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Green Light in the City

Canning Circus Creative Hub

4 December 13 words: Bridie Squires
"It wasn’t about being anti-establishment, it was about losing an identity, doing what you want to do - not the Council’s idea of what creative should be"
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Between knocking out stacks upon stacks of house music and intense visual art, Canning Circus Creative Hub has provided footing and influence for the likes of Nina Smith, Crazy P and amillionsons - to name but a few. They’ve always prided themselves on their grass roots and their ability to sustain themselves through their talent and hard work. Despite this, our Council recently put it to 'em that they should shift their arses so they could redevelop the area to include more - yes, more - student flats. From the artists and designers, to the musicians and mentors, the hub stood up, and so did the people of Nottingham. A petition, reaching over 1,000 signatures, helped batter the plans for them to move and we can happily report that the long-standing melting pot of inspiration is going to stay put. Feel free to pat yourself, and them, on the back.

On meeting the Circus lot, it was clear they're all good mates working as a community. Mike Wynne, aka Sharkboi, a professional musician and the coordinator of the hub said, “things work hand in hand – the musical production, the digital interaction, the fine art – we're all creative and like birds of a feather, flock together.” Hearing about their combined crafts shone a light on how special this place was to them and how integral it was to their work. It’s not just a physical space to them; the buildings are important as a source of inspiration, especially for the Wollaton Street Studios’ painters and artists. Character and history breathes throughout the original fixtures and high ceilings.

Brendan Randall, freelance graphic artist, creative coder and interaction designer, explained why the hub fused so well, “Everything works in this symbiotic nature, we feed into what each other does and people are interested in what everyone else is doing. It’s not like we keep in our own little cubicles, it’s totally different.”  

Sirkus Studios is home to many entities, including Leon Bailey - a music engineer, producer and DJ who owns Recharge Audio. He highlighted the value of shared spaces at a time when media budgets have had to scale down in the face of illegal downloading. “Places like Sirkus are an innovative model. It gives people the opportunity to get started in the music industry - in a place where the rent is affordable and equipment is available. It’s great to have the network if you need to ask people advice. That kind of community doesn’t just happen, it evolves organically.”

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From the tasty grub of Hand and Heart, to the mud grubbing of the Worm that Turned, there were a variety of entities who fired up the Canning Circus Creative Hub. Robin Junga of KJAMM records, Dealmaker’s Ste Allan and Hawk and Mouse’s Rikki Marr were also there from the start. Since then, the area has been a hotbed buzzing with expression and talent. The chop of 175-179 Wollaton Street would have meant dispersing a close-knit group all around the city and in some cases, outside of it. Part of the Council’s plan was to have a creative studio facility in the area, so they clearly didn’t understand what was going on behind those doors - that was one of the main things that got a few backs up. As well as the endless informal mentoring that goes on, people like Rob Greco and Kate Rounding of Zola Day Music have provided musical education for extensive lists of people for years.

“It was one of the things we had to point out to the Council – these aren’t just a collection of random businesses doing their own thing.” Phil Sainty is the owner of entuition, a project management enterprise specialising in environmental and community initiatives. He talked about recognition as the key factor to the situation, “Sometimes you have to wave a flag and say ‘We are here!’”

The threat of eviction highlighted the vulnerability of small enterprises while massive corporations continue to dominate. In these circumstances, it can be difficult to see cohesion, but Phil cleared this up, “Creatively and socially there aren’t divisions, the divisions that exist are the ones in wider society. Conglomerates operate in the principle of competition and it’s a shame that the smaller businesses are the ones that struggle within that. For that reason, it’s the job of the Council to ensure that those businesses are supported.”

At a time when the Council are beginning to realise how crucial creativity is in our city and excitedly pointing at the recently dubbed Creative Quarter, it was bonkers that at the same time, they wanted to kick the Circus lot out. The campaign highlighted the disjointed nature of the move, it touched a nerve and people mobilised. Brendan said, “It wasn’t about being anti-establishment, it was about losing an identity, it’s about doing what you want to do - not the Council’s idea of what and where creative should be. We’re not against that, we just want to exist alongside it.”

Crazy P

It was refreshing to hear that the Council are now well up on what’s happening on Wollo Street, they’ve been acknowledged as contributors to the community and the economy. “I’m seeing them take a genuine interest in creativity and our welfare,” says Mike. Not only that, but the problems seem to have opened new doorways for the creative enterprises; they’re now looking to work alongside the Council and the retailers on Derby Road to regenerate the area. Phil spoke of the evolution, “The hub has broadened its horizons. I don’t think it would have occurred to people to work with retailers ten or fifteen years ago, but now it makes sense. The campaign has also had a galvanising effect on the way we communicate – we’ve become more streamlined.”

As well as broadening the hub, a £50,000 grant from Scape Community Investment Fund has recently been secured by the Council to sort out some improvements to the buildings to make them more sustainable… and warmer. Jackpot. One of the most exciting plans is the formalisation of the teaching and apprenticeship schemes that go on there, there will be loads more opportunities for the young people of Nottingham to become engaged with. Anyone who wants to get involved in the creative industries is urged to get in touch. It’s only onwards and upwards from here for this lot and we can’t wait to see the blue-skies they churn out in the future.

Phil Saintly of CCCH has been overwhelmed by the way Nottingham stepped up to help with their plight, “We thought we were in for a long slog with this campaign but the people of Nottingham and further afield made it incredibly straightforward with their support in such vast numbers. It was a phenomenal response. We’d like to thank, from the bottom of our hearts, everyone who helped us stay here.”

To keep up to date with everything that’s going on with the Canning Circus Creative Hub, check out their facebook page and website.

Canning Circus Creative Hub Facebook
Canning Circus Creative Hub website

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