Friday, May 27, 2011

THE SILLITOE PROJECT: news and events

Cracking new poster for the Alan Sillitoe Statue Fund event Friday next week (kudos to James K Walker): a screening of 'Saturday Night and Sunday Morning' starring the incomparable Albert Finney. It's showing at Antenna, Beck Street, Nottingham; event starts at 7.30pm. The film will be introduced by David Sillitoe, in conversation with award-winning novelist Nicola Monaghan ('The Killing Jar'), there'll be live music from local band Blue Yonder, and - oh yes - there's a bar.

If you're in Nottingham next Friday, please come along. Click the poster to make it bigger, or email if you have any queries.

Other news: the Alan Sillitoe Website is now up and running: Please pop over and check out the content we've already got online. The plan is to develop and expand the site and build it into a major resource on Alan's life and work.


BRENT said...

I was actually in my local library today looking for some light fiction and stumbled across several of Sillitoe's works. I didn't even have him in mind as I was looking!
So I borrowed Saturday Night and Out of the Whirlpool. It is funny as I'm generally up with the major English writers but before reading about him on your blog I'd never heard his name. By god he was a progigious writer wasn't he, and even wrote plays!
So I'll give the two novels a read as you have certainly piqued my interest. I see that your posts on Sillitoe get very few comments so hopefully knowing you have raised awareness of the man to someone at the bottom of the world will make your efforts feel less in vain!!

Neil Fulwood said...

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the two Sillitoe titles you borrowed. You'll be one up on me - I haven't got round to acquiring a copy of 'Out of the Whirlpool' yet.

You're right about how prolific he was. When I put the website together and compiled the bibliography, it came to well over 5o titles.

It's good to know that my reviews have brought his work to your attention. Like you say, my Sillitoe posts haven't attracted much attention so far. Please let me know what you think of the books.

BRENT said...

Hi again! Have looked over your website and I must commend you on your commitment to this man! He must be taking up alot of your time and effort.
I read From the Whirlpool last Night. It is hard to evaluate a writer from one work and I'll keep reading which will give me a better feel over time.
But I did like Whirlpool. I've always admired the immense skill needed in writing novellas. I'm not sure what I was expecting but it was more explicit than I was expecting language and sex wise ( cunt, fuck, etc).
I liked his minimalist use of words and brevity in showing Peter Granby's inarticulateness and working class back ground. It is amazing how a writer can say so much in so little words.
It also reminded very much of D.H Lawrence's Sons and Lovers as their respective Notts are so similar even though seven decades apart. But there is no question that they are the same city.
Yeah, it is only one work but it was impressive and I'm sure Saturday Night will give me a better idea of his style etc.
Funny how with all his prodigious output I have never heard of him. I buy literally hundreds of books a year and go everywhere where there are sales, second hand book shops etc, and yet I have never seen one of his novels before. Maybe being unfamiliar with his name has something to do with it, but The General has a very distinctive cover and yet I have never see a copy.
Is he still a well known name in English literature or has he slipped into obscurity? I know of the early 20th century English writers like Lawrence, Graves etc but he is a total blank for me and I wonder why it is.
Will let you know what I think of Saturday Night soon!

Neil Fulwood said...

Thanks for the comment, Brent. My commitment to Alan Sillitoe stems from a long way back! I was 15 and doing English Literature at GCSE level. I'd always enjoyed reading, and graduated from young adult type books to paperback thrillers courtesy of my dad's Alistair MacLean collection. What they spoon-fed us at school didn't really strike a chord with me, and I could easily have been put off "literature". Then I watched 'Saturday Night and Sunday Morning' on TV one day and went straight out and bought the work. Maybe it was the Nottingham setting, maybe because the characters talked and acted the way people I knew talked and acted (my dad was a truck driver; my grandad a miner), but it was a big jolt to me as a reader. It was something I absolutely identified with.

When I got involved with the committee to raise money for the statue fund, I met Alan's son, David (a photographer for The Guardian newspaper) and it's been a real privilege to get the inside track as it were on Alan's life and work. The website has definitely been a labour of love.

In England, Alan Sillitoe is generally remembered for 'Saturday Night', 'The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner' and 'The Ragman's Daughter'. Sadly, a lot of his titles have fallen out of print. Nonetheless, when we held a screening of 'Saturday Night and Sunday Morning' in Nottingham a week ago, it was standing room only and over £300 went straight into the statue fund, so it was gratifying to realize that there's still a great deal of interest in the man and his work.

BRENT said...

God I absolute hear you on the garbage that schools make us read. I was exactly the same at highschool and could easily have walked away from reading!
True story. I was actually told in school that I wasn't allowed to read anything military orientated and I'd get the cane if I did! 30 years later I'm still at it and have degrees to prove it!. It was just puirtanncal and the books they dished out were boring compared with what I wanted to read.
I also grew up reading Alistair Maclean! He was certainly the big name author of the times wan't he?
Looks like we graduated towards literature in fairly much the same way.
I think you are fortunate in being able to identify with your city through its literature. NZ's too small for the same thing to come through in books written in specific places.
Well if people are turning up for fund raising events then I'm sure you'll amake your target. It certainly is alot of money..near on $40,000 Kiwi. The price of a reasonable car! But I'm sure it is gratifying because if people like yourself didn't make the effort then no-one would and someone like Sillitoe could quite easily slip into oblivion.

