Reclaiming Nottingham is a series I’ve started on the movement towards taking over abandoned buildings and neglected spaces in the name of creative enterprise. The first was about the Victorian courtyard off Pelham Street – Cobden Chambers. Second up is also close to my heart, being both a writer and creative entrepreneur.
Nottingham Writers’ Studio has been running for a fair few years now. But up until recently they were tucked away in a series of offices in Hockley – awkward to find or even know about. As of this week (with the help of the Howie-Smith Project), they’ve launched new digs at street level. The Old Pram Shop is an appealing building rounding a corner at the bottom of Hockley – opposite Bunker’s Hill en route to Sneinton Market.
With eye-catching frontage, ground floor offices and a spacious open plan basement for events and activities, it’s a far cry from the stuffy serviced offices NWS recently called home. And far more apt for a non-profit org that doesn’t want to toe the elitist white-collar line.
The Writers’ Studio is primarily a community set up to support an archetype lonely occupation. Writers come in all shapes and sizes, from the shy hobbyist, to the radical performance poet, to the hacks and playwrights, to the prize-winning novelist. A ‘writing career’ is not a simple one. It’s difficult to start and awkward to maintain. Few writers make a steady income from one channel and new writers need to realise that and know how to make the best of whatever skill set they have.
NWS offers the resources and advice needed, along with the potential to make like-minded friends who understand your struggle.
The mad-cap plans of Bees Make Honey have been strongly supported by Nottingham Writers’ Studio. Pippa Hennessey and James Walker (development director & chair) in particular seem to understand our devotion to traditional formats and books as handmade objet d’art alongside mingling curiosities about new media platforms. In some respects Reclaiming Nottingham sits on this very notion. To treasure tradition and heritage, to invest love into old buildings, but to do so in a progressive forward-thinking way. One of NWS’s current multi-media projects Dawn of the Unread is a great example of this thinking in other forms.
The new home for Nottingham Writers’ Studio is meaningfully positioned between trendy Hockley (a place already littered with schmoozing artists and cafe-au-laptop hobos) and the facelift-in-waiting Sneinton Market. Sneinton has been tiptoeing along the edge of its latent potential for many years, with a collection of brilliant little galleries/artist spaces (including Surface Gallery, Bohunk Institute, Backlit and One Thoresby Street) and recording studios/gig spaces (including JT Soar and Stuck on a Name). The area looks set to change a little more dramatically over the next couple of years. With investment going into doing up the shops along the market and various buildings in the area becoming new homes to creative enterprise as they’re squeezed out of Hockley by high rents. And within this change the Writers’ Studio will be among those leading the charge.
The days of grant-dependent existence for creative institutions are looking numbered and social enterprise is becoming the proverbial Phoenix from the flames. In respect of this the Writers’ Studio have used their latest grant to take large steps towards self-sufficiency. They work on an affordable paid membership scheme ensuring a co-operative approach to the direction of the studio. One of the brainchildren of the collective membership was the first Nottingham Festival of Words in 2013, which will be returning in October this year. They’re also working alongside Bromley House Library and other institutions to pitch Nottingham as the next UNESCO City of Literature.
All exciting stuff for a city in the throws of reclaiming its creative heart.