Once, Nottingham led a cultural revolution in the UK. D H Lawrence was born in Eastwood, eight miles from the City. The village has a Blue Line trail that guides visitors around eleven sites of interest. The great man deserves it. Lawrence wrote Sons And Lovers the classic novel of British working class life and its complicated masculinity.
And no film portrayed the post-war life of ordinary British people better than Saturday Night And Sunday Morning. The original novel was by Alan Sillitoe, the first Angry Young Man, but Sillitoe was a tough thinker, and his bitterness towards industrialisation was soon replaced in 60s popular culture by the cheeky reassuring Beatles. Later, Nottinghamshire miners defied a call to strike because they thought it might help save their jobs. Thatcher closed the pits. Since then the City, apart from Brian Clough, has been bashful about class and culture. The locals, though, still refer to the Town Hall as the Council House
The original name for Nottingham was Snottingham. Nottingham is not trendy but it could have been worse. If Snottingham sounds unlikely, it was ruled by a Saxon chieftain called Snot, think of Johnny Cash and A Boy Named Sue. By the 15th Century Nottingham led the export trade in religious sculptures but like the textile industry that was established during the Industrial Revolution it has declined.
The City is not as quaint as the legends that attract tourists. Its lace industry and Raleigh bicycle factory did not pay high wages. Like the City, the working class community of the Meadows has a low national profile, yet it has the highest rate of children living in poverty in the country, and 45% of Meadows children who attend primary school are eligible for free school meals. A plan to develop the area and rescue lives was cancelled by big heart David Cameron in 2010. The hardship continues.
The twelve months I spent in Nottingham were the grimmest of my life. Nottingham was where I learned about my limits and those of just about everyone else. Julian Marsh, though, has built a splendid eco home in the Meadows. He lives in his home and is part of the community. Nottingham has the largest publicly owned bus network in England. It wins awards for its service. Friend to drowning refugees David Cameron probably intends to privatise it.
Nottingham had and has good traditional pubs. Its history helps. The Salutation was built in 1240, and The Trip To Jerusalem is the oldest pub in the UK. It would take nerve to make either of them trendy. The Trip To Jerusalem is next to the well-maintained Castle. The Sheriff of Nottingham offended Richard the Lionheart because he was loyal to Prince John. The offended Lionheart seized the Castle but Robin Hood was no help because he did not exist.
The Nottingham Playhouse has a distinct repertory. It mixes comedy, playhouse, challenging drama and lectures. In November there is a ‘pay what you can’ performance of The Duchess Of Malfi. This Jacobean drama tells of the blood feud that happens when a Duchess marries below her class. D H Lawrence and Sillitoe would approve.
Next week, our elite and comfort, Oxford
Howard Jackson has had four books published by Red Rattle Books. His 11,000 mile journey around Brazil is described in Innocent Mosquitoes. His latest book and compilation of horror stories is called Nightmares Ahead. Published by Red Rattle Books and praised by critics, it is available here.
If you want to read more about his travels click here.