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The Comedy of Errors

The Nottingham Culture Review of 2020

22 December 20 words: Jared Wilson
illustrations: Raphael Achache

Let’s face it: 2020 has been the crappest year since we dropped the ‘S’ from the beginning of Nottingham. Here’s our rundown of what’s happened in our local culture scene over the last twelve months...

The Queens New Years Honours List includes Confetti founder Craig Chettle (services to entrepreneurship), Sheku Kanneh-Mason (services to music) and R.E.A.L Education founder Brian Smith (services to young people with special educational needs and disabilities).

At LeftLion we resurrect the long-lost Overall Magazine, a publication a bit like us for Nottingham in the nineties. With help from the Heritage Lottery Fund we digitally archive their back catalogue (which you can read online at, put out a one-off celebration issue and have a knees-up at The Angel.

Beat The Streets takes place for the third year with Jake Bugg, Bamalamasingsong and Circle of Light helping to raise £75,000 for local homeless charities. Sneinton gig venue JT Soar turned ten years old and the owners bought the building – yay! Local disco punks Do Nothing release the song LeBron James and seem to be played absolutely everywhere. Notts actress Lauren Carse joins the cast of ITV’s Grantchester and charms Eamonn Holmes on This Morning by calling him her ‘TV Dad’.

Britain officially leaves the EU and we all believe it’s going to be the biggest news story of the year, if not our lifetime. How wrong we are.


Light Night takes place across the city centre featuring the excellent Paint to Pixel projections on the Council House – making it look like it’s been graffitied, without anyone having to clean it after. The Festival of Science and Curiosity takes place across the city with events including a plane crash simulator at Lakeside Arts. Grime and bassline emcee Bru-C plays a sell-out gig at the Rescue Rooms.

The UK sees news reports about a place called Wuhan in China where someone has done something untoward with a bat and a pangolin. However, we all remain blissfully ignorant of what is to come. We don’t even know what a pangolin is and have to Google it.

Local acting talent hotbed The Television Workshop launch their new play season (including Emilia and The Witches). This is hot on the heels of their new radio drama Roots on BBC Radio 4, starring Workshop alumni and Notts queen Vicky McClure.

Lakeside Arts launches an exhibition of new art by Notts-born Damian Hirst collaborator Mat Collishaw. Another local Mat (Woodham - who goes by the pseudonym Multimodal) launches Sensing Systems, a body of audio visual interactive artwork at Bonington, Broadway and Metronome. The team from Nottingham Craft Beer Week head to Liverpool for the annual SIBA conference and come back crowned as the UK’s best craft beer promotion.

Then halfway through the month we all start to get a sense that bat and pangolin thing might be important after all. Professional Honey Monster impersonator Boris Johnson addresses the nation on 23 March and tells us that pubs, schools, shops and everything else has to shut as the country is in lockdown.

Following this is a short era where every man and his dog takes to online broadcasting (via Twitch, Youtube or Facebook live). Here at LeftLion we start LeftLion Sofa Sessions an hour before Boris’ address and over the next twelve weeks we put on 71 gigs by local artists. Other notable people broadcasting online include Unknown Era, the Navigation Brewery Quiz and best of all Bradley from Jamcafe doing some lovely chill 10am DJ and dance sessions. 


The nation remains in lockdown and our lifestyles change to accommodate this. Everyone is full of wartime-blitz spirit and we all become experts at home exercise, bread-baking, zoom and illicit meetings in local parks. New Orwellian terms enter the national lexicon like ‘coronavirus’ ‘social-distancing’, ‘furlough’ and ‘covidiot’. Every Thursday at 8pm we stand on our doorsteps Clapping for Key Workers. Everyone is frantically trying to get their hands on masks and toilet rolls.

