Review: Sofar Sounds London

If you find yourself in a room full of people sitting on the floor, waiting eagerly for artists they’ve never heard of to play for them, chances are you’re at a Sofar Sounds gig – a night full of surprise performances in an intimate atmosphere, like the excellent one that took place at Coates Studio in London in April.

The room – used as yoga studio or open work space throughout the day – is bright and spacious, providing enough space for people to spread out comfortably with pillows and picnic plaids. Through an open door, you can see one of the artists dancing around with his guitar, unaware of the people watching him. Before the first performance, a volunteer welcomes everybody and briefly explains that this night will be “all about love, warmth and respect for the music”.

Then the reggae-combo The Hempolics takes over, and for four songs, it’s summer in London. The eight band-members are as chilled as their songs, and the three singers all add a different layer to the lush sounds, in particular the female singer, whose rich, chocolatey voice brings soul to the set.

After a short break, Daniel Glover, a twenty-something in Doc Marten’s, sits down with his guitar and starts singing. His voice is beautiful, warm with a slightly raw edge, and the songs move swiftly between indie, pop and folk. Between songs, he explains that he wanted to cancel this gig because his mum died a few weeks ago and he thought he wouldn’t be ready. “I still think I’m not ready,” he confesses, and starts playing a song he wrote for her.

Hearing and seeing his grief and devastation, witnessing this young guy looking sad beyond his years and throwing all his heart into his songs, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by emotions. Everywhere people are swallowing hard, eyes fixed on the stage, holding their friends’ hands. He has to wipe his face with his hands afterwards, too, before he introduces a cover of a Johnny Cash song, which is cheerful and hopeful and feels a bit like a bird’s song after a long, cold winter. I’ll get better, I’m on my way, this seems to say. And from the applause and cheers and glassy eyes you can tell that everybody in the room feels with him.

More is More, the last and probably weirdest act of the night – three guys with saxophones and one guy with a percussion-set – then manage to lighten things up again. There’s something very alien in listening to that kind of music, especially after the first two acts, but it’s joyful and surprising and pure fun.

After the first song, they reveal that they are improvising. If they hadn’t said anything about it, it would have been impossible to tell. Everything from breaks to melodies and loudness is perfectly synchronised and they seem to understand each other from the tiniest of gestures. Most people here probably aren’t used to listening to improv-brass-tunes moving between pop and jazz, but they love it. Some laugh, others grin, but everyone feels good and happy. It definitely was a good choice to let them close the night.

Judging from the bright faces and excited voices leaving the room in Hackney, the Sofar-community has just grown a little bit more.

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Review: Twelfth Night

Putting on Shakespeare is always a bit of a gamble. While the Bard’s plays are guaranteed to attract people, their popularity and familiarity can be the death of a production. Play it too safely, and everybody will be bored. Be too creative, and people will bemoan the lack of respect for the original. Merely Theatre, a small British theatre company currently touring the country with Twelfth Night and Romeo & Juliet, seems to have found the recipe for winning the gamble. Bawdy, passionate and ridiculously entertaining, their refreshing take on the romantic comedy Twelfth Night performed at the New Theatre Royal would surely have pleased the master himself.

The company specialises in stripped-back, gender-blind performances of Shakespeare. For every role in their productions, an actor is paired up with an actress, and they then take turns in performing the part, meaning that sometimes men play women and vice versa.

Twelfth Night itself actually includes a young woman, Viola, pretending to be a man called Cesario, so it’s a perfect fit – and since Viola was played by a male actor (Simon Grujich) that day, you had the unusual case of a man playing a girl playing a man. Additionally, the male characters Malvolio, Sebastian (both Ffion Jones), Antonio and the Fool (both Tamara Astor) were played by women, while Lady Olivia was played by a man (Luke Barton).

Admittedly, this can be confusing at first, but after a few minutes it works surprisingly well. Considering that this romantic comedy not only sees Viola – then disguised as Cesario – fall in love with Duke Orsino (David Gerits), who is in love with Lady Olivia, who in turn falls for Cesario, but also includes nearly identical looking twins, a bit of confusion was probably intended anyway.

