Lowdham Book Festival 2017: ‘The Lord Of Milan’

IT’S FLAMING JUNE ONCE MORE and that means the annual Lowdham Book Festival, a very favourite series of events of mine in a local Nottinghamshire village. Driving into the village and observing a new 20mph limit on Main Street, Saturday’s fluffy white clouds were punctuated by spells of very warm sun shining on the familiar homes and businesses lining the village’s main thoroughfare.

My destination this afternoon was mainly about a visit to the quaint Methodist Chapel for a talk promoting a book about a somewhat little-known Nottingham sportsman, one Herbert Kilpin, by author, Robert Nieri. The book being the product of a labour of love and some thorough and serous, yet enjoyable sounding research in Northern Italy and nearer home in Nottinghamshire.

Image result for herbert kilpin

Herbert Kilpin

Hebert Kilpin, termed ‘The Lord of Milan’ was the ninth of fifteen children born to a butcher at 129 Mansfield Road, Nottingham, a modest and narrow building still situated though renumbered since Kilpin’s day. Young Herbert was a keen footballer and played for local amateur teams the Garibaldi Reds and Nottingham Olympic on the nearby Forest Recreation Ground, where Nottingham Forest were named.

Herbert entered the lace trade as an assistant in Nottingham, working in the Adams Building on Stoney Street in the city, as the author explained in a job that entailed him running up and down spiral staircases in the warehouse all day long, helping him keep fit for his football. It was here that he met Edoardo Bosio, an Italian-Swiss merchant and football innovator who formed the Internazionale Torino Football and Cricket Club. Herbert at 21 years, was persuaded to join Edoardo in Turiin to work in the textile industry and to play for the Torino club.

After a period, the Nottingham man moved to Milan to work where he continued to commute each weekend to Turin to play for Bosio’s club, probably a three-hour train journey each way in those days. Eventually, Herbert decided to form a club of his own in Milan. What followed changed the history of Association Football as the early AC Milan came into being, the storied Italian team in the famous red and black strip, chosen by Kilpin for its intimidatory qualities, which became for a period the word’s top club with fully seven European Cups to its name among other significant European and domestic silverware.

A few years ago, Milan supporters became interested in the origins of their founder and a number visited Nottingham to see the home where he was born in 1870. Unfortunately, at that time, some were unaware that since Kilpin’s day the buildings on Mansfield Road had been renumbered due to the building of the Victoria Railway Station down at the foot of the road. This resulted on some of the Italian fans reporting and visiting erroneously a restaurant some doors away. This misapprehension has been corrected since and a small ceremony held to herald Kilpin’s real home.

Herbert Kilpin’s home, Mansfield Road, Nottingham (centre blue building)

Recently, a former long-closed restaurant in Nottingham has reopened as a public house and happily been named as The Herbert Kilpin, advertising Herbert’s great achievement in initiating the huge Italian football club. A city bus which travels Mansfield Road has been named after him and a youth football trophy is also named after him.

Affable, informative and pleasant speaker, Robert Nieri told us that he had been involved in talking to children in local schools about Herbert’s amazing story, of his modest skills but huge determination and spirit and that this is what the schoolchildren reported they took from the butchers son’s story – that you can achieve anything you want to in life given the determination and work ethic. Perhaps this message was Herbert Kilpin – The Lord of Milan’s greatest achievement of all.

Lowdham Book Festival 2012 (1)

JUNE BRINGS the annual book festival at nearby Lowdham village, a few miles away. I’ve written variously on the subject of the many talks I’ve been to at Lowdham over the past few years and it’s a time of year that I really look forward to. On the festival’s informative website this year, it was mentioned that there would be a change of appearance and format for 2012, and so it proved.


I woke early on the morning of the final festival Saturday on 30th June with a hope and a plan to walk the eight miles to Lowdham. I’d a notion to retrace one or two of the local footpaths I’ve not walked in a few years and arrange for a lift home after the day came to an end. I have some ‘previous’ for this approach, not on foot but having cycled there and back with a friend on occasion. Unfortunately the sight from the bedroom window was not an encouraging one to wake up to, being one of heavy rain.

I decided to drive, not wishing to sit through up to four talks in wringing wet clothes.

Arriving in the village a little after ten in the morning, it was a different scene to the usual annual bustle on ‘final Saturday’. Main Street in Lowdham was very quiet with nary a pedestrian to be seen and tell-tale plentiful curbside parking available. I parked up and made my way to the first of a quartet of talks to be held in the small Methodist Chapel, just down from the village hall.