BRENT said...

I've made a mistake with my valuation in my last post. I thought the cost of the statue was 15,000 Pounds. So my jaw dropped when I re-looked at the site and saw it was actually 50,000!! I could buy here in NZ a brand new Porsche for that sort of money!! Puts it in perspective doesn't it?!
But anyway I digress. I've just finished Saturday Night. A superb novel and I see why he has you hooked! The second chapter is brilliant and I recognise every thing Arthur is thinking and doing. I've been a working man for 24 years now and Sillitoe in that one chapter has described my whole working life perfectly!!
Interestingly it also vividly describes the 1950's . OK it is Nottingham but so much that Sillitoe describes I heard fom my own grandfather. NZ took years after the war to recover financially and grandad, and both my parents grew up int hat era and it just seemed so bleak, colourless with very few luxuries. I think the whole novel mirrors much of the English speaking world post-war wise. I was amazed at how much I recognised through my own family. Strange thing to hear from someone so far from
Notts?? It really wasn't until the 1960's onwards that NZ and Australia really broke away from their reliance on the UK and our feelings for 'The Mother. Country'. In 1958 we still were very British in our ways and that is why I recognise what Sillitoe has written. Everything is post-war and we even had national service until the mid-1960's, like Arthur does for his 'fifteen days'.
I love too the humour. I just killed myself when Arthur and his brother turned that car on its side. Also the 'gossip' Mrs Bull is known to us all. I have one across the street who knows everyone's busines better than they know it themselves!!.
I see Sillitoe wrote several more novels on the Seaton family. What is Arthur's sequel novel Birthday like??
Yes Alan silitoe is a genuine writer. I like his style as it is crisp and clear. He isn't a novelist or author per se, but a genuine writer. I believe there is a clear distinction between a writer and author.
I'm not sure as to the titles that the library has left , all I know is it only two. Well hope that is a decent summary for you and of some interest as I did enjoy Saturday Night. Must try and find a DVD of the film adaptation. I see the BFI has it in its top 100so it must be quite good.

Neil Fulwood said...

Hi Brent, sorry I've been a bit tardy in acknowledging your last couple of comments. Things have been a bit hectic lately. We're busy preparing for another Sillitoe-related event - at the Lowdham Book Festival in Notts - and I've been busy updating the website to include a PayPal "donate" button.

You're right about the price of the statue being astronomical, but as well as getting it cast in bronze, there's also the cost of the plinth, its installation and, in line with council regulations, we'll have to make sure there's a maintenance package in place. It's not going to be cheap and it certainly isn't going to be easy. It might turn out that raising the funds is the easy part!!!

Your recollection of being threatened with the cane at school if you read books with a military theme struck a chord - although it sounds like your experience was more draconian than mine. I remember our teachers being very clear that we should "discriminate" in our reading; I particularly recall the headmaster coming across me reading a James Bond novel in the library and withering asking why I was "wasting my time with trash". You'd think any reading material in the hands of a 14-year old would be encouraged, but not by this guy!

Glad you enjoyed 'Saturday Night' - the tone, style and dialogue are an absolutely spot-on evocation of a working class, hard-drinking lifestyle. Arthur's bullishness and refusal to let bosses, politicians and the army grind him down is a character trait I recognise in my dad and my grandfather. Arthur is an utterly real character and Sillitoe's portrait of Nottingham in the 50s is working class post-war realism writ large. And he understands what the likes of Mike Leigh and Ken Loach miss out in their depictions of working class life: the abrasive humour and quick-witted attitude.

I must admit I've not read 'Birthday' yet. It's one of the few titles I'd not got round to in the past, and I'm currently reading Sillitoe's back catalogue in chronological author, so it's a good dozen books yet till I get to 'Birthday'. However, the Seaton saga is continued in 'Key to the Door' and 'The Open Door', which focus on Arthur's older brother Brian, his time overseas on National Service and his struggle to become a writer. I'll be posting a review of 'Key to the Door' early next month.

BRENT said...

That is total nonsense to be actually reading and told it was rubbish. I agree if a kid is reading something then they should be encouraged. As I'm concerned it is the best thing a kid can be taught in life as it will open doors that would remain closed other wise.
Funnily enough I have just started to ( finally ) read the Bond novels in the last few weeks!
Birthday is interesting because Sillitoe's writing style had really matured. His use of lanuage is more complex, and chapter 5 is just superb.
I have liked both Saturday and Birthday because he speaks of so much I recognise from life and that is his great strength obviously, speaking to his audience. Birthday reminds me of going back to places I have lived and visited and seen how much they have changed.
Also what he describes as far as what unemployment does to men is very vivid. He says it lead to domestic violence through the despair of no money or real future. My mother had a father like that. 9 kids, little money , too much booze, turned him into a violent bastard and the stories mum tells are horrific.
Yes there is much of these two novels that I know and have seen myself. Except Notts of course but his eye for the working man etc is just absolutely spot on.