Nick Toczek

Nick Toczek
Born Nicholas Toczek
20 September 1950 (1950-09-20) (age 61)
Shipley, Bradford, England
Occupation Writer
Nationality British
Genres Poetry, Music, Journalism

Nick Toczek is a British writer and performer working variously as poet, journalist, magician, vocalist, lyricist and radio broadcaster. He was raised in Bradford and then took a degree in Industrial Metallurgy at Birmingham University (1968-1971) where he began reading and publishing his poetry. Staying on in Moseley, Birmingham until 1977, he founded his poetry magazine The Little Word Machine, had several books and pamphlets published by small presses, co-founded Moseley Community Arts Festival, and toured with his music and poetry troupe The Stereo Graffiti Show. Moving back to Bradford in 1977, he co-founded the seminal music fanzine The Wool City Rocker and formed the band Ulterior Motives in which he was lyricist and lead vocalist. Continuing to tour as a poet and to publish his writings, he also recorded songs with a variety of bands. During the early eighties, he ran a series of weekly punk and indie gigs. Throughout the late eighties and early nineties, he ran weekly alternative cabaret clubs, usually co-organising these with fellow performer Wild Willi Beckett. Since the mid-nineties, his collections of children’s poetry (first with Macmillan and later with Hodder, LDA, Caboodle, etc.) have seen him become a best-selling children’s writer. Also, since 1997, he’s been regularly collaborating with the composer Malcolm Singer, starting with their Dragons Cantata. By 2011, he had worked as a visiting writer in thousands of schools, visiting dozens of countries worldwide in the course of this work. He is also a professional close-up magician, a skilled puppeteer, an authority on far-right neo-Nazi and racist groups, a prolific print journalist and an experienced broadcaster.

Contents

Life and Work

Nick Toczek was brought up in Bradford where he was educated at Frizinghall Road School (briefly), Victoria Park Preparatory School and Bradford Grammar School. He then took a BSc in Industrial Metallurgy at the University of Birmingham, graduating with 3rd class Hons in 1971.

While at university, he began to read his poetry in public and was co-founder and co-editor the campus poetry magazine, Black Columbus (nine editions, one per term, 1969–72).

He lived in Moseley in Birmingham until the summer of 1977. Based in a flat on Queenswood Road, he launched his own poetry magazine, The Little Word Machine, in 1972. Eleven editions appeared before it folded in 1979. In 1977, as a spin-off from the magazine, he published and co-edited (with Philip Nanton and Yann Lovelock) Britain’s first substantial anthology of black writing, Melanthika: An Anthology of Pan-Caribbean Writing, under the imprint LWM Publications.

In 1974, he co-founded the annual Moseley Community Arts Festival and was its director for several years. In 1975, he was a founder-member (and manager) of the poetry and music group, Stereo Graffiti, which debuted at The Ilkley Literature Festival in May of that year. Thereafter, the group toured throughout the UK before disbanding in 1977.

Toczek writes every day. He says: “If I was an athlete, I’d need to train on a daily basis. As a writer, I therefore make myself write every day. It’s a routine I’ve followed since I was a teenager.”

In the late 1960s, his poetry began to appear regularly in journals. Some of his short punning poems appeared in The Sunday Times and again in two collections they published entitled Worse Verse (1971) and More Worse Verse (1972).

After a poetry reading in a Birmingham pub, he was invited by J.C.R. Green, director of the Birmingham-based Aquila Publishing Company to submit a short manuscript. In 1972, this first collection duly appeared as a pamphlet entitled Because the Evenings.[1] It was the start of a decade-long working relationship which saw Aquila publish four more collections of his poetry and an early novella, Autobiography of a Friend.[2] Over this period, various other small presses also published single collections.

During the last half of 1976 and the first few months of 1977, he was drawn into punk after seeing Birmingham gigs featuring The Clash, The Ramones, The Adverts, The Slits, The Vibrators, Blondie, The Prefects, Talking Heads and more. After he and his then-partner and fellow Stereo Graffiti member, Kay Russell, moved to Bradford in the summer of 1977, they formed the band Ulterior Motives, releasing a single Y’Gotta Shout c/w Another Lover on their own label, Motive Music, in 1979. That December, the pair co-edited and published the first edition of the seminal indie rock mag, The Wool City Rocker. Toczek and Russell split up in mid-December and, at a Christmas Day party, he met his future wife, Gaynor.

