I first read Lawrence’s debut novel The White Peacock (1911) about five years ago. I remember being struck by the vivid descriptions of landscape and what felt like a reference to a flower, plant or tree on every page. Flowers will feature in some capacity as an artefact in the Memory Theatre and so I recently reread the book, but this time with a highlighter. As Cyril Beardsall drags you across the fields of Nethermere, you’re presented with a sensory overload that at times felt like it may induce hay fever. Here’s one such example:
“The evening scents began to awake, and wander unseen through the still air. An occasional yellow sunbeam would slant through the thick roof of leaves and cling passionately to the orange clusters of mountain-ash berries. The trees were silent, drawing together to sleep. Only a few pink orchids stood palely by the path, looking wistfully out at the ranks of red-purple bugle, whose last flowers, glowing from the top of the bronze column, yearned darkly for the sun.”
My intention is to create a YouTube video to capture the breadth of such references but given that there are so many, they need to be categorised and ordered first. This is going to take a while and so it’s another project on the backburner. In the meantime, I came across this description of September in the novel which was begging to be made into a short video:
“I was born in September, and love it best of all the months. There is no heat, no hurry, no thirst and weariness in corn harvest as there is in the hay. If the season is late, as is usual with us, then mid-September sees the corn still standing in stook. The mornings come slowly. The earth is like a woman married and fading; she does not leap up with a laugh for the first fresh kiss of dawn, but slowly, quietly, unexpectantly lies watching the waking of each new day. The blue mist, like memory in the eyes of a neglected wife, never goes from the wooded hill, and only at noon creeps from the near hedges.”
John McCarthy, who previously created our Suez Canal video, was up for making another and so eagerly got to work on it, spending a day in a forest to capture the necessary shots. My brief was to create slow lingering shots so that Lawrence’s evocative descriptions took precedence; to not be on the nail when matching images to text but rather to capture the mood and feeling of the season. I find myself swaying as I type this. Once more he’s done a smashing job.
Lawrence was born on 11 September 1885 and each September sees a variety of events hosted as part of the D.H. Lawrence Festival – of which I am a council member. This year this includes a Lawrence/Leavis Day of talks followed by a birthday lecture by Keith Cushman entitled: ‘Affirmation and Anxiety in Lady Chatterley’s Lover’. As with any work you produce, being time specific is one way of generating interest.
The quote also means a lot to me because of the references to ‘the corn still standing in stook’. I grew up in a mining village south east of Nottingham and our street backed right out onto corn fields. My childhood was spent getting scratches from corn and dodging Combine Harvesters whereas my fiancé would help her father erect stooks when he worked seasonally as a farm labourer.
One of our favourite activities in summer is to laze about in fields listening to birdsong and watching the farmers cut the hay when they know there’s a few days of sunshine and it can be safely left out to dry. On such occasions we’ve witnessed an owl meandering low through the fields on the hunt for field mice and counted the vast array of plants and flowers growing in the hedgerow. All of which helps transport us momentarily from the 24/7 thrust of technocratic culture into a simpler and calmer world where it’s ok to pause and observe. And because of Lawrence, I now want to know the name of every plant and flower I’m looking at. This is what good literature does. It broadens your horizons, it makes you restless and inquisitive, it helps you see the world in a different light.
If you want to know why you shouldn’t mess about with Combine Harvesters read Joe Speedboat by Tommy Wieringa
The recent blocking of the Suez Canal caused a right tiz, bringing global trade to a grinding halt and $1 billion in compensation claims from angry exporters. But 101 years ago life was a bit slower. The above video visualises D.H. Lawrence’s plod along the Suez. Back when life was very different and it was ok to stand and stare.
It was created in collaboration with John McCarthy, a student at Nottingham Trent University who got in contact for some experience of video editing and mentoring. I really admire students who take the initiative and push for that extra experience (this is a voluntary placement and is not assessed). We will begin working on another film at the end of May.
We sat down and I outlined the tone and pace of the film and the need to keep things befitting to the historical period. This was definitely a film that required longer shots and stills rather than flitting between images. Then John had the creative freedom to select the images. We then met up and discussed the first draft which required a minor edit.
His motivation for getting involved with the project was the ‘creative freedom’ and to help with his future career. John said: ‘In the future I would like to be a film editor, I really enjoy editing as its where the project really comes to life. I see it as the last part of directing as you can decide on which shots to use, the pacing, and how the film will end up looking in a final cut. You can really decide how the film will look.’
