Monday, 10 June 2019

Skip Skip Skip

Can you help one of our best and brightest poets take her show to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe?

Leanne Moden had developed her first full-length spoken word show, Skip Skip Skip, and it’s brilliant: an emotion inducing ride of teenage angst, belonging and identity. Combining poetry, storytelling, humour and movement, Skip Skip Skip is an honest, heartfelt performance that deserves to be seen.
“Now, I’m finally ready to take the whole thing up to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. But I need your help!” 
Leanne Moden
A performance poet for nearly a decade, Leanne developed this show from conversations with friends and colleagues about how music shapes our friendships, personalities and lives, especially during those tricky teenage years. She’s now been offered a slot at the PBH Free Fringe, performing at the Banshee Labyrinth, and will be there every day at 7pm, from the 17th to the 25th of August.

To help fund Leanne’s show, or to find out more, please visit her page on gofundme.

Leanne has been telling poems at events across the UK and Europe since 2010, including recent performances at TEDx WOMEN, WOMAD Festival, Sofar Sounds, Bestival on the Isle of Wight and the Fourth Wave Feminist Festival, as well as festivals in Estonia and Spain. She's been a national finalist at the BBC Edinburgh Fringe Slam, the Hammer and Tongue slam, Poetry Rivals, the Camden Roundhouse Slam, the Axis Slam, and the Anti-Slam. It would be great to se her shine in Edinburgh.

Monday, 3 June 2019

Nottwich, Belbin & Macfarlane

Robert Macfarlane gave the NUCoL's Annual Lecture on May 21st, launching the Nottingham leg of Nottwich in style. You can watch it all at the bottom of this post. 

By all accounts Nottingham’s hosting of Nottwich, the annual global gathering of UNESCO City of Literatures, was a great success. The event opened at The Council House with a series of excellent speeches from Sandeep Mahal, Director NUCoL; Councillor David Mellen, Leader City of Nottingham; Edward Peck, Nottingham Trent University’s Vice-Chancellor; Darren Henley OBE, Chief Executive of Arts Council England; Patrick Limb QC, Trustee NUCoL and organiser of ‘The Lost Words’ project for Notts libraries; Professor Shearer West, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Nottingham.

Also speaking was David Belbin, Chair of Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature, and he recently reproduced the script of his speech on his new website  
Here it is:

“Thanks to the University of Nottingham for hosting their annual UNESCO lecture here as part of our Nottwich conference. I bid a very warm welcome to every one of the delegates at the Creative Cities of Literature summit, which we’re proud to host. I met many of you in Dublin three years ago & look forward to catching up. And of course, a very warm welcome to Robert Macfarlane, our guest lecturer.

This is the building where, four and a half years ago, we announced that the city would bid to become a UNESCO City of Literature. It was an ambitious thing to do and one that many people – sometimes including me – thought we had little hope of achieving. But we were determined to bring the city together, to celebrate our heritage, yes, but also to acknowledge our diverse, thrilling writing scene. Most of all, we wanted to make things happen.

And here we are, co-hosting what I’ve been told is the city’s biggest International Conference this year, Nottwich. By the way, as a huge admirer of Graham Greene, I’m delighted we agreed to name this conference after the fictional version of Nottingham that Greene created for his novel about our city, A Gun For Sale.

Greene was only here for three months in 1926. He thought of Nottingham as a cultural desert & you know, he had a point. I’ve been here more than forty years. The changes in that time have been staggering. Though I’ll tell you what, we’ve always had good libraries. Twenty-odd years ago, Notts libraries – who’ve always been superb at supporting local writers – managed to find twenty of us from across the county for a photocall in the Victoria Shopping Centre.

That was the only time I ever saw my friends Alan Sillitoe and Stanley Middleton together. I often wonder what the two of them – working class writers from lowly origins – would make of where we are now. By the turn of the century, new writers kept popping up all over. There was a groundswell of poetry, in particular. Did you know we have more poetry publishers, per head, than any comparable city in the world? Credit must also be given to Nottingham Playhouse who fostered the birth of the hugely successful and influential Mouthy Poets, giving them space and support. Under Giles Croft and Stephanie Sirr, they put new emphasis on producing plays by Nottingham-based writers like Andy Barrett, Amanda Whittington and Mufaro Makubika.

