#MondayBlogs Llangollen bookshop: Cafe and Books

Pontcysyllte_aqueduct_arp

Readers of this blog or LeftLion will know that my special power is an ability to link any person or place with Nottingham. So while visiting Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in Llangollen, Wales, my one degree of separation was English civil engineer William Jessop (23 January 1745 – 18 November 1814). Jessop designed this 38m high tramway system that connects local industry to the north of Rhos and the Trevor basin. It was completed by Thomas Telford.

Jessop, with surveyor James Green, were also responsible for the Nottingham Canal, which once covered 23.6 kilometres (14.7 mi) between Langley Mill in Derbyshire and Nottingham. It opened in 1796, having cost twice the initial estimate of £43,500 (£3,820,000 in 2015), but by 1937 it became obsolete due to the railways.

The canals were where Arthur Seaton, the hard-drinking womanising anti-hero of Alan Sillitoe’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958), would go fishing to gather his thoughts. Towards the end of the book the canals offer a rare moment of reflection for the head-strong and guttural Arthur Seaton:

Arthur Seaton (played by Albert Finney) fishing. Taken from www.sillitoetrail.com

Arthur Seaton (played by Albert Finney) fishing. Taken from http://www.sillitoetrail.com

“Everyone in the world was caught, somehow, one way or another, and those that weren’t were always on the way to it. As soon as you were born you were captured by fresh air that you screamed against the minute you came out. Then you were roped in by a factory, had a machine slung around your neck, and then you were hooked up by the arse with a wife. Mostly you were like a fish: you swam about with freedom, thinking how good it was to be left alone, doing anything you wanted to do and caring about no-one, when suddenly: SPLUTCH! – the big hook clapped itself into your mouth and you were caught.”

cafe-and-books

But I was also in this neck of the woods to visit the appropriately named Café and Books which is owned by a softly spoken, and stereotypically friendly, scouser called Darren Preston. My first question to any bookshop owner is always the same: What books do you read? Dan pauses and smiles. ‘To be honest with you, I don’t read.’ He’s refreshingly candid and turns out to be a genuinely pragmatic businessman.

Darren, or ‘Dan’ as he prefers to be named, originally bought the café but later acquired the upstairs bookshop when the owner passed away 15 years ago. The bookshop had been going since around 1989 and so clearly complimented the café. Quite simply, his ethos is ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Although trade has been a bit slow of late he’s optimistic of a revival, ‘like what happened with record vinyl’.

Owner Darren Preston

Owner Darren Preston

His hope is that people purchasing books will nip downstairs and have a read in his café, which probably explains why there is no till in the bookshop. You need to walk along a counter of cakes and sandwiches to purchase it at the only till. Equally customers are encouraged to bring books down and read while drinking, using the bookshop as a kind of library. Any left on the table are simply returned back upstairs when he has a minute.

It’s because the café takes prominence in his business model that he’s not bothered about selling any of his books online. He explains that it would take too long to stock and he’d have to close down the bookshop for a couple of weeks to catalogue them all. He’s more interested in the physical space of the building and so has recently built a play area to the back of the café, to give parents a break over a cuppa.

Dan seems happy as long as things are ticking over and the bills are being paid, high profit margins aren’t his ulterior motive. It’s no wonder the business appears to be doing well. ‘My philosophy is you can’t know everything. What I know is cafés. There’s probably some real gems of books up there but we don’t have the time to find them. Dealers come in and find specific stuff which will make them some money. But I don’t care about that. They keep coming back because I charge a fair price. It’s a food chain and we’re happy with what we get. And if a book is priced too high then people just ask me to knock a bit off and I do. I’m really not that bothered.’

Author Paul Spackman

Author Paul Spackman holding up his book.

However when a book comes in that’s a bit specialist and is worth the effort then he’s happy to sell it on eBay or Amazon. As he’s not much of a reader, this is where the expertise of Paul Spackman is required. Paul is a part-time author who has worked at the bookshop for 21 years. He was such a regular visitor, both for research and pleasure, that Dan offered him a job, pointing out ‘you might as well work here’.

He takes me around the upstairs bookshop which is an absolute labyrinth of snaking trenches of books covering every niche and genre imaginable. I’m in Women’s Studies for one moment before spinning around and discovering a section on industry. There’s books by and about DH Lawrence. Some of the spines are battered, others look like they’ve just been born. I find one of Graham Joyce’s many award winning novels and some maps of the local area.

