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Tourist Trap or Soulless Crap?

12 April 10 words: Rob Cutforth and Al Needham
illustrations: Rob White

"The world loves Robin Hood - so why not make a buck or ten off of those suckers?"

Nottingham may be sitting on one of the biggest tourist goldmines in the country, but it’s done surprisingly little with it. But is that such a bad thing? Gobby foreigner Rob Cutforth tries to talk sarky local Al Needham into pulling some green tights on and getting medieval on his arse...

More Hood would be Good

Oh God - an entire LeftLion dedicated to Robin Hood? I’m surprised you bothered to pick it up. I’m even more surprised LeftLion have done it in the first place, I didn’t think Robin Hood was cool enough for this magazine. I wouldn’t be surprised if this ‘Robin Hood issue’ is just an ironic piss-take. There’s probably a nasty drawing of Robin Hood on the cover, strung out on heroin, selling Big Issues with his cock out.

I don’t care; I’m pro-Robin Hood and proud of it. Yes, man-tights aren’t cool and yes, there have been some truly crap Robin Hood-related tourist attractions in this town but does that mean Nottingham should shut out Robin Hood completely? Frankly, you’d be positively mad to say ‘yes’.

Do you know what other cities would do to have Robin Hood? There is a Canadian town whose biggest draw is that it sounds like a planet from Star Trek and another that houses the world’s largest perogy. Let me say that again; the world’s largest perogy.

I’m sure it draws Ukrainians in by the truckload, but damn - how bad does Glendon, Alberta have to suck that a giant statue of a meat dumpling (on a fork!) is its main landmark? If the Mayor of Glendon found out that the guy who played Kevin Costner’s butt double in Prince of Thieves once stopped there to have a dump, Glendon would now be known as Robinhoodland.

I’m not saying Nottingham needs to put every penny of arts spending into Robin Hood-related festivities, but how about changing the name of the Goose Fair to Robin Hood Fair and tacking on a medieval market and international archery competition? You would have little Korean kids peeing their pants in excitement at the prospect of coming to Nottingham.

Nottinghamian apathy towards Robin Hood has not just lost you a tourism buck or two, it’s done something far worse - it’s lost you Sherwood Forest, the desecration of which is a national disgrace. I remember how excited I was to see it - and how disappointed I was when I got there. Whenever friends of mine from back home come to visit me, that’s the first thing they want to see, and the first thing they whinge about when they go back home.

Nottingham is a very cool town; easily one of my favourite places in the UK, even in its current Hood-less state. Does that mean adding Robin Hood back into the mix to attract tourism would be such a bad thing? Definitely not. The world loves Robin Hood - why not make a buck or ten off of those suckers? Maybe then the Sherwood Forest Trust wouldn’t have to rely on donations and failed lottery bids to continue with the very good (and extremely important) work they are doing now to save Sherwood Forest. That can only be a good thing.

Listen up, Nottingham: you need to bring Robin Hood back into your massive immediately. The poor, neglected bastard is in the Thurland on his own and a dirty Yorkshireman has just roofied his drink... 

Rob Cutforth

Going Hood-mad would be Bad

Does Nottingham do enough to big up Robin Hood in the place where he knocked about? Course it doesn’t - Nottingham’s been notoriously rubbish when it comes to celebrating itself. But in this case, is that really a bad thing?

It goes without saying that Robin Hood is skill. You could say the word ‘Nottingham’ to five year-old kids anywhere in the world and they’ll know about us. Gang culture, romance, weaponry, extreme right-on-ness – the story of Robin Hood has got the lot. When they were handing out the civic legends, Notts definitely elbowed its way to the front of the queue. Ask an American to talk about Derby or Leicester and they wouldn’t be able to even pronounce their names properly.

This is undoubtedly a great thing, but have you ever lived and worked in a tourist town? I have. It’s rammel. Practically every amenity and service is for the benefit of someone else; you’re just the dickhead who pays for it all. Yes, tourists bring in loads of money, but look where they spend it: in lowest-common-denominator cackholes owned by foreign companies. Bad enough in London, even worse in the provinces. Stratford-upon-Avon is a great place to visit, but how long could you live there without wanting to open a vein?

Obviously something has to be done to remind the world where Robbo came from, but the people in charge of this reclamation project are battling against history. Not the thirteenth century variety, either; they’ve got to deal with some of the awful balls-ups made in the past, which include the Major Oak being used as the world’s oldest public toilet, one of the world’s most uncastlely castles, other places trying to nick the legend off us, and a tourist centre that featured robots who funked of wee.

Whatever they do has to be better than what’s already there, but whilst certain people look upon Nottingham’s downplaying of Robin Hood as a serious shortcoming, I think it’s one of the things that makes us truly great. It’s as if the entire city is saying; “Yes, we’ve got far more history than your crap town, but we’ve also got a pretty decent present, thank you.”

If you need any proof of that, just imagine if Robin Hood came from one of those crappy little backwaters in the South; the councils there would have made everyone wear green tights and put the letter ‘e’ on the end of every sign in a desperate attempt to tempt in Frankie Fatarse from Florida. Look at the recent articles on Nottingham by the likes of the New York Times; Robbo barely gets a mention. They’re raving about our bars, our events and our attitude.

So, yeah; let’s give Robin his due in the city that spawned him, but let’s not go mental. Have your medieval villages and jousting and whatnot, but let’s keep it round the Castle and out of the city centre, please. Let’s get more tourists in, but strictly on our terms. And by all means celebrate Robin Hood, but let’s also do likewise for the scores of world-renowned Nottinghamians who actually existed. Robin Hood was always about the benefit of the common folk of Notts; let his legacy reflect that. Al Needham


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