In early 2014, one of our playwrights, Stephen Lowe, became President of Bromley House Library. At his suggestion, the library commissioned Pippa Hennessey to look into how they might celebrate Nottingham’s literary heritage. She came up with the idea of bidding to become a UNESCO City of Literature and would become our Project Manager during the bid. That summer we set up a company to manage the bid and, if successful, the designation. Our volunteer board included several writers and representatives from the Writers Studio, Writing East Midlands, the Playhouse, the City Council and, of course, both of our great universities.

We decided to become an educational charity. And we asked for help. After I was elected chair, I called Aly Bowden, director of Edinburgh City of Literature for advice. She told me we needed a shout line that summed us up in no more than six words. As every writer knows, writing short is much harder than writing long. Still, I think we managed to succinctly articulate what has always been and will always be our mission: Building a Better World With Words.

Half of the money to finance our bid came from Arts Council England, whose James Urquhart was an enormous support during this entire process. The other half came, in equal measure, from the city council and our two universities. We’re both grateful for and proud of fostering that three-way partnership, which went on to be the basis for the city’s European Capital of Culture bid – before the embarrassment that is Brexit ruled the UK out of the bidding –  despite being disqualified, we demonstrated that we are an international city, one that, tomorrow, I’ll be proud to tour with our visitors from around the world.

We submitted our UNESCO bid in summer 2015. That December, we learned we’d been successful, becoming one of what were then just fifteen cities of literature. It was and is a success that belonged to the whole city and, in particular, to every one of our writers, many of whom are in this room tonight. Six months later, thanks to our four key partners, from whom you’re about to hear, we were in position to recruit a director. Sandeep Mahal took on her new role whole-heartedly, and she’s done a fantastic job. Not only for us. Sandy now chairs the Creative Cities of Literature network. She’ll make sure that delegates have a very fruitful few days here. We hope you have a great time.

Finally, I’d like to congratulate David Mellen, our next speaker, on his election as our new Council Leader and thank him, for coming here tonight to make his first official speech in his new role.”
(my thanks to David for his permission to use this text)

The final speech of the night was from the internationally acclaimed author, and Nottingham lad,  Robert Macfarlane, whose address, movingly introduced with a video highlighting the impact of the Lost Words project, gave a vivid demonstration of the power of storytelling and how culture and creativity can help a world in deep trouble. 
You can watch it here:

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Nottwich 2019

Cultural leaders from nearly thirty cities across five continents are coming to Nottingham next week for the global gathering of the UNESCO Cities of Literature. Two of the UK’s four UNESCO cities of literature, Norwich and Nottingham, are hosting the event called Nottwich (after Graham Greene’s fiction version of Nottingham in A Gun For Sale).

This exciting and prestigious programme of cultural events is the first time the international forum has taken place in England. The first stage is happening in Norwich before the delegates arrive here for events that include the annual UNESCO Lecture with Robert Macfarlane (a live streaming of which can be accessed), a visit to the Marketplace to explore our literacy projects (inc Read On Nottingham, Storysmash and Nottingham Does Comics), a meeting about comic strips and illustrated prose with Audrey Niffenegger and Eddie Campbell, a walking tour that will take in Five Leaves Bookshop, the Women’s Library and Newstead Abbey, an exhibition at Lakeside Arts: Romantic Facts and Fantasies, and a farewell dinner at Wollaton Hall.

The opportunity to exchange ideas and plan future projects should bring much benefit to the city.

“We are delighted to have this opportunity to showcase Norwich and Nottingham as centres of literary excellence. This global gathering will send a unified message on the importance of collaboration, dialogue and creative partnership.”

Chris Gribble, CEO of the National Centre for Writing.

“Nottwich 2019 is a wonderful opportunity to show the rest of the world the things that make Nottingham and Norwich UNESCO Cities of Literature. The fact that both our cities will be visited by delegates from so many countries is not only an opportunity to get to know each other better and to exchange best practices but also to highlight the importance of knowledge and creativity as a driving force for the growth of modern cities.”

Sandeep Mahal, Director, Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature.

Friday, 17 May 2019

Stanley Middleton, Plaque & Poems

On August 1st it will be 100 years since the birth of Stanley Middleton.