The benefit of a placement for John is he gets mentoring and advice and a platform to showcase his work. The benefit for us is new content for the D.H. Lawrence Memory Theatre. It also forces me to come up with a new script and consider ways in which Lawrence’s work can shine a light on contemporary issues.
My hope with these placements is that students learn a bit about putting together a project and then have the confidence to go off and do something similar for themselves. Please find two minutes in your busy schedule to take a look or leave a comment on our YouTube channel. And if you do nothing else, make sure that you pause your 24/7 life for a few moments and enjoy life at 5mph as D.H. Lawrence did in 1922.
Extract of letter used in the film below:
“My Dear Rosalind,
Here we are on the ship – ten days at sea. It is rather lovely – perfect weather all the time, ship steady as can be, enough wind now to keep it cool…
I loved coming through the Suez Canal – 5 miles an hour – takes 18 hours – you see the desert, the sand hills, the low palm trees, arabs with camels working at the side. I like it so much….
Being at sea is so queer – it sort of dissolves for the time being all the connections with the land, and one feels a bit like a sea-bird must feel. It is my opinion that once beyond the Red Sea one does not feel any more that tension and pressure one suffers from in England – in Europe altogether…
It seems difficult in this world to get a new start – so much easier to make more ends.”
As part of our memory theatre project, we have created space for students at Nottingham Trent University to explore their own interpretations of Lawrence’s work. Here Jonathan Lucas explores Lawrence’s use of dialect as part of his final year English dissertation.
DH Lawrence had a special relationship with his native dialect, using the local vernacular speech of the mining community in his hometown Eastwood. Dialect acts as a prominent and dynamic symbol in many of his works, infusing depictions of his childhood experience with a certain raw authenticity that transcends words on a page.
In a late poem entitled ‘Red-herring’, Lawrence describes himself and his siblings as ’in-betweens’ and ‘little nondescripts’ speaking the Received Pronunciation they learned from their mother, Lydia, inside the house and the less respectable dialect, of their father Arthur and the rest of the town, outside it.
The breach between these two forms of speech had a significant impact on Lawrence’s perception of relationships between masculine and feminine, which he expresses in his semi-autobiographical novel, Sons and Lovers. To portray the rift in his upbringing, Lawrence based the characters of Walter and his wife Gertrude on his own parents, featuring intense bi-dialectic confrontations between the two, with Walter speaking in Eastwood dialect and Gertrude speaking in Received Pronunciation.
In both Sons and Lovers and The Rainbow, there is an impulse, largely associated with women, to break out of the parochial community that they feel trapped in. In a community marked off from the wider world through distinctive ways of speaking, characters such as Gertrude provide an alternative to the mould through their speech, mirroring Lydia and her desire to secure respectability for her sons, beyond the community of Eastwood. Lydia’s efforts worked as Lawrence’s ability to code switch from dialect to Received Pronunciation assisted in his transposed success, especially when he won a prestigious Nottinghamshire County scholarship to Nottingham High School, an extraordinary achievement for the son of an Eastwood miner.
Lawrence would go on to travel the world, escaping the mining community that would become the focus of much of his work. His dialect had personal connotations of primitive, masculine energy that he associated with his father – which he makes reference to in his essay ‘Nottingham and the mining country’: “The life was a curious cross between industrialism and the old agricultural England of Shakespeare and Milton and Fielding and George Eliot. The dialect was broad Derbyshire, and always ‘thee’ and ‘thou.’ The people lived almost entirely by instinct; men of my father’s age could not really read.”
The rudimentary essence of dialect is affectionately expressed in the description of the miners in Women in Love: “Their voices sounded out in strong intonation, and the broad dialect was curiously caressing to the blood. It seemed to envelop and run in a labourer’s caress, there was in the whole atmosphere, a resonance of physical men, a glamourous thickness of labour and maleness surcharged in the air.” The physicality of the miners’ bodies is what makes their dialect speech so powerful that it ‘caresses the blood’. The thick dialect courses through the miners’ veins and evaporates in the vibrations of their voices, creating an atmosphere humid with ‘a resonance of physical men’.
The notion of dialect being embedded into one’s blood as a pulse of instinctive life is something Lawrence was vocal about early on in his career, exemplified in a letter when he tells Blanche Jennings that his “verses are tolerable-rather pretty, but not suave; there is some blood in them.” Referring to the integrity within his use of un-refined words and syntax as ‘blood’ highlights how essential Lawrence considered dialect to be in his body of work. In the same letter, Lawrence goes on to say that he prioritises “sincerity, and a quickening spontaneous emotion” in his writing, a sense of immediate passion which is represented through dialect.
