‘Letters Remember’ Light Night (6 Feb)

light nightLight Night is without a doubt the best event in Nottingham’s increasingly busy calendar. This year I’m putting on an event at the Nottingham Writers’ Studio that takes Light Night back to its original routes by opening up creative spaces to the public and inviting guests in. The event is loosely themed around letters and memories and is an opportunity to learn about some exciting local projects that will take us from the tunnels of Welbeck Abbey to Uganda.

Each talk will be a maximum of ten minutes so that we can finish bang on time and get out and enjoy other events. I’d expect this event to be rammed because the talks are so diverse, but you never can quite predict who’ll turn up in Nottingham. There will be refreshments available on the night and the opportunity to carry on discussions afterwards. And yes, you can bring a light sabre along with you if you want to…

That’s enough rattle, here’s what you’ll get for giving up an hours worth of oxygen.

prt_400x268_1363110975SUNIL SHAHUganda Stories is both a subjective journey to recollect the past and a study in photography’s documentary potential to reassemble history. In the current New Art Exchange exhibition, Sunil Shah explores very personal themes linked to his family’s roots and heritage as Ugandan Asians, and offers wider narratives around exile, displacement and dispossession.

loudwalk_v-nightingale_mg_93581Letters to the City In 2013 Nottingham Contemporary invited the artist Polly Brannan to join The Loudspeaker project to develop a piece of work that would extend the project into the city and bring the women’s voices to the wider public. The result is the beautifully powerful and poignant ‘Letters To The City’. I met Polly a few times when she started the project (she’s based in Liverpool and wanted to know about local female literary figures) so I’m really looking forward to this one.

Dawn of the Unread is my baby and the reason this website has been given the cold shoulder recently. One of our featured literary figures for this Notts-based graphic novel is the 5th Duke of Portland, an eccentric aristocrat who built a vast labyrinth of tunnels under Welbeck Abbey to hide away from society. Andrew ‘Mulletproof’ Graves explores the possible reasons for this strange subterranean preoccupation, and in particular, a mysterious letter he received from his distant father years before. Larkin was right, they do fuck you up…

white dolFalse histories Matt Shelton discusses a paid opportunity for writers to fabricate histories for local craft beers he is promoting. The beers are: Ghost Rider, Twisted Genius, American Saviour and English Rebel. He will be joined by White Dolemite creator Reverend Video Matt, a master hoaxer who has created a cult around false film posters.

letterspagemainThe Letters Page Offers an alternative to the immediacy of digital culture by taking us back to the basics of communication in the form of pen, paper, envelope and stamp. This literary journal edited by NWS Patron Jon McGregor explores what letter writing means to people – and has meant since writing was invented – in their literary cultures and their personal lives.* (tbc)

No need to book places but you are advised to arrive early to get a seat. Friday 6 Feb, 2015 (6-7pm) FREE Nottingham Writers’ Studio, 25 Hockley, NG1 1FH.  


Being Arthur and Raphael Hefti

Being arthurThis weekend saw Paul Fillingham and I produce the first ever live 24 hour Twitter presentation of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning for a project called Being Arthur as part of the Being Human Festival at the University of Nottingham. We billed this as The Sillitoe Trail II as it developed themes and ideas from our Space commission a few years ago.

being arthur then and nowThe presentation was split into two parts: Then and Now. The script for ‘then’ was a combination of the novel, the screenplay, a few other Sillitoe novels and a bit of improvisation. ‘Now’ saw Seaton working his way through ‘nine hundred and fifty-bloody-four emails’, playing fishing on his wii because the canals have now dried up, and using dating App Tinder to meet lonely women because it’s cheaper and more immediate.

arthur pintsIt took a lot of research and time and was pretty much last minute due to other deadlines vying for attention. Paul created some beautiful visuals. I particularly liked the ‘drinking contest with the sailor’ as he visually created the slow, demolition of a pint. We created Twitter accounts for some of the other characters too, which was a right headache to properly synchronise so that it got tweeted in the right place.

One of the most pleasurable aspects of the project was getting comments from people who weren’t aware of what we were doing. As I’d used my personal Twitter account (TheSpaceLathe) for the modern Arthur, a few friends got quite concerned about the content of my tweets and thought I’d had some kind of personality change. I haven’t explained to them yet that I am not having a string of affairs as I’m quite interested to see if any of them start gossiping to my partner or spreading rumours.

tinder arthurBut using my personal account did restrict some of the content and meant I was more cautious than I should have been. One person on Twitter (@monsterlander) commented that the real Arthur Seaton would have laid in to noisy neighbours who woke him up (this is how the ‘new’ story starts) but as far as I am aware, Seaton didn’t really go around lamping people. There was always the threat of violence but he didn’t really instigate it. When he gets caught out by the squaddies it’s them that catch him rather than the other way around. But I was able to respond to this later on in the schedule by sending Monsterlander a threat.

It was a pleasant coincidence that Raphael Hefti’s exhibition was running at the Nottingham Contemporary at the same time as Being Arthur. Hefti is fascinated by processes and experimenting with materials. For his current solo exhibition he visited industries in the East Midlands, such as Rolls Royce with the aim of learning about the composition and treatment of metals in different states.

Arthur Seaton is a factory worker at Raleigh who grafts all day at his lathe for “14, 3 and tuppence for 1,000 of these a day”. Raleigh, during the period in which the book was set, was one of the largest employers in Nottingham, alongside Players and Boots. Sillitoe worked at Raleigh too, describing the daily grind as “a thousand times a day I set the bar, spin back the turret, push in the chamfer, force the drill. Working two cutting blades till the brass hexagonal nut falls into my right hand and gets thrown into a tin.”

Photograph taken from Evening Post, Nov 6. Mark Patterson article

Photograph taken from Evening Post, Nov 6. Mark Patterson article

Hefti, if you like, has taken these offcuts, these pieces of industrial waste from the production process, and given them new meanings through his experimental art. Instead of nuts he has used aluminium, titanium, copper and steel poles and heated them up so that they produce ribbons of beautiful colour. The artwork is entitled ‘Various Threaded Poles of Determinate Length Potentially altering their Determinacy, 2014’.

Both Seaton and Hefti’s artwork share quite a few similarities: Neither can be easily classified, they are both shaped by the industrial production process, and they equally strive to transcend their material existence. Seaton described his lathe as ‘my everlasting pal because it gets me thinking’. His imagination enabled him to temporary escape from monotonous, repetitious labour while defying anybody to try and grind him down. Hefti’s incredible artwork refuses to be pinned down and transforms industrial waste into something quite magical. But the similarities end there. Seaton would never be seen dead in some poncy art gallery, not even for a free cocktail on opening night.