Nottingham has long been home to a strong spirit of rebellions and trailblazers: from Robin Hood to the Sleaford Mods by way of D.H. Lawrence, Lord Byron and Ada Lovelace, through the English Civil War, the Luddites and our periodic torching of Nottingham Castle, we are a City of Rebels.
Nottingham is a city with a story to tell. And we’ve got the awards to prove it. We’re a city inspired by our iconic rebel writers and it shines through in our writing community today with contemporary writers including award-winning playwright, Amanda Whittington, screenwriter, Shane Meadows, novelist, poet and dramatist, John Harvey, and performance poet Panya Banjoko. We are a cohesive multicultural melting pot of many ethnicities and nationalities.
The city boasts a grassroots live literature scene driven by a diverse and young (a third of its population is under 24) community supported by wide-ranging literary organisations including Nottingham Poetry Festival, Nottingham Writers’ Studio, Nottingham Playhouse, Bromley House Library and a swathe of innovatively independent publishers and poetry groups.
Poetry is our thing! We have a thriving poetry publishing industry and a vibrant poetry scene with a surprisingly high number of provocative slam poetry and energetic poetry workshops and spoken word nights, a Poetry Festival, a poetry magazine published by the DIY Poets, and even a Young Poet Laureate: the first being the brilliantly engaging Georgina Wilding.
Nottingham is a city built on culture with two outstanding universities, 18 public libraries, a host of bookshops, and a creative hub for big thinkers, and the spaces that drive them. Here, galleries break all the rules, cinemas are independent and music is loud. Streets are dripping in art—from Anish Kapoor’s stunning Sky Mirror, to funky murals and the bold architecture that frames the Lace Market.
Over February 2018 Nottingham partnered with Barcelona City of Literature to celebrate and promote our cities to each other. This involved a suite of promotions we built together in advance of the month, including:
richly-illustrated blogs on recommended books from each city;
walking guides to the literary architecture and institutions of each city;
replacing our Word of the Week dialect feature with a piece of Catalan slang;
Two films, one from a Barcelona-born student currently living in Nottingham, the other from a Nottingham-born writer currently domiciled in Barcelona.
Our mutual intention of this project, which was part of several such partnerships across the City of Literature Network, was to highlight the things we share in common with our partnered city, while also celebrating the things that make us unique.
This required strong coordination across both cities and considerable forward planning, with careful synchronisation of our social media accounts to ensure we maximised our connection.
Nottingham Poetry Festival now runs annually in April–May. The festival's ethos is to bring well-known, well-established national and international poets to share a stage with local, less-established poets.
Events are varied and diverse: workshops, open-mics, slams, readings, as well as performance. While the festival organisers directly programme the core events, groups, venues and individuals are encouraged to curate their own events that then become part of the wider festival. This is a symbiotic relationship: the festival decentralised its curation role, while the 'fringe' events benefit from the greater publicity that inclusion in publicity material gives.
The Nottingham Poetry Festival has brought in support from both universities, the council and both the city and county library services, which all run programmes during the festival. Groups that represent minority groups, such as LGBTQ organisations or South Asian diaspora writing groups, are encouraged—and succeed—in opening their work up to a wider audience.
Year-on-year growth in audiences and events, and a high level of local media attention, indicates that the festival has become very much part of the City's cultural calendar.
Every year we partner with Nottingham’s New Art Exchange and ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival on a residency which aims to support a greater diversity of voices. It offers local writers the chance to create links with international writers and festival producers.