Under Toczek’s editorship, The Wool City Rocker appeared monthly throughout 1980 during which time it changed from being Bradford-focussed to covering the whole of the north of England, later editions each including a free flexi-disc of northern bands. A final edition, #14, appeared in the summer of 1981.

Toczek continued to tour and record with Ulterior Motives until the band split up in 1982. Since then, he’s toured as a solo artist.

For four years, from March 1982 until April 1986, Toczek ran weekly punk (and later indie) gigs at assorted venues throughout the Leeds-Bradford area, sometimes as many as five a week, each with suitably lurid names (Gory Details, Fatal Shocks, Natural Disasters, etc). In September 1986, Toczek formed a business partnership with Willi Beckett (performance poet, frontman of The Psycho Surgeons and leading light of The Monster Raving Loony Party) to run a weekly alternative cabaret club under the name of his long-defunct show, Stereo Graffiti. The alternative cabaret scene soon took off and this project blossomed, continuing under different names and in a variety of West Yorkshire venues until the mid-nineties. It spawned various side projects including Bradford Writers’ Group (which the pair founded in 1987) and a Festival of European Community Literature (which they ran in April 1989).

On 8 September 1984, he and Gaynor (nee Doherty) were married. Their daughter, Rebecca, was born on 23 December 1986 and their son, Matthew, on 20 August 1990.

In the autumn of 1993, Toczek began a two-year stint as W.H. Smith resident storyteller at Eureka! the children’s museum in Halifax, West Yorkshire. In 1995 and again in 1996, he was an MP in the Channel 4 TV debating programme, The People's Parliament.

Since 1997, Toczek has collaborated with the composer Malcolm Singer. Their first joint work, a cantata using Toczek’s dragon poems, was performed at London’s Royal Albert Hall in 1998. Toczek later worked on a storyline and then a play-script in order to turn the cantata into a musical which was published as Dragons! The Musical by Golden Apple in 2005. While he was working on this, Toczek was asked to write a pantomime for Golden Apple. This was Sleeping Beauty's Dream which they published in 2003. In 2004, Perfecr Pitch, another Toczek-Singer cantata, this time based on Toczek’s football poems, was performed at The Barbican in London. A further collaboration, this time a political opera entitled The Jailer's Tale, was premiered at The Arts Depot, also in London, in February 2010.

Since it was founded in the mid-1980s, Toczek has produced weekly shows for Bradford Community Broadcasting. His current show, InTOCZEKated, has been running since 1991.[3]

The 1997 poetry anthology, The Spirit of Bradford, which Toczek co-edited with David Tipton, won a Raymond Williams Community Publishing Award. A short programme on writing poetry which he made in 2000 for the Channel 4 Education series, Just Write, was BAFTA-nominated. And, in 2002/3, his poem, Responsibilities, featured in an award-winning TV advert. In 2004/5, he was employed as a consultant and contributor on BBC TV’s new digital curriculum for schools.

Since 2004, he’s also worked regularly as a professional magician. He says: “It’s another of those things that I started as a hobby and it just escalated.”

Toczek has been writing lyrics and recording his songs with a wide variety of musicians since the mid-1970s, releasing album and EPs, and contributing to compilation albums. He co-wrote the lyrics (with Pete Doherty) of the popular Babyshambles song Baddie’s Boogie.

Books

Poetry for Adults

  • Because the Evenings[4] (Aquila Publishing Co., 1972) – early poems.
  • The Book of Numbers (Aquila Publishing Co.,1973) – poems and short prose pieces.[5]
  • Evensong (Sceptre Press, 1974) – single poem.[6]
  • Malignant Humour (Aquila Publishing Co., 1975) – short humorous punning poems.[7]
  • God Shave the Queen (Aquila Publishing Co., 1975) – short humorous punning poems.[8]
  • The Credible Adventures of Nick Toczek (Kawabata Press, 1979) – short fictionalised prose pieces.[9]
  • Complete Strangers Tell You Nothing (Xenia Press, 1979) – single poem, illustrated.[10]
  • Acts of Violence (Wayzgoose Press, 1979) – short fiction / bizarre tales.[11]
  • Lies (Rivelin Press, 1979) – poems.[12]
  • Rock’n’Roll Terrorism (Aquila Publishing Co., 1981) – performance poems, lyrics and short prose pieces.[13]
  • Fish Fox Peaches & Pig (Purple Heather Press, 1987) – experimental poems and prose.[14]
  • The Private Crimes of Nick Toczek (Amazing Colossal Press, 1989) – short pieces of quirky fiction.[15]
  • The Meat Boutique (PB Publications, 1991) – political lyrics and performance poetry.[16]
  • Slaphead Wrote Some Poems (Hybrid Press, 1995) – poems.
  • The Wreckage (Redbeck Press, 1998) – poems.[17]

