Perhaps the most difficult element of the Sillitoe project so far has been trying to get my head around copyright, particularly with regards to film stills from the movie Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. MGM, who now own the rights from Woodfall, don’t seem to pick up their emails very often which is a little worrying as The Space goes live on 1 May. I’ve been informed by various people in the trade that this is perfectly normal and most likely because the project isn’t going to reap much financial reward and so there isn’t really the motivation to respond. This seems a little odd given the recent Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) bills in Congress that claimed piracy costs the U.S economy between $200 and $250 billion per year as well as the loss of 750,000 American jobs. You would think they would be after every penny.


The initial process for clearing rights is relatively straight forward. You register on the MGM website and put in a request for content. Getting them to respond is the difficulty. Tony Roe of Inside Out has been helping to chase this and if he has had difficulties as a documentary maker with the BBC, it makes you wonder what chance anyone without an established media institution behind them has. As a back-up, we’re crediting the stills as the property of BFI/Woodfall films and through more email notifications will either take the images down if MGM are unhappy or pay them what they want once they sort out an invoice. I had anticipated this kind of problem which is why I brought in New College Nottingham as a partner to illustrate various scenes – but even here you have to be careful. If they were to create an illustration that looked like Albert Finney then we would be in breach of copyright due to the ‘likeness.’


Despite all of these difficulties, I had the pleasure of going down to the BFI last week and working my way through the archives. I even had to put on a pair of those funny white gloves. It was a real privilege to be able to do this, particularly seeing shots of the cast taken off camera. I never realised how many freckles Albert Finney had on his nose and cheeks and Shirley Anne Field is absolutely gorgeous. We were after images for the five key locations on our App trail (Old Market Square, White Horse, Raleigh, Trent Embankment and Goose Fair) and found some real beauties. There was a great one of Norman Rossington riding the Market Square lion but unfortunately they didn’t have the one of Albert Finney and Shirley Anne Field in the same place. I love this image and have it stuck on my office wall at work.


The BFI content can be accessed online and I’d strongly recommend anyone doing a similar project to check out their website. Thanks to a collaboration between regional film archives and the British Film Institute, film archive collections from across the UK can now be searched online which saves a lot of time. By combining archives, it’s pretty easy to search out content based around particular themes. This means if we have a problem getting the rights to show a clip of Arthur Seaton working in the factory we can always use a documentary about Raleigh from some other footage. The BFI have the rights to a lot of documentaries and so this is also easier to clear. So if you see a ‘for sale’ sign up at my house over the next six months it means I’ve got it all horribly wrong and a lawsuit for my troubles.


Who’s Alan Stiletto?

When I joined the Alan Sillitoe Committee, I thought it would take a year to raise the money for a statue. Now, with a bit more experience and a few events under my belt, I’d estimate three years. So let’s call it five for cash. It’s very different to events I’ve put on with LeftLion because ‘having a good time’ is not good enough. It’s about end results, or to quote my father, ‘a salesman is only as good as his figures.’ But no matter how difficult things get I keep reminding myself of when I first read The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (SNASM) as an impressionable and somewhat lost teenager. They were absolutely integral in defining my moral outlook and ethics. When things get difficult, I think of the stubborn self-belief of Colin Smith and refuse to give up. I also remember that when I wrote to Alan, he wrote back. How many writers today would take the time to respond to a book-loving nobody?

It’s for this reason I’ve done something I’ve never done before; I’ve applied for an Arts Council Grant of £21,000 for their The Space project. I’ve thought about doing this for LeftLion before but have always been put off by the hellish bureaucracy that it entails, figuring any amount of money is not worth the wanton waste of hours such form filling requires. But on this occasion, I’ve seen each question like a lap being run by Colin Smith and have refused to give in. I’m not going to say what the bid was for because it’s such a fantastic idea, someone else may rob it. As Sillitoe said, ‘if it’s not tied down, tek it.’ I find out on the 21st December if we’ve made it to the shortlist and if we’re lucky, then the real bureaucratic agony will begin. I hope so because it’s a fantastic opportunity that will bring national coverage as well as offering access to the BBC archives and digital support.

One great thing about raising funds is the way that members of the public approach you with ideas or are keen to support in numerous ways. For example, John Aram recently performed a night of music inspired by SNASM and kindly allowed us to go around with the collection buckets and allowed Alan’s son, David to give a brief talk about our plans prior to the concert. Alan, I’m sure, would be touched by the many different ways in which his work is being kept alive and by the genuine support of the local community.

Another recent event Who’s Alan Stiletto? was organised by Mark Shotta, a local DJ who put on a music event at The Maze on 1st December, featuring local bands Old Basford, Wholesome Fish, and Howlin Black. My highlight of that night was seeing author and Basford Ward Councillor Cat Arnold moshing to the music of Old Basford. Talk about wholeheartedly supporting anything to do with her ward! I wonder if the Councillor responsible for Badger’s Mount near Farnborough or Batchelor’s Bump near Hastings takes things quite so literally.

Joking aside, both events illustrate how flexible and varied you can be when raising money and that you don’t need to limit yourself purely to readings or spoken word performances when looking for literature related funding. It is with this in mind that we encourage any member of the public to come to us with ideas or even drop an email about anything that you think we should be aware of – particularly if Albert Finney or Tom Courtney are promoting or performing anything in the UK. Please feel free to contact me directly via this website or contact us through the Sillitoe website. Now did I really agree to run that marathon next year? When am I going to find the time to train? New Years Eve Resolution: Three hours sleep a night. Five is an unnecessary indulgence.

The Alan Sillitoe Committee website