To mark the centenary and celebrate Middleton’s contribution to Nottingham literature there is to be a plaque placed on the front of his former home on Caledon Rd in Sherwood. Money for the plaque is coming from donations to a crowdfunding page. A stretch target is aiming to provide copies of a special centenary book, Poetry and Old Age: Stanley Middleton's Selected Poems to Nottinghamshire libraries. This will be the first collection of Middleton’s poetry and it would be great to get the book into as many Notts libraries as possible so please visit the crowdfunding page before May 29th.
Stanley Middleton was a proper Nottingham novelist. Unlike many of our writers he lived here all his life (the war aside), and set most of his novels here, until his death at 89. From the age of 39 he penned about a book a year. For much of this time he continued to work as a schoolteacher. My own father, a former student at High Pavement, enjoyed his English lessons off Mr Middleton.

Nottingham’s only Booker Prize winner, Middleton often wrote about middle class characters whose concerns allowed him to explore humanity and its universal themes. Please contribute to the crowdfunding page. If you’ve not read Middleton before you might try one these, a selection of ten of his best books, all of which can be ordered from Notts library services:

Harris’s Requiem (1960)

Holiday (1974)

Cold Gradations (1972)

Brief Garlands (2004)

Her Three Wise Men (2008)

Married Past Redemption (1993)

Valley of Decision (1985)

A Cautious Approach (2010)

In a Strange Land (1979)

Two Brothers (1978)

Nottingham Poetry Festival

There is a strong appetite for poetry in the city as demonstrated by our thriving spoken word scene. No surprise then that this year’s Nottingham Poetry Festival was the biggest and most successful to date. NottsLit especially enjoyed the Waterstone’s event with Patience Agbabi, Chris McLoughlin and Ben Norris.  

The afternoon was hosted by Michelle Mother Hubbard, a poet from last year’s festival, and she introduced the performers with warmth. First up was a nervous Chris McLoughlin who has the gift of a deep, loud voice and he used it to lead us in a breathing exercise (something he always opens with). His poems were personal, with a psychological focus. I really liked his use of The Cure, which you can hear in the video below.
McLoughlin loves Nottingham “more than anywhere I’ve ever been” and we love him back. Big White Shed have published his poetry and he already has bags of experience here as a workshop facilitator. He has a Distinction in MA Creative Writing from the University of Nottingham and has been Artistic Director of Mouthy Poets. A likable lad and a poet of real potential.

Unlike McLoughlin, Ben Norris is from Nottingham but is now living in Tottenham. He’s a two-time national poetry slam champion and has successfully toured his solo show, 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Family'. His poetry focused on relationships, be it his father, step mum or ex-partner who, “like a young koala consumes their mother’s shit.” He is currently poet-in-residence for Nottinghamshire Libraries, a Creative Associate at Nottingham Playhouse, and also plays Ben Archer in ‘The Archers’ on BBC Radio. If you’ve not already seen it, have a look at his Nottingham poem, ‘Rebel Heart’. 

Patience Agbabi headlined the event and delivered a tour de force. Never before have I heard such a variety of styles, voices and forms from the one poet. With decades of poetry to call upon she kept the audience under her spell throughout. Issues of racial and gender identity featured prominently but there was no way of knowing which direction the next poem would take us. From Chaucer to Josephine Baker to R&B Agbabi covered much ground. In the video below you can hear two of the poems she performed in the set. Agbabi also informed us that she’s taking a break from poetry to write children’s fiction, with a three-book deal in the offing. Look our for that.

Monday, 8 April 2019

DH Lawrence's Nottingham

When Paul Morel’s mother met Clara Dawes in DH Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers (1913), they ‘…talked Nottingham and Nottingham people: it interested them both.’

Lawrence experienced Nottingham from a walker’s perspective, first visiting before the town had become a city, and later making daily commutes from Eastwood. The centre of Nottingham remains as small and walkable as it was in back then. As part of Eastwood Comics - a project from Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature, Pop Up Projects, DH Lawrence Birthplace Museum and four education partners - a group of Y9 Eastwood students visited some of the city centre locations associated with Lawrence. 

Here NottsLit visits some of the locations that Lawrence knew and wrote about:

Boys’ High School (now Nottingham High School)

Aged twelve, Lawrence became the first boy from Eastwood to win a County Council scholarship to the High School. At thirteen he began attending, taking his long commute from Eastwood and back. The Boys’ High School, as Lawrence later wrote, was ‘considered the best day school in England.’

