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Saturday Night, Sunday Morning the exhibition

6 January 13 words: Sanjay Brown
"Once a rebel, always a rebel. And it's best to be a rebel so as to show 'em it don't pay to try to do you down"
Saturday Night, Sunday Morning the exhibition - Raleigh workers with bike wheels - photo by Kenneth R Cole

Saturday Night, Sunday Morning the exhibition - Raleigh workers with bike wheels - photo by Kenneth R Cole 

If Alan Sillitoe is to Nottingham what Charles Dickens was to Victorian London, then Saturday Night, Sunday Morning is his Great Expectations - that is the only book that people can name when you ask them.

At the Lakeside gallery this winter a collection of photographs and films celebrate the cinematic version of the novel and examine the influences, streets and people of Nottingham that forged it. Some of the personality of the author is transmitted in quotes on the wall, most notably at the entrance, where the following words give a swift kick to the innocent art viewer;

"Once a rebel, always a rebel. And it's best to be a rebel so as to show 'em it don't pay to try to do you down."

The pictures are set out comparatively, so there are shots of workers at the Nottingham Raleigh factory going about their usual daily business juxtaposed with shots of Albert Finney under instruction from a production line worker, getting just the right amount of method acting into the character of Arthur as well as stills from the films itself. What strikes the viewer is the accuracy of the sets, and the inaccuracy of the casting. Albert Finney stands handsome and rogueishly upset in the same Hollywood way that Marlon Brando posed in The Wild One, and Shirley Anne Field, who played Arthur's (main) love interest is impossibly beautiful, at least for someone from Beaconsfield.

Arthur (Albert Finney) cycling home from Raleigh - Film still 1960 - Woodfall/ BFI

Arthur (Albert Finney) cycling home from Raleigh - Film still 1960 - Woodfall/ BFI 


Additionally, the pictures are historically interesting, both for the shots of working class Nottinghamians of the 60s and the sights of a film crew in the middle of it all. Also there are signs that not everything was as drab as we like to think before the Beatles and drugs and fun came along. There are some heartening pictures of old women nursing pints and telling crude milkman jokes in the pub as well as evidence of the beginnings of a multi-cultural society, with pictures of a West Indian social club meeting and adverts for Woodborough Road beauty salons staffed with fresh-faced immigrants from the Empire.

Young people dance and drink, rub their feet in pain during a break in the Jive Marathon, make eyes at each other over the pub table and these are mimicked in the film stills, the same venues, the same movements, just better looking people. Interesting items pop up among the debris, a picture of Shirley Anne Field with Alan Sillitoe's mother Sabina, strangely written advertising tie-ins for beer, playing cards and "fried fish shops" and a little-seen documentary called The Factory, running on a smaller wall opposite the film itself.

The exhibition is of interest to film buffs and local history fans alike and is a strange mixture of documentary and social examination that doesn't always run together, but for anyone who is familiar with the material of either, this is a great opportunity to see the people and places who lived the real Saturday night, and felt a bit rough the next morning.

Saturday Night, Sunday Morning the exhibition runs at the Lakeside Arts Gallery until Sunday 10 February.

View the Saturday Night, Sunday Morning exhibition guide as a pdf.

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