Nottingham Calling - Can Creatives Thrive Outside Of London?

22/09/2016 12:53

I met my boyfriend Patrick at Nottingham Trent University in the year 2000. Back then he was a super skinny, shaved head skater dude with a penchant for very large, white nylon shirts. He also liked to climb random things like lamp posts and bus shelters. I was a virtual cheerleader, always ensuring my eyeliner matched my New Look stilettos and constantly assessing which inappropriate outfit I should wear to the next 'Saucy Saucy' student fancy dress party. Romance was not on the cards, then.

Fast-forward 14 years and by the power of Facebook, our worlds collided once more. However the once skinny skinhead had thrown off his baggy shirt and become, might I say, quite the don (with biceps my Mother would be proud of). I however now lived down south in Hackney, so couldn't be seen dead with matching purse and shoes and instead preferred to buy ill fitting grandma clothes from local charity shops whilst drinking over priced skinny lattes in independent coffee houses. Somehow, nanna cardi's aside, Muscles From Brussels was still keen.

"I co-own an industrial textiles factory in Nottingham," Muscles told me on our first date, as we sat at the bar of a once-old-man-boozer-now-hipster-hangout in Hackney. "We're really proud to be one of the few remaining British manufacturers at a time when many others seem to have moved production abroad to countries like China."

"Wow, that's amazing," I cooed. This guy was creative, entrepreneurial and ultimately valued more than just his bank statement's bottom line. I was impressed. So what if he lived 150 miles away? I'm in.

Fast-forward a year.

"Yeah, but if you moved production abroad to someplace like China, you could totally move anywhere," I keenly suggested. "Like London for instance. And property prices really aren't as high as they all say... "

Muscles looked at me with that look. It was worth a shot.

Falling in love with a man 200 miles away is not ideal. But now, two years on and many expensive train journeys later, we are pretty confident that we will go the distance romantically so perhaps it's now time to lessen the distance geographically. I am a comedy writer and performer with no fixed office or permanent contract. Patrick on the other hand has a heavy, machinery filled factory with lots of people inside and it's not easy to get that on an East Midlands Train. After much resistance, I realised it was me that needed to make the move.

Accepting this has not been an easy one. I have been cultivating my creative and comedy career in London for the past 10 years. My people are in London. I have lots of successful creative friends who in fact hail from Nottingham, but I met them all down in London where they now live permanently. I barely know anyone in Nottingham bar Patrick. It's hard making new pals when you're in your 30's. By this age everyone is fixed with their own crew and making an effort with cats like me is, quite simply, a chore. In Nottingham I'm the new kid with no local work, no local community, no idea how it's going to work out. The lead up to this has been pretty daunting.

On the other, more positive hand, there are a bounteous creative people in Nottingham, some of the best writers, musicians, actors and artists to ever exist have come from Nottingham and still remain here. So if others have and do thrive here, then maybe, just maybe, so might I.

Being a hippy-hobo spiritual astronaut who is willing to give anything alternative a go, my pal Juliet advised me to see what her Angel cards said: 'Forget old habits and embrace new adventures'. Right you are. Sorry London but Nottingham, here I come.

"Tell me you're moving here for reasons bigger than the Angel cards?" questioned Patrick.
"Why do you consistently refuse to embrace my spiritual side?"
"Because the cards themselves are not spiritual. They were likely mass-produced alongside millions of others in a factory in China."
"Jeez man, stop being so down on foreign production...."

Ok, it wasn't just the Angel cards. I've actually become rather excited about the move. Now that I have committed to Nottingham, I already feel supercharged by the city. I have joined a beautiful co-working space in an old lace factory called Cobden Place, set up by the mega resourceful Becky Evers and her business partner Liam Woodgates (owners also of the super cool vintage, antiques and art centre Hopkinson). Here I've met another Nottingham newbie Daniel Lingham, creator of the exciting new sculpting publication Sculptorvox and just eaten lunch from the already phenomenally successful new vegan café in Cobden Chambers, Amala Living Foods. I've been to an electronica festival curated by the super awesome events and festivals producing, record label running and music publishing crew I'm Not From London, who are also based within the space and I've committed to attending a screen-printing workshop run by the lovely Craig, Ben and team upstairs at the School of Print. I've been hugely inspired reading the Nottingham arts publication Left Lion written by an ever growing team, which is focused on other creatives flourishing in the city. I've booked in to Nottingham Playhouse's script reading group Act 2, run by Gareth Morgan and I've been heartily welcomed by the brilliant and fabulous energy that is Penny Chettle, owner of film production company Spool, part of the Confetti Media Group, based at Antenna, the creative hub in Nottingham's city centre.

Ultimately, having only officially been here a week I'm already having conversations with super interesting people working in the creative industries and everyone is unexpectedly open and willing to help the girl from London (a Darlington lass originally) to feel right at home here in the East Midlands. I must say, it took a darn sight longer than that in London. I've also sealed the deal with Patrick by buying a canal boat together that will be moored near the castle. It's currently still a bit of a wreck but renovations are underway and we should be in hopefully by the end of the month. Where else can you say you have a full-blown castle at the bottom of your yard?

So Nottingham, this is my call to you to say I'm here and I'm ready to embrace all the wonderful creative and fabulous opportunities you have to offer. Following Lord Byron's lead, I want to write letters to my pals in London that prove it to be an equal creative competitor to the capital, if not more so. I haven't abandoned London entirely and will continue to make frequent visits for meetings, gigs and catch ups with best pals, but for now, I'm committed to making this fine city of Nottingham my home and place of wild creative abandon.

I do hope Nottingham is as excited about my arrival. Nottingham, can you hear me...?