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The Nottingham Culture Review of 2021

31 December 21 words: Jared Wilson
illustrations: Raphael Achache

A year that started badly, but ended with something of a return to normality. Long may it continue...


We begin the year in our third national lockdown. After a brief Christmas hiatus where three households are allowed to socialise indoors together, the party is over and all non-essential socialising is outlawed until at least mid-April. Happy New Year!

On the plus side the vaccine roll-out begins in earnest with major new centres popping up across the city, including the Forest Recreation Ground, Richard Herrod Centre in Carlton, the Nottingham University Campus and the County Council car park in West Bridgford.

Sleaford Mods release their new album Spare Ribs and spray paint its name in graffiti on the shutters of JT Soar recording studio in Sneinton. They also announce that they’ll be playing their biggest capacity show ever at the Motorpoint Arena in November.

Nottingham City Council-owned Robin Hood Energy goes into administration, with losses estimated to be around £38million. This acts as a precursor to a national energy crisis which will unravel towards the end of the year.

Thomas Dodd, former manager of Nottingham’s Pryzm nightclub, starts getting loads of letters arriving at his house from deed poll confirming the legal change of his name to ‘Celine Dion’. Turns out he got really drunk on Christmas Eve.


Writer, director, film producer and Broadway Cinema staff member Sophia Ramcharan sadly passes away. Creatives across the city pay tribute to her life and work.

Nottingham Festival of Science and Curiosity takes place online with a week's worth of ‘try this at home’ activities to amuse young ones.

Television Workshop actor Bella Ramsay is announced as one of the leads in an HBO TV adaptation of the Sony video game The Last of Us.


Meghan Markle takes a break from being vilified by Piers Morgan and the Daily Mail to donate £10k of her cook book profits to Nottingham food bank charity Himmah. Director Sajid Mohammed initially thinks it’s a joke.

Vicky McClure is all over our screens again in the final series of Line of Duty and a UK record 12.8 million viewers tune in live for the last episode.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is the second major Marvel TV show to launch on Disney+ and features Television Workshop alumni Erin Kellyman as likeable villain Karli Morgenthau.


Nottingham City Council and Nottingham BID help lots of city centre bars and restaurants get back on their feet by pedestrianising lots of streets and allowing them to take over them with tables, chairs and marquees. 

Notts singer songwriter Saint Raymond releases his new album We Forgot We Were Dreaming.


Pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops are finally allowed to re-open indoors. Restrictions of groups of six (or two households) still apply, but it’s one step back on the ladder of normality for the local hospitality trade.

Nottingham community cohesion legend Toni Price passes away from cancer. She’s not a household name, but those who know her work know the good she did for this city. In early November a red phone box sprang up  in Sherwood, as one of the last projects she ever organised came to fruition. It’s a book-sharing library and we’ll think of her whenever we pass by. 

Nottingham-based rappers Young T and Bugsey get three nominations at the 2021 Brit Awards. Unfortunately they are pipped to the post on all of them, but it still makes them the most successful Notts act at the Brits in living memory. 

Nottingham East MP Nadia Whittome takes a mental health break from her role. Hucknall-born journalist, author, trans woman and campaigner Paris Lees releases her book What It Feels Like for a Girl to mass critical acclaim. 

Nottingham Panthers win the playoff finals against the Sheffield Steelers, in the first event of its kind streamed entirely online. The Arc Cinema in Beeston opens to the public with director Shane Meadows joining them for the grand unveiling. 


Prodigious local classical musicians The Kanneh-Masons play two big homecoming concerts at the Royal Concert Hall. Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason also receives an apology from the British Home Office who seem to have mistakenly cancelled his passport just as he’s about to head off on an international tour. 

The Nottingham Tennis Open takes place with Venus Williams and Andy Murray lines up to take part (although Murray later pulls out due to injury). The eventual singles winners are Johanna Konta and Frances Tiafoe - and a certain Emma Raducanu also features. 

Nottingham Castle re-opens on Monday 21 June, after a three year makeover and features a new solo exhibition from Beeston-born international fashion guru Sir Paul Smith.