Lawrence’s poem ‘The Drained Cup’ ascribes dialect to a woman to show that the raw primitive instinct of his father is not exclusive to males. By using the same deliberately unrefined and explicit language as before, but through a female persona dealing with her lover’s unfaithfulness, Lawrence criticises masculine primitive instinct: “A man like thee can’t rest till the last of his spunk goes out of ‘im into a woman”. This string of monosyllabic words leading to the disyllabic “woman” illuminates how all of the lover’s masculine energy, his “spunk”, is focused towards women, thereby being impotent in the absence of a woman to direct it to.
This is reinforced later in the poem when ‘spunk’ then yields to ‘blood’: “Tha’rt one o’ th’ men as has got to drain-an I’ve loved thee for it. Their blood in a woman, to the very last vain” – this reduces men to their material substance – ‘spunk’ and ‘blood’ are all that men are good for in this instance.
Using dialect, Lawrence expresses the unrestrainable nature of humans, articulating obsessions with immediate and physical reality, exploring the collective primitive instinct that is shared by all but repressed by some and embraced by others – regardless of gendered boundaries constructed by society.
Dialect is the second artefact in the D.H. Lawrence Memory Theatre. Visit our project website to see contextual essays by Natalie Braber
When Paul Fillingham and me put together a large scale digital literary heritage project we spend a good couple of years building up a portfolio of interested stakeholders. There are two main reasons we do this. Firstly, if we want to secure funding from the Arts Council then it’s vital that we secure at least 10% of our budgetary costs from private investors. This can either take the form of direct investment or support-in-kind. This reassures the Arts Council that we’re serious and that other organisations believe in what we’re doing. The second motivation concerns broadening audiences and marketing. By building partnerships with a wide variety of organisations we have lots of people promoting our project through their networks. This means a more diverse range of people visit our website and these statistics can then be used to validate funding.
Stakeholder engagement is one of nine processes that underpin UX methodology. UX methodology acts as a framework that enables us to think through each stage in the production and curation of a digital project. The ultimate purpose of UX methodology is to reduce risk, work more efficiently, achieve more value and deliver a better audience experience. If we’re getting funded by an external organisation we have a responsibility to ensure our project is value for money and that it does what it sets out to do.
Stakeholder engagement is stage two in our UX methodology. It appears pretty early on in our plans as there’s no point producing something if there’s no appetite for it. One of the key theorists for explaining this process is R. Edward Freeman of the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. In the video at the top of the page he makes some very interesting points that are worth bearing in mind when putting together a project.
Firstly, he argues: “You can’t look at any one stakeholder in isolation. Their interest has to go together and the job of a manager is to figure out how the interests of customers, suppliers, communities, employees and financiers go in the same direction.” Freeman goes on to argue that business and ethics need to work in harmony. Whereas old school industrial capitalism had a faceless approach to business due to the emphasis on the pursuit of profit, Freeman believes stakeholder theory gives a ‘face’ and ‘name’ to individuals. It humanises working relationships. He even goes as far as to suggest: “what makes capitalism work is our desire to create value for each other. Not our desire to compete. Capitalism is the greatest system of social collaboration ever invented. It’s about how we cooperate together to create value for each other.”
With this in mind I invited Sandy Mahal, the director of UNESCO Nottingham City of Literature, to a module I am teaching at NTU that equips students with the skills to create their own digital literary projects. City of Literature are a vital stakeholder in our project not only because of the prestige and validation their association brings, but also because of the contacts they can offer, the relationships they are able to build, and the knowledge and experience they can share. We also share a common ‘value’ – we believe in Nottingham’s literary heritage. In the short spell that Sandy has been in post she has overseen some very exciting projects, including Story Smash, a collaboration with libraries and the National Video Game Arcade, and, more recently, with Visit Britain. It was this latter project that I was particularly interested in.
The Discover England Fund, administered by Visit England, has made £40 million available to projects that can enhance England’s tourism to overseas visitors through the project ‘Creating England’s Literary Greats‘. Focusing on the US travel trade, the project aims to explore the demand for increased literary themed visits to England, introducing new ideas for itineraries and presenting them to US tour operators to sell in their programmes.
Brendan Moffett, chief executive of Visit Nottinghamshire said:
“This is fantastic news for Nottinghamshire and we’re thrilled to have been awarded this opportunity to test the market to see if there’s an appetite for US tourists to explore our literary legends and their attractions, including DH Lawrence Birthplace Museum and Newstead Abbey.
The concept behind the project is based on research from VisitBritain, which has found that more than a third of overseas visitors want to see places from film and literature, and that almost half visited museums, art galleries, castles or historic houses – demonstrating the significance of the UK’s heritage and culture.
