From an early age geography and maps were a very important part of writer Alan Sillitoe’s life. In the 1974 essay Maps, he remembers watching with “utter fascination when the teacher in school took a wheeled metal cylinder with a handle to it, rolled it on an inked pad, and then pushed it firmly across a blank page in my exercise book so that a perfect outline of Europe and North America was left gleaming on the page. It was the action of a magic wand, a device made by a wizard.”
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 this position he was able to ‘map the spiritual turmoil of myself and other people.’
The Alan Sillitoe Committee is now creating the ‘perfect outline’ of the author’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958) by presenting a virtual tour of his city for you on The Space, focusing on five locations from the novel: Old Market Square, The White Horse, Raleigh, the River Trent and Goose Fair.
At each location, some of Nottingham’s finest current writers will take you on a personal journey of the place and explore a range of themes inspired by it. Their findings will take the form of videos, essays, photographs, illustrations and audio downloads. The book’s anti-hero Arthur Seaton will also join in at various points on the journey, responding to the commissioned writers and ensuring they don’t get carried away!
The first stop is Old Market Square, where writer Derrick Buttress travels through the decades, from his childhood to the present day, in a series of essays. We then move on to the second location, The White Horse, which is used by author Al Needham as a starting point to discuss the demise of the British pub. Raleigh, the bicycle factory where Saturday Night and Sunday Morning anti-hero Arthur Seaton “slugged his guts out over a lathe”, is the third stop. The fourth one is the River Trent, where Arthur Seaton would take in a bit of fishing to escape the noise of the factory and the gossiping neighbours. The last one is Goose Fair.
You can use the material from Sillitoe’s Nottingham: Then and Now to take your own interactive tour of the author’s city. iPhone users can download the Sillitoe Trail App and follow in Arthur Seaton’s footsteps around Nottingham, exploring the real locations of key scenes from the novel. Or download the Sillitoe Trail Factory Handbook, where the content is presented in the style of a 1950s cycle maintenance manual.