Loki becomes the third major Marvel TV show to be released on Disney+ and features Nottingham-born actress Sophia Di Martino as Sylvie. Environmental festival The Green Hustle becomes the ‘first festival back’, taking place outdoors on Sneinton Avenues on Saturday 5 June.

The Euro 2020 football tournament takes place a year late. Nottingham is represented in the home nations by former Notts County loanees Jack Grealish (England) and Callum McGregor (Scotland) and Forest’s Scott McKenna (Scotland).

Former Forest striker Ben Brereton changes his surname to Brereton-Diaz, qualifies for Chile and becomes a sensation in the 2021 COPA America. Notts County lose in the play-offs for the third time in four years.


27-year-old Emily Campbell from Bulwell becomes a national icon for becoming the first British Woman to win a medal for weightlifting, claiming silver at Tokyo 2020. Shona McCallum from Newark also wins a Bronze as part of the British field hockey team.

19 July is billed as ‘Freedom Day’ as most COVID-related restrictions in UK venues end. Nightclubs are finally allowed to re-open across the country.

It's a big summer of outdoor gigs with DHP taking over the Arboretum and Revolution Sounds taking over the Old Cold Store at Castle Rock Brewery. Unfortunately Splendour Festival bites the dust again this year, alongside other local staples Goose Fair and The Hockley Hustle. Fingers crossed for the return of all of these in 2022. 

Saad Eddine Said is appointed as the new Artistic Director and CEO of art gallery New Art Exchange, replacing Skinder Hundal. Angharad Jones is appointed as Artistic Director of New Perspectives Theatre Company, replacing Jack McNamara.


Nottingham Craft Beer Week returns to venues across the city, featuring a raft of events including Smash The Pint-riarchy at the swanky new Liquid Light tap room and Nottingham Craft Beer Festival at Sneinton Avenues. Basford-based brewery Black Iris celebrate 10 years of brewing by opening a new tap room just in time for the bank holiday weekend. 

Sci-fi and general geekery convention EM-Con takes place at The Motorpoint Arena featuring guests such as Catherine Tate and Jason Mewes.

Worksop-born Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson returns home for a spoken word show at the Royal Concert Hall. Jake Bugg releases his new album with the Sillitoe inspired title Saturday Night, Sunday Morning.

Nic Harvey leaves his role as the Director of the Television Workshop, to be replaced by Alison Rashley. Nic’s last performance is directing the notoriously unlucky MacBeth, the final performance of which takes place on Friday 13. Lead actor Joe Kinch ends up popping his knee and paying a visit A&E in between performances, but soldiers on to finish the run on crutches.


The delayed 2020 Paralympics takes place in Tokyo. Nottingham-based winners include Sophie Hahn, Charlotte Henshaw, Tully Kearney and Richard Whitehead.

Bru-C becomes the first Nottingham-based rapper to sell out Rock City. Nonsuch Theatre move outdoors, setting up shop on the Embankment over two summer weeks with Nonsuch on Trent. Nottingham Pride returns across the streets of Hockley. Nottingham International Film Festival takes place at the Savoy Cinema.


Wigflex City Festival makes its comeback after a one-year hiatus featuring Goldie, Tom Ravenscroft and many more acts and DJs playing at venues across the city. Detonate follow up their annual festival at Colwick Park by taking over Nottingham Arena for a truly massive Halloween party. Mayhem Film Festival returns to Broadway for four days of horror films.


A Christmas Carol launches at Nottingham Playhouse, a year after initially planned. Adapted by Mark Gatiss (Sherlock) and directed by Adam Penford (Nottingham Playhouse Artistic Director), it was set for a move to Alexandra Palace in London just in time for Christmas.

London Grammar play at Nottingham Arena a decade on from their first proper gig as a band for Sounddhism at the Bodega. Nottingham Comedy Festival takes place across the city over two weeks at venues including Canalhouse and Angel Microbrewery. Local theatre company Chronic Insanity, who set out to make twelve shows in twelve months, realise they have doubled their target. 

A Nottingham delegation visits the COP26 conference in Glasgow and realises that if things don’t change soon then we might all be in lots of trouble.


Santa visits all of our houses.

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