‘From the sea to the land beyond’ via Doc/Fest

The Queen was in Nottingham on the 13 June for a two minute wave on the balcony of the Council House. I imagined that she had been so impressed with Derrick Buttress’ Market Square Memories that she thought she’d chip down and take a look for herself. Unfortunately I was to miss this rain-drenched spectacle as I was heading up the M1 with Paul Fillingham to Doc/Fest. Tom Gatis very kindly offered free tickets to every organisation that had been commissioned by The Space, so we took him up on the offer.

The event we attended was called the Crossover Summit which explored new commissioning opportunities online and across other platforms; this included speakers from ARTE, The History Channel, Discovery, Arts Council, TSB, YouTube, the BBC, Channel 4, the Museum of London, Screen Yorkshire, the Wellcome Trust, the BFI and a panel discussing The Space. It was absolutely brilliant. All of the talks took place inside The Chapel and we were positioned close to the live Twitter feed screen which was oddly exciting. I’m slowly falling in love with Twitter and finding it the easiest way to make journalistic links, but more of this in another blog.

Most of the talks focused on new media which was really useful in thinking how we address the social media aspect of our Sillitoe commission. Three points in particular struck home. Firstly, that new media is biological in nature and adapts to its environment which made me think of the way our audience is interacting with our content. This point was addressed further by Steve Coulson of Campfire, the man responsible for the apocalyptic reality show The Colony, who described three types of online audience; skimmers, dippers and divers. Each category related to the emotional investment each user gives to social media. I am probably a skimmer, someone who is after minimal information whereas our Sillitoe project is trying to target divers, people who have an emotional investment in a project and go to great lengths to build up facts and attachments when online. The third intriguing point concerned reinventing data visualisation from Mint Digital who worked on the C4 experiment sexperience. This basically enables people to find out unique data from a national sex survey by blending together specific filters. For example, how many one-night stands do twenty-year old hip-hop fans have on average in South London or how many females in Norwich use nipple clamps. Perhaps due to the subject matter this seemed really fun but I did love the way that you could tailor results to your specific needs.

In all honesty, I’ve been a little disappointed with the interactivity on The Space. Yes, it does work across platforms and it does use a variety of art forms and it’s certainly given a more visible presence to the arts, but it does feel like a very slick website. At present, our interactivity takes place via the Silltioetrail website as there is a certain level of gatekeeping on The Space. I was expecting something more like the superb Channel 4 experiment Foxes Live, whereby the public has a more visible presence next to the content and there’s a greater sense of immediacy and presence.

But I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the Arts Council and I wouldn’t be in the enviable position of constantly thinking about how to perfect a project if it wasn’t for the BBC. So I’ll shut me pan and end with a bit of magic. The Crucible hosted the world premier of From The Sea To The Land Beyond, which took us from the piers to the pavilions and the factories to the furnace on a 100 year journey of the life of the British coast. The film was directed by Penny Woolcock and accompanied by British Sea Power playing an especially composed soundtrack live. If our Sillitoe: Then and Now project is able to capture the changing face of Nottingham with just a tinge of the tenderness displayed here, our heads will remain well above the water.

LeftLion 47

It’s Jubilee weekend so what better way to celebrate than with Issue 47 of LeftLion which is rammed to the hilt with literature. The WriteLion page features nine book reviews, three celebrating the third anniversary of Angry Robot Books (Zoo City Lauren Beukes, Embedded Dan Abnett, Empire State Adam Christopher) and the six shortlisted books for this year’s East Midlands Book Award (The Whispers of Nemesis Anne Zouroudi, The Truth about Celia Frost Paula Rawsthorne, The Misadventures of Winnie the Witch Laura Owen, Pao Kerry Young, An Ordinary Dog Gregory Woods, Ours are the Streets Sunjeev Sahota) As per last year, there are interviews with all of the authors online.

I reviewed three of the books which went against my policy of trying to get a different reviewer for each title. The reason for this was simple. Some publishers were so late sending stuff out that it was too late to get them to reviewers and so I had to lock myself away for a couple of days and read until my eyes started to bleed. This meant I got to read and interview the winner of the East Midlands Book Award, Anne Zouroudi. Her publisher, Bloomsbury, are forgiven for sending the book so late as it came with all of her previous titles in the Greek Detective series. So, a holiday in Greece is called for so that they can be read in their natural habitat.

With PRIDE soon upon us I interviewed Jim Read, the author of a new biography on Justin Fashanu. Fashanu is one of the most fascinating players to grace the game and quite remarkably, the only openly gay football player in the history of the British game. Fashanu was a complex and contradictory character; Christian, rampant fantasist, charismatic playboy, scorer of that goal, victim of homophobic bullying from that manager, adopted, and perhaps most bizarrely, Bet Lynch’s ex – if we are to take his word. His story – which ended tragically in suicide – has been handled superbly by Jim Read and has a good chance of making it on to the Whitbread Sports Book of the Year and hopefully will go some way in encouraging gay players out there to come out.

But the big celebration in this issue was the two page interview with Derrick Buttress who was the first commissioned writer on the Sillitoe: Then and Now project I’m doing for The Space. Nothing has given me more pleasure in all of the articles I’ve written for LeftLion over the last six years than featuring an eighty-year-old writer. Derrick is Nottingham born and bred and had his first short story collection published this year. I can think of no better inspiration to writers out there than sharing his story.

And to cap it all off my partner on the Sillitoe project, Paul Fillingham designed the front cover. Paul is an absolute wizard on the computer and has produced some stunning visuals for the project, blending old and new photographs together to perfectly capture the essence of the project. Now, time for a well deserved drink.