I was contacted last week by the Nottingham Post asking to comment on the city being voted the fifth friendliest place in the UK and I was more than happy to assist. This was picked up by a PhD student at Leeds Uni, who was born and bred in Nottingham, who asked to interview me about civic pride, focused specifically on Nottingham. Whilst it’s all too easy to decline such invitations I try to help out when I can, partly on the basis I hope others will one day do the same for my kids.
As with most things I agree to I gave the subject little thought and took it as it came. We met in the Contemporary cafe bar, lunch was ordered (my small reward for taking part) and it was on with the tape recorder and a relaxed hour-long conversation was commenced.
Anyone who knows me will be aware of my passion for Nottingham; give me a platform and I’ll shout loud about how great our city is. However, I realised my view of local civic pride was not quite so clear cut. When I decided to “Get Nottingham Trending” on twitter last year it was not due to some grand master plan to improve the city’s image, it start simply as a whim, partly as I believed it had not previously been done. However, from the start I was accused of planning this only in reaction to the negative media attention Nottingham had been attracting in recent years, which I must confess I have found unjust and extremely frustrating. The plan was to remind local people of how great their city was as it’s all too easy to take your surroundings for granted and focus on the minor negatives, overlooking the hugely positive bigger picture. On trending day this happened, with thousands of people shouting about what they loved about the city.
I’m sure that if you walked into a bar in Derby and overheard a conversation about which city was best you would hear a long list of great things about Nottingham as it seems standard practice to defend your home city when you’re not in it yet grumble when you return. I think that underneath it all most Nottingham folk are pretty proud of their city and have something of the Robin Hood spirit that we won’t be ground down by unfair rumours and insults. Cities that I would instantly compare to us are Newcastle and Liverpool, both with a similar spirit or independence and resilience, both striving to be a little different. It is arguably a little more difficult for Nottingham to compete in the way due to our geographical location, being not only in the Midlands, by its very nature neither South nor North so indistinctive but also in the East Midlands, probably the least understood region of the UK. Also, both Newcastle and Liverpool have very easily distinguished accents whereas Nottingham can be confused with other places and is harder to pinpoint to the uninitiated.
One analogy I felt appropriate was the tribal nature of footballs supporters. Just look at the number of Twitter profiles where people define themselves mainly or sometimes exclusively by the team they support. Does supporting County or Forest carry with it a sense of civic pride, given that both team names contain the city and county titles? I think it does, as indeed does supporting the Panthers of Notts County Cricket Club or even our world championship boxer Carl Froch. Our strong sporting heritage must be a boost to our pride in the city, as indeed do our two first class universities, creative industries and, in particular of late, local music scene.
I loved taking part in the frenzy surrounding Jake Bugg being nominated for a Brit Award, with Tweets, emails and Facebook alight for days in the build-up, sadly not quite enough to succeed but just one example of us getting right behind our own.
So in summary what is the state of civic pride in Nottingham? I believe we always have had and it just keeps growing, meet you in the Bell Inn if you want to argue about it!
Tony Bates is the Managing Director of Fast Graphics. You can find Tony on Twitter at @babblingbates