A character’s gender is indicated both by clothes and by posture and gestures. Luke Barton’s Lady Olivia, for example, wears a classy black jumpsuit with wide, flaring legs and moves as elegantly and feminine as a Disney princess – he is absolutely convincing, as are the other actors. Tamara Astor’s mischievous Fool is the highlight, stealing the scene every time she is on stage. Ffion Jones’ Malvolio, by contrast, could do with a more understated performance. She tries a little too hard to convince everyone she is a man by exaggerating both her movements and her voice.

Sticking to Shakespearean language, the whole cast seemingly effortlessly throws around thys and thees and thous as if this were their natural way of talking, but including references to contemporary popular culture (e.g. “10 points to Gryffindor!”) mixes things up nicely, as does picking a random gentleman from the audience to perform a wedding ceremony on stage.

The set design is simple, with three wooden arches in the background holding curtains through which the characters enter and exit scenes, and there are hardly any props except for a handful of letters and a bench. For most of the 95 minutes, everything is brightly lit, but night is indicated with a dimmer, colder shade, and at one point, everything is completely dark except for two torches soaring over the stage. The Fool performs a few songs on stage, but there is no background music or other sound added.

All this allows the audience to completely focus on the story – and the actors. You can’t help but be charmed by the company’s dedication. In the end, everybody left with a bright smile on their face, which is probably the best compliment for the actors.

York

When I stepped out of the train station in York, I was stunned – not by the city itself but by the icy wind mocking the bright blue sky and every daffodil pretending that winter was over. Once I had pulled my scarf a little tighter and put on a cap, I could see what the cold had hidden until then: York is beautiful. Almost like a dream.

To take as much of York’s beauty in as possible, I decided to join one of the free walking tours leaving outside York Art Gallery. My train had arrived early enough to give me plenty of time to get a coffee, eat a banana and frighten a few pigeons who thought they had a right to approach and pester me. Randomly stomping my feet whenever they got too close wasn’t as effective as I had hoped, though. I was quite glad when it was time to meet up for the tour and leave the little feathered beasts behind.

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York is so full of history, I’d have felt almost ridiculously young even if my tour buddies hadn’t been a group of 60-somethings visibly shocked to see a 23-year-old interested in things that existed hundreds and thousands of years before she was born. So much about prejudices. Apart from that, the walking tour was fun. While the oldies needed to rest, completely out of breath after walking the city walls, I could take my time to look for odd little things nobody else seemed to notice, like the tiny owl sculpture sitting outside a windowsill and mice carved into an old wooden door.

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Tiny owl is watching you…
The tour ended on Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate. This isn’t a joke shop or anything, it’s a proper street name. Imagine having this as your address. From there, it’s just a few steps to get to The Shambles, the most famous place in the maze of twisting medieval lanes and alleys at the heart of York. It’s probably also the narrowest street in there: in some spots, it’s possible to touch the houses on both sides of the street with your arms outstretched, and many of the houses are so crooked that their upper part leans dangerously far towards their opposite neighbours. This must be the muggle-sibling of Diagon Alley – I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised to find a wand shop amidst all the tiny boutiques and chocolate shops.

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No wands to be found there, sadly. Instead, I probably found the best sandwich ever, stuffed with slow-cooked pulled pork, fresh slaw and an amazing honey mustard sauce leaving bright yellow stains all over my fingers. If you’re ever in York (and you’re not a vegetarian), go to Shambles Kitchen. The guys working there are passionate about what they are doing – you should have seen the look on their faces when they took a large piece of roasted beef out of the oven, cut off a slice and saw that it was perfect: juicy, a delicious shade of pink at the centre, and so tender the knife went through without the slightest effort. It was a look of pure love. And you can taste this love, the food is absolutely amazing.

As is York Minster. I wasn’t sure whether it’d be worth paying £9 just to enter a cathedral, but I did it anyway. And I’m glad I did. The Minster is the largest gothic cathedral in northern Europe, and it might well be one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. Whatever one might think of the Church, these guys definitely knew how to build magnificent places. I’d definitely take advantage of the free guided tours – this way, you get to see all the highlights, and the guides quite literally know everything about the cathedral’s history, whether it’s about a specific statue, one of the gorgeous windows of stained glass or about anything else.

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Chapter House at York Minster
Still in awe, I went to York Art Gallery, which has some great exhibitions on at the moment. One is dedicated to the depiction of flesh, from the naked human body to animal carcasses and fruits (with paintings by Peter Paul Rubens, Edgar Degas, Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin, Circle of Rembrandt and Francis Bacon) , while another one celebrates British ceramics. Afterwards, I strolled through the museum gardens, where squirrels were chasing each other through the daffodils and crocuses defying the cold. Did I ever mention I like squirrels? Well, I really do.