Despite the school's standing, Lawrence failed to distinguish himself, not helped by some of his fellow students who wouldn't accept a miner’s son as their equal. Lawrence left school in 1901 with few friends, later reflecting on the low standard of teaching he received at both school and college.

Girls’ High School

In The Rainbow (1915), Lawrence’s strong and spirited Ursula Brangwen attends Nottingham ‘Grammar School’ which is the Girls’ High.

‘One went away to the Grammar School, and left the little school, the meagre teachers, the Philipses whom she had tried to love but who had made her fail, and whom she could not forgive.’

And of the school:

‘The school itself had been a gentleman’s house. Dark, sombre lawns separated it from the dark, select avenue. But its rooms were very large and of good appearance, and from the back, one looked over lawns and shrubbery, over the trees and the grassy slope of the Arboretum, to the town which heaped the hollow with its roofs and cupolas and its shadows.’ (from The Rainbow, Ch 10)

The Arboretum is situated close to both High Schools and the students would often meet up there. Close by is another educational establishment of importance to Lawrence.

The Arkwright Building (NTU)

Lawrence was due to start his studies here - when it was University College Nottingham - in 1905 but, monetarily challenged, he decided to continue teaching for another year. By the time he attended the college he had spent three years as a pupil-teacher in Eastwood and Ilkeston.

Lawrence was twenty-one when he began his teacher’s certificate course in Nottingham. His professors thought he’d ‘make an excellent teacher of upper classes,’ but added, ‘…for a large class of boys in a rough district he would not have sufficient persistence and enthusiasm.’

Largely unimpressed by his college education Lawrence wrote that his professors ‘went on in such a miserable jogtrot, earn-your-money manner that I was startled… I came to feel that I might as well be taught by gramophones… I doubted them, I began to despise or distrust things’. He left the college two years later having achieved his certificate but without staying on for a Bachelor’s Degree. He did admit to gaining maturity from the experience and it was during his time here that he completed the second draft of Laetitia later to become his first novel The White Peacock (1911).

In The White Peacock (p371) Lawrence comments on the smog of the city: ‘Over the city hung a dullness, a thin dirty canopy against the blue sky.’

It was also during this time, in 1907, that Lawrence wrote three stories for the Nottingham Guardian Christmas story competition, winning with A Prelude, entered under the name of his first girlfriend Jessie Chambers. 

Here, The Arkwright Building is described through Ursula’s eyes:

'The big college built of stone, standing in the quiet street, with its rim of grass and lime-trees all so peaceful: she felt it remote, a magic-land. Its architecture was foolish, she knew from her father. Still, it was different from that of all other buildings. Its rather pretty, plaything. Gothic form was almost a style, in the dirty industrial town. She liked the hall, with its big stone chimney-piece of cardboard-like carved stone, with its armorial decoration, looked silly just opposite the bicycle stand and the radiator, whilst the great notice-board with its fluttering papers seemed to slam away all senses of retreat and mystery from the far wall.' (from The Rainbow, Ch 15)

Just inside the main entrance, to the left, remains the ‘big stone chimney-piece of cardboard-like carved stone...’. Next to it is a plaque with the familiar Lawrence phoenix. The inscribed date is incorrect. 

From A College Window by DH Lawrence:

The glimmer of the limes, sun-heavy, sleeping,
Goes trembling past me up the College wall.
Below, the lawn, in soft blue shade is keeping,
The daisy-froth quiescent, softly in thrall.

Beyond the leaves that overhang the street,
Along the flagged, clean pavement summer-white,
Passes the world with shadows at their feet
Going left and right.

Remote, although I hear the beggar's cough,
See the woman's twinkling fingers tend him a coin,
Beyond a world I never want to join.

(from New Poems, 1916)

After qualifying as a teacher Lawrence took up a post at an elementary school in Croydon. The experiences he gained teaching informed The Rainbow in which Ursula is a teacher.  

Theatre Royal

Back to Sons and Lovers and if the character Miriam belonged to Bestwood (Eastwood) then Clara belonged to Nottingham. In one scene Paul invites Clara to the Theatre Royal.

'One evening of that week Sarah Bernhardt was at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham, giving “La Dame aux Camélias.” Paul wanted to see this old and famous actress, and he asked Clara to accompany him.'

The French superstar did actually appear at the theatre to great acclaim. In the novel, Paul does take Clara to the Bernhardt performance but he’s too busy with his date to fully appreciate the actress’ emotionally thrilling performance.