Quote from Dr Don Trubshaw, from a previous post.

Quote from Dr Don Trubshaw, from a previous post.

Like all good secondhand bookshops, this one is geared towards serendipity. There’s absolute gold on these shelves but you need a good few hours to stumble upon it. The sheer randomness means I end up with a composting guide by an irate author who bemoans being unable to shit in his own compost any more for fear of frightening the neighbours. And at the other end of the spectrum I find a copy of David Mitchell’s first novel Ghostwritten, which is a lot better than his most recent offering, The Bone Clocks.

Paul explains the stock is mainly job lots from house clearances or car boots. He then sifts through them and creates an order out of the chaos. There doesn’t seem to be a particular type of book that sells better than others although the recent popularity of TV adaptations, such as Poldark, seem to have triggered an interest in your more casual reader.

When I ask Paul about his own books he walks off and returns with the shop’s copy of ‘God’s Candidate’. This was his first book, published in 2008, and ‘it’s about Pope John Paul I, the one who became famous for allegedly being murdered but (pauses) he wasn’t. I’ve recently updated it and I’m hoping to have it translated into Italian later this year or early next year. I’m currently finishing a book entitled ‘Sarah Palin: With An Alaskan Heart’ and am hoping to find a home for it with an American/UK publisher. And if all goes well my next book will be about Italy from 1945 – 1994’. As you’d expect from someone working in this kind of bookshop, his own writing is pretty eclectic.

Trenches of books twist and tower above as you navigate the shop.

Trenches of books twist and tower above as you navigate the shop.

Together Paul and Dan make a good team, working to their respective strengths. They are both open to ideas about how the bookshop can become an intrinsic part of the community. Although Dan is not actively seeking out events he’s happy to accommodate the needs of local authors who might want to use the space for book signings etc. He strikes me as someone who would say yes to anything, as long as it doesn’t cause him extra hassle.

As I’m leaving Dan tells me the shop’s been used in a short film which was based on a popular vampire book. He’s got a copy if I want to buy one. He’s not read it himself, of course, but he’s happy to stock it to support the local author. Later that evening I check out their website. It’s pretty basic, as you’d expect from an owner who lives very much in the physical present. There are two books listed for sale. One is a first edition hardback of Mein Kampf going for around £1,000, the other is a signed copy of God’s Candidate for £12.99.

DOTU Round logoDawn of the Unread is a graphic novel celebrating Nottingham’s literary history. It was created to support libraries and bookshops. It began life online and won the Teaching Excellence Award at the Guardian Education Awards in 2015 and has since been published by Spokesman Books (2017). All profits go towards UNESCO Nottingham City of Literature.

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#MondayBlogs Hong Kong Bookshops and the search for Sillitoe

Hong Kong Central Library

Hong Kong Central Library

Ben Zabulis is the author of Chartered Territory: An Engineer Abroad. He is easily Nottingham’s best travelled author and has recently moved (back) to Hong Kong. In this guest blog he ponders on the popularity of Alan Sillitoe novels in Asia’s secondhand bookshops…

It’s funny how second-hand books can yield a certain reaction, absolute abhorrence from some to the musty, even grubby, well-thumbed pages while others, myself particularly, ooze untrammelled glee at the potential locked within. After all, not only is one gaining a good book (hopefully) to read but a little bit of history, even mystery, having undergone numerously-handed exchanges within its life to drop suddenly into yours –  admittedly it’s a  history and mystery that for the most part will remain totally imaginary. But not always.

Years ago, when I’d returned back to the UK after another stint abroad, I was drawn to a book in a charity shop called The Hong Kong Club. No surprise really given I have lived here before. It was a cop-type thriller and not my thing at all but I decided to read the author note anyway, and that’s where interest gathered pace. Andrew Whittle (1942- ) it said, ex-Royal Hong Kong Police Officer and Commander of the Special Task Force, Hong Island until 1976. Not so unusual I thought, someone writing about their own thing, fair enough, but then I read he was Nottinghamshire born and bred. Well, that was it, coincidence or not, I had to buy it – the book’s history being far more enticing than its words! The mystery element lay in the whys and wherefores of the author’s life: Nottinghamshire? Hong Kong? Why? How? I yearned to know but, alas, despite the wonders of the net and having a few pals in the Hong Kong police, enquiries drew a blank and the conundrum remains.