Locally a few nice things happen. The Open Kitchens project is launched and local pubs and restaurants offer free meals to 10,000 key workers and vulnerable people. The Robin Hood Fund is launched by the team who will go on to become The Nottingham Project (more about them later) and raises over £50k in public donations towards funding foodbanks, homeless charities and other vulnerable groups. The people behind Hockley Hustle and Circle of Light collaborate to bring us Light Hustle, a local online telethon that keeps us all entertained. Television Workshop’s Shaneigha-Monik Greyson stars in the Sarah Gavron directed Rocks on Netflix.

Loads of local businesses start offering delivery and click and collect services for the first time which means that you can get great local beers, donuts, cheese and pretty much everything else you could ever want delivered to your door. This magazine goes online-only for the first time in sixteen years. 

Everyone is still in lockdown and people are trying to keep their spirits up, but it’s fair to say that a month in people are less bothered about jogging and baking their own bread (which is handy because there is now a national shortage of flour).

The first real signs of the damage all this will do to our city centre and local economy start to show with the first closure announcements of local venues like Propaganda nightclub and Alberts bar. Some of our favourite events like Em-Con, Wigflex Festival and Nottingham Craft Beer Festival attempt to reschedule to new dates later in the year, but will all ultimately have a year off.

On the plus side is Nottstopping Festival, an online festival a bit like the previous month’s Light Hustle and from the same people, but on a bigger scale. Then there’s the Clough Challenge where people celebrated forty years since Forest’s second European Cup win by doing impressions of Old Big ‘Ead on social media. Finally there is Soul Boy, a charming BBC One documentary by filmmakers Luke Radford and Toby Curson about Nottingham teenager Anthony Flavin, who gets his kicks from dancing to Northern Soul music.


As we enter the third month of lockdown, patience is wearing extremely thin. More city businesses go to the wall including The Overdraught, Belgo and Nottscentric gift shop Dukki (although they will thankfully continue to trade online).

Following the horrific death of George Floyd in the USA, Black Lives Matter rivals Coronavirus as the biggest cultural event of the year worldwide. Nottingham gets involved with a demonstration on the Forest Recreation ground where over a thousand people turn up. I was one of them and commend both the organisers Next Gen Movement and everyone who came for creating a safe and peaceful environment. Vicky McClure stars as Mrs Jones on Amazon Prime’s Alex Rider.


The first steps back to normality begin as pubs, restaurants and hairdressers are allowed to re-open starting on 4 July – albeit with lots of new safety measures and restrictions in place. Local festival staples Nottingham Pride and Splendour go online. Pride is filmed from the Council House ballroom and features Rob Green and Concrete Rose. Splendour features Harleighblu, Nina Smith and Georgie as well as lots of old footage from previous years. 

The Nottingham Project officially launches. It’s basically a board of Notts-based volunteers run by Greg Nugent (former director of Marketing for the 2012 Olympics) with a few famous local people like Vicky McClure, Shane Meadows, Richard Whitehead and representatives from key local institutions – including me. The idea is to communicate, work together and make the most of what we have when things get more back to normal.

The football season resumes with all games played behind closed doors. Nottingham Forest snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, with an end of season capitulation after looking certain of a play-off place.


Notts County lose the National League play-off final to footballing giants Harrogate Town. The former ‘World’s Oldest League Club’ will play non-league football for at least another season. The Government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme launches across hundreds of Nottingham eateries offering people half price meals from Mon-Weds each week in an effort to get the hospitality trade back on its feet.

Live gigs and events start up again – but not as we know it. DHP Family put on a series of live music events at the Arboretum, Just The Tonic put on big name comedians in a field in Bottesford and Rock City invite people to spend Friday nights drinking in their car park. Wigflex and Multimodal combine to put out Fleximodal, a mind-melting AV techno all-nighter. LeftLion returns to print after four months of online-only publishing.

The Nottingham Young Creative Awards TV show airs on Notts TV fronted by Mansfield-born Corro actress Cassie Bradley, celebrating the creative work of dozens of the city's best young creative talents. Notts soul singer Yazmin Lacey contributes a track to Blue Note: Reimagined, a celebration of the iconic US jazz label from emerging UK artists.


