Nottingham Creative City: one city, many voices

Nottingham Creative City: one city, many voices

Nottingham Creative City: one city, many voices

By Sally Bowden, Research Manager at the University of Nottingham

Sally Bowden from the University of Nottingham tells us about Nottingham’s series of events for Being Human and their successful bid to become a UNESCO City of Literature.

The Long Gallery, Castle Art Museum, in the late nineteenth century

The Long Gallery, Castle Art Museum, in the late nineteenth century

Nottingham ‘Creative city’ was delighted to serve as a hub for the 2015 Being Human festival. Over the course of ten days we ran 15 events in Nottingham and a runaway ‘Smell’ event in London. The Nottingham-based events included a set of ‘pathways’ along which audiences could follow a particular interest. One of these, featuring academic research conducted at the University of Nottingham, considered the city’s long tradition of fine arts. This strand started with a talk on the work of Joseph Wright of Derby (not quite Nottingham but a regional influence nevertheless) by Professors Stephen Daniels and Dr Lucy Bamford and continued with a presentation by Professor Richard Wrigley on the founding of the first English regional public art museum in 1878 at Nottingham Castle.

At Nottingham Contemporary Art Gallery, we explored the post-war work of the experimental ‘Midland Group’ (chaired by Dr Nick Alfrey); at artists’ collective We Are Primary, Dr Alex Vasudevan led an exploration of the contemporary arts scene in Nottingham and the challenges and opportunities presented by urban spaces.

Jesse Boot’s first establishment on Goosegate, Nottingham

Jesse Boot’s first establishment on Goosegate, Nottingham

Page vs Stage, a poetry showdown, brought 20 poets from different writing and performance cultures together to discuss the merits of the two genres. The following day, more than 60 people – including members of the public, students and academic staff – went to various locations across the city to read the 27 chapters of Bryan Johnson’s book-in-a-box The Unfortunates. This ambitious performance reading, called ‘But I Know This City,’ was directed by Andy Barrett, local writer, PhD student and creative director of Excavate Theatre Company. Seven hundred and fifty readings were given and audience feedback was overwhelmingly positive. 

Kath Akers reading in the basement of the Nottingham Writers’ Studio

Kath Akers reading in the basement of the Nottingham Writers’ Studio

The Being Human festival happened at just the right time for Nottingham as it gave us the opportunity to showcase the city’s literary culture at a moment when we knew that UNESCO were considering the city’s application to become a member of its Creative City Network. We were thrilled when Nottingham was designated a UNESCO City of Literature in December 2015. Our hope is that this status will enhance our efforts to transform the prospects of Nottingham’s citizens, particularly its youth, through nurturing their creativity. Collectively we will demonstrate how literature can be used to connect, celebrate and conserve diverse communities within a city environment. Our City of Literature celebrates difference and the ethos of ‘one city, many voices’ and the Being Human festival will continue to be a key element in achieving these ambitions. 


For more information of Nottingham’s UNESCO status, please see the Nottingham City of Literature site.
If you’d like to read more about Nottingham’s Being Human series ‘Creative city’, see here.