Elite at GameCity, Nottingham

Rob Writes:

Elite RobWell, the Elite Day at the GameCity Festival was great fun; a true celebration of one of the first PC games. The set-up was shown on a huge screen and it was a tad slower than perhaps memory remembered, but what a game!

An enormous marquee had been set up in Nottingham’s Market Square. Inside, many hundreds of origami spaceships from the original Elite were made, and later to be found floating through the square itself.

The day began with a brilliant and profound presentation by David Puttnam, who drew the link between games, as they are now, and film, and called for a more effective educational and narrative function in the former, whilst celebrating the independent cinema that is running hard alongside Hollywood. It was a great speech, and can certainly be found on the GameCity website.

On a personal note, I was delighted to discover that he produced The Duellists, Ridley Scott’s first directed film and one of my all time favourite films. He also drew attention to The Hurt Locker, (bomb disposal in Afganistan) which is probably THE film of 2009, directed by Katherine Biggelow. Hard, sad, but very very important.

The two young men who devised Elite have gone in different directions. Ian Bell is now in IT and out of the game world. David Braben runs his own games company, with a very solid staff. They both, along with four others, gave a a brief talk about their involvement with Elite, and its meaning after 25 years. David is clearly in sympathy with the views of Lord Puttnam. It was good to meet them both again after 25 years.

Elite Trio
Mark Bolitho (Origami expert) and David Braben with Rob at the Elite Day

Had I read the programme — I had failed to do so — I would have seen that my reading from ‘The Dark Wheel’, the novella that accompanied the original Elite, was to be accompanied in turn by the choir of Nottingham Trent University. They were to perform The Blue Danube. I rapidly changed the proposed reading to something a tad calmer (though it was still a bit ‘shoot-’em-up). I guess they were sixty in number, and they performed beautifully. Twice. It was a very evocative and moving presentation. Well done, that choir.

Beer followed, and then I left. And when I left, the marquee was being set up for a ‘jungle game’ that promised to be very dangerous. Excellent.

Ian, James, Geri, Mark, thanks for a great day.

(Thanks to Ian Simon at GameCity for the photos and permission to use them.)


  1. Hello, Mr.Holdstock, I just want to express my admiration for your books and let you know that 20 yrs ago I read Mythago Woods and I read it from the bookstore till I got home by that night I had already finished it, it impacted me so much. That book here in Mexico was a soft cover, my grandfather, who used to be a printer, rebound the book for me and its my treasure not only for the connection to my grandfather but for the impact that novel had in my youth, Im eager to get my hands on Avilion and continue the story of Guiwenneth & Steve. Thank you for continuing their story.


  2. Recordamos este ultimo agosto en La Herradura de Granada sentados en la terraza con el mar al fondo chapurreando en ingles,español y frances sobre ciencia ficcion y oyendo a todo volumen a Led Zeppelin junto a Sarah,Ana nuestra traductora y amiga y Pacita nustra hija.Un abrazo a Sarah desde Granada. Te queremos.


  3. I was saddened to hear of the passing of Robert. I first read The Dark Wheel Novella in 1984 at the tender age of 14. I was amazed and enchanted by the story, and eagerly devoured anything else written by Robert over the years. He will live on until those whose lives he has touched are no more. My condolences, I’d only wished I’d had the chance to meet you and tell you how much you’ve inspired me.


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