On the opposite corner, on Queen Street/Parliament Street, is the white Grade II listed building that was once The Elite Cinema. The first ‘talkie’ in Nottingham was shown here.

In 1960, hundreds of locals crammed into The Elite to see the movie Son and Lovers after the Nottingham Students’ Charity Carnival Committee secured a midnight showing on the same night of the film’s London premiere. They raised close to £400. Among the guests was William Ernest Lawrence, nephew of DH Lawrence.

The last film to appear at The Elite was the ‘X’ certificate Take an Easy Ride, a result of the Chatterley Trial?

Nottingham Castle

There are several visits to the castle grounds in Sons and Lovers
Here Paul visits with Clara:

‘The Castle grounds were very green and fresh. Climbing the precipitous ascent, he laughed and chattered, but she was silent, seeming to brood over something. There was scarcely time to go inside the squat, square building that crowns the bluff of rock. They leaned upon the wall where the cliff runs sheer down to the Park. Below them, in their holes in the sandstone, pigeons preened themselves and cooed softly. Away down upon the boulevard at the foot of the rock, tiny trees stood in their own pools of shadow, and tiny people went scurrying about in almost ludicrous importance.’

The view from the castle grounds from which these comments on Nottingham are made:

‘Away beyond the boulevard the thin stripes of the metals showed upon the railway-track, whose margin was crowded with little stacks of timber, beside which smoking toy engines fussed. Then the silver string of the canal lay at random among the black heaps. Beyond, the dwellings, very dense on the river flat, looked like black, poisonous herbage, in thick rows and crowded beds, stretching right away, broken now and then by taller plants, right to where the river glistened in a hieroglyph across the country. The steep scarp cliffs across the river looked puny. Great stretches of country darkened with trees and faintly brightened with corn-land, spread towards the haze, where the hills rose blue beyond grey.

“It is comforting,” said Mrs Dawes, to think the town goes no farther. It is only a little sore upon the country yet.”

“A little scab,” Paul said.

She shivered. She loathed the town. Looking drearily across the country which was forbidden her, her impassive face pale and hostile, she reminded Paul of one of the bitter, remorseful angels.

“But the town’s alright,” he said; it’s only temporary. This is the crude, clumsy make-shift we’ve practised on, till we find out what the idea is. The town will come all right.”’

(from Sons and Lovers, Ch 10)

Paul’s view and mood later shifts:

‘He was brooding now, staring out over the county from under sullen brows. The little, interesting diversity of shapes had vanished from the scene; all that remained was a vast, dark matrix of sorrow and tragedy, the same in all the houses and river-flats and the people and the birds; they were only shapen differently. And now that the forms seemed to have melted away, they remained the mass from which all the landscape was composed, a dark mass of struggle and pain. The factory, the girls, his mother, the large, uplifted church, the thicket of the town, merged into one atmosphere – dark, brooding, and sorrowful, every bit.’

Nottingham Castle’s Museum held a superb DH Lawrence exhibition in 1972. Costing over £6,000 it featured a collection of documents, photographs, paintings, sketches, objects and other material from Lawrence’s early years in Eastwood, Nottingham, Croydon and elsewhere, taking us from his earliest recorded childhood to the First World War. His paintings took centre stage.

In Sons and Lovers Paul sends a landscape to the castle’s winter exhibition. He also, to the delight of his mother, has paintings displayed there:

And in the autumn exhibition of students’ work in the Castle he had two studies, a landscape in water-colour and a still life in oil, both of which had first-prize awards. (from Sons and Lovers, Ch 8)

For decades there was a fine bust of Lawrence sculpted by Diana Thomson in the castle’s colonnade. It was removed this year.

Castle Gate

In Sons and Lovers Paul was walking up Castle Gate with Miriam, en route to the castle, when he met Clara for first time. It was a street that he and his creator knew well.
When Lawrence left school in 1901 he took work as a junior clerk with the surgical good firm Haywood’s. The 16-year-old Lawrence began his working life here after leaving the High School. He stayed for three months at JA Haywood’s warehouse before leaving following a bout of pneumonia and the unexpected death of his older brother William from erysipelas. Shattered by the death of her son, Lawrence’s mother turned her attention to her younger boy, nursing him tirelessly and transferring to him the hopes and ambitions that she had had for William, a dynamic that’s repeated in Sons and Lovers.

