Armley Press – The Year Behind Us, the Year Ahead of Us

The Year Behind Us, the Year Ahead of Us

John Lake reflects on Armley Press’s Northern campaign


Just before Christmas, Mick McCann came calling again asking if we could flog the latest updated version of his ‘How Leeds Changed the World’ book. ‘Not that again,’ we replied, ‘haven’t you done anything else of any interest in the last five years?’ It turned out he had, as part of the Armley Press team, an alternative book publishing house with its roots in Whitkirk, Mick had played his part in publishing four books by Northern authors in 2015 with more to come in the coming year. But he couldn’t be bothered putting pen to paper for us, so he left it to sidekick John Lake to fill us in…


This year Leeds punk publisher Armley Press cranked it up a gear and expanded its roll call of authors. Known previously for books by Mick McCann and myself, it’d had a hit with How Leeds Changed the World: Encyclopaedia Leeds, 800 copies of which were presented by the Council to visiting dignitaries at the 2014 Tour de France.

Soon after that, I joined Armley Press as a company director in order to find new writers worth publishing. This was one strategy in a campaign to relaunch the press and up its profile as a ‘counter-weight’ to the anti-Northern vibe that authors were getting from mainstream publishers down South. Another was an Armley Press website. By spring, 2015, it was up and running thanks to my brother Mick Lake, now part of a growing AP team that included John Wheelhouse and Ian Dobson.


In May, we launched Ray Brown’s Miners’ Strike novel In All Beginnings, and Armley Press had a new author on its books. Submissions were coming thick and fast. The next one that caught my eye was Sheffield writer Samantha Priestley’s Reliability of Rope, which came out in June. Now we were four.

Our next author, Chris Nickson, came with an established reputation for historical crime novels, many set in his Leeds home town. Chris was working on a series of episodes from the city’s history, dating from Roman times to the 1960s. As his first ‘non-crime’ book, Chris brought it to us and we were pleased and proud to publish Leeds, the Biography: A History in Short Stories, to coincide with the Big Bookend festival, at which he and Samantha both spoke.

Our biggest success of the year was still to come. When I read Nathan O’Hagan’s novel The World is (Not) a Cold Dead Place I knew that this book had it. The story of an OCD, anti-social misfit forced to work in a Birkenhead call centre was at once funny, violent and moving. It seemed to voice what we were all thinking about the shittier aspects of the society we live in. Upon its August publication it got plugged on Johnny Vaughan’s talksport radio show, and sales and reviews followed. If its cult continues to grow then Armley Press will have sent a clear message to the big publishers who rejected it in the first place.

There’s still work to be done. The website now hosts short stories by new authors, just before Christmas we launched my latest novel Amy and the Fox. We’ve a film project coming up with Black Hat Productions, who are as passionate about promoting Leeds as us. Grassroots arts can be a potent force and we want to consolidate links with local champions such as Big Bookend and The City Talking.

Ultimately, though, we’ll be publishing books, about one a month, including hard-boiled crime by Dave Siddall, a bittersweet comedy from Mark Connors and a strange tale by K.D. Thomas about a girl who controls the weather. Please keep reading in 2016.

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