Although ‘my’ patch in Asia is a bit sparse re charity shops it does nonetheless excel in a fine line of second-hand book stores – travellers and expats their main contributors and customers. I refer here to the lovely Merman Books in Bangkok and the restful Leisure Books in Hong Kong where Milky the cat should be meeting and greeting but spends most of her time curled up and snoozing atop ‘children’. Never mind. Although much of their English-language stock comprises the usual assortment of dated travel guides and ‘literature’ of the yawningly-awful airport tat variety, gems can sometimes surface. In this instance two old editions of Alan Sillitoe books.

P1020504

However did a 1962 and 1967 printing of The General and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner respectively, both Pan Books Ltd priced at 2/6, turn up so far from home? They certainly don’t strike me as the sort of books packed by long-haul backpackers heading for a lengthy Asian sojourn, neither in 1962 nor in 2013 when we stumbled upon them, not the sort of books a booky-type would easily give up either. Although not keen on defaced books, I have to admit the modern habit of successive owners noting some identification to the inner front cover would certainly have added value, curiosity-wise, here. No, I suspect these were probably offered up by a long-term resident, maybe from a deceased person’s house clearance, maybe from a retiree, may be from an ex-Royal Hong Kong Police Officer and Commander of the Special Task Force, Hong Island until 1976, just maybe. As an ardent map- and travel-buff, Alan Sillitoe would doubtless be elated at their having swopped hands so distantly.

Having spent the last ten years in Nottingham and being frequent library visitors we were constantly dismayed by the lack of Sillitoe books available, is there no demand or were they simply always out? Time after time, still no Sillitoe. Local hero? Didn’t seem it. (Editor’s note: As of today spread out across Nottingham City Libraries there are 34 copies of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and 17 of Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, suggesting they must be regularly loaned out if Ben was unable to find them. But it does raise the issue of making greater prominence of local fiction in libraries)

Alan Sillitoe features in Issue 12 of Dawn of the Unread. It includes a homage to Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

Alan Sillitoe features in Issue 12 of Dawn of the Unread. It includes a homage to Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

So we thought, having just returned to Hong Kong and expecting even less, let’s see what they can do here. We were pleasantly surprised to discover a total of 52 works – novels and biographies – in English within the Hong Kong library system. A good start, now for the acid test and a visit to our local branch in Shatin to see what’s available. They had three Sillitoe books (Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, The Death of William Posters and Understanding Alan Sillitoe by Gillian Mary Hanson). A reasonable result, putting some Notts libraries to shame…

The return stamps suggested a healthy lending rate since the mid-90s though modern computerised systems of course wouldn’t show up as such. I asked the delightful Miss Wong (librarian) if it was possible to determine more accurate circulation statistics, but unfortunately no. Incidentally, the cover of the Saturday Night and Sunday Morning edition depicted a smashed bottle of Shippo’s and a pack of 20 Gold Leaf, a nice touch and a strange feeling to see two home-grown icons so far around the globe, could almost have been planted by the Nottingham tourist people themselves! Anyway, no Chinese versions but I did note several translated Graham Greenes on the library website. So with moderate success we decided to check a bookshop too, one of the largest chains in Hong Kong: Swindon Books Co. Ltd; they also scored okayish with current editions of The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and Guzman Go Home. Not bad, but it could be better! So why isn’t our man more popular, or at least as popular as some of the more accepted imports, Conrad, Maugham, Greene?

Graham Greene makes an appearance in Issue 14 of Dawn of the Unread

Graham Greene makes an appearance in Issue 14 of Dawn of the Unread

Well, Sillitoe certainly had direct Far East experience having spent a couple of years in Malaya with the RAF during the Emergency as a Morse code and wireless specialist; during which time he developed a love for the landscape, people and culture, even attempting to learn the local language, Bahasa Malay. Worthy snatches of this period appear in a few stories particularly, Key to the Door (1961), The Lost Flying Boat (1983) and Lost Loves (1991) introducing such exotic destinations as Penang, Butterworth, Kedah Peak (all in Malaya, now Malaysia) and Seletar (now in Singapore). The Asian milieu is pleasingly described. Oddly enough some Asian lives, those too often mired in desperation and pity, nicely parody a number of Sillitoe’s stories drawn from 50s Nottingham. Those unfortunate souls finding themselves entrapped in a humdrum existence which they generally put up with until a minor physical escape, could be via a day trip, hobby, boozing or flirting, aids their sudden realisation that a solution lies within. Consequently they rediscover themselves and, in doing so, return rejuvenated and more accommodating to the life they led before.