Lawrence’s factory life provides much ground for Sons and Lovers, from his older brother writing his job application to the ribbing he received from the factory girls.

A desk from Haywood’s - where Lawrence “suffered tortures of shyness when, at half past eight, the Factory girls from upstairs trooped past him” – is on display at the DH Lawrence Birthplace Museum.

When Paul Morel attended his interview at Thomas Jordan’s, Manufactures of Surgical Appliances (at 21 Spaniel Row, close to Castle Gate), he did so with concern, not wanting to become a prisoner of industrialisation. He dreaded the regulated, impersonal world of business and wished he were stupid. Paul also commented that he would sooner feel extreme physical pain than be exposed to strangers. He did, however, enjoy his day in Nottingham with his mother accompanied him. They had an adventure, visiting a bookshop and ‘big shops’.

Before the interview:

‘It was nearly eleven o’clock by St. Peter’s Church. They turned up a narrow street that led to the Castle. It was gloomy and old-fashioned, having low dark shops and dark green house doors with brass knockers, and yellow-ochred doorsteps projecting on to the pavement; then another old shop whose small window looked like a cunning, half-shut eye. Mother and son went cautiously, looking everywhere for “Thomas Jordan and Son”. It was like hunting in some wild place. They were on tiptoe of excitement.' (from Sons and Lovers, Ch 5)

After the interview, Paul and his mother walk through the market square:
‘Over the big desolate space of the market-place the blue sky shimmered, and the granite cobbles of the paving glistened. Shops down Long Row were deep in obscurity, and the shadow was full of colour. Just where the horse trams trundled across the market was a row of fruit stalls, with fruit blazing in the sun – apples and piles of reddish oranges, small greengage plums and bananas. There was a warm scent of fruit as mother and son passed. Gradually his feeling of ignominy and of rage sank.’ (from Sons and Lovers, Ch 5)

They had dinner, a reckless extravagance:
‘Paul had only been in an eating house once or twice in his life, and then only to have a cup of tea and a bun. Most of the people of Bestwood considered that tea and bread-and-butter, and perhaps potted beef, was all they could afford to eat in Nottingham. Real cooked dinner was considered great extravagance. Paul felt rather guilty.’ (from Sons and Lovers, Ch 5)

Despite the guilt Paul enjoyed the afternoon and as they headed back to the train station there was time to take in the city:
‘They bought a few things, and set off towards the station. Looking up the canal, through the dark pass of the buildings, they saw the Castle on its bluff of brown, green-bushed rock, in a positive miracle of delicate sunshine.

Mother and son walked down Station Street. In Carrington Street they stopped to hang over the parapet and looked at the barges in canal below.

“it’s just like Venice,” he said.’ (from Sons and Lovers, Ch 5)

The journey from Eastwood to Nottingham and back was one that Lawrence was familiar with having taken the walk to catch the Midland Railway to Midland Station for several years as he attended, school, work and college.  
Later in the book:

‘Paul hurried off to the station jubilant. Down derby road was a cherry-tree that glistened. The old brick wall by the Statutes ground burned scarlet, spring was a very flame of green. And the steep swoop of high road lay, in its cool morning dust, splendid with patterns of sunshine and shadow, perfectly still.’ (from Sons and Lovers, Ch 6)

In The Rainbow there are several passages set in the centre of Nottingham:

‘But at last they were away, and Brangwen went with her into a little dark, ancient eating-house in the Bridlesmith-Gate. They had cow's-tail soup, and meat and cabbage and potatoes. Other men, other people, came into the dark, vaulted place, to eat. Anna was wide-eyed and silent with wonder.’

‘Then they went into the big market, into the corn exchange, then to shops. He bought her a little book off a stall. He loved buying things, odd things that he thought would be useful. Then they went to the Black Swan, and she drank milk and he brandy, and they harnessed the horse and drove off, up the Derby Road.’

The former corn exchange is on Thurland Street. It was design by local architect T C Hine, grandfather of the Notts novelist Muriel Hine.

Not sure about the Black Swan but it’s likely to be the Black Swan Vaults on Goose Gate which closed in 1960 and became a Tesco.

‘She was tired out with wonder and marvelling. But the next day, when she thought of it, she skipped, flipping her leg in the odd dance she did, and talked the whole time of what had happened to her, of what she had seen. It lasted her all the week. And the next Saturday she was eager to go again.’ (from The Rainbow, Ch 3)

More central locations associated with Lawrence and his writing:

It was at The Unitarian Chapel (now Pitcher & Piano) on High Pavement that Paul comes across Miriam singing hymns towards the end of Sons and Lovers.

