Time for a Digital Spring Clean

I became a digital convert in 2013 when putting together The Sillitoe Trail for arts and media platform The Space. At the time I had no social media profiles, lugged a physical diary around with me, and thought YouTube was home to farting cats and people who wished they’d been on Jack Ass.

Part of The Space commission required us to make content available in multiple forms and accessible across media platform. In short, I had to buy a smartphone which in turn led to recording meetings in Google calendar and creating a Twitter account (hence @TheSpaceLathe).

Having no idea about social media I paid other people to manage this for me. This is one reason why The Sillitoe Trail does not have a bespoke YouTube channel. Fast forward eight years and I now manage numerous Instagram, YouTube and Twitter accounts for subsequent projects and have a deeper understanding of the identity of a project and how it operates at a transmedia level. All of which leads me to the point of this blog: A digital spring clean.

I’ve spent three days rebranding all of the YouTube videos for Dawn of the Unread and the D.H. Lawrence Memory Theatre. To do this, I first completed some training on LinkedIn (which I can access for free via Nottingham Trent University) about managing a YouTube channel. This typically involved adding contact details to the profile, changing thumbnails, and creating playlists.

Dawn of the Unread currently has 63 YouTube videos and some of these have specific themes: ‘The Nottingham Essay’ series explores key literary figures and was originally created to support Nottingham’s bid to become a UNESCO City of Literature in 2015. The ‘How to Create a Comic’ series features artists from our graphic novel doing everything the title suggests. The D.H. Lawrence YouTube channel has 33 videos and now includes a playlist for ‘The Student Essay’ whereby students produce a short five-minute insight into an aspect of Lawrence’s life as part of their dissertation.

 

There’s so much content online it’s really important that producers curate this to signpost readers to relevant stuff. Yes, there are marketing benefits in the sense that themed playlists can encourage binging on samey content. But a more important motivation is professionalism.

Another fantastic tool in my digital spring clean was the discovery of Canva – a graphic design platform with user friendly templates for all social media platforms. It uses a simple drag and drop function and is pretty easy to get your head around. But I did a bit more Linkedin training in Canva and graphic design before making my changes. Now all of the thumbnails include the project logo and one block of colour. It looks pretty. It directs readers to specific content. It suggests professionalism.

Important lessons to learn from this

  • Social media encourages instantaneous reactions to culture. Work uploaded is often guttural and raw. But the age of amateurism is over. There are so many tools available now that there’s an expectation of better production values.

  • You have to constantly upskill and retrain because digital doesn’t sit still. And why wouldn’t you want to learn new skills?

  • Now that everyone can upload content, we need people who can curate and bring order to the noise.

  • When you’re a creative producer you fall in love with ideas and jump and bounce from one project to the next. But being disciplined and making time to go back and perfect work is vital.

 

Twitterature: The Loneliness of the Lockdown Runner

To mark the 84th birthday of Sir Tom Courtenay, who played Colin Smith in the film adaptation of Sillitoe’s 1959 short story The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner, I’ve updated the tale for the lockdown generation. This first of two blogs explains why.

During Lockdown, we’ve all found inventive ways of coping with our enforced solitude. From baking bread to learning a language, we’ve all experimented with different forms of distraction, now the pubs and restaurants are closed. But one trend that seems to be growing in popularity is the lockdown runner, or, more specifically, lumbering overweight middle-aged men.

Amid a pandemic that requires us to keep a reasonable distance from each other and to be hyper conscious of our hygiene, joggers seem to think now is the time to come panting and spluttering past like a back firing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Worst still, you can’t even tell them to back off as they’re tethered to their headphones.

I should point out that I, too, am an overweight middle-aged man. I’m just too lazy to plod and pant my way across the streets. I prefer to saunter so that I connect with my immediate environment and count how many discarded face masks are on our street.

All of this got me thinking about Alan Sillitoe’s 1959 short story ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner’. In this, seventeen-year-old Colin Smith is sent to Borstal for robbery. The governor notices he is a talented runner and puts him forward for a national long-distance running competition. Smith is athletic because ‘running had always been made much of in our family, especially running away from the police’. If he wins the race, as the governor is counting on him to do, it will vindicate the very system and society that has locked him up. It is a superb story of defiance and belligerence, casting Colin Smith as one of the greatest literary anti-hero’s of all time.

In ‘For it was Saturday Night,’ one of the comics in the Dawn of the Unread series, I brough Colin Smith back from the dead to fight against the closure of libraries. But due to rigor mortis, he was so slow he didn’t get very far. Now I’m adapting the story once more, but this time for the covid generation in ‘The Loneliness of the Lockdown Runner’

This will be published as 100 tweets on Twitter at 5pm for five evenings, starting on Thursday 25 Feb. This is to mark the 84th birthday of Sir Tom Courtenay, who played Colin Smith in the British New Wave film of 1962.

The story will incorporate large chunks of text from the original story but with a lockdown twist. Our homes have now become mini Borstals and the governor is Boris Johnson and the Tory party, imparting wisdom and enforcing restrictions while flouting the rules themselves. As Sillitoe may have wrote:

“For when the governor talked to me of being honest, he didn’t know what the word meant, or he wouldn’t have had me locked up indoors while he went trotting along in sunshine to Bernard Castle.”

I’ve decided to reimagine the story on Twitter because, like Lockdown, Twitter is a medium of constraint. It also means I can attach links to covid related articles to document the epidemic. Similarly, the story can be told in short, sharp bursts, replicating the slow-paced trot of lockdown running. I like the idea of the form reflecting the content.

David Mitchell is largely credited as writing the first ‘official’ short story for Twitter for ‘The Right Sort’ (2014). He was drawn by the challenges ‘posed by diabolical treble-strapped textual straightjackets’. I have a far simpler objective; drawing attention to one of the greatest short stories ever written, and, like the bread bakers and lumbering joggers, keeping myself occupied during lockdown.

Follow @Lockdown_Runner

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