‘Tourist Trails In and Around Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire with Stephen Thirkill’ was the title of the initial session and the sparse gathering I walked into quickly expanded to respectable numbers. Stephen, a reporter from The Chad newspaper in Mansfield, explained with enthusiasm that this was his first attempt at book writing and despite an evident amount of hard work and hours spent, his sense of accomplishment was palpable. It was interesting to hear of the author’s problems and challenges in producing the book. I would have liked a little more systematic description of the great tourist attractions featured in the book.

After a short break and a drink, I returned for the second talk in the chapel ‘The Robin Hood Way’. This was a friendly and again enthusiastic talk by a member of the Robin Hood Way Association, the Robin Hood Way being a long distance (105 mile) walk that wends its way through Nottinghamshire as the title suggests. Being a walker myself, I’ve always been intrigued by the route, it passing through Bestwood country Park which is close to where I live. The walk begins at Nottingham Castle’s gatehouse and ends somewhat appropriately at St. Mary’s Church in Edwinstowe where Robin Hood and Maid Marian were said to have married, this being just a healthy arrow’s travel from a longbow to Sherwood Forest and the Major Oak. The talk focused on the society to some extent and although there was some instruction and comment on some of the intriguing places the Robin Hood Way travels through, again, I’d have enjoyed hearing more about the likes of Fountain Dale, King John’s Palace and Robin Hood’s Cave et al. The talk really came to life when the friendly speaker moved into the realm of these areas.


Lunchtime approached and in the pleasant sunshine I picked up a sandwich at the village Co-op and went to explore what was happening at the village hall – usually the epicentre of events on the final festival Saturday. What greeted me saddened me in some ways. In previous years the hall housed a book fair and cafe with the lawns to the rear of the building being a real treat being set out with marquees which hold book talks and a sizeable second-hand book fair. Stalls selling plants and other items usually dot the grassy area additionally. Alas, as pre-warned via the book festival website, none of these made an appearance this year and what was left was a rather barren-looking compound shuttered tightly. Inside the hall and available for twenty pounds was the no-doubt excellent main event featuring admirable local authors Jon McGregor and John Harvey, with a lunch provided.

Pondering my lot, I tripped over the road the Old Ship for a welcome pint outside on the patio. Commenting on the low-key nature of the final Saturday this year, I was informed that the Lowdham event had lost its funding and was now being forced to make the changes described above – at least for 2012. I’d like to state that whilst disappointed at what I encountered, the team that painstakingly plan the festival and contribute a lot of hard work should be commended in producing what is still an event to be proud of. I do hope however that things can somehow return to normal next year as the old format was sadly missed by me at least.

A report from the final afternoon at the festival can be accessed below

Lowdham Book Festival 2012 (2)

Lowdham Festival (1) The Brian Clough Evening

The inaugural event of the Lowdham Book Festival, 2007 then and it very nearly didn’t happen at all. As for much of this soggy summer, Lowdham and it’s surrounding villages had been the victim of a huge deluge late afternoon and early evening before Brian’s event was due to kick off at 7.30. An apt time one may have imagined due to the subject matter under discussion this evening, and one that almost became a ‘match abandoned’. Finding that the stream in the field where the marquee for the night sat had been all but two inches from overflowing it’s banks and therefore sabotaging the evening was the first information imparted. Apparently the good people that labour to run the village event had to search around furiously in the locality for sand bags to keep tonight’s entertainment running. This was again exacerbated by the large rivers of water cutting Lowdham and other nearby villages off.

Lowdham at high tide!


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Lowdham Book Festival (2) Blog-talk with Mike Atkinson

Although a now rather overdue admission for the Lowdham Book Festival, I thought this event was well worth recording. The event itself had been moved from the Women’s Institute Hall down the road, having fallen prey to the inevitable floods the village and surrounding area had been experiencing. On a damp and soggy day then, my partner and I skipped into the talk just a minute or two into proceedings


Mike Atkinson of the ‘Troubled-Diva’ blog gave an extremely informative, lively and humourous account of the world of blogging. Blessed with the light-hearted style his blog is written with, he recounted tales of this relatively new phenomenon. Notable was his tale of a serious blog stalker who was actually prosecuted for her misdemeanours towards a fellow female blogger. This talk however covered the subject most comprehensively and would have appealed to people who had an interest in beginning a blog, and expert ‘first wave’ blogger alike. Mike covered the thorny subject of book deals for bloggers and the jealousy that can arise between fellow bloggers due to this. He maintained that there was no easy way to achieve acclaim in this idiom as blogging is strictly a meritocracy.

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