Alan Sillitoe and Nottingham – An Oral History

Date published: 16 Dec 2019

Posted by: Joe Pick

Alan Sillitoe

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Four films that examine the inspiration behind and impact of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by legendary Nottingham writer Alan Sillitoe.

Alan grew up in poverty in Radford, Nottingham. Both he and his father worked at the local Raleigh Bicycle factory. The story of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning is deeply embedded in Nottingham. It reflects the people and places Sillitoe knew. Arthur Seaton, the books’ rebellious protagonist, works at Raleigh, lives in Radford and drinks at the White Horse Inn.

The book is hugely influential as a depiction of postwar working-class life. Alan adapted the story for Karel Reisz’ 1960s film starring Albert Finney, which the BFI later named the 14th greatest British film of all time.

David Sillitoe on Alan Sillitoe

This film features interviews with Alan’s son, David, who talks about his father’s work, upbringing and inspirations. He explains his father’s distaste for being described as an ”angry young man” and discusses what it was like for him to grow up as the son of a famous writer.

James Walker on Alan Sillitoe

Writer, academic and former LeftLion literature editor James Walker discusses the cultural context of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. James speaks about life in 1950s and 60s Nottingham and explains the themes that the novel touches on – the relationships, social life and working life of our city’s communities.

Henry Normal on Alan Sillitoe

Henry Normal is a writer, poet, TV and film producer, and patron of City Arts. He tells us how Sillitoe’s work influenced his own writing on acclaimed TV programmes including The Mrs Merton Show and The Royle Family. Henry also speaks passionately about how Nottingham, his home town, inspires his work, the same way it did Alan’s.

Former Raleigh workers on Alan Sillitoe

This film features appearances from former Raleigh workers, some of whom knew Sillitoe personally. They speak about what it was like to work at the factory around the same time the novel was set, explain how important the business was to the local community and compare Nottingham back then to Nottingham today.

These films were directed and produced by Tim Chesney on behalf of City Arts. We have been using them as inspiration in writing workshops for Nottingham residents aged 55+, part of our Words of Wisdom project. The films acted as a launch pad for people to tell their own stories, both real and imagined, drawing on their personal lives and exploring similar themes to the novel.

City Arts is working with Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature, Nottingham City Libraries and Nottingham City Homes on Words of Wisdom. The project is funded by Arts Council England and the Baring Foundation’s ‘Celebrating Age’ fund.

Photo credit: Mark Gerson
Used with permission