 

Since my train back wouldn’t leave for another few hours, I used the time to go see Hidden Figures at the City Screen Picturehouse. That was a good decision – the movie is great, and the cinema is much nicer and more comfortable than the Odeon in Lincoln. It was the perfect ending for quite a perfect day.

The Geek’s Paradise: The House of MinaLima

London is a city full of wonderful, geeky places. Maybe that’s why I love it so much – it’s the perfect place for a geek like me…especially if that geek loves Harry Potter. Deep inside, I’m still waiting for my Hogwarts letter and the accompanying apology explaining why it took them 12 years to reach me (I would accept both, of course).

For that very reason, The House of MinaLima is one of my absolute favourite places in London. It’s a gallery and a design shop by MinaLima, the graphic design studio which is responsible for the look of pretty much everything from newspapers and school books to flyers and sweets packaging for the Harry Potter movies and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Originally, this was planned as a temporary installation set to close in February 2017. But this week Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima announced that they’ll stay! Whoohoo!

The front page of the Daily Prophet you saw on screen? MinaLima. The Hogwarts letters rushing out of the Dursleys’ fireplace? MinaLima. The Marauders Map? MinaLima. The designs for Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes? MinaLima. I could go on and on, but I think you get what I intend to say: these designs made the movies what they are, created their unique atmosphere, and made the wizarding world come alive.

It’s exactly these things – original prints and other artwork from the movies alongside actual props provided by Warner Bros. – which are exhibited on four floors in the House of MinaLima, and it’s charming and truly magical, from ground floor to fourth floor, inside and outside. It’s almost as if you’re stepping inside the movies and can be part of that world for a little while.

You could even buy the prints, but unfortunately I’m a poor student and will have to be satisfied with seeing them from time to time, in the movies or at the installation.

The Beatles, Radio and Fake English

I always had the impression that you don’t need to understand the lyrics of a song to be able to enjoy it. Best example: tiny me (like, very tiny – three years at most) cheerfully singing along to “Hey Jude”, thinking it meant “Hey du” (“Hey you” in German) and that the singer just had trouble with his pronunciation. Or, later, no longer as tiny me inventing some weird fake English to imitate the actual lyrics of these weird foreign songs I liked to sing to myself – I still remember how impressed I was by the results. It sounded impeccable, more English than real English. Those were the days.

Maybe it’s just my experience growing up with songs I didn’t understand on a verbal level that made me reach that conclusion. But then, there are so many people bragging on about how music is the one universal language we all share – so I can’t be that far off, right?

I just don’t see much of that in the UK. The musical landscape here is great, without a doubt, but it’s very heavily focused on English-speaking artists. And artists from English-speaking countries. That’s not necessarily bad, and also not really surprising – it’s just a little weird from the perspective of someone who’s used to radio playlists (and also the charts) being made up of mostly music by foreign artists.

In Austria, the majority of songs played on local and national stations are from the UK and the US, and a bit from all around Europe (mostly Germany); home-grown music only makes up between 10 and 20 % of the daily output – mostly because it’s a small country with an equally small music scene (except for traditional and après-ski-style stuff, which I try to ignore as much as possible). You usually get a mix of songs from everywhere – and in different languages: a song in standard German might be followed by one in English, then a French one, again an English one, and maybe a bit of Spanish for variety and summer feeling. And, trust me, most people don’t even know English well enough to be able to follow the lyrics – they might even struggle with some of the stranger German dialects. Do they mind? Not at all. Because, in the end, it doesn’t matter if you sing Hey Jude or Hey du, or if you’re using fake English or made-up French to sing along in the car – it won’t make the music any worse, or the experience less fun.

I wonder if people here would mind that. How it would go down to introduce programmes focusing on artists singing in a foreign language or weird dialect, or at least coming from a non-English language background.

I’d really love to hear Brits singing in fake German.

 

Celebrating Female Creativity: Fan Club Nottingham

Have you ever paid attention to the playlists at alternative club nights? If you have, you might have noticed that the music, great as it might be, is between 95 and 99% by male artists.

