Follow in the footsteps of Arthur Seaton in Sillitoe’s Nottingham
Have you taken a trip around Sillitoe’s Nottingham? We asked James Walker, Chair of the Nottingham writer’s studio and literature editor of LeftLionto talk us through the Sillitoe Trail and the author’s important relationship with the city.
The Alan Sillitoe Committee was one of fifty-three organisations selected to produce content for The Space, an experimental multimedia platform funded by Arts Council England in collaboration with the BBC. For our commission we wanted to produce something that captured the spirit and essence of one of Nottingham’s very finest sons and one word kept popping up: maps.
Maps were an integral part of Sillitoe’s life during his adolescence when he joined the cadets, and later still when he served as a wireless operator in Malaya. When writing his Nottingham-based novels, Sillitoe always had a street plan to hand, alongside a one-inch scaled map of the area, enabling him to produce a definitive Nottingham landscape from memory.
For our commission, Paul Fillingham and I decided to map out the literary landscape of Sillitoe’s seminal debut novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958) which follows the adventures of Arthur Seaton, a hard-grafting Raleigh factory worker out for a good time in 1950s Nottingham. We’ve done this by creating a QR-coded trail for smartphone devices that explores five key locations from the novel in depth as well as many other significant locations. At each of the five featured locations you can access photographs, audio, facts, quotes and short essays from specially commissioned writers. We have also explored different themes from the novel at each location to enable us to ask how Arthur Seaton would find his hometown of 2013.
At Old Market Square we took Arthur Seaton’s personal credo of “don’t let the bastards grind you down” as a cue to explore how this location has a rich history of rebellion over the centuries. The White Horse was where Arthur would spend his Saturday nights but since this is now a curry house, we explored the demise of the British pub and what this means for community. Raleigh was the workplace where Arthur slugged his guts out over a lathe but it’s now gone the same way as the pub, so what kind of job would he be doing today? When he needed a little peace, Arthur would go fishing along the ‘turgid Trent’, but is it possible to find solitude in the digital age, particularly when we’re all constantly connected to some device or other? Arthur also prided himself on lying until he was blue in the face if it would get him what he wanted, so he was right at home at The Goose Fair- the home of elaborate and fanciful stories.
We wanted to capture the spirit of the novel and so we’ve also built in a game of cat and mouse between Arthur Seaton and the two Swaddies who appear at every location, making it a fun way to navigate the Sillitoe Trail. We have made this available for FREE as either a downloadable book or iPhone App so that you can embrace the rich literary history of Nottingham. But if you are able to, we would greatly appreciate a small donation to the Alan Sillitoe Memorial Committee whose objective is to establish a permanent recognition of his work. (www.sillitoe.com)
To visit the Sillitoe Trail on The Space http://thespace.org/items/p0001ed6