Children’s Poetry

  • Dragons (Macmillan Children's Books, 2005)[18][19]
  • Dragons Everywhere (Macmillan Children’s Books, 1997) –more dragon poems.[20]
  • Never Stare at a Grizzly Bear (Macmillan Children’s Books, 2000) – animal poems.[21]
  • The Dragon Who Ate Our School[22](Macmillan Children’s Books, 2000) – dragon poems (originally published as Dragons)
  • Can Anyone Be As Gloomy As Me? (Hodder Wayland 2000, re-published 2005) – poems for young readers, about feeling sad.[23]
  • Number Parade (LDA, 2002) – poems about numbers 0-100 (21 by Nick, 20 each by Michael Rosen, Jackie Kay, John Agard and Grace Nichols).[24]
  • Kick It! (Macmillan Children’s Books, 2002) – football poems.[25]
  • Sleeping Beauty’s Dream (Golden Apple, 2003) – pantomime: 2 books (script + songbook) + CD.
  • Dragons! (Macmillan Children’s Books, 2005) – collected dragon poems (past 2 books + new collection).
  • Dragons! The Musical (Golden Apple, 2005) – musical: 2 books (script + songbook) + CD.[26]
  • Me And My Poems (Caboodle Books, 2008) – assorted poems for children (and adults).[27]
  • Hogs’n’Dogs’n’Slugs’n’Bugs (Caboodle Books, 2008) – creature poems.
  • Cats’n’Bats’n’Slugs’n’Bugs (Caboodle Books, 2009 ) – creature poems, re-titled.[28]
  • Number, Number, Cut A Cucumber (Caboodle Books, September 2009) – poems for younger children.[29]

Fiction

  • Autobiography of a Friend (Aquila Publishing Company, 1975) – novella.[30]
  • Group of Heroes (Skrev Press, 2004) – novella.[31]

Non-Fiction

  • Rockbiz (The Open College,1988)- popular music syllabus (with Tim Lambert and Leslie Partridge).[32]
  • The Bigger Tory Vote (AK Press,1991) – investigative research into far-right of UK Conservative Party.[33]
  • The Life of Bierley (Yorkshire Arts Circus, 1995) – portrait of a Bradford ‘problem’ estate (with Alex Krysinski).

Anthologies for adults

  • Midland Read (Aquila Publishing Company 1972) - poetry (with Maralyn Heathcock and Paul Humphries).[34]
  • Melanthika (L.W.M. Publications,1977) – pan-Caribbean writing (with Yann Lovelock & Philip Nanton).
  • The Spirit of Bradford (Redbeck Press, 1997) – poems (with David Tipton).[35]

Anthologies for children

  • Join In... Or Else! (Macmillan Children’s Books, 2000) – poems.[36]
  • Toothpaste Trouble (Macmillan Children’s Books, 2002) – poems for younger readers.[37]
  • The Dog Ate My Bus Pass (Macmillan Children’s Books, 2004) – poems (with Andrew Fusek Peters).[38]
  • Read Me Out Loud! (Macmillan Children’s Books, 2007) – poems (with Paul Cookson).[39]

