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The Comedy of Errors

Ex-Kemet FM Host and Twitter Enthusiast Tony Bates is Leaving Nottingham

20 November 20 interview: Jared Wilson
photos: Curtis Powell

Kemet FM host, graphics company owner, Police Commissioner candidate and Twitter enthusiast; Tony Bates has spent the last 22 years in Nottingham, and has been both a catalyst and an observer of change. This month, he bids the city farewell to become Scarborough’s answer to Basil Fawlty. We had a catch up about his best moments here over the last two decades…

 

What was it that first brought you to Nottingham?
I was born and bred in the suburbs of London and started life in retail management, before working for an oil company. It was all very dull. I eventually decided I was sick of having a boss and wanted to live somewhere nicer. So I set up on my own and Nottingham seemed like a great place to do business. I’ve lived in Tunbridge Wells, Newbury, Stratford upon Avon and Leicestershire and none of them can compare to here. It is hard to be proud of my roots, but I can totally understand the great pride people have in Nottingham. I immediately loved the culture of the city and most of all the people.

What are the best things to have happened in Nottingham over the 22 years you’ve been here?
The introduction of the tram, the opening of the Nottingham Contemporary, the birth of LeftLion magazine and the creation of so many great festivals.

What are the worst things?
The decline of the Broadmarsh Centre (and Wimpy going with it). There have been a fair few dubious planning decisions, in particular so many student apartment blocks, mostly too high. Plus there has been a steep rise in rough sleepers.

Tell us about the Notts Tweet Up Group you founded? 
Having gained quite a lot of followers on Twitter I had made many virtual friends. A friend of mine, Susi Henson, was working at Confetti and we came up with the idea of holding an event there to turn the virtual into reality. It was great to meet the people behind the tweets. I can’t imagine another way I would have met a Professor of Astronomy!

Back in 2012 you led a campaign that got #Nottinghamrocks trending on Twitter and garnered over 15,000 tweets featuring that hashtag in a day. How did that happen?
I made an idle tweet one Tuesday morning that I would like to see Nottingham trending. It was picked up by my MP, Lilian Greenwood, and it suddenly became a campaign. The council got on board early and I then came up with the hashtag. The date was set and we promoted it on social media, on NCT buses and with banners around the city. The hashtag was released at 7:15am and was trending number one in the UK by 8am, when BBC Radio Nottingham sent a reporter. By 11am it was trending third in the world, which was stunning. People were asked to share what they loved about the city and it led to a wave of positivity.

What is it that you particularly love about Twitter as a social media channel?
I joined in April 2009, so I was a relatively early user. Unlike Facebook, it feels more interactive and instant. As my network has grown I have ‘met’ so many amazing people and it gives me a great outlet to moan.

You were a presenter on Kemet FM for several years. How did that come about? 
My NottinghamRocks Twitter account had become widely known and this led to Kemet FM director Andrew Campbell asking me to appear on the station to keep people informed about events. It was originally a ten minute slot once per month, but it grew from there. My best memories have to be the interviews with such a diverse range of people, including puppets, an army officer, a police superintendent and seventies singer David Essex. The constant exchange with my co-host and close friend Jackie P was always a pleasure. The time she mistakenly referred to me as Master Bates, followed by her collapsing to the floor, has to be the best moment. 

I turned up in Nottingham, the bloke from “that London”, knowing nobody but felt the hug the city gives so quickly

You ran for the job as Nottinghamshire Police Commissioner in 2016. What were your plans in that role?
I ran largely to oppose the merger of the City and County police divisions as I felt this would be to the detriment of policing in the city. I also proposed the closure of police HQ and other commercial propositions to divert money to the frontline. I think I’d have made it better. I don’t see any real initiative in the last four years that has made a significant advance and feel personally that a business background is of more advantage than being a long-term politician.

You’ve also helped to pioneer a few schemes for creative young people in the city as a committee member of the Young Creative Awards and the founder of Notts Factor. Who are the best discoveries you’ve made in the city over the years?
I feel strongly that the creative sector is misunderstood and undervalued. We often discussed why people seek awards in this sector and felt that credibility, rather than the prize or exposure, was the main reason. It was great to see Rob Green progress from winning the music category of the Young Creative Awards to gracing huge stages. I’ve also seen Notts Factor winner Chloe Rodgers progress to getting signed. She’s such a huge talent and a lovely person too.

What stories of your time in the city would you like to tell our readers?
One odd recollection of my time in Nottingham was being contacted by Notts TV about making a Christmas TV programme. I pointed out that I hate Christmas and they told me that was why they wanted me to be The Christmas Curmudgeon. I was then told it would be a review of the first six months of the channel and I would choose the clips and write the script, and had a week to do it! So there I am, sat in the gallery, surrounded by camera operators, a sound person etc., realising I am ‘the talent’. To my amazement it aired on Christmas Day, a few weeks later, and my four children watched with me and were totally unimpressed. It even got repeated a year later.

While on Kemet FM I interviewed Henry Normal a number of times. He was the co-creator, with Steve Coogan, of Baby Cow Productions, who made programmes like The Royle Family, The Mighty Boosh and Gavin and Stacey. I approached him about an interview on stage, which led to me interviewing him, for some ninety minutes, as part of Confetti’s Industry Week.

Tell us about what’s next. We understand you’re going to become a hotelier in Scarborough?
I have always felt the calling of the sea and planned one day to wake up looking at the waves. I decided the time was right to go and that owning a small hotel was the way to do it. We are lucky to be buying a hotel on the North cliff of Scarborough with stunning sea views. It will be a slower pace of life, although I do have some other plans on a list that keeps growing. I married my wife Paula in Nottingham two years ago, after proposing in the small hours at a totally deserted Robin Hood Statue. She was born in Nottingham so I feel I am taking a small piece of the city with me.

What will you miss most about not living in Notts? 
Eating a great curry in Laguna, sitting outside the Crafty Crow with a lovely pint of Magpie Brewery ale, opening night at the Nottingham Contemporary, walks by the canal, sitting in Old Market Square watching the world go by, the beer festival, eating mushy peas at the Goose Fair. There’s a lot I'll miss. 

Describe your 22 years in Nottingham in a tweet…
I turned up in Nottingham, the bloke from “that London”, knowing nobody but felt the hug the city gives so quickly. I leave the place knowing so many people and with a vast array of memories. There is so much I will miss but hope waking up to a sea view will provide compensation.

@babblingbates

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