Hong Kong publishing and modern culture abounds with such imagery, the local music industry churns out myriad Cantopop videos in which a forlorn singer stares melancholically into nothingness whilst crooning-on about some personal injustice, you get similar in China (Mandopop), Japan (J-Pop) and Korea (K-Pop) and it drives you bloody nuts because they’re all the bloody same !

Sillitoe’s stories should really have no problem in capturing local imagination, time for a run of translated works perhaps? Deffo, ‘Gerrit bleddy sorted,’ I can almost hear Arthur Seaton yell. After all China is a huge market and a receptive one too, so is Japan, they’re madly in love (just like in the J-Pop videos) with anything quaintly British, time to introduce Nottinghamu as they call us; Nottinghamu and the Seatons seen through manga? An enticing prospect and although admittedly a respectable number of Sillitoe novels do exist in proper Japanese I could only find one Chinese (Mandarin) version: Xingqi Liu Wanshang he Xingqi Ri Zaochen or Saturday Night and Sunday Morning – a very sad result!

It’s sad because they love reading here, in tiny Hong Kong alone there are 68 public libraries, 163 community libraries and 12 mobile libraries to fill in the gaps, and they’re all well used. Library closures?  – not here comrade, they’ve even more planned. Could Hong Kong’s educational top-of-world-league status have anything to do with this reading frenzy? You decide.

DOTU Round logoDawn of the Unread is a graphic novel celebrating Nottingham’s literary history. It was created to support libraries and bookshops. It began life online and won the Teaching Excellence Award at the Guardian Education Awards in 2015 and has since been published by Spokesman Books (2017). All profits go towards UNESCO Nottingham City of Literature.

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#MondayBlogs Nottingham’s Big City Read

Big City Read is a national initiative where a city is encouraged to select one book and encourage the public to read it together. The underlining intention is to combat illiteracy, and bring reading to those who might otherwise miss out. The UKs appalling literacy statistics, combined with a survey that found 35% of boys no longer find reading interesting, were a driving force behind the creation of Dawn of the Unread. So, the City Read is a project I fully endorse.

I’ve been asked numerous times what my favourite book of all time is and I always reply, I’ll tell you on my deathbed when I’ve read a few more. It’s an impossible question to answer. So selecting a book that represents your city is equally problematic. In 2013 Bristol and Glastonbury chose Gavin Extence’s Somerset-based novel The Universe Versus Alex Woods. It’s notoriously difficult for debut authors to get the same kind of media exposure as established authors and so was a great way to help kickstart his career. This resulted in 1,000 free books being distributed. The publisher Hodder and Stoughton benefitted from the additional publicity and audience engagement by giving out free copies to people for the most imaginative readers feedback. There was also book groups created at libraries, a twitter account (@thingsalexknows) as well as a dedicated website. The book would go on to be a Richard and Judy Summer Book Read as well as win Waterstones 11 literary prize.

This year London opted for Ben Aaronvitch’s Rivers of London which was published in 2011. It features Peter Grant, a young police officer who encounters a ghost and is later drafted into a specialist Met unit that deals with magic and the supernatural. To promote the book, Aaronvitch visited 33 libraries (one for each borough) in 30 days. A blog and map detailed this adventurous book tour and was complimented by an interactive performance from award winning theatre Look Left, who trained wannabe recruits as sorcerer-detectives in Westminster Reference Library. The library is the site of Sir Isaac Newton’s house.

Nottingham has wisely decided to get in on the act thanks to the City of Literature team and is promoting ‘Nottingham Stories’, in conjunction with Five Leaves Bookshop; Bromley House Library and Nottingham Writers’ Studio. This is a short story collection showcasing seven local writers, two of whom have produced comics in our serial: Alison Moore (issue 13: Will You Walk Into My Parlour) and John ‘Brick’ Clark (Issue 2: My Long Walk With Slav). The others writers are: John Harvey; Shreya Sen Handley; Megan Taylor; Paula Rawsthorne; as well as a short story from the late Alan Sillitoe, specially selected by his widow, Ruth Fainlight. Alan, of course, features in my contribution to Issue 12: For It Was Saturday Night.

