A fascinating instance of political turbulence in Nottingham arrived in reaction to a proposed Reformation bill in the 19th century. The bill’s aim was to transfer voting privileges from traditional rural areas, inhabited by the bourgeois, into heavily populated industrial towns – essentially working to affirm the proletariat voice and reduce the interwoven inequalities of the UK system of democracy.
However the rejection of this bill birthed the 1831 ‘Reform Riots.’It was estimated that 12,000-15,000 Nottingham protestors assembled and as the Mayor condemned the riots and mobilized auxiliary forces, the rebels of Nottingham strengthened in solidarity.
These riots were not a frenzied rampage driven by a collective displaced aggression; rather they were inherently political: strategic targeting the houses and buildings owned by those who had political affinities with the Tories, and as the events escalated the Mayor was wounded ‘hit on the head by a stone, thrown down and trampled on by the mob.
And as the plea for a voice in power went ignored, the rioting escalated, breaking into Nottingham Castle – ‘Smashing the rails of the staircases, ripping down chandeliers.’ There is something symbolic about this particular break-in, by ‘smashing royal busts, pounding the equestrian statue of the first Duke with the crowbar.’ The protestors were physically, as well as symbolically, annihilating the very symbols of class inequality that the rejection of the Bill sought to maintain. So, even on this very physical level, politics in Nottingham is fused with an active poetic feature.
There is much power in knowing the political history of Nottingham. And literature’s political function has always played an influential role in this. With the current upsurge and cultural interest in protests, is now the best time to consider the political element of your own works of literature?
One way to express your values is via the medium of a manifesto. But metamorphosing into the next Marx does not have to be the end goal of creating your own manifesto. Alternatively, it can act as a fun exercise in connecting your innate creativity to your personal politics.
To begin your manifesto, simply reflect on the current protest scene in Notts.
- How would you propose we settle the issues surrounding nationwide industrial unrest?
- What is your stance on the reduction in public transport costs?
- Would your manifesto suggest a work around in funding to reopen Nottingham Castle?
- How would your manifesto tackle funnelling more money into City recreations such as Nottingham libraries?
- And in an economy that has become increasingly secular and digital, how would you suggest we can adequately fund libraries to shape them back into respected pillars of intellectual investment?
But if concise, linear polemic isn’t your preferred way of engaging with the political discourse of Notts – we can turn to local literary hero Lord Byron, who is a fantastic example of the radical art of poetic writing. His writing transcends the straightforward political pamphlets of his time, rather channeling his frustration with injustice directly into his poetry if writing mechanical pieces on political text isn’t appealing, explore protest through the curation of elaborate, artistic metaphors in poems. Don Juan is a more entertaining read than Das Kapital.
This is not to say that is a binary issue: rather the intersection of creativity and politics is wide open. The manifestation of the different shades of this is currently best seen in such mediums as the ‘Zine. Zines – DIY printed publications – are the perfect creative outlet to present your ideas about politics, personhood and protests with almost unlimited creativity in the presentation. There is something radical in the physical existence of a publication that isn’t present in the digital realm.By ‘throwing together’ your own, your favorites, your friends’ opinions about protest, politics and rebelliousness you can curate your own unique piece of resistance that actively engages you with politics in Notts.
Reading = Resistance. From the first pamphleteers to Byron’s attacks on convention via cantos, through to Zine’s railing against today’s manifest injustices, literature is radicalism and vice versa: few places demonstrate this as readily as Nottingham.