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Green Light in the City

Nottingham Ten Years On

1 September 04 words: Michael Pinchbeck
"I want to ride up to the Council House Charlton-Heston-style, leap off my horse and shout at the Mayor for changing everything I know"

The things I have seen...

I don't want to start sounding like Rutger Hauer at the end of Bladerunner. But I've seen my sixth form college turn into a housing estate, I've seen my old schools wrapped up in high security fencing, I've seen the
Old Market Square turn into one big pub. Even the xylophone man left.

Only the landmark lions remain and I want to ride up to the Council House Charlton Heston style, leap off my horse and shout at the Mayor for changing everything I know.  Interestingly, both Hauer and Heston's most famous outbursts were improvised. For Hauer it was a case of visualising the universe. For Heston a simple act of blasphemy that went against his bible-belt gun-toting roots. So I veer from the script too, to ask what it has seen since I left as a white-shoed student in 1994 to my return in 2004 (and whether white shoes are now cool).


10 years on. I came here at the age of one, my dad wielding a legal briefcase on , my mum teaching at a University nursery. I saw the city, its solicitors, its students and their children, from urban to rural settings, from Nottingham Playhouse to the  LakeBoating.Regent Street

I went to Rise Park Nursery, Infants and Juniors and Top Valley Comprehensive. All five minutes from my house. I went home for dinner. I remember the trepidation my Mum must have felt when she handed me 50p and sent me to the bus stop with Manesh Dewshi to get the bus into town for the first time. I was twelve.

When I hit 16 I walked to High Pavement until I got beaten up in Bestwood (after that I got the bus). My Blue Peter childhood had ended, I was in the real world now, the big smoke that was , and it stunk. Late nights with my parents were scary, as we walked through town at closing time dodging sweaty fists and doner kebabs. Or perhaps I overdramatise. But I see the same fear now in children caught in headlights, dragged through town by nervous parents, their hands held tight in sweatier fists.


Shopping trips on Saturdays meant a dash through Broadmarsh, getting lost in the hall of mirrors at Victoria Centre and realising that every multi-storey car park reeked of piss. We would have a bacon sandwich in Victoria Market and watch the fountain weave its magic on the hour. We got the lift to the Co-op restaurant and dined like lords before taking the palatial staircase that passed through every floor. We would have an ice cream at the Castle and pop into the museum. If we were really good we would get to stroke the giraffe at Wollaton Hall.


Where is the giraffe now? Gone. Stroked by too many sticky hands and sent to the taxidermists in the sky to get more hair stuck back on. Where is the Co-op? Closed. To be turned into flats, or hotel rooms or offices. It was a Titanic of a department store: timeless and classy with an edge of tack.

The fountain is still here, but that reeks of piss too, I remember the day Blue Peter showed it, now  features in documentaries about gun culture and inner-city violence. But there is no room at the inn as brides and grooms to be flock to it. But for how long? is enjoying a Temple Bar free from Stags and Hens. Pubs and clubs in have started turning stags away and checking ID to see that there aren't too many men from the same place. Blondes get in free. Sooner or later, pastel shirts and L-plated fairies will go the way of the Coop as bars close their doors on balls and chains. BrightonDublin


The other major player in 's social scene is the students. Shops like Daphne's Handbag, Helter Skelter and Backlash thrive on retro fun seekers for whom life is one long fancy dress party. Some of my best shirts come from Backlash, it's good to see the closest we'll ever have to Affleck's Palace in still going strong. All we need now is a barber's next door where you can get a beer and play Ker-plunk.

The bar scene caters for the discerning student drinker, whether you want the Day Glo Munch of It's a Scream or the more refined cracked leather sofa of the Orange Tree. Generally the closer you are to Bonington Gallery on the better bars get. And the more likely you are to see an art student wearing a deer stalker and not smiling. This is Rescue Rooms territory too. I stopped going there this year when I realised my hair didn't look painted on and I was older than fourteen. I also had my Backlash jacket stolen while chatting up a fourteen year old. It wouldn't have been too bad but they had my D&G glasses in their pocket and she disappeared to the bar. I went back to see if I could find anyone who looked like a fourteen year old version of me, but I didn't have my glasses on so I couldn't.
Shakespeare Street


Generally now, ten years on I have learned what I like about . In once with time to kill I asked someone who looked like me where to go for a beer. Now I have learned not to go to places that people like me don't go to. Put simply, places like Flares, any where near the and Isis. In 1994 I had my arse pinched by a taxi driver at the Black Orchid. Never trust a nightclub in an industrial estate that you have to get a bus to. Now I hang out at Cast, The Castle, Moog, The Loft and The Grosvenor. Is it because has changed so much or just that I'm ten years older? The things I have seen...

Old Market Square

20 years on..?

Nottingham Culture on LeftLion
Xylophone Man
Blues Man
The Broad Marsh Monkey video

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