The Nottingham Project So Far & the Recent Controversy

Ay-up miduck! Some exciting things have been happening in Nottingham during the Earth’s last orbit of the sun, and I’m here to be your guide! Buckle up, settle in, and get ready to find out more about The Nottingham Project.

The Nottingham Board for Culture and Creativity has a vision for the future of our historically significant and culturally rich city. Spearheaded by an ambitious 10-year campaign, The Nottingham Project, the Board aims to revitalise the city with art, music, and cultural appreciation.

The hopes are that in the near future the very mention of Nottingham will once again immediately conjure up the thought of a vibrant and alternative arts scene and nightlife. Not to mention diverse and abundant cultural heritage. Right in the heart of England. Robin Hood and Nottingham Castle. Watson Fothergill, Samantha Morton, Jake Bugg, and Sheku Kanneh-Mason. The Playhouse and Theatre Royal. Hockley, Sneinton, and the Lace Market. Ice Nine and Rock City. Street art and art galleries, from Victoria Centre to the Nottingham Contemporary.

This would be a refreshing vision, as opposed to the concrete jungle Maid Marion Way is famous for! Oh, and the anti-social behaviour of course. Am I the only one who thinks the Broadmarsh Bus Station looks better as a pile of rubble than before its demolition? Don’t get sentimental on me – it was hideous. Buildings shouldn’t just shelter, they should inspire! And the future of Broadmarsh is looking pretty inspired.

The Nottingham Project has already overseen several street art installations across the city. The project celebrates Nottingham’s notables, pioneers, and rebels. The first mural venerated Nottingham’s renowned role in the lace industry. Next time you’re in town take a stroll up to Fletcher Gate to see the prominent purple mural by artist Alex Rubes.

The mural makes references to the innovative inventions that stood Nottingham apart in the lace manufacturing industry. The design is as intricate as lace, and really brings life to what was once a barren brick wall.

Not long after this mural had been unveiled did another installation appear. Those lucky commuters who brave the sticky walk through Broadmarsh every morning must be delighted to now be greeted every day in appropriate Nottingham fashion.

For these two cheerful and vivid entrances we have two artists to thank – Kid30 and Soz.Mate.

The southern entrance in particular lauds Nottingham with the Robin Hood character. Back off Yorkshire! Another bird reading a book possibly alludes to the two world-class universities we have proudly here in Nottingham. Of course, there’s plenty of opportunities for retail therapy as this mural unapologetically indicates with a fashionable feathered friend in the bottom right-hand corner. Just go through the magic tunnel.

The Chair of the Board, Greg Nugent, is versed in the coordination of major national and international projects, including his role as Director of Brand, Marketing and Culture for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Vice Chair of the Board is none-only than Nottingham’s own – the fabulous Vicky McLure. Among the other members of the Board are various CEOs and directors of cultural institutions and leaders from Nottingham’s esteemed universities and arts colleges.

The most recent installation organised by The Nottingham Project has been shrouded in a wee bit of controversy. And I like me a bit of controversy, so I’m going to talk about it. If you wander down the canal path next to Carrington Street bridge you’ll be struck by the stark and magnanimous pose of Mr Eric Irons OBE gazing across the water.

Eric Irons passed away in 2007, and this mural is a stunning start to raising greater awareness to and honouring his political activism and career.

Irons campaigned tenaciously for equal rights and racial justice. In 1962, he became Britain’s first black Justice of the Peace. Born in 1921 in Spanish Town, Jamaica, Eric Irons OBE is a modern hero of Nottingham, a true man of principle and no less than the first black Magistrate in history. The artist Honey Williams captured his likeness perfectly, but after a bit of digging I soon discovered there had been a little snag in the works.

The unveiling seems to have been a tad premature. Whilst still a wonderful work of art, the mural was unveiled unfinished. The sons of Eric Irons OBE attended, along with Board members and representatives from fundraisers. An invitation had not been extended, it seems, to the artist responsible for the mural – Honey Williams. The Nottingham Project has since profusely apologised, and to be honest it isn’t inconceivable that the whole thing was an honest mistake.

Rational thinking and logic, as we know, bear no fruits in the comments sections. I highly doubt there’s a conspiracy afoot here. Whilst it may not be the height of professionalism, it is possible and indeed common for bureaucracies to sometimes fall short when it comes to communication.

Given the project aims to venerate black historical figures and elevate and contribute to the portfolio of black and ethnic-minority artists, does it really serve to frame this issue along the lines of race and racism?

It’s understandable Honey Williams would feel snubbed and let-down by The Nottingham Project on this occasion. The way I see it though: all the more reason to go bigger and better on the final unveiling!

Tarrah then!

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