Recordings

Rock Music and Performance Poetry

  • Y’Gotta Shout/Another Lover (Motive Music,1979) – 7” single of 2 songs by Ulterior Motives.
  • The Britanarchist Demo (Bluurg Tapes, 1983) – cassette LP of performance poems + 3 songs by Toczek with To Be Continued.
  • Ulterior Motives (Bluurg Tapes, 1985) – cassette LP of performance poems and short stories.
  • More to Hate... (Martyrhate Records, 1986) – 12” EP of 4 songs by Toczek, 2 with The Burial, 2 with Spectre.[40]
  • InTOCZEKated (Bluurg Records, 1987) – 12” LP of 11 songs by Toczek with various bands.
  • The Meat Boutique (Acrimony Tapes, 1988) – cassette LP of performance poems.
  • Selfish Men (Not-a-Rioty, 2004) – CD (with booklet) of performance poems.
  • Totally InTOCZEKated (Mutiny 2000, 2007) – 25-track CD (with lyric booklet) of songs by Toczek with various bands.
  • Britanarchy (Not-a-Rioty, 2011) - 5 track CD EP (with lyric booklet) of songs by Toczek with Threshold Shift.

Classical Music

  • Let Music Live (Surrey Youth Music & Performing Arts, 1999) – CD: Dragons Cantata (live at Royal Albert Hall).
  • Dragons & Gladiators (Bexley Centre for Music & Dance, 1999) – CD: Dragons Cantata (live at Royal Festival Hall).

Journalism

During the 1980s, Toczek wrote for the short-lived music weekly, Musicians Only,[41] before becoming a features writer on the seminal Edinburgh-based pop culture monthly, Cut.[42] Throughout the 1980s he also wrote on literature and the arts for the monthly Arts Yorkshire[43][44]and had his own column in the weekly Bradford Star,[45] for which he also wrote a series of pieces on his experience of adventure sports. Since the early 1980s, he’s been collecting an archive of far-right and racist literature, especially from Britain and America. His 1991 book, The Bigger Tory Vote[46] details racist activity in the UK. In the immediate aftermath of the April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, he wrote lengthy features for The Guardian, The Independent on Sunday,[47][48] Pagina (Argentina),[49] The South China News (Hong Kong)[50] and Rheinisher Merkur (Germany).[51] He’s since been employed as a researcher by most UK newspapers and has appeared in this capacity on numerous UK TV and radio programmes. In 2006, he returned to rock journalism as a features writer for the Bradford-based northern fanzine, Mono.[52] After that folded two years later, he moved to the UK bi-monthly, Rock’n’Reel, which changed its name to R2[53] in 2009, and for which he continues to write.

Work in Education

In September 1986, Toczek began work as a part-time degree course lecturer in the English Department at Bretton Hall College in Wakefield. In all, he was there for eleven years during which time he developed and tutored first, second and third year courses in a wide variety of subjects including the short story, creative writing, film studies, post modernism, global image, aesthetics, and modernism. He also gave annual lectures in the Music Department on racism in popular music and on working independently in the music business. In May 1995, he launched The Northern School of Writing at Bretton Hall, offering a range of short term accredited adult learning courses to the general public. These included becoming a professional writer. storytelling, journalism, stand-up comedy, investigative journalism, and writing for TV and radio, each of which he tutored or co-tutored. After he finished working at Bretton Hall in 1997, he continued to run Northern School of Writing courses independently for a couple of years. He says of this work: “We had young kids and I needed the money, but it was also a chance to self-educate in a wide variety of disciplines. All of it was every bit as steep a learning curve for me as it was for my students.”

Throughout his career as a full-time writer and performer Toczek has at various times run writers’ groups, held writing residencies, tutored residential courses, presented adult education courses and has frequently been a guest writer in colleges and universities. He’s also done one-day visits to schools, thousands of them in the UK as well as having done frequent schools tours around the world. Since 2008, he’s worked in half a dozen countries a year via Caboodle Books and Authors Abroad. As a writer-in-schools overseas he’s worked in Germany, Canada, Ireland, Holland, USA, China, France, Indonesia (Borneo, Sumatra and Bali), Egypt, Kuwait, Cyprus, Italy, Malaysia, Singapore, Spain, Qatar, Russia, Thailand, Azerbaijan, Vietnam, Jordan, Switzerland, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Press Quotes

“See him if you can. He’s brilliant.” – from a review by Geoff Mellor of Nick Toczek as stand-up comedian, The Stage (23 May 1991).

“... the most exciting visual performer we have this side of Benjamin Zephaniah” – from a review by Steven Wells of Nick Toczek as performance poet, New Musical Express (4 June 1988, page 46, ISSN 0028 6362).

