And So to Rome (1950) by Cecil Roberts
An inveterate traveller, Cecil Roberts came to Italy in this year, aged 58, and lived for many years in the Grand Hotel in Rome. And So to Rome is one of his history slash travel works, in the same style as his previous And So to Bath (1940) and And So to America (1946). According to its blurb And So to Rome is a vivid portrayal of 2,000 years of life in the most astonishing city in the history of mankind. Roberts, who edited of The Nottingham Journal from 1920 to 1925, was awarded the Italian Gold Medal in 1966.Beeston held a photo exhibition to mark the centenary of the Public Libraries Act. The Public Libraries Act of 1850 made it possible for public funds to be used to support public town libraries. It was left to those holding the local purse strings to decide if public money should be used for such a purpose. The people of Nottingham petitioned for a public library but none was forthcoming at the time. Eventually the act created our enduring national institution that provides universal free access to information and literature, as was indicative of the moral, social and educative concerns of the time.
1951The Vixen's Cub (1951) by Katharine Morris
Between 1933 and 1958 Katharine 'Mollie' Morris published five novels set in Nottinghamshire villages. Nottingham born Katharine Morris moved to a small country house in Bleasby and by the age of twenty-three had written the first of her gentle stories of life in the English countryside. Morris became involved in PEN during the 1930s, the human rights organisation originally for ‘Poets, Essayists and Novelists', and by the ‘50s she was at her most productive. The Vixen's Cub was published by Macdonald of London.
He no longer saw the tree or the water, only this woman who was his mother. (from The Vixen’s Cub)
In 1951 a short story called Mountain Jungle won a prize at the Nottingham Writers' Club. The author was a 21-year-old Alan Sillitoe.
1952The Gentle Falcon (1952) by Hilda Lewis
The Gentle Falcon is a fictionalised biography of the child bride who married Richard II. Narrated by young Isabella Clinton, a close companion of the Queen, the book was published by Oxford University Press in 1952 and adapted for television two years later with Glen Alyn as the adult Isabella and Victoria Nolan playing her as a child. Hilda Lewis’ historical novel had special appeal to younger readers. There are excellent illustrations throughout from fellow Nottinghamian and renowned artist Evelyn Gibbs creator of the Midlands Group of Artists.
Some men brought home gold from the wars and some fine jewels, my father used to say, but he brought back the rarest jewel of them all - his bride. (from The Gentle Falcon)It was in 1952 that Agatha Christie attended the opening of what would become the longest running theatrical production. Christie’s The Mousetrap was performed for the first time in Nottingham’s Theatre Royal. The first Detective Sergeant Trotter was played by a young Richard Attenborough. The production opened here because Nottingham was regarded as a lucky city to launch new plays.
1953Nottingham, Settlement to City (1953) by Duncan Gray
Duncan Gray, a local librarian between 1935-1953, traces the history of Nottingham from the Anglo-Saxon settlement, on the site of the Lace Market, to the modern city of the mid-twentieth century. Detailed and well-illustrated, Nottingham Settlement to City is a companion volume to Gray’s Nottingham through 500 years.We do not know anything about Mr. Snot excepting that he gave his name to the earlier form of Nottingham, which was Snotingaham – the Ham or Home of the people of Snot. (from Nottingham Settlement to City)
There was a major exhibition in Nottingham in 1953. Independent television companies arrived here with their ideas to pitch and pilot new shows. Held at Nottingham's Albert Hall, the mostly light performances featured celebrities who also gave interviews. One of the game shows piloted set out to find the most happily married couple in Nottingham, with Eamonn Andrews as the host.
1954Food in England (1954) by Dorothy Hartley
Dorothy Hartley (1893–1985) was a social historian, skilled illustrator, and prominent author. She attended Nottingham Art School and later returned there as a teacher. Her books cover six centuries of English history but she’s best known as the author of Food in England. Still in print it’s been described by Delia Smith as, ‘A classic book without a worthy successor – a must for any keen English cook.’
In 1954 Michael Eaton was born in Sherwood. From his grandfather he inherited the complete works of Charles Dickens, and later adapted Dickens for theatre and radio. An award-winning dramatist Eaton is the writer behind the TV drama-documentaries Why Lockerbie, Shoot to Kill and Shipman, and original dramas including Signs and Wonders and Flowers Of The Forest. He has written several plays for Nottingham Playhouse including Charlie Peace – His Amazing Life and Astounding Legend and was Visiting Professor in the School of Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University.
1955Country Dance (1955) by Katharine Morris
Country Dance is another of Morris’ light stories of the English countryside. The locations are alive with nature providing an enriching influence on the characters as they respond to the season and their cycles of life. After her first novel was rejected, Morris sought advice from the eminent writer Lionel Britton, who urged her to base her next work on something she really knew about. From then on, village life and nature provided her with the inspiration she needed.Novelist Eric Malpass (1910-1996) was a household name in Germany (and across Europe), regularly topping the bestseller lists with his humorous and witty descriptions of rural England and family life. Malpass worked in Long Eaton for Barclays Bank for four decades. Encouraged by winning the Observer Short Story Competition in 1955 he left the bank to try to make it as a writer and his first novel followed two years later, winning Palma d'Oro in Italy for the best humorous novel of the year. He also wrote historical fiction as well as a trilogy of novels about Shakespeare, and other books including a novel based on the life of Notts-born Thomas Cranmer. Malpass lived close to his roots in the Midlands for all but the last few years of his life. He was President of the Nottingham Writers' Club.
