Writer of the Month
The Sillitoe Trail
The Sillitoe Trail is the brainchild of Writer James Walker and Creative Director Paul Fillingham with support from The Alan Sillitoe Committee; a voluntary organisation dedicated to raising the profile of one of Nottingham’s leading literary figures. Writing East Midlands caught up with James Walker of LeftLion to find out more about the Sillitoe Trail: Tell us about The Sillitoe Trail and how the idea came about. The Sillitoe Trail explores the literary landscape of Alan Sillitoe’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958), a novel about a cunning factory worker called Arthur Seaton whose reward for a week’s hard graft is to neck a few pints at the weekend and mess about with married women. We’ve created a Mobile App which explores five key locations from the novel: Old Market Square, The White Horse, Raleigh, Trent and Goose Fair. At each location we address various themes and ask how relevant the novel is for modern audiences. I guess the idea originally came about after working on Issue 24 of LeftLion (Aug/Sept 2008) which celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the novel. One question we asked was; what would a modern day Arthur Seaton be like? Then in 2010 I got chatting to Paul Fillingham at the Nottingham Writers’ Studio and he showed me some smartphone trails he was developing for local heritage walks. From here we developed a multimedia literary walk, with Arthur Seaton being chased around Nottingham by two Swaddies. How does the project fit in to The Space? Two key words associated with The Space are interactivity and access. The Sillitoe Trail has been created by content uploaded through social media and through five commissioned writers. Therefore it has been a project that has literally written itself as it has gone along. They were looking for commissions that could broaden the appeal of literature and so we have produced versatile content delivered through video, audio, photography, illustrations, music, beatboxing and text as well as the obligatory natter through social media. The Space is also about creating archives of content which other organisations can use or benefit from. This is of particular importance given the brutality of cuts to the arts. We have laid the foundations of a literary trail through Nottingham and asked users to suggest a cycle trail and walking routes which could be used for tourism or to generate work. The Space is not about ownership. It’s an open hand. What are the different ways in which the audience can access the trail? It can be accessed via mobiles, ipads, and the internet. Even through a specific channel on that whacking great TV on your wall. Maybe even a light switch, give it time. We’ve presented a virtual tour of our project on thespace.org but it is also available to download as a free Smartphone App and PDF book. There are also some limited edition physical copies of the book as well. People can interact with us via our Sillitoe Trail Flickr, Facebook and Twitter accounts. What impact do you hope to achieve through the project? Our aim is to broaden the scope of literature by enabling this seminal novel to be interpreted in a myriad of forms and in doing so reach audiences that may otherwise never have encountered it. On a more pragmatic level we want to draw attention to the Alan Sillitoe Committee’s statue fund. You’re tweeting every Sillitoe book ever written, how does this work? I don’t tweet the entire book as that would be pointless. Instead I tweet out relevant quotes or points so that people are able to follow the thread of the narrative. Twitter is an ensemble of voices and so quotes need to be strong enough to stand out on their own. I also include images wherever possible as this adds another dimension to the story. I tweeted The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (23 – 27 October) to coincide with the updated version showing at the Playhouse and included images from the original film as well as the recent riots. Twitter enables new ways through which to understand literature and I guess places you in the position of curator, which in turn brings responsibilities. But it is also an archiving system for librarians-in-denial. Scrolling back through stories you quickly gain a sense of recurring themes, characters or descriptions in Sillitoe’s work which in turn acts as a form of literary criticism – patterns being the lifeblood of journalism. What reaction have you had from it so far? People seem to love the randomness of the quotes. Susie O’Neill of Creative Nottinghamshire wrote it was “a delightful interweaving of micro-literature in the context of kitchen-sink news and chatter on Twitter”?. On the downside my girlfriend thinks it is utterly pointless and that it ruins the act of reading. Where can people go to find out more?
- www.sillitoetrail.com – information here on our Flickr, Twitter and Facebook groups
- http://thespace.org/items/s00001nq – All our content for The Space
- https://twitter.com/Thespacelathe – Twitter novels
- http://www.sillitoetrail.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/factory-handbook.pdf – to download the Sillitoe Trail Book
- https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sillitoe-trail/id572026044?ls=1&mt=8 to download the iPhone App (Android coming very soon)*
Has the Sillitoe Committee got any other upcoming projects? We had a whole day and evening of celebrations at the Nottingham Contemporary on 27 October so it’s time to put our feet up for a bit.