Al Needham, photograph by David Sillitoe
Arthur Century Later 1
Originally published in 2012 as part of theSpace arts project funded by Arts Council England and the BBC
The second featured writer is Al Needham, editor of LeftLion magazine, who is writing a series of essays about the demise of the British pub as part of the second featured location, The White Horse. In his introductory essay, Al Needham explains how Nottingham has changed over the past half century, rendering it unrecognisable to a modern day Arthur Seaton.
Every few years, the idea of an updated remake of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning is mooted by a television company. And every few years and a couple of seconds later, the idea is knocked on the head, and everyone in Nottingham breathes a sigh of relief – partly because it spares us the sound of someone who used to be in EastEnders attempting a Notts accent and failing spectacularly, partly because we know that Nottingham in the late fifties is nothing like the Nottingham of today, but mainly because we’ve already updated the book in our heads a thousand times, and we’re not prepared to accept an alternate recasting of our hero and our city. To paraphrase the man himself; whatever a media ponce says we are, that’s what we’re not.
When we bring Arthur Seaton into the 21st Century, the first thing we sort out is his Saturday night, and in which of the hundreds of licensed venues that are scattered across Nottingham he’d hit up. And we’re always wrong, because the answer correlates exactly with the pubs we drink at (because we all secretly like to see ourselves as the scion of Seaton). Although you think it would be easy – think of all the places a thirsty, lairy, randy factory lad would patronise, narrow it down to the places that are doing three-for-ones – it’s not that simple, for many reasons.
For starters, it’s safe to assume that Arthur Seaton wouldn’t be falling down the stairs of the White Horse, as it’s now one of those curry houses that also do chicken and kebabs. In fact, he wouldn’t be drinking in Radford at all; whilst back in 1958 you could do a pub crawl without ever once leaving the estate, hardly anywhere in the residential areas of Nottingham have more than a couple of pubs, none of which would have the remotest appeal to a 21-year-old lad with a wage packet burning a hole in his pocket.
Maybe Arthur, like a lot of locals, would keep themselves to the fringes of the city centre, such as Mansfield Road (where the entire pub spectrum is crammed into one strip of real estate), Canning Circus (a nice collection of bars a brisk walk away from Radford) or West Bridgford. Alright, maybe not the latter place; it’s a nice collection of bars in a well-to-do area, but Arthur’s proletarian hackles would prickle at the thought of drinking in what’s known to the rest of Notts as ‘Bread and Lard Island’, due to the long-held suspicion that the residents can’t afford to eat anything else while they’re paying off the mortgages on their big houses. No, he’s barely in his twenties; he’d be on a mission. The city centre (universally known as ‘Town’ or ‘Taahn’ to the locals) it is.
Arthur Century Later 2
Read Al Needham’s second essay in which he imagines Arthur Seaton waking up from his fall in 2012 and discovering a very different drinking culture.
The Sillitoe Trail
Take your own interactive tour of the author’s city and follow in Arthur Seaton’s footsteps around Nottingham, exploring the real locations of key scenes from the novel. You can go back to the Old Market Square or visit The White Horse pub, the Raleigh factory, the River Trent and Goose Fair. For updated content, visit Sillitoe Trail Xtra
Follow: Arthur Seaton @Thespacelathe on Twitter
Download: Sillitoe Trail Factory Handbook (17MB PDF)
Fillingham and Walker 2012 - 2023