No Bindings is re-inventing social publishing with hybrid books, combining sound recordings, art, text and most importantly putting people at the forefront of everything it does. We heard Lily Green, No Bindings founder and assistant producer Will Taylor discuss pivotal projects, lessons learnt and what the future holds for this ever-evolving social publishing project.

Five Things I Learned:

1. Two years ago, Lily created Spring her first publication-podcast shortly after finishing a book binding course. The project was inspired by Lily’s study of Medieval Spanish and her time spent in Brazil. Stories in Medieval Spain were performed, spoken and written, existing in parallel forms reaching both literate and non-literate audiences. In Brazil, she had come across hundreds of small publications called ‘literatura de cordel’ found hanging in markets. These experiences led Lily to create delicate beautiful pamphlets, filled with poems, stories and art, combined with an expanded aural universe. 

2. The third publication Wyldwood was made in collaboration with Wylwood Arts who specialise in intergenerational projects. Lily met up with an intergenerational theatre group every two weeks to get to know them and figure out how the publication-podcast could come together. 

3. The latest publication Here We Grow was commissioned by Bristol Ageing Better, who focus on reducing loneliness and isolation as people grow older. No Bindings put out an open call for people to submit art, stories and poems. Lily was concerned that she would miss out on a huge group of people who ‘don’t draw’ or ‘don’t write’ and made a concentrated effort to cycle to different community clusters and clubs, to get in touch with those who don’t get exposure to as many opportunities. Lily spent a lot of time getting to know the participants until they felt like they could talk candidly about themselves. Every voice that was recorded was played back to the participant before the publication went out. This was a very important part of the process, allowing participants to shape and retain ownership over their stories.

4. The aim is to be very targeted with what is being published and who is going to read it. This isn’t about making a mass message, it’s about making a deep message. No Bindings worked with libraries across Bristol at five different locations. Lily reflected how rewarding it was to bring people who featured next to each other in the zine together in real life. Each participant was paid £150 each for their contribution as well as a small budget for expenses. Here We Grow has been pivotal for Lily as it has confirmed the working model for creating the publication-podcasts. The question now is how to maintain the level of engagement when upscaling and how this learning will feed into Radio book Rwanda.

5.Will Taylor started working as assistant producer with Lily for RadioBook Rwanda. They will be collaborating with two publishing houses, Huza Press and Kwani, who are championing new and quality writing from Rwanda, Kenya and the rest of the continent of Africa. Will spoke about how having West African heritage and growing up in the UK has struck a discord for him in terms of his identity, however he believes that the language around topics of identity is becoming more and more accessible.

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