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What does the Creative Quarter mean to you ?


There is a new theory that Robin Hood may not have been from Nottingham but from Kent, a Southerner who travelled up North fighting a guerilla war, then stayed.  This trend has continued, according to the last Census Nottingham had a 13% increase in its population size, twice the national average, mostly due to people moving here, and students staying after completing their courses. This has been good for the city, as the new communities have helped develop the city and have contributed to preventing what could have a terminal decline after the demise of its industrial base in the 1980’s.

I have to admit that I am also a migrant from London who moved here from London in 2002.  When decided to move here we had no connections in the city, we wanted a city with some of the vibrancy of London, but was also small and compact so the work and family life had some balance. Nottingham was perfect, ten miles across, two Universities, and a creative and cultural waiting to burst. Also I am ashamed to say we knew London was only a couple of hours way, at the time not much longer than my daily commute from Muswell Hill to Ealing.

These are some of the factors that have helped Nottingham withstand the worst effects of the economic recession over the past five years. Though, lets not kid ourselves that everything is rosy, we also have a city with huge disparities in health, mortality rates, and employment levels according to postcodes. Life is hard in the city for some young people now, (which is probably why Jake Bugg sang “I got out, I got out, …. So I hold two fingers up to yesterday”), and just to bring the point home we were named as the poorest city in the UK last week. 

The Creative Quarter is just one (small) component of a strategic plan to redevelop the City and tackle some of these issues.  Writers such as Richard Florida have been pushing the idea that a ‘creative class’ is an important component to redevelop cities for over 15 years, and over the past decade the arguments supporting a growth plan based which is centered on the creative sector is well researched. BioCity in Nottingham is a good example of a ‘creative class’ bringing economic benefits to the city.

The Growth plan will probably bring new industry and people into the city, but the real challenge is to get these people to stay here and spend their income. This is role for assigned to the Creative Quarter project, as research shows people choose to live in cities where they can make lifestyle choices and be with people with similar attitudes, the creative community help create the fabric which develops these cities.

It is a real challenge to see how it can manages to achieve this, but there are real examples of creativity being used to make city spaces more interesting desirable places to live. This doesn’t mean cleansing the city of its poor in the way of Paris, as the new wealth comes from Moscow, China, Mumbai, Shang Hai, and London, and people nowadays are comfortable mixing with different communities and classes.  Just look at Brick Lane, Portobello Road, Spitalfields, or even Camden, shabby building, poverty, ethnic diversity and class all mingle to create vibrant markets everyone wants to visit.  A vibrant art sector, good cheap food, craft markets, and mixed community will all help make the city a buzzing place, that’s not just reliant on people shopping in the usual shops.

If you thought that the Creative Quarter project will help you get project funding, well there are no handouts for local business, there will be a loan facilities. However, aside from this the Creative Quarter component of the Growth Plan will affect the quality of life for many people in the city, and in some respects will project a vision of the city to the rest of the world.  There doesn’t appear to be a coherent plan how this going to happen, though I assume the recent appointment of Kathy McArdle will change this.

As someone with a local business I know the area has huge potential, with a huge number of creative businesses both at the shop level, but also hidden away on the first, second and third floor of the old Lace Market buildings.

Here’s some simple ideas

  • Rather than keeping the graphic designers inside their offices on the second and third floors, let them create all over the buildings of the Lace Market, if you have walked around Bristol you will see how surreal the areas becomes( see the images above), and attracts tourists, and we have loads of talented graphics designers.
  • Get ‘Creative Quarter’ to mean the independent local creative shopping sector, it is what make the quarter different to the main shopping areas. Encourage and support and brand the area. Currently we have loads of ‘creative quarter’ signs but it has no identity for anyone.
  • Get people onto the streets, have a Sunday market, get some of the great ethnic food from across the city selling on the streets, and get rid of Sunday parking tickets.  Currently I can go to London on a Sunday, visit a gallery, park for free and great nice cheap food.  We should be able to do this in Nottingham.

If you have any ideas please send them to us. If you want take part in the discussion, then go to the local business meeting on the first Friday of each month. John Lennon once said “life is something that happens to you are you are busy making other plans”, we local businesses should note, the Creative Quarter will happen whether you are involved or not, so if you really want to see the area develop, and have views or energy to make this happen you really have no choice but to get involved.

The Lace Open Mic is a monthly gathering of local business. It meets on the first Friday of every month: 16:30 to 18:30 (BST)

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Jagdish Patel is a Nottingham based photographer and a Director at the Nottingham Photographers’ Hub a social enterprise helping vulnerable communities enter the creative sector.