Though I'd known Alan Sillitoe was pretty ill it was nevertheless a shock when his death was announced (on 25 April). He had been in touch recently, passing on material he thought would be of interest, and Ruth Fainlight - his wife - had been encouraging me to call by when next in London. Unfortunately I did not appreciate how urgent that call should be.
I would not want to exaggerate how close Alan was to Five Leaves. He contributed to our collection City of Crime, a collection of crime short stories by Nottinghamshire writers, had a couple of poems in our anthology of Nottingham poets and we called our anthology of recent Nottinghamshire writers Sunday Night and Monday Morning as an obvious homage to his rather better known Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.
Alan was, however, a great supporter of our Lowdham Book Festival - indeed any local event he could support. He appeared at the very first Lowdham Festival, launched later books there, introduced his films, spoke at our winter weekend on biography - anything he could do to help. He also appeared at the pre-flight Nottinghamshire Readers and Writers Day and Southwell Poetry Festival. If he was free he would do it, and that included times when his health was not so great. Alan was reasonably careful with money but always refused a fee or expenses if it promoted literature in Nottingham. He wanted to support what others did locally, and if he could lend his name or his presence he would.
We didn't always see eye to eye over Israel. Alan was a firm supporter of Zionism, but our occasional arguments were not an issue and he happily reviewed one of our books in European Judaism.
I was pleased to initiate Nottingham City Council giving Alan the Freedom of the City, in his 80th year. John Harvey was the speaker at the big event, an event packed with local writers who owed Alan a great debt.
Alan and Ruth recently became honorary joint presidents of the local Bromley House Library. I am sure BH, Five Leaves, Lowdham Book Festival and others will want to mark Alan's passing at a suitable time. Meantime of course, we offer our condolences to Ruth, and to the others in Alan's family.