I was born in 1949 in west London. My childhood was a fifties, suburban one, so for most of us boys it involved a lot of respectability and repression, and grey flannel shorts until you were fourteen. If you were a girl you spent a lot of time helping Mummy in the kitchen (like Jane in the Ladybird, Peter and Jane books). My childhood and teenage years were difficult, and full of drama, which although challenging, has been a great source of material in my later life as a writer. For those who are interested, I touch on my personal history in the story Exile in Four Fathers.
Pictures of me from my schooldays show a lanky, swotty looking boy with spectacles and a full head of hair. This is in direct contrast to the James Nash of fifty years later, rather larger (‘filled-out’ as my mother would have it) less swotty and perhaps more engaged, still with spectacles, but now with a lovely shiny bald head. I came to Leeds in 1971 to do an MA at the University. And like many before and many after me, decided to stay, living at one address, or another, in Leeds 6, ever since.
Much of the seventies, eighties and nineties were taken up with teaching which I turned out to be not bad at, particularly with ‘difficult’ or ‘naughty’ kids. In loco parentis, another story from Four Fathers will tell you a little more about my early years as a teacher.
And then the middle nineties, whacked out by my life and all its changes, I eventually decided to leave teaching because I wanted to try to make it as a writer. I had been lucky enough to meet award-winning writer Char March (wonderful poetry, short, stories and radio plays) and she, with great selflessness, gave me a fantastic apprenticeship in writing and performance. The fruits of that friendship can be found in Deadly Sensitive.
I spent the next eight years in writing. I worked for the Metro newspaper, the Leeds Guide, and Northern Exposure, and became Writer in Residence for organisations as diverse as the National Library for the Blind and HM Prison Wakefield. This work extended into schools, so I was for many years the Writer in Residence for Calderdale High Schools, and for the University of Leeds, Faculty of Education. I have also developed a secondary career hosting literary events around the country, talking to and interviewing writers about their work. I can be often be seen on the platform of the Ilkley Literature Festival chairing events with folk as diverse as Sarah Waters, Billy Bragg or Andrew Motion.
Some impressions of my present life can be gained from reading
Coma Songs. But most of the poems have no autobiographical basis
to them, apart from showing what I was interested in at the time
of writing each poem. Two collections with Valley Press have
followed, ‘Some Things Matter’ and ‘Cinema Stories’.
‘Some Things Matter’ was my first venture into sonnets,
and with ‘Cinema Stories’ I had the great pleasure to be
working with fine poet Matthew Hedley Stoppard on a
topic dear to me heart, the lost and forgotten picture-houses of Leeds.
I recently had the honour to edit a small Christmas collection for the brilliant Candlestick Press, entitled ‘Fourteen Festive Sonnets’.
My next collection [fingers crossed] also from Valley Press will be out in October 2018, and will have the title of ‘A Bench for Billie Holiday: 70 sonnets’. There will be more autobiographical poems in here... an old man’s indulgence.