There will be a dedicated website where readers can share their stories or submit their own take on Nottingham life. The authors will also be reading their stories and offering writing workshops at schools, prisons, reading groups, community centres, libraries and a wide range of other venues. You can catch all of the writers at Lowdham Book Festival in June; with Nicola Monaghan reading the Sillitoe story.

John Harvey, author of the Resnick series , said: “Any way of getting good writing, good stories into the hands of new readers has to be a good thing, surely? And the Big City Read should do exactly that. And not simply good stories, but stories, by and large, about the city, written by people who live, or have lived there and who know it differently but know it well. I was chuffed to be asked to take part; just as I’ll be chuffed to be there in print alongside Alison, John, Megan, Paula, Shreya and the indomitable spirit of Alan Sillitoe.”

John Harvey

John Harvey

Defining Nottingham as a city is difficult. It’s traditionally a factory city but now a lot of the large employers have left, as have the communities that got flattened during inner city developments during the 60s and 70s. We’ve never been particularly good at bigging ourselves up either, though we have no problem telling others what they’re doing wrong. We’re built on sandstone, which is what made us master breweries before other cities. But now it’s coffeeshop chains that dominate the horizon. And then there’s our multiculturalism, with Pakistan and Poland accounting for our highest levels of immigration. How do you define a schizophrenic, contradictory city like this? Perhaps short stories are a good start…

DOTU Round logoDawn of the Unread is a graphic novel celebrating Nottingham’s literary history. It was created to support libraries and bookshops. It began life online and won the Teaching Excellence Award at the Guardian Education Awards in 2015 and has since been published by Spokesman Books (2017). All profits go towards UNESCO Nottingham City of Literature.

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Arthur Seaton: The computer game

One year ago I sat down with a games hobbyist called David Roach to discuss the possibility of creating a Saturday Night and Sunday Morning arcade game. For those who haven’t read the novel, here’s the digested read: Arthur Seaton works hard at his factory lathe, gets hammered at the weekend, has it off with a couple of sisters, gets beaten up by some squaddies and then settles down. We wanted to get across these themes while remaining sensitive to the needs of our target audience of 13+ reluctant readers.

The result is a very simple game whereby Arthur Seaton has to collect power-ups in the form of floating pints and kisses, while being chased by Squaddies. We opted for a retro look with pixelated graphics as this helped soften the themes of the book and meant we were less likely to be accused of glorifying alcohol and infidelity.

Arthur Seaton evaluates modern reading habits in our current issue: For it was Saturday Night

Arthur Seaton evaluates modern reading habits in our current issue: For it was Saturday Night

I was hoping that the game could be incorporated into the tasks set out in our ‘virtual library card’ and we could award bonus points to users who scored the highest. But linking Apps together turned out to be too difficult and time consuming to arrange. Instead it stands alone as a fun ‘add on’ that’s embedded into issue 12 of our comic: For it was Saturday Night.

library card

This is the first game that David has officially submitted to Google Play and so I’m glad we’ve played a part in his first writing credit. He created it using Corona SDK, playing around with the demos available with the simulator and then built it piece by piece. “It’s a simple game,” he said “so I began by setting up the screen, displaying the graphics, adding buttons and then getting things to move. I used Sublime Text 2 to write the Lua code for Corona SDK. The graphics were made using a great iOS app called Sprite Something, with images manipulated and scaled up in Photoshop. The background tilemap data was created using a program called Tiled. The sound was made using Garageband and Audacity.”

The most difficult part for David was writing the code so that scene transitions finished at the end of the game. We were able to put him in touch with Iain Simons of Game City and other NTU staff, as NTU are a partner organisation on the project. But really, conquering code is down to mastering logic and sheer perseverance. When this failed there was always the kindness of strangers on forums.

game

The background scenes in the game are a mix of old and new locations around Nottingham. For example, it includes Nottingham University’s Jubilee Campus which used to be the location of Raleigh’s Sturmey Archer site, where Arthur Seaton and half of Radford worked during the 1950s. Pixelating the graphics meant we avoided any possible copyright infringements with photographs we used, though this wasn’t too much of an issue as we didn’t need big file sizes and so could use low resolution images from creative commons sites.

