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20th Century Notts: 1982-1984

John Baird
Mon 8 Oct, 2018

Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting as Reginald Dwight pays Nottingham a visit.

1982

Portrait of Nottingham by Emrys Bryson (revised edition 1982)

‘Mr Bryson has put Nottingham in print, and between covers, so that whoever carries this book about will have the soul of the city as an intimate companion,’ wrote Alan Sillitoe in his foreword to the 1982 edition of Portrait of Nottingham, first published in 1974.

Bryson came to Nottingham as a teenager. Working at Nottingham Evening Post and Nottingham Guardian he got to know the city and wrote about it in an amusing manner that also cut to the heart of the city and its people. His Nottingham was an inventive, paradox of a community on the river Trent, a feminine town with a tough masculine soul, a place where controversy rages.

His other Nottingham book, 'Owd Yer Tight from 1967, was performed at the Playhouse.

If Nottingham happened to be in Texas, there would be no holding it. (from Portrait of Nottingham)

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Work on the Royal Concert Hall was completed in this year. Nottingham’s contemporary 2,499-seater, state-of-the-art, air-conditioned auditorium first played host to Elton John. In the afternoon before his concert, the singer had watched his Watford side beat Forest 4-2, a result he reminded his audience of later that evening. Elton John - cousin of Forest’s cup final hero Roy Dwight - met his fans before the show and switched on the concert hall's £40,000 neon sculpture, the cause of much controvery. Elton described the sculpture as ‘great’ but many locals thought it resembled colourful scaffolding.

Other stars to appear within the first year of its opening included Dire Straits, The Kinks, Haircut 100, Elvis Costello, Leo Sayer, The Stranglers and Ultravox.

1983

Jobey by Leslie Williamson (1983)

Billed as ‘A time of struggle, a time of love, a time of tragedy’, Jobey is set during the General and then Miners' Strike of 1926. Like his hero D H Lawrence, Leslie Williamson was born in Eastwood; unlike Lawrence, he stayed there.

Jobey’s love is for the daughter of the local colliery's boss, his community's biggest employer. Like many stories of strikes, the protagonist is conflicted and his allegiances are tested. The plot features an underground explosion, the plight of the miners stuck below ground powerfully told. Throughout the novel, the working-class characters and their dialect are authentically depicted and the book came out at a prescient time with the miners' strike of 1984-5 just around the corner.

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Richard (Dick) Iliffe, a local photographer and film maker, died in this year. Richard and his colleague Wilf Baguley set up the Nottingham Historical Film Unit that housed a large collection of old Nottingham photographs from the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Many of these images were published in a series of books. The stories in pictures that Nottingham Historical film Unit published included Victorian Nottingham, and Edwardian Nottingham. Both books are worth a look.

1984

Look Back in Anger, The Miners' Strike in Nottinghamshire by Harry Paterson (2014)

Thirty years after the Great Strike for Jobs, Nottinghamshire in still in recovery. Look Back in Anger, by Notts author Harry Paterson, reflects on the events of the strike year and its aftermath, and provides a history of the Nottinghamshire coalfields through the twentieth century. With the use of memorabilia and personal letters from the period, together with interviews with striking and working miners, Coal Board officials, women active in opposing the pit closures, and Council officials, it’s an attempt to tell the real story. Paul Mason contributes the Afterword.

From the vantage point of thirty years later, it must be difficult for younger people to fully grasp the significance of the 1984/5 miners’ strike. Equally, it must be difficult to understand that impact that this, the most bitterly-charged industrial dispute in British history, had on everything that followed. (from Look Back in Anger)

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It was in this year that Jonathan Emmett came to live in Nottingham, initially to study architecture. It wasn't until 1999 that the children’s author and illustrator’s first book was published but his picture books have gone on to become hugely popular, placing him on the libraries’ list of most borrowed authors. The award-winning author has produced over sixty children’s books and his work has been translated into over 30 different languages. Dinosaurs After Dark is based on Nottingham’s city centre, a city in which the author still lives.

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