“At his best Toczek is bitter, disturbing, and political. His language gets harder and more effective with each publication” – from a review by Jeff Nuttall of Nick Toczek’s two books Acts Of Violence (Wayzgoose Press) and Lies (Redbeck Press) in The Guardian (January 1980).

References

  1. ^ Toczek, Nick (1972). Because The Evenings. Aquila. ISBN 0903226057, 0903226073. 
  2. ^ Autobiography of a Friend (ISBN 0903226677, 0903226685)
  3. ^ BCB radio
  4. ^ Because the Evenings: (ISBN 0903226057, 0903226073)
  5. ^ The Book of Numbers: (ISBN 0903226847 / 0-903226-84-7) Aquila, Isle of Skye, 1976
  6. ^ Evensong: Sceptre Press, 1974
  7. ^ Malignant Humour : Aquilla / The Phaeton Press: 7 Jul 1975)
  8. ^ God Shave the Queen: Aquila/ the Phaethon Press, Isle of Skye, Scotland, 1979.
  9. ^ The credible adventures of Nick Toczek 1980
  10. ^ Complete Strangers Tell You Nothing: Xenia Press, Brisol, 1979.
  11. ^ Acts of Violence (ISBN 0950663506 / 0-9506635-0-6): Wayzgoose Press, 1979.
  12. ^ Lies (ISBN 0904524183 / 0-904524-18-3): Rivelin Press, 1979.
  13. ^ Rock 'n' Roll Terrorism (ISBN 0727502050 / 0-7275-0205-0): Aquila/The Phaethon Press, Portree, 1981.
  14. ^ Fish Fox Peaches and Pig (ISBN 0950834157 / 0-9508341-5-7): 1987.
  15. ^ The Private Crimes of Nick Toczek: Amazing Colossal Press, 1989.
  16. ^ The Meat Boutique 1991
  17. ^ The Wreckage (ISBN 0946980535 / 0-946980-53-5): Red Beck Press, Bradford, UK, 1998
  18. ^ PageTitle=Individual%20Contributor&ContributorID=70777&RLE=Author Macmillan Children’s Books, 1995]) – dragon poems.
  19. ^ Nick at Pam Macmillan
  20. ^ Dragons Everywhere (ISBN 0330367927 / 0-330-36792-7) Macmillan Children's Books, 1998.
  21. ^ Never Stare at a Grizzly Bear (ISBN 0330391216 / 0-330-39121-6) Macmillan Children's Books, 2000.
  22. ^ The Dragon Who Ate Our School (ISBN 0330348299 / 0-330-34829-9) Macmillan Children's Books, 1996.
  23. ^ Can Anyone be as Gloomy as Me?: Poems About Being Sad (Poemotions) (ISBN 0750227931 / 0-7502-2793-1) Hodder Children's Books, 2000.
  24. ^ Number Parade: Number Poems from 0-100 (ISBN 1855033437 / 1-85503-343-7) Kay, Jackie; Nichols, Grace; Agard, John; Toczek, Nick; Rosen, Mike
  25. ^ Kick it! (ISBN 0330399209 / 0-330-39920-9) Macmillan Children's Books, 2002.
  26. ^ Dragons The Musical (ISBN 1844494802 / 1-84449-480-2) Nick Toczek, Malcolm Singer: Omnibus Press Wise Publications, 2005 and *Dragons The Musical: Teachers Book (Paperback) (ISBN 9781844494804),Nick Toczek, Malcolm Singer: Omnibus Press, United Kingdom, 2005.
  27. ^ Me and My Poems! (ISBN 0955971101 / 0-9559711-0-1): Caboodle Books Limited, 2008.
  28. ^ Cats 'n' Bats 'n' Slugs 'n' Bugs: Collected Creature Poems (ISBN 0956265650 / 0-9562656-5-0): Caboodle Books Limited, 2009
  29. ^ Number, Number, Cut A Cucumber (ISBN 0956265642 / 0-9562656-4-2): Caboodle Books Limited, 2009.
  30. ^ Autobiography of a Friend (ISBN 0903226685 / 0-903226-68-5): Aquila Publishing Co. Ltd, 1975. Autobiography of a Friend (ISBN 0903226677 / 0-903226-67-7): Aquila Pub. Co., 1975
  31. ^ Group of Heroes 2004
  32. ^ Rockbiz (0 7482 0500 4) Nick Toczek, Leslie Partridge, Tim Lambert: The Open College 1988.
  33. ^ The Bigger Tory Vote: The Covert Sequestration of the Bigotry Vote (ISBN 1873176201 / 1-873176-20-1): AK Press, Stirling, 1992
  34. ^ Midland Read, An Omnibus of Poetry with Maralyn Heathcock and Paul Humphries: The Aquila Publishing Co Ltd 1056/01/01, 1056
