M is for Nottingham?  

Comments by Writers and Readers:

Because M is for Nottingham? was a highly experimental process, the responses of Readers and Writers to the experience is of particular value.  We hope that our venture into the combination of online writing and real-world drama will be of assistance to other collaborative writing projects.

Writers:

Margaret Penfold - Joan Flower:

Although this was the most enjoyable of all collaborative writing I have taken part in I was initially confused on the theme. I wanted to concentrate on the future of literature and the meaning of the word 'book' and to discuss this thread as it might appear from different cultures through history.

However other writers, especially the committee, had different agenda, so I eased myself into a Falstaff-type role while watching what was going on. I thoroughly enjoyed the rag-performance at the end, but wondered if it was more for the benefit of the players than the audience. I was disappointed that the concert appeared to cap the writing. I would have been prepared to participate in a discussion on the fate of the book. I was full of admiration for the way Marjorie Luesebrink pulled all the threads together and amazed at Jane Dorner's clever animation. Sadly in every collaborative writing piece I have participated in there has always been only one person pulling the threads at the end.  Eventually, I guess, people will see that all processes can be collaborative (and probably take a degree in collaborative writing before they dare venture on it).

I was sorry that when we "met" at the pub or Newton Abbey or the town centre we could not follow a virtual route through hyperlinks. It would have been great to have had the various sites set up in a Moo with a map showing how to get round. Perhaps collaborators could have been given a room each to furnish so that people could look round when they arrived, pick up clues or evidence, leave notes as to where to find more evidence and meet regularly at a central discussion point.

Deena Larsen - Will-o:

First off, Great cheers and thanks go to Marjorie and Helen and all who put this together. It was a great
experience--even from an online only sidelines. 

It is intriguing to couch a philosophical conversation as a mystery--what has happened to the book and where
are we going now? I had a terrific time wandering on and off the path and ferreting out the ideas and
clues. It was wonderful to throw in (and catch) the allusions and the mystery.

The format worked well--but it would be nice to have a search capability to make it easier to follow past
references--it was hard to get a sense of the overall whole. 

However, the senses that did come through were intoxicating and lovely. thanks to all!

Mary Percival - Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine:

Queen Eleanor has instructed me to say how much she enjoyed her visit to our century. She had no idea that Nottingham has so many different places to explore. Indeed discovering that Newstead Abbey was once the home of a fellow writer, the Queen issued a proclamation that all citizens from Cresswell Crags to Monsal Head in Derbyshire will have a public holiday of one whole day on the anniversary of discovery. 
I did not dare point out to her that she failed to tell us the date or which discovery she referred to. But I know there was a party at the the Old Inn which lasted for a few days.
The Queen wishes it to be known that she is glad that Nottingham will never be forgotten by the citizens of time. The underlined sign posts on the electric highways she traveled upon were very easy to understand and follow. Her journeys were always happy and filled with serendipity at every turn. The responses she received, especially from your good self were immediate and always delivered in the utmost courteousness a citizen could have to a member of the Royal family.  Also she wishes it to be known that she had a most enjoyable experience and actually (though she won't admit this aloud) pleasurable time.  You gave her scope to explore Nottingham in a unique way. Something she only appreciated late on in the venture.
She has also asked me to thank you very much for being so encouraging and an inspiration to her.  Here is a magnum of champagne.
Good luck,
Mary Percival on behalf of The Queen Eleanor of Acquitane.

Jane Dorner - Marion, the Gunmaker's Daughter

I have always felt collaborative projects add a richness to the whole that individuals on their own cannot achieve. In the creative world this occurs where people have a defined role film director, make-up artist, stunt man, and so on. But Rarely does it work to have a collaboration of writers and artists of more than two. At certain stages of a creative work, someone has to be in control of the bit they are doing; otherwise the sense of narrative spine can be lost.

In the case of the Merry Sleuths of Nottingham, I felt I was adding my bits on screen, but they were inconsequential to the whole thing - which was indeed taking off in all directions and was only pulled together because Margie acted as a director and drew out something meaningful from it. She had to act within constraints - as all art does - because she could only work with the people who were available to act out the parts at the conference itself. She was also very open to the way in which it then developed as people interacted with each other and had ideas.

As for the performance itself well of course it was fun for us acting it out, but what was it like for the audience? I think we need to involve them more in the experiment another time. They need to collude with us in an activity and not be a passive watcher. If they are watchers, then what we deliver must be more meaningful and polished than it was. But if they are a part of the experiment, then we can get get away with the spirit of enquiry with which it was informed.

 

Jeremy Duffield - Richard the Lionheart

M for Nottingham was the first truly collaborative piece I had worked on. I enjoyed adopting the persona of one of the players and writing from that view point. One aspect was that I learnt more about the characters as it was great to be able to pursue a narrative without the danger of writing yourself into a corner. If something happened to produce a blind alley there was always someone else who could come up with a solution to the problem.  Personally, the narrative was my focal point although the philosophical agendas made interesting reading, and in some cases rounded out personalities. The infrastructure of the site was enjoyable to navigate and was packed with interesting facts and photographs of Nottingham and the surrounding district.

It actually became addictive. Logging on each day reading all the new entries and contributing. There were even stages (when we were arranging meetings) when it became difficult to distinguish between the real and the virtual (and I hope I didn't miss the opportunity of a glass at the Trip) The culmination was the actual meeting of many of the contributors and the enactment of the piece (which you had edited into a cohesive whole magnificently) The only pity was that we had so little rehearsal - and the fact that we came to the end of the writing.

Readers:

 

This project combineed collaborative Web writing, mystery game, an introduction to the history and sights of Nottingham, and a live drama that took place during the Incubation 2 Conference in July, 2002.  M is for Nottingham? allowed writers to join together at a collaborative Website in May and June of 2002 to create a persona, interact with others, find clues to the mystery on the Web and in the virtual haunts of Nottingham, and write segments of the mystery story.

Then, during the actual conference, volunteers arrived in costume and played out the denouement of the M is for Nottingham? drama (a drama structured by the growth of the sleuthing activities of the Website); players and members of the audience were invited to participate in this evening entertainment.  

 ["Already there are reports of The White Lady roaming the halls of Newstead Abbey in the wee hours of the morning, searching for clues, looking for the corpse. . . ."]

 

 

***

"the last letter of the 
Name has been written
"


Project Organisers: 

Marjorie Coverley Luesebrink (M.D. Coverley), Creator and Web Designer


Helen Whitehead, Nottingham Director


Roger Parish, Senior Librarian, Nottingham City Council - Research Advisor


Cathy Grindrod, Literature Development Officer, Nottingham City Council - Local Writer Liason.

M.D. Coverley 2002