Nottingham Mark Two

So I returned to Nottingham last weekend. While I kinda missed the place, I certainly missed the people I met. Last weekend a lot of the MA-ers were handing in their dissertations and I wanted to see them, look at the place again and see a street art exhibit at the Contemporary. I managed to do most.

You might have read the blog I re-posted on FB dispensing my initial thoughts of the city (town?) from July 2010. Reaction was swift from locals in particular who felt I’d done the place a disservice. Jon called it harsh (but liked the ending), Siobhan referred to Nottingham as a aesthetic and cultural dream (come on…!) while Ashley assumed I didn’t like it. Well I did.

Last weekend was the marathon which in 2010 had marked my first weekend in the flat, a pretty but cold place with high ceilings, no TV or internet and ultimately too damn far away from Uni. I checked the TV this weekend and Big Fish was on, one of my favourite films. That was on last year too.  I love that film. So it all means its been one year for Mila and Basia too, since I met Mila and gave her the keys to the flat before running off somewhere for something.

I mentioned I found the city a curiosity. But there are small gems mostly in the Hockley area; Broadway cinema, Rosey’s Tea Shop, Jam Cafe or the Contemporary. Further a-field there’s the Orange Tree, Sir John, Crocus Cafe, The Golden Fleece, The Maze, the cheesecake shop etc. All these places became my haunts. I’m a recognised face, for better or worse. 🙂

I said ‘I was a fool for now’ in the original piece lulled in by the city’s gentle atmosphere. Little changed overall. As I got to know it, I liked it more, felt comfortable and found my homes with ease. The city is still very walk-able (except to Uni), the roads and pavements are quiet and the townsfolk are kind. A serious saving grace are the music venues, acoustic nights everywhere and plenty of international bands called through.

As you can tell I’m still pretty ambivalent about the city but in a positive warm way. I think a lot is related to the University. It does have an out the way, ivory tower feel about it. It lacks a hub. The Union building feels like a shell, the bar is paltry and only the library or just outside could be considered a meeting point. It lacks a community vibrancy, a homely feel. Its almost a chore to get there. Lenton and Beeston are the same. They can’t act as student hubs for they lack the infrastructure. No pubs, no real cafe, no communal vibe.

There’s a Cathedral. Did you now that? You may have walked past it on numerous occasion but it looks more like a small church. There’s a castle that isn’t. It also lacks, and this may be a benefit a distinctive street or area like Broad Street in Birmingham, famous for its run of pubs and curry houses or Big Market in Newcastle. The higgledy-piggledy nature of the centre with its weaving streets and lanes make it difficult to gather an image.

But putting it all in relative perspective, few cities in the UK stand out. Bristol has a vibrant music scene with access to the sea, Liverpool is Newcastle plus The Beatles, Manchester is trying to go Northern Cosmopolitan, Bath and York are lovely but quaint. Only Edinburgh, Brighton and London stand out as go-to cities. Nowhere else really stands up.

Returning to study will be interesting. Many friends who came to visit referred to the city jokingly as Nothingham. There was even going to be a Uni magazine article about it. I can understand that. At first glance, that’s pretty much all you see. But the city does have the amenities but without the distractions. It feels comfortable without the sprawl and contains hidden, small delights without the swarm. As someone I know would say, ‘it’s aright.’


6 thoughts on “Nottingham Mark Two

  1. Maybe your expectations are just too high, Dan. For many, Nottingham conjures up images of Robin Hood, forests, castles and an endless supply of booze and buxom wenches. When they get there, the reality is hard to take.

    OK, the castle is more like a big house atop a hill, but what can you expect when locals from the slums rioted and burned down the original structure during a drunken anti-authoritarian orgy in 1831. So the cathedral is more like a church, but I witnessed a full-blown Catholic seance there led by some deranged Irish woman. Any place is what you make of it.

    Most mid-size English towns are mediocre on the surface. Agreed, London and Edinburgh may be the UK’s only ‘go-to’ cities, but Brighton is surely just as ‘lovely but quaint’ as York.

    At least you appreciate the beer and music scene! I must get around to blogging a full-blown riposte to your curmudgeonly Nottingham pieces 😉

    PS Impressive blog. Great writing, range and zeitgeist. Keep it up mate.

    • Curmudgeonly… I had to look that up. WHAT? Take a look at the parties we went to and where I was…usual drunk and at the centre.

      I agreed I had too high expectations . Was excited to be there but initially Uni, the course and the flat etc didn’t work out and now I regret being away so much but then they were gigs worth any getaway. We’ll see when I return 🙂

  2. Pingback: What’s happening to the local Wilkos? « Aim High, There Is Plenty Of Room

  3. See I would say Beeston has a very strong community, but it certainly is not student centred. I live in Leeds where areas like Hyde Park and Headingley feel very studenty, I always felt Beeston lacked this but it tends to cater more towards professionals and families.

    I absolutely love Nottingham, but maybe more as my hometown than for any other reason. It’s familiar and comfortable and lovely to come back to after living away. I love the size, I love the mash of streets, I love Hockley, and the bars. I even love Beeston…to an extent!

  4. Hi Rachel,

    I can go with you on Hockley but beyond the topology, the rest of Nottingham is fairly uninteresting. I maybe wanted for too much I dunno. My post written the summer before was more optimistic.

    Certainly as a student experience is was weak. My undergrad was at Sheffield and I spent time visiting friends at other unis (including Leeds) so understand Notts’ ‘lack of experience.’ That might be connected to a lot of the students too.

    I was back up there in December for a few days (and might eve be returning in September for further study) and had a great time hitting the usual spots of Jam Cafe and Bodega so its not all bad!

    Original post

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