Wali) and Andrei Costin (Hassan/ Sohrab). The returning cast are: Ben Turner (Amir), David Ahmad (Kamal), Antony Bunsee (General Taheri), Emilio Doorgansingh (Baba), Nicholas Karimi (Assef), Ezra Khan (Ali), Nicholas Khan ( Rahim Khan), Lisa Zahra Jouzakini (Soroya), Hanif Khan (Mohammad Hanif Dewaka).

“I AM delighted that following its success in Nottingham and Liverpool that the production will have a longer life. 
“The power and relevance of The Kite Runner doesn’t diminish and I have no doubt that this will prove to be a timeless story. It seems to me that it has another profound connection to Britain; as we move towards a complete troop withdrawal from Afghanistan it is good, and important, to be reminded of the Afghans’ own stories and histories. 
“It is easy to forget that the Afghans are a people with a complex and rich culture, with their own story to tell, and that story won’t stop, or cease to be relevant, when our troops come home.”

Giles Croft, artistic director, Nottingham Playhouse

“A hit 5/5”
The Telegraph
Daily Mail
The Times
The Guardian