Live events begin to restart
in a new socially-distanced world. Just The Tonic comedy returns to Metronome, Peggy’s Skylight start back with jazz and the cinemas are showing films again. Except the major film studios have now helpfully stopped releasing them. Eventually after the new Bond film is postponed for a third time. Cineworld throws in the towel and closes its Nottingham cinema until 2021.

As a follow-up to Eat Out To Help Out, Nottingham Craft Beer Week and the Art of Beer launch Art Out To Help Out where you can collect free art postcards in pubs. The Government then follow that up with Drink Up and Bugger Off, announcing that pubs now have to close at 10pm. Hockley Hustle puts out Green Hustle, an online festival celebrating all things green and environmentally friendly.

The youngest MP in the country Nadia Whittome joins LeftLion as a columnist and we’re very happy to have her on board. Television Workshop talent Katy Byrne stars as the daughter of Katherine Ryan in The Duchess on Netflix. Nottingham-born BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra DJ Mista Jam steps back from the BBC after 15 years of prime-time broadcasting.


The month begins with a rare local sporting achievement as Notts Outlaws become the nation’s new T20 Cricket Champions, beating Surrey in the final. Seventeen of the cities cultural organisations share £4.5million in lifelines from from the Government's Culture Recovery Fund; the biggest of which are DHP Family (£908k), The Royal Centre (£851k) and Nottingham Playhouse (£789k). Nottingham BID are re-elected by their members to continue their work in the city for another five years. BBC Nottingham’s local music champion Dean Jackson celebrates thirty years of his show The Beat.

That’s enough positivity for one month though. Goose Fair is cancelled for only the eleventh time in 729 years because of Coronavirus. Then DiY Soundsystem and free party legend Pete Woosh Birch passes away after a long battle with cancer.

Students arrive back in Nottingham (and to other big student cities nationwide) and this becomes a catalyst for a second surge in UK coronavirus cases. Nottingham briefly becomes the UK’s coronavirus capital and our politicians enter elongated discussions with the government about what ‘Tier 3’ status means.

Graffiti artist Banksy pays a visit to Nottingham painting a girl hula-hooping a tyre next to an abandoned bicycle in Lenton. Our local media lap it up and look for any angle to cover the story, despite showing no interest in our local street artists for decades. I’m Not From London celebrate fifteen years of live music in Nottingham by releasing a book and a beer. Nottingham Playhouse launch the Unlocked Festival online featuring performances from the likes of Mark Gattis and Daniel Kitson.


The government negotiations for Nottingham’s Tier 3 status lockdown end as instead the entire nation is plunged back into national lockdown until at least early December (and potentially longer). It’s like April and May all over again, but with really crap weather outside.

Two much-loved Nottingham acts Bent and Sleaford Mods announce new releases on Rough Trade Records. Sleaford Mods will return with Spare Ribs in early 2021 and Bent release Up In The Air, their first new album in fourteen years. Young Nottingham actor Daniel Frogson continues his role as Tony Costa in BBC One’s His Dark Materials.

Rock City celebrates its 40th birthday
in the most low-key way it has for many years: expect some serious revelry amongst the regulars next year instead. Nottingham comes out of the second national lockdown into Tier 3 status, which basically means you can’t smile at anyone you don’t share a bank account with. The Christmas Market in the Square closes after just one day, because too many people turn up. Local pantomimes at both Nottingham Playhouse and The Royal Centre go ahead, with online streams. The Playhouse panto is written and directed by head honcho Adam Penford, the TRCH one stars a Chuckle Brother and a bloke who looks the spit of Elon Musk. Families are allowed to gather in bubbles of three households for Christmas, which makes it sound like we’re all going to have seasonal foam parties. Not that I want to give our local students ideas...

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