‘The large coloured windows glowed up in the night. The church was like a great lantern suspended. They threaded through the throng of church-people. The organ was still sounding as St Mary’s.’

St Mary’s is easily close enough for its organ to be heard.


The author’s parents Arthur Lawrence and Lydia Beardsall were married at St Stephen’s Church in Sneinton in 1875. The church is mentioned in Goose Fair, an early short story.

Ursula and Birkin are among the ‘common people’ of Sneinton in Women in Love:

‘The old market-square was not very large, a mere bare patch of granite setts, usually with a few fruit-stalls under a wall. It was in a poor quarter of the town. Meagre houses stood down one side, there was a hosiery factory, a great blank with myriad oblong windows, at the end, a street of little shops with flagstone pavement down the other side, and, for a crowning monument, the public baths, of new red brick, with a clock-tower. The people who moved about seemed stumpy and sordid, the air seemed to smell rather dirty, there was a sense of many mean streets ramifying off into warrens of meanness. Now and again a great chocolate-and-yellow tramcar ground round a difficult bend under the hosiery factory.’

The ‘not very large’ market square.

The ‘crowning monument’ of the clock tower above Victoria leisure centre.

‘Ursula was superficially thrilled when she found herself out among the common people, in the jumbled place piled with old bedding, heaps of old iron, shabby crockery in pale lots, muffled lots of unthinkable clothing. She and Birkin went unwillingly down the narrow aisle between the rusty wares. He was looking at the goods, she at the people.’ (Women in Love, Ch 26)

Highfields Park and The University of Nottingham

Highfields Park opened in 1923 on land donated by Sir Jesse Boot who had purchased the Highfields Estate two years earlier. Later in the decade, after the University had moved to its current University Park campus, Lawrence wrote a poem entitled Nottingham's New University to ‘commemorate’ the occasion. The poem begins:

In Nottingham, that dismal town

where I went to school and college,

they’ve built a new university

for a new dispensation of knowledge.

Built it most grand and cakeily

out of the noble loot

derived from shrewd cash-chemistry

by good Sir Jesse Boot.

From Pansies (1929)

Lakeside Arts has its DH Lawrence Pavilion, and his old university has a life-sized bronze statue of the writer on their University Park campus.

Suggested reading for more on Lawrence's local sense of place:

Heartlands – A Guide to DH Lawrence’s Midlands Roots by Stephen Bailey and Chris Nottingham (2013) Matador.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

100 Notts Novels

This World Book Day treat yourself to a novel set in Notts.

In no particular order, here are one hundred of the best novels set in Nottingham or Notts (or as it's been fictionalised, Nottwich, Lacingham, Trentham, Beechnall…).  

1.       Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe (1958)

2.       Sons and Lovers by D H Lawrence (1913)

3.       Harris’s Requiem by Stanley Middleton (1960)

4.       The Rainbow by D H Lawrence (1915)

5.       The Unfortunates by B S Johnson (1969)

6.       Smart by Kim Slater (2014)

7.       Easy Meat by John Harvey (1996)

8.       A Gun for Sale by Graham Greene (1936)

9.       The Killing Jar by Nicola Monaghan (2006)

10.   The Underground Man by Mick Jackson (2007)

11.   The Hosanna Man by Philip Callow (1956)

12.   Who’s That Girl? by Mhairi McFarlane (2016)

13.   Secrets of Death by Stephen Booth (2017)

14.   Darkness, Darkness by John Harvey (2014)

15.   The Great Deception by David Belbin (2015)

16.   They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple (1943)

17.   Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D H Lawrence (1928)