1956The Hosanna Man (1956) by Philip Callow
Philip Callow’s debut novel is set in Nottingham and the Hyson Green area. Full of strong working-class, self-educated bohemians, its style is influenced by Lawrence, of whom Callow was a great admired and later wrote a biography Son and Lover. The autobiographical story has its protagonist Louis mixing with a range of well-defined characters. A Nottingham bookseller claimed one such character was based on him, and threatened to sue for libel for depicting him as someone who peddles under-the-counter pornography. Under this threat the novel was withdrawn and remaining copies were pulped. Thanks to Nottingham’s Shoestring Press, The Hosanna Man is now back in print.
In 1956 Willis Hall (1929-2005) spent eleven days at sea on a trawler to gain first-hand knowledge of the life of fishermen for his story Harvest of Sea. Hall was an English playwright and radio and television writer whose writing drew on his working-class roots. His is best-known for his stage adaptation of Billy Liar co-written with the book's author Keith Waterhouse. Hall penned the play The Long And The Short And The Tall set in British Malaya. After returning from Malaya he directed the then unknown John Dexter in a Nottingham YMCA production of Antigone. Hall moved from Nottingham to London in 1959.
1957Penny Lace (1957) by Hilda Lewis
Nicholas Penny works his way up from the factory floor to a master in this gritty story of lace in the late Victorian Nottingham of which it is mostly set. Perhaps the best novel about our lace industry Penny Lace is insightful and authentically descriptive. Mr Penny’s uneasy relationships with his colleagues and competitors add conflict to the strong storyline. Driven by hatred he adopts new methods of working that can undercut his rivals, one such man is to become Penny's father-in-law.Penny Lace was republished by Bromley House Editions in 2010.
Nottingham Playhouse announced Val May as their new artistic director in 1957. He joined the Playhouse at an important time in its history as building work had already started on its new home. May was one of the busiest and most versatile directors of his generation, forging links between regional theatre and the West End. His productions included 11 premieres between ’57 and ’61. From here he revived Richard II at the London Old Vic and his Nottingham production of Celebration, an early Waterhouse-Hall kitchen-sink regional comedy, was later seen in London at the Duchess.
1958Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958) by Alan Sillitoe
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning was written over seven years: some of the chapters originating from short stories, sketches and poems, all focusing on working class Nottingham and the Seaton family. Sillitoe portrayed ordinary people as he knew them and, in this book more than any other, he found his true voice. For twenty-two-year-old Arthur Seaton, a factory worker at Raleigh in Nottingham, life is one long battle with authority. After work is done Arthur becomes a hard-drinking, hard-fighting, hedonist, happy to bed married women and stuff the consequences. But following every Saturday night is a Sunday morning. Seaton aims to cheat the world before it can cheat him. He is unlikable and fascinating: as one reviewer put it, he ‘has the charm of a naughty dog’.Alan Sillitoe’s debut became an instant classic. Critics said Sillitoe’s voice was more authentic than D H Lawrence's but he never much valued the opinions of critics. He did, however, value the success of this novel which shifted over a million copies and brought him security which allowed a freedom to write throughout his life.
For it was Saturday night, the best and bingiest glad-time of the week, one of the fifty-two holidays in the slow-turning Big Wheel of the year, a violent preamble to a prostrate Sabbath. (from Saturday Night and Sunday Morning)
Nottingham’s Empire Theatre closed in this year. Many famous names treaded the boards here including Charlie Chaplin, Houdini, Lily Langtree, Arthur Askey, Tommy Trinder, Vera Lynn, Phillis Dixy, Laurel & Hardy, Buddy Holly, Billy Cotton & His Band, Eddie Calvert, Morecambe & Wise, Julie Andrews and Des O'Connor. It was at The Empire in 1954 that Ken Dodd made his first professional performance. In its later years weekly striptease shows appeared on the bill. The Theatre was closed by the Moss Empires chain in the June of ’58 with assurances that it would later re-open. Instead, the building was demolished.
1959The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (1959) by Alan Sillitoe
This collection begins with the title story, a powerful work focusing on Smith, a working-class lad in Borstal. Back home his use for running might have been to get away from the police but he’s now on the road to bringing glory to the institution he finds himself in – or so his governor and gaffer think. Smith has other ideas. A rebel whose only honesty is to himself, Smith uses running as a time to think and reflect on his situation. At the heart of this story is the contempt the young man has for established authority. The Sunday Express said that ‘this story should be required reading for do-gooders and do-badders alike’.
You might think it a bit rare, having long-distance cross-country runners in Borstal, thinking that the first think a long-distance cross-country runner would do when they set him loose in the fields and woods would be to run as far away from the place as he could get on a bellyfull of Borstal slum-gullion – but you’re wrong, and I’ll tell you why. (from The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner)
In 1959 a twenty-three-year-old Brian Blessed performed at Nottingham Playhouse in Two For The See Saw. A year earlier Blessed had met Agatha Christie here while he was working on the set of Spider’s Web. Blessed recently recalled the occasion, ‘I’d just left drama school, I built the sets and all kinds of things, and one day I was on my own in the theatre and silhouetted against the doorway which led onto the street was this tall women. She told me “You can call me Clarissa, my favourite name”.’ (Clarissa was Christie’s middle name) Blessed added, ‘I spent a fortnight with Christie and she helped me with the play… And she took me all over Nottingham.’
Meanwhile at our Theatre Royal; one-time Nottingham resident Willis Hall's play The Long And The Short And The Tall arrived at the theatre and starred a then little-known Cockney actor called Michael Caine. Caine had been Peter O’Toole’s understudy when the play had been in the West End but Caine took over for the national tour after O’Toole left to make Lawrence of Arabia.