Derrick Buttress began writing in his early forties. Recently turned eighty, he has just had his first collection of short stories published by Shoestring Press. On Wednesday 11 April he will be giving his first public reading from Sing To Me at Lee Rosy’s at 7.30pm. So if you like a cuppa with a fancy name and want to witness a very rare public appearance from one of the best writers in Nottingham, this is not an occasion to be missed.
Buttress is the author of two memoirs, Broxtowe Boy and Music While You Work, both of which detail his life growing up in the 1930s and through the war years. His depictions of working class life has led to comparisons with Alan Sillitoe in that he writes knowingly and honestly about the back streets of his home city, warts and all. Buttress is also the author of five poetry collections which address similar themes.
It may have taken Buttress until his eighth decade to finally stump up a short story collection, but really he’s been penning them for years without realising it. His poetry is really short stories in denial, vignettes that have been waiting patiently to be turned into fiction. Indeed, many of the stories in this collection can be traced back to older screenplays or extensions from his memoirs, finally finding home in their natural genre.
The great skill of Buttress’ writing is his ability to give just the right amount of detail - like a good poached egg that wobbles as you place it on the toast but only bursts yolk when you prod it with the knife - he always leaves the reader in control of their own feelings, showing, not telling. So we learn that poverty is difficult but nothing that can’t be remedied with a bit of imagination. This is his real gift. His tales are imbued with hope and a love of life, both equally as important to survival as the ration book. In this, his style is more similar to Alan Beard than Alan Sillitoe.
The evening will also see another celebration as Buttress’ writing is just about to enter the digital world as he’s been commissioned by the Alan Sillitoe Committee to be their first writer on a new multimedia platform called The Space which is launched on 1 May. The project is funded by the Arts Council with support from the BBC and is a six month project involving 53 organisations selected out of 800 to basically become guinea pigs for what could be the future of broadcasting. The project takes a look through Sillitoe’s Nottingham via a Mobile App trail, visiting key locations from the novel . Buttress will be exploring his changing relationship with Market Square over the decades, taking us back to when communists and G.Is could be found crossing the slabbed square now inhabited by the Occupy movement. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.