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20th Century Notts: 1973-1975

John Baird
Thu 13 Sep, 2018

Our saunter through the last century reaches the mid-1970s and a Nottingham author wins the Booker Prize.

1973

Nancy of Nottingham by Audrey Coppard (1973)

Nancy and her brother are sent by their father to the big city of Nottingham after their mother dies. The young villagers are shocked at the poverty and struggle awaiting them in early 19th Century Nottingham as they adjust to life with their uncle and aunt. Nancy is subjected to the harsh workhouse laws and, near starvation, she must struggle to survive. She observes the hard times and unemployment as machines have taken over the traditional work of stocking-makers. Unrest leads to a brave response as machines are smashed under the leadership of the mysterious Captain Ludd. Coppard’s tale of poverty and injustice is also a successful coming-of-age story. The 144-page Nancy of Nottingham was published by Heinemann.

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Rowland Emett, cartoonist for Punch magazine, artist and quirky inventor, designed and built an elaborate clock which first appeared in the Victoria Centre in this year. Emett is most famous for producing the car and inventions in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (story: Ian Fleming, screenplay: Roald Dahl). Emett's 23-foot water fountain is one of only two of his inventions that remain on permanent display in the UK.

1974

Holiday by Stanley Middleton (1974)

The 1974 Booker Prize was the first to be awarded to two novels jointly; Nadine Gordimer’s The Conservationist and Stanley Middleton’s Holiday. There had been some controversy as the judging panel included the novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard, the wife of one of the shortlisted authors, Kingsley Amis.

In Holiday, a grieving Edwin Fisher seeks understanding. The recently separated lecturer visits a seaside resort where he ponders the themes of life, death and broken relationships. Told through thoughts and flashbacks we enter the head of Fisher, a disgruntled, contemptuous and vulnerable man in need of security. “Everybody judges from the point of view of his own inadequacy,” reflects Fisher whose perspective shifts in unexpected ways.

At thirty-two Edwin Fisher admitted his emotional immaturity when he thought back to those days, in that he felt again the embarrassment, the shame, the yearning to be elsewhere or some other body, which had constantly nagged him miserable. (from Holiday)

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Jim Lees of Nottingham set up the Robin Hood Society in 1974. Later dubbed 'the world's foremost authority on Robin Hood' by CBS Television, Lees would obsessively pursue the legendary outlaw for 40 years concluding that the real Robin was Robert de Kyme, born around 1210 at Bilborough. A researcher for the 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves consulted Mr Lees - author of The Quest for Robin Hood (1987) - and offered him a walk-on part in the Costner movie.

Robin Hood Radio didn’t fare so well in this year, missing out to Radio Trent for the rights to begin broadcasting as Nottingham's commercial radio station.

1975

The Stones of Maggiare by Miranda Seymour (1975)

Before writing biographies, Miranda Seymour wrote fiction. Her first novel The Stones of Maggiare - described as 'gripping historical fiction' - came out in 1975. It’s a meticulously researched work, set in Renaissance Italy and based on the chronicles of the Sforza family. Seymour is a novelist, biographer and critic whose has been a visiting professor at Nottingham Trent University. She lives in her family’s ancestral home in Nottinghamshire, Thrumpton Hall.

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The (old) Broadmarsh Shopping Centre was opened by H.R.H, The Duke of Gloucester in 1975. This followed years of plans, promises and protestations (the first plans came out in 1949). Many people had wanted to save the historic area that by 1975 had become buried under concrete. The needless destruction of the ancient Drury Hill was a real blow to the city. Councillor Len Maynard had said: “I am very sorry to see Drury Hill go but a small alleyway should not inhibit the progress of a large scheme.” The medieval thoroughfare of Drury Hill could have been preserved and used as a tourist attraction. Instead, it’s lost forever. The 'new' Broadmarsh might become the home to a new Central Library, with ambitions to house the best children’s library in Britain.

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