As part of this project, additional research will be commissioned to test if there is a real market for more literary themed visits, and we plan on making the most of this opportunity for Nottinghamshire to learn from experts in this field such as the Shakespeare’s Birthplace Museum and Jane Austen’s House Museum.”
Given that we intend to launch our travelling Memory Theatre in 2019 to mark the hundred year anniversary since Lawrence left England and embarked on his savage pilgrimage, this is a funding opportunity that directly relates to our project on numerous levels. Therefore, inviting Sandy in gave us an opportunity to understand her aims and how our project might support or enhance them.
Historically, Nottingham has been pretty rubbish at promoting and celebrating its literary heritage. We’ve been a lot happier shouting at others rather than shouting up for ourselves. But this is changing thanks to a lot of inspirational people in Nottingham – Henry Normal, Jared Wilson, Norma Gregory, Panya Banjoko, Rob Howie Smith, Leanne Moden, Pippa Hennessy, ‘Lord’ Beestonia and Ross Bradshaw are just a few names that spring to mind. Paul and me have done our bit as well through the Sillitoe Trail, which celebrated the enduring legacy of Alan Sillitoe’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, as well as Dawn of the Unread, a graphic novel celebrating Nottingham’s literary history, which City of Literature have supported by commissioning and publishing it as a learning resource to help improve literacy levels.
So far we’ve not been very good at celebrating DH Lawrence’s heritage. The recent closure of Durban House – and the flippant distribution of subsequent artefacts, as well as the building of a school that obscures a view of ‘the country of my heart’ suggest we’re stripping away our heritage rather than valuing it. This recent allocation of funding might help to address the balance.
Bearing in mind the principles of stakeholder theory and Freeman’s argument that ‘capitalism is the greatest system of social collaboration ever invented’ I think we can embrace these principles and attract tourism by constructing a very simple narrative that draws in a variety of relevant organisations. For example, after visiting the usual haunts in Eastwood, tourists could then be brought over to the Manuscripts and Special Collections department at the University of Nottingham and feast their eyes on the various Lawrence artefacts they’ve acquired over the years as well as Diana Thomson’s life-size bronze statue of Lawrence in the heart of the campus. They might take in a play at Lakeside while they are there as well. Or they could pop on the tram and head back into the city centre to visit the National Justice Museum for (pre-planned) talks on the Lady Chatterley Trial and its subsequent impact on freedom of expression. From here there’s the potential of a literary walk using local storytellers. We already have Chris Richardson (Chartism) and Ade Andrews (Robin Hood) offering bespoke walking tours, but Paul and me would be interested in putting together a Lawrence inspired walk in collaboration with the DH Lawrence Society. If there is a desire for this we could include details of walks in our memory theatre, or create an App…
There’s plenty of Lawrence sites in Nottingham. A good starting point is the Arkwright Building at NTU, formerly University College Nottingham. It was here – shortly after his 21st birthday in 1906 – that Lawrence trained to be a teacher, enrolling on a full-time degree course. Lawrence became disillusioned with the standard of teaching and left in 1908, deciding not to bother with a degree. His disillusionment is captured in the poem ‘Nottingham’s New University’ in Pansies (1929). He would be even more disillusioned at the level of education today on discovering the plaque commemorating his time at the college is wrong!
From here the tour could continue up the hill to Nottingham High School, situated upon a steep sandstone ridge. Founded in 1513, it’s the former school of Lawrence, Geoffrey Trease – author of 113 books, and more recently the playwright Michael Eaton. Around the High School are various locations that would inspire Lawrence’s debut novel The White Peacock. For those feeling energetic, a 30 minute walk down Mansfield Rd into Carrington will eventually lead to Private Road, where Lawrence met Frieda Weekley and convinced her to leave her husband and children and elope with him. The walk could finish at the Nottingham Writers’ Studio – a potential home for our memory theatre – where local writers could discuss issues from Lawrence’s life, such as the censorship they may feel as a result of their gender, ethnicity or world outlook.
All of these things are possible with proper planning and consultation. Together, Nottingham can bring real ‘value’ if people and organisations are brought into the conversation. But you can only be part of a conversation if you don’t know it’s happening, which is why I invited Sandy to come and talk to students today and why I will be inviting many other people as well. And if I haven’t invited you, dear reader, please get in touch.
In the DH Lawrence Memory Theatre we want to address aspects of Lawrence’s life through artefacts. We want to bring ‘value’ to his heritage and to do this we need as many collaborators as possible. If you have an idea you can submit ideas here.