Walking through the Creative Quarter last week I wondered what DH Lawrence would have made of all the changes in Nottingham city.
In his essay “Nottingham and the Mining Countryside,” Lawrence wrote about how men were ‘beaten down’ by industrialisation, ‘what with the din-din-dinning of Board Schools, books, cinemas, clergymen, the whole national and human consciousness hammering on the fact of material prosperity above all things.” The problem for many in the city nowadays is that there is little work. We are one of the poorest cities in the country, with a large portion of the young people without work. These are not all unskilled; many are graduates, many with huge creative talents, and still creating things, so ‘beaten down’, they are not.
I went to see Rob Howie Smith with these thoughts of creativity and regeneration. Rob, like me, likes discussing the work of Richard Florida and his ideas of using creativity to bring about economic growth, so much so he is doing a Phd on the topic. He tells me how Florida’s theories have generally worked, though his is critical about some of the ideas. Over the past ten years Rob has been putting these theories into practice by getting empty buildings, filling them with creative people and helping them make a living. His little projects are scattered throughout the city, the art organisation near the railway station, Five Leaves bookshop in the city centre, Station Studios, and now the Corner, near the Broadway, and home to the Howie Smith project, Left Lion and many others.
His next project will take him out of the city centre for the first time, to St Annes, and the site of an old derelict pub called the Beacon In 2014, the old Beacon will be transformed from an empty eyesore in a local community hub, where you can ‘share, learn, teach, swap skills, fix, make and create, collaborate with arts, a safe space where people of all ages, young and old, can come together.’
The project has come about because the local community really wants it to happen. Last week they launched their kickstarter campaign to help develop this ambitious project, and next year the Old Beacon will be running educational workshops and classes, artistic events, exhibitions and live music performances, craft fayres & markets, communal feasts. For Rob its an important project because it takes the discourse around creativity and regeneration out of the city to St Annes, places not necessarily seen as creative places.
This takes us to a discussion about the long overdue recognition of Hyson Green and its global connections. Rob wants to see more of the legacy of Nottingham and its role in the globe out on display much more. He has ideas for indoor markets, places for street performers and graffiti boards in Hockley, some of the projects are already underway, so if you want to get involved, get in contact, you never know where a conversation with Rob will take you.
If you wish to donate to the kickstarter scheme you can do through this link
If you want to hire work space at the Corner contact Rob directly. His website is
The Five Leaves bookshop is here