Moves are afoot to keep Nottingham’s celebrated author Alan Sillitoe in the public eye by publishing an anthology of writing by other esteemed local authors reflecting on the city, the man and the importance of his work. I never met Alan, but everything I’ve heard since becoming involved in this project points to him being immensely generous towards fledgling writers and utterly scurrilous with regard to the establishment, authority and the publishing industry. He was also a dogged smoker, only giving up in the final years of his life.
So when asked if I would contribute something to the anthology it seemed a no-brainer to pose Alan in a Nottingham bar (the most famous being The Trip to Jerusalem) toting for a light and surrounded by local characters. When it came to the design of the image, it also made some kind of sense to produce a kind of homage to Manet’s famous painting, though I stress the homage begins and ends with the dynamics of the design. For example, the deeper meaning of Manet’s bowl of oranges (apparently underlining that the woman behind the bar is a prostitute) is tempered by changing them to Bramley apples, first grown in Southwell, Nottinghamshire and named after the local butcher!
It is my understanding that this anthology and other proposed initiatives around Sillitoe’s Nottingham legacy is all part of a move to try and get a statue erected to him, which would be a nice fillip for those pursuing the city’s bid to become a UNESCO City of Literature.
(The other characters seen in the mirror behind Alan are, left to right, busker ‘the xylophone man’, writer and activist Ray Gosling, playwright Stephen Lowe, poet/musician Dave Turner, author DH Lawrence, independent publisher Ross Bradshaw, Forest manager Brian Clough, pub-trader ‘the cockles man’, poet Lord Byron and songwriter Wayne Evans.)