Sometimes being in the same small city for a long time can become mundane, especially when you’ve grown up in a place like London where something is happening all the time. Yet having moved to Nottingham for university and chosen to stay post-graduation, I do like this place that I have decided to call home for the time being.
It’s interesting to see just how much and also how little this place has changed in almost 800 years.
Looking at paintings by artists who have managed to capture some of my favourite parts of Nottingham has reminded me what I love about it. Going on walks along the river Trent, planning trips to the Forest Recreation Ground for fairs and so on; it’s interesting to see just how much – and also how little – this place has changed in almost 800 years.
When most people – both in the UK and abroad – think of Nottingham, little springs to mind other than it is the home of Robin Hood. This is something the city uses to its advantage to attract tourists: there are city and cave tours led by a man dressed as Robin Hood taking place every week, statues of him located near galleries that themselves house paintings of the Sherwood Forest freedom fighter, and of course the Robin Hood Half Marathon which takes place every September. If you didn’t know that Robin Hood was a big deal in Nottingham before, you’ll definitely know once you’ve visited.
Last month not only marked 44 years since the release of Disney’s Robin Hood film, but was also the month in which Nottingham put in its bid to become Europe’s 2023 Capital of Culture. With Brexit set to officially happen in 2019, it’s not looking likely that any city in the UK will ever hold the title, or even be allowed to bid again, but this shouldn’t stop us from appreciating a city that's an East Midlands gem.
Nottingham has a thing for tradition and its annual Goose Fair is exactly that for locals: a tradition. It takes place in the first week of October at the Forest Recreation Ground, although in this painting its location was the Old Market Square. This was where it used to take place prior to the market’s redevelopment in the 1920s.
The name 'Goose Fair' comes from the fact that in the thirteenth century, thousands of geese used to be sold there. While the name has remained the same, you won’t find any geese there next October as the fair has since become famous for its rides, food and typical fun fair games.
Speaking of Old Market Square, this area is considered by many to be the heart of Nottingham, located right in the city centre. It’s where everyone goes to eat, shop and meet, much like the painting in that sense. The Square is still frequented by both people and pigeons alike and although stalls aren’t located there all year round, their significance to the city’s history remains not only in the name Old Market Square, but also when Nottingham’s annual Christmas Market takes place during the winter months.
Whilst Robin Hood is by far the local favourite, he isn’t the only household name to have lived in Nottingham. In the film The Dark Knight Rises (2011), Wayne Manor – the home of the rich vigilante, Batman (the alter ego of Bruce Wayne) was in fact filmed in and around Nottingham’s very own Wollaton Hall.
Wollaton Park, in which the stately home is located, is first and foremost a deer park but is also a playground to all who live in the city. During the winter when it snows you will find locals racing down the hill on which Wollaton Hall sits, in their store bought and makeshift sledges. During the summer the park is used as a location for cross country events as well as outdoor festivals.
Like any city, Nottingham isn’t perfect. Unlike London, people stand on both sides of the escalator, transport isn’t 24 hours and shops close by 6pm on a weekday. But Nottingham is a place with strong culture and a history and it always tries its best to honour them. Much like the artists who painted the above, who have managed to encapsulate pieces of Nottingham within their paintings, the city does the same by keeping folklores and traditions alive.
Precious Mayowa Agbabiaka, freelance writer