  35. ^ Spirit of Bradf ord, David Tipton and Nick Toczek: Red Beck Press, 1997
  36. ^ Join In Or Else (ISBN 0330482637 / 0-330-48263-7) Macmillan Children's Books, 2000.
  37. ^ Toothpaste Trouble: Poems from Breakfast to Bedtime (ISBN 0330397532 / 0-330-39753-2) Macmillan Children's Books, 2002
  38. ^ The Dog Ate My Bus Pass (ISBN 0330418009 / 0-330-41800-9) Nick Toczek~Andrew Fusek Peters~Axel Scheffler: Macmillan Children's Books
  39. ^ Read Me Out Loud: A Poem to To Rap, Chant, Whisper Or Shout For Every Day Of The Year: A Poem for Every Day of the Year (ISBN 0330446215 / 0-330-44621-5) Nick Toczek, Paul Cookson,, Macmillan Children's Books, 2007.
  40. ^ http://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/leisure/tamusic/urbanmusic/urbanfeatures/727392.print/
  41. ^ (ISSN 0143 6937) short-lived weekly music paper, an offshoot of Melody Maker, for which Nick wrote regular articles and reviews starting in 28 June 1980 issue, page 8 and finishing with the final issue, 20-27 December 1980, page 9.
  42. ^ Cut (ISSN 0951 5127) for which Nick wrote features and reviews for more than two years... his first piece (a feature) was in the June 1987 issue, page 28; his final piece (a review) was in the July 1989 issue, page 57.
  43. ^ The Month in Yorkshire featured Nick’s music column, Another Stick of Yorkshire Rock, starting in the October 1980 issue, page 11 and continuing until the final Summer 1981 issue, page 7.
  44. ^ Arts Yorkshire (ISSN 0264 7699) which replaced The Month in Yorkshire in October 1981 continued to carry Nick column, Another Stick of Yorkshire Rock, from its first issue, page 6 until the April 1982 issue, page 12, after which it became The Outer Limits of The Arts (from May 1982 issue, page 12 until May 1983, page 3). Thereafter, Nick wrote occasional features for the journal until its demise in 1986. Also, from the March 1984 issue, page 19, he wrote a new column, Toczek’s Rockcheck, which ran for several months.
  45. ^ Bradford Star in which Nick had his own weekly column for more than two years... his first column was in issue 7, Thursday 19 March 1981, page 14; his final column was in issue 113, Thursday 14 April 1983, page 6. He also wrote many features for the paper.
  46. ^ The Bigger Tory Vote (ISBN 1873176201 / 1-873176-20-1)
  47. ^ The Independent on Sunday 6 August 1995, page 17, a piece entitled ‘Make-believe world inspires UAS terror’.
  48. ^ The Independent Monday 24 April 1995, page 13, a piece entitled ‘Over-taxed and under siege’.
  49. ^ Pagina (Argentina) Sunday 30 April 1995, pages 20-21, a piece in Spanish entitled ‘Patriotas y milicias’ (Patriots and militias).
  50. ^ South China Morning Post Saturday 18 August 1995, page 17, a piece entitled ‘The fantasies of the far right’
  51. ^ .... late April 1995, a piece in German entitled ‘Eine ganz und gar amerikanische Tat’
  52. ^ Mono Bradford-based northern monthly, later bi-monthly, for which Nick wrote 39 pieces – including a regular column plus features and reviews – from June 2006 (issue 2) until its demise in June 2008 (issue 17). The journal listed him as Mono guru.
  53. ^ R2 (called Rock’n’Reel until May/June 2009, ISSN 0964 3257) for which Nick wrote his first piece, a feature on bluesman Stephen Dale Petit, in the July/August 2008 issue and for which he’s since written almost a hundred pieces.

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