Art Is In My Heart: Let’s Grow New Kinds Of Jobs, Businesses And Training In Nottingham See The Roots In Everyone

Featured image: 1977 cover of the Bulletin of Environmental Education  (30pence) which worked to communicate ideas of architecture, building and planning for a good life to more people, more of the time.

In 2016 an idea stole my heart. It crept up on me.

It was only a meeting of a new Civic Exchange supported by the RSA, NTU that I drifted into but there were roughly sixty people there, enthusiastic, listening, full of beans about widening participation and its benefits: mainly professional people,  and students, teachers and academics who all want to be part of a vision for change in Nottingham.

I work with micro businesses and just by coincidence had begun thinking about how to on connect the idea of encouraging other people to wonder how they can improve the streets, pavements, shop signs around them.

So NTUs civic engagement project was right up my street because I’d grown up thinking that the whole community matters: that if you work together you can achieve something lasting for the community. Bar noone.

As a child I experienced the interweave and tension of post war possibilities in education, health, opportunities and how, through conversation, discussion, petitioning, local level activity and canvassing could develop local services (to get a park for the local community for example)

Above: Greythorn Drive Park which was founded in 1967 through campaigning and petition organised by  Jean Stansfield now in her 92nd year (perhaps that bench could be inscribed with her name: the park at the bottom of Wilford Hill we take our children to was founded by Jean who worked as a Unison Organiser in Nottingham all of her working life.

I think we can bring back the idea that when you do something: write a play, for example, it was for everyone: you could all perform it and the community gains value from that performance. We need to connect communities through shared experiences that become the model for new ways of working, earning and learning.

At the first meeting of the Civic Exchange, Detective Superintendent  Jackie Alexander of Nottinghamshire police remarked during her talk about how we could move about our lives in the city in a way where “we don’t feel robbed”.

Nottingham Contemporary’s exhibition of  Otobong Nkanga’s work: ‘The Encounter that Took a Part of Me‘ created an environment that encouraged me to imagine what beautiful streets, pavements, shop signs might look like if we had the courage to take each small space and make it shine with our effort and aspiration:


To me it’s about making the city comfortable and accessible to everyone at every age and stage of life: it’s about all the pedestrian routes, all the possibilities of people walking, imagining, planning on their way to work which will regenerate the city. It’s a way of rethinking all the car focussed tram routes that have been planned to be too narrow for people or cycling.

When you walk into town from Ruddington, Wilford, Edwalton, Gamston, Wilford Hill, Lady Bay, Central Avenue, the Meadows, you’ll feel with the new better style of building that the big expanse of lovely pavement that it’s odd that on either side of the tram there couldn’t have been enough space to plan paving and greenery all the way along the tram line but particularly along the meadows gateway.

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Above the Meadows Nottingham station tram gateway: a great walk into town that needs more space for green planting to encourage pedestrianisation of the tram route and regeneration.

If you think about old Nottingham and the dedicated bus services around communities for example the 41 bus service near to the allotments:

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The feel of the local, the feel of care around that route comes from the ground around the area which has planting in it.

This is the way we could be thinking about regeneration, job creation and problem solving across the travel to work routes in Nottingham.

When you get on the tram you do see a bright, brave new world view of businesses and if you’re a young professional you might think this is great, what’s wrong with this rational clean, hygienic view of the city? Well the thing is that to live long happy healthy lives we need to acknowledge that we need the whole of Nottinghamshire to be regenerated.

We need to interconnect and to show how those interconnections make sense and help us make meaning. We need to use our closeness to facilitate new opportunities, new ideas, new ways of thinking that rejuvenates the city for everyone, protecting the rights of everyone after work, in illness, in recovery and after retirement. We’ve got too used to cradle to cradle planning being the way that new profit centres are created rather than how we all  fulfil our right to freedom and contribution.

We need a bigger vision that will rejuvenate everyone.

I know this through my work in marketing because I’ve become conscious of wanting to be able to respond to people in the now, to connect with them, say yes, I hear you, I understand what you mean. To me it’s a co-production where you find and share meaning and value and the things you produce are evidence that living is a shared enterprise.  

In 2016 I looked around Nottingham after redundancy and thought that’s what Museumand is doing

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it’s what Dee Miller is doing for co-working at Minor Oak

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that’s what Jennie Syson did with Hinterland, Nottingham Visual Arts, Syson Gallery

Above: art made and found along the hinterlands of the River Trent Hinterland,Nottingham Visual Arts Magazine and NTU Visiting Professor John Newling’s 2016 exhibition Lost Islands at Syson Gallery which was open for six years.

In 2020 you can see how the focussed work on the importance of art development work has been in the rejuvenation of opportunity and possibility in Nottingham for people of every background and experience.  When you begin to look you realise how many people want to help others achieve the best they can here.

People at every level who recognise that if one person is excluded we’ve got more work to do to know to understand to make things work for more people more of the time. Thanks to all of you.

Less Joint Enterprise, more Shared Enterprise. More solidarity less separation of class, ethnicity, age and gender in Nottingham please!Screenshot 2020-06-02 at 14.50.23


3 thoughts on “Art Is In My Heart: Let’s Grow New Kinds Of Jobs, Businesses And Training In Nottingham See The Roots In Everyone

  1. This project was launched in the knowledge that there is also a need for great part time jobs with apprenticeships for people of all ages and backgrounds in Nottingha and new ways of thinking about housing, including shared, cooperative, self build and rent to buy. These would be measures that would enable less focus on criminal neighbourhoods and more focus on what we can be doing to rejuvenate and really regenerate Nottinghamshire.


  2. I’m writing an article about the work that’s been done in the broadway and around over the last few years and looking outwards to Long Eaton and back to Nottingham thinking about co-working and what the spirit of co-working means.


  3. It was exciting to be around so many intelligent, qualified and creative people :Rich Hall of Inspire who set up an innovative science access company for pupils in Nottingham. Richard is on e of 28000 fellows of the Royal Society of Arts who is driving change and innovation. He works across the UK and is based in Nottingham.


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