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

Sillitoe Day 27 October 2012

The Alan Sillitoe Committee is a voluntary organisation committed to raising awareness of one of Nottingham’s most prolific writers by putting on a series of events, the proceeds from which go towards a statue fund. Sillitoe Day is the biggest event in our calendar and falls every two years.

Our second Sillitoe Day is of particular significance as 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. It is also the 125th anniversary of Raleigh, the workplace of Sillitoe’s fictional anti-hero Arthur Seaton. The Committee will also be celebrating being one of 53 organisations commissioned to produce content for a new multimedia platform called The Space, and will launch the ‘Sillitoe Trail’. This is a unique Mobile Phone App that creates a literary walk through Sillitoe’s debut novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, visiting five key locations on its journey.

Sillitoe Day will be split into two sessions. The morning session (11-1) will see the launch of the Sillitoe Trail Mobile App which will be presented by Paul Fillingham and I. Paul has captured the 1950s aesthetic of the project through some beautiful visuals. He’s also the tech monkey, creating the Smart Phone App and generating the QR Codes etc. I’ve edited together the written content; selecting the writers and creating the narrative.

The morning session will examine five key locations from Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Old Market Square, The White Horse, Raleigh, Trent and Goose Fair) with commissioned writers Al Needham, Derrick Buttress, Pete Davis, Ann Featherstone and me. There will also be videos from Alex ‘MotaMouf’ Young and Andrew ‘MulletProofPoet’ Graves and a short film from the British Film Council Collection called How a Bicycle is Made.

The afternoon session runs from 2 – 5 and is a more general celebration of Sillitoe’s work. It includes the launch of The Open Door, republished by Five Leaves; Sam Derby-Cooper will be showing his short film Mimic, based on Alan’s acclaimed short story, and the wonderful Frank Abbott will be previewing his special remix of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning . 

We’ve got two keynote speakers. Michael Eaton MBE will be exploring Sillitoe’s Nottinghamshire, basing his talk on the book of the same title that Alan produced with photographs from his son, David. William Ivory will be in conversation with Neil Fulwood about social realism, fresh from the success of his wonderful play Diary of a Football Nobody which is currently showing at the Playhouse. Closing comments will be from David Sillitoe.

Sillitoe Day has also given us the opportunity to bring in two organisations who we treally admire. The Bookcase is an independent bookshop from Lowdham run by Jane Streeter, who was a long term pen pal of Alan’s. Eva from In Spades Design will also be selling her beautiful line drawings of Nottingham locations (my favourite is of the old Players factory) as well as mugs with quotes from Nottingham based culture (‘It’s thirsty work falling down stairs’)

Please support us by coming along and spreading the word. And if you can’t make it, get out a Sillitoe book from the library or download our Sillitoe Trail for free from The Space (available 27 October).

Twitter: We are using #SillitoeDay

Article on Sillitoe Day in LeftLion