Inside Out

On 29 October Inside Out broadcast a ten minute documentary detailing the last six months that Paul Fillingham and I have been putting together the Sillitoe Trail for The Space. The trail explores five locations from the novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and at each location we’ve had some form of public engagement. This has included interviewing members of the Occupy Movement in Market Square, a talk on the Victorian Goose Fair at the New Art Exchange, a stroll along the Trent chatting to fishermen, a pub quiz in the Golden Fleece, producing coursework for Design students at NCN, book launches of featured authors, Sillitoe Day at the Nottingham Contemporary with Billy Ivory, recording podcasts at Paper-Stone Studios and Confetti, sending a storyteller to the Raleigh Workers Club in Wollaton, radio and television appearances and many other events.

Cramming all of this in to a ten minute documentary while also explaining the purpose of our project required some serious editing and I’m generally pleased with the outcome and incredibly fortunate to have had the support of Tony Roe – who is a member of the Alan Sillitoe Committee. Paul and I went over to Tony’s house in Ruddington to film the linking pieces. Naturally, Paul was placed in front of a computer and I was interviewed in front of a bookshelf. This was fine except for one minor detail: I didn’t want to be filmed in front of Tony’s collection of books which included numerous offerings from Jeremy Clarkson.

I guess books are the one thing that I would be a snob about but I think this is fair given that we were recording for a serious documentary on a six month project. I’d have looked a bit of a hypocrite spouting on about the importance of local literary figures with old Top Gear peeking over my shoulder. Fortunately, Tony had many more books scattered around the house and so we were able to construct a reasonably representative array of relevant literature.

The most pleasing aspect of the documentary was seeing someone from Occupy as we were unable to use their work in the project in the end due to various reasons. It was also good to see the NCN students discussing their work. They’ll be really chuffed to see themselves on screen and hopefully it will boost their confidence to push their work further. I absolutely hate seeing myself on screen which is why I enjoy the relative anonymity of writing but as I no longer have a television this isn’t really much of a problem.

The documentary will be uploaded to The Space at some point.

All day and all of the night…

You can forget that last lot of moaning in my previous blog because Sillitoe Day and Evening turned out to be a roaring success in the end. We had around 80-100 people turn up for the day event and the evening event was absolutely rammed.

Sillitoe Day kicked off half an hour late due to a problem at the Contemporary with the chairs not opening properly which meant we had to claw back time. I sacrificed my talk on the Trent to enable this, being the martyr that I am. Experience has taught me that sticking to times is really important as audiences can get restless and I could hardly ask one of our guests to drop out. And if I’m honest, I don’t particularly enjoy public events – unless I’m in the audience.

Our morning session combined a broad range of content which was the right balance to keep the audience stimulated. I split the morning session into two parts after Al Needham’s video as I knew people would be upbeat. The second half started with a 15 minute documentary of Raleigh which meant that the audience could drift in when they were ready without fear of disrupting anyone.

There were six sessions in the morning: five from the Sillitoe Trail and a half-an-hour introduction from Paul Fillingham and I about the project. We stayed up late the night before, ensuring that there were about twenty visuals for each segment which would rotate during each individual talk. The Contemporary has got a massive screen and so it was really important to take advantage of this.

The afternoon session was hosted by David Sillitoe which meant I could finally sit back and relax. My favourite piece was the heartfelt letter to Alan Sillitoe from Michael Eaton. It was beautiful, comparing their respective paths through Nottingham and how the city Michael has remained faithful to throughout the years has become this alien place. It reminded me, in sentiment, of Julian Barnes A Sense of an Ending.

Sillitoe Evening was presented by the immaculately dressed MulletProofpoet with a fine range of spoken word performers in MotaMouf, Sarah Shrugs and John Marriott. Music came from local favourites Gaffa and Sleaford Mods. Sleaford Mods lead singer Jason Williamson played our Arthur Seaton 2012 and so it was lovely to finally meet him in person. So how to describe Sleaford Mods? Visually, they’re like a demented, dystopian version of Pet Shop Boys. Andrew Fearn replaces the keyboard for a laptop and just stands in front of it, can in hand, nodding at the audience as if to say, who the hell are you lot? It’s like an anti-performance. He’s like Bez…but without the dancing. He does contempt with a smile and kitted out in his trackie he could have stepped right off the set of Shameless.

This of course is all part of the act, making Fearn the perfect foil to the enigmatic, raging Jason Williamson who is energy personified. So extreme are Williamson’s lyrics that Michael Eaton said to me, ‘I’ve been told to fuck off once too many times now so I’m off’. If you want to be insulted then you need to get to a Sleaford Mods gig. I’ve never seen expletives executed with such integrity. Every word that comes out of Williamson’s mouth turns solid the minute it’s flicked from his tongue. You literally have to dive for cover as he screams into the mic, less his words take your head off. What better way to celebrate the work of Sillitoe…

Creative Nottingham review by Susie O’Neill

Steve Oliver (Trent Sound) review

Notts Lit review

Evening Post review

BBC preview

BBC Inside Out Documentary on the Sillitoe Trail