I wanted to use Whigfield’s Saturday Night as the musical score because it’s very recognisable and adds to the humour of the game. But David was really worried about this and so put the opening chords on a loop. My attitude to copyright in these situations is ‘fair use’ as our project is educational and we aren’t making any money out of it. In the worst case scenario we would simply take it down. We also used bit music – where the song is reduced to basic chords. This meant we weren’t using the original and the broken up chords matched the broken up graphics.

whigfield

Paul Fillingham created a brilliant promo video which used an old modem dial-up and was overlaid with a staccato narrative, which again fit perfectly with the theme of the retro game. There’s nothing like nostalgia to get the creative juices flowing.

Dawn of the Unread is a constantly evolving experiment to find as many ways into literature as possible to raise awareness of important books in Nottingham’s literary history. We have a Flickr, Tumblr and Instagram account offering a visual history of books, music videos with a literary twist, photo essays, we tweet books, encourage our readers to create their own stories, embedded contextual essays, and of course a graphic novel which has been extended to sixteen chapters. We hope that casual readers will stumble across one of these modes of expression and from this discover the joy of books.

If you’d like to get involved or have an idea about something we haven’t tried, please get in contact. What better way to celebrate our one hundredth blog post…

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Alan Sillitoe: The Bard of Nottingham

In 1958 Saturday Night and Sunday Morning became the first Pan paperback to sell a million copies thanks to the antics of hard drinking, womanising anti-hero Arthur Seaton. In the opening chapter to Alan Sillitoe’s raw portrait of working-class Nottingham life, Seaton quenches payday thirst by having a skinful down his local, The White Horse. By the end of the evening he’s had a drinking game with a sailor, thrown up over some fellow drinkers before exiting head first down the pub stairs.

Yet Seaton is more than just your average drunk. He’s belligerent and hedonistic, with a healthy scepticism of all forms of authority. Karel Reisz’s 1960 film would immortalise him forever as the icon of anti-establishment defiance.

Sillitoe’s novel has provided the defining image of my home town, Nottingham, be it in our labelling as the binge capital of Britain, or in recognition of the defiant streak that has manifested itself in numerous ways over the centuries.

sat night

You don’t get more unconventional than the 1766 Cheese Riots, when we expressed our dissatisfaction with rising food prices by flattening the mayor with a barrel-shaped cheese, or the 1831 Reform Riots when we burned down our very own castle. And let’s not forget that we’re home to England’s favourite potty mouth, D H Lawrence. The acquittal of Penguin Books in the Lady Chatterley trial of 1960 would pave the way for greater freedom of expression for us all. A Nottingham man made it possible for everyone to swear more freely.

But Nottingham has an incredibly rich literary history that extends beyond booze and foul language. It was home to Quaker poet Mary Howitt who translated the works of Hans Christian Anderson, it’s the birthplace of Alma Reville, aka Mrs Hitchcock, and it was here that J M Barrie found the inspiration for Peter Pan and Graham Greene converted to Catholicism. More recently it has become the adopted home of Booker-shortlisted author Alison Moore and Impac winner Jon McGregor. Yet despite this, Nottingham, and the Midlands in general, are largely ignored when it comes to mapping out English literary culture. Hopefully Dawn of the Unread will go some way in halting this vulgar prejudice.

Arthur Seaton in our current issue: For it was Saturday Night

Arthur Seaton in our current issue: For it was Saturday Night

Having such an incredible literary history has enabled Paul Fillingham and I to embark on numerous digital projects about our beloved Midlands home. Our first collaboration together was a commission for digital arts platform The Space where we took a virtual tour of Sillitoe’s Nottingham in the form of videos, essays, photographs, illustrations and podcasts and called it The Sillitoe Trail. You can download it for free to your iPhone or as an ebook. More recently we ran Being Arthur: the first ever live 24 hour Twitter presentation of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning as part of the 2014 Being Human humanities festival. Our next project is going to explore D.H Lawrence’s savage pilgrimage and is called the Memory Theatre.

The video essay The Bard of Nottingham was originally commissioned for BBC Radio 3 series The Essay. This was produced by Robert Shore, author of Bang in the Middle, for a four-part series called In Praise of the Midlands. Since its publication my words have been validated as Nottingham is currently bidding to be recognised as a UNESCO City of Literature. At long last we are starting to stand up for ourselves.

Read issue 12: ‘For it was Saturday Night‘ starring Arthur Seaton, Colin Smith, Ray Gosling, Alan Sillitoe and more…

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