18. Start Somewhere by Michael Standen (1965)

19.   Women in Love by D H Lawrence (1920)

20.   Cold in Hand by John Harvey (2009) 

21.   Beholden by Claire Littleford (2003)

22.   Fortuna Chance by James Prior (1910)

23.   The Night Raid by Clare Harvey (2017)

24.   Our Lady of Everything by Susan Finlay (2019)

25.   Cold Gradations by Stanley Middleton (1972)

26.   They Knew Mr Knight by Dorothy Whipple (1934)

27.   The Taking of Annie Thorne by C J Tudor (2019)

28.   Lonely Hearts by John Harvey (1989)

29.   Bone and Cane by David Belbin (2011)

30.   Forest Folk by James Prior (1901) 

31.   Brief Garlands by Stanley Middleton (2004)

32.   Closer by K L Slater (2018)

33.   Birthday by Alan Sillitoe (2001)

34.   Goose Fair by Cecil Roberts (1928)

35. No Way To Say Goodbye by Rod Madocks (2009)

36.   Dark Forest by Frank Palmer (1997)

37. Top Hard by Stephen Booth (2012)

38.   The White Peacock by D H Lawrence (1911)

39. Key To The Door by Alan Sillitoe (1961)

40.   Attention Deficit by Nigel Pickard (2010)

41.   Last Rites by John Harvey (1998)

42. The Daylight Thief by Alan Williams (2015)

43.   A Great Adventure by Muriel Hine (1939)

44. Gideon Giles the Roper by Thomas Miller (1841)

45.   To Fear A Painted Devil by Ruth Rendell (1965)

46.   Bendigo, The Right Fist of God by David Field & Alan Dance (2016)

47. By The Trent by Eliza Sarah Oldham (1864)

48.   A Cautious Approach by Stanley Middleton (2010)

49. Cutting Edge by John Harvey (1991)

50.   Death Duty by Clare Littleford (2004)

51. Influence by Chris Parker (2014)

52. Trace and Eliminate by Keith Wright (1992)

53.   Framed by Christy Fearn (2013)

54.   Gilded Wagons by F E Wharmby (2013)

55.   Her Three Wise Men by Stanley Middleton (2008)

56.   The Green Leaves of Nottingham by Pat McGrath (1970)

57.   The Arrow of Sherwood by Lauren Johnson (2013)

58.   The Boy Who Lied by Kim Slater (2018)

59.   The Greenwooders by Geoffrey Palmer (1963)

60.   Married Past Redemption by Stanley Middleton (1993)

61.   The Mistake by KL Slater (2017)

62.   A Start in Life by Alan Sillitoe (1970)

63.   What You Don’t Know by David Belbin (2012)

64.   Words Best Sung by Lee Stuart Evans (2017)

65. Narrow Marsh by A R Dance (2008)

66. Outlaw by Angus Donald (2009)

67.   Over My Dead Body by Raymond Flynn (2000)

68.   The Open Door by Alan Sillitoe (1989)

69.   Love Lessons by David Belbin (1998)

70.   In a Strange Land by Stanley Middleton (1979)

71.   One Oblique One by Keith Wright (1991)

72.   Wild Rye by Muriel Hine (1931)

73.   New Harrowing by Mollie Morris (1933)

74.   Two Brothers by Stanley Middleton (1978)

75.   Independent Street by Joan Wallace (1984)

76.   Safe With Me by K L Slater (2016)

77.   I Came to Find a Girl by Jaq Hazell (2015)

78.   The Deed Room by Michael R D Smith (2013) 

79. Rough Treatment by John Harvey (2005)

80.   Penny Lace by Hilda Lewis (1957)

81.   Truths by Rebecca S Buck (2010)

82.   The Vixen's Cub by Katharine Morris (1951)

83.   Student by David Belbin (2011)

84.   Bows Against the Barons by Geoffrey Trease (1934)

85.   The Westbrook Affair by A R Dance (2013)

86.   The Lord of Milan by Robert Nieri (2017)

87.   The Runaway Countess by Leigh LaValle (2012)

88.   I love Samuel Taylor by Ian Collinson (2009)

89.   Amphetamines and Pearls by John Harvey (1976)

90.   Secret Gardens by David Belbin (2011)

91.   Blackmail by Michael Stokes (2016)

92.   Born in Mid-Air by Scott Taylor (2011)

93.   The Cat Café by Caroline Bell Foster (2015)

94.   Sherwood Forest by Elizabeth Sarah Villa-Real Gooch (1804)

95. Make Less Strangers by Steven Wilcoxson (2009)

96.   Thinner Than Blood by Stella Shepherd (1991)

97.   Crocus Street by Jessie Boteler (2012)

98. Nancy of Nottingham by Audrey Coppard (1973)

99.   Dead Certainty by Glenis Wilson (2015)

100.           And finally, I know it’s not a novel but I have to include this collection, The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe (1959)