The fabulous Fan Club wants to change that: Kaylea, Rachel and Fran, the three masterminds behind the project, decided in 2014 that it’s time to provide a platform for the many under-represented women in music and arts. Ever since then, they are hosting monthly themed club nights, gigs and film screenings in Nottingham, all focusing on promoting female talent.

“Our club nights are a celebration of female creativity,” they say. There’s always space for female artist to showcase their work – from contributing illustrations to the fanzine to selling their products at the events. And, of course, there’s great music by female musicians played by Kaylea, Rachel and Fran, who take turns as DJs, playing songs selected to fit the theme of the night. “It’s amazing – we can play 6 hours of music solely by women and still can’t fit in everything we want to!”, they say, proving that there’s definitely no lack of female talent to be blamed for heavily male playlists and festival line-ups.

Fan Club events are usually free. “We do that for fun, and we want to keep them as accessible as possible. We sell fanzines, temporary tattoos, friendship bracelets and similar things, and there’s always the possibility to donate, but that’s it. We only ask for a small entry fee if it’s absolutely necessary, for example if we host a special live band,” Kaylea explains.

So far, Fan Club has been a huge success – not only because people seem to love the concept, but also because of the strict safe space policy at all events. “People regularly come up to us and tell us that they feel so much safer at our events than usual. A lot of the time, women just don’t say anything when they feel uncomfortable, and the policy empowers them to speak up. And it works – if something happens (e.g. if someone says mean and hurtful things) we hear about it and can react.”

If this sounds as good to you as it does to me, you should mark February 4th in your calendar: there’ll be a Galentines day club night (in honour of their idol and elected club president Leslie Knope from Parks & Recreation) to celebrate the power and beauty of female friendship. It takes place on the first floor of Rough Trade (7pm-3am), is free and everyone is welcome – young, old, female, male, LGBQT.

Music and Magic

It was dark. It was cold. My bloody bags were fricking heavy. And I had no idea where I was going.

Did I mention that I knew I’d have to spend half the night on a train station? No?

Well. It was obviously destined to be a great night. Not.

Or maybe it was.

I had been shuffling through the streets of London for hours, just to get Christmas presents for my sister. It was only a few days before Christmas, so you can probably imagine how much fun that was – especially since I was armed with a huge travel bag and a backpack ready to burst open any moment and spill several notebooks, pens and pencils on Oxford Street. It wouldn’t have needed more than someone tipping me on the shoulder to make me fall over. From that point of view, I was glad it was so crowded – there simply wouldn’t have been any space for me to fall down and lie on the ground as helpless as Gregor Samsa in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis.

Unsurprisingly, I was quite happy when it was finally time to leave central London and head north. Because clever me had decided to treat herself to some fun after this: I’d (finally) go see a Sofar gig!

In case you’ve never heard about it: Sofar Sounds was founded by a group of friends who were sick of not being able to enjoy concerts because of people talking, shouting, filming and throwing cups of beer all the time. They started organising intimate gigs at people’s homes or other small and unusual locations about six years ago, and it worked so well that Sofar gigs take place in 309 cities all over the world now. (Needless to say that Lincoln is not one of them.)

When I stumbled across Sofar Sounds and its credo Bringing the magic back to live music on Instagram, I was immediately hooked: Magic, you say? And live music? I’m on my way!!

Three years later, I finally got there. Yeah, I know – that took me quite a while. But if you live in a part of Austria that isn’t Vienna, you tend to miss out on a lot of the fun. You have mountains, they say, what else do you want?

Fortunately, it’s different here in England (you have to make up for the lack of mountains somehow), and London is basically the capital of the Sofar universe, so when I realised that I’d have a whole evening and half a night to kill there alone, I knew what I’d be doing.

Two weeks before that day, I applied for tickets without knowing who’d play – that’s only revealed at the gig (it’s always three artists, and any genre is possible – even spoken word). Luckily, I made it on the guest list at the first attempt, immediately feeling a little VIP.

A day before the gig, I was sent the exact address of the location. Somehow, I managed to spend 15 minutes walking around the area like a complete idiot because I couldn’t find the right place despite Google Maps (mental note: next time, google the location so you know what exactly you are looking for. That might help.).

But I made it, and, frankly, it was one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to. There really is something magical about Sofar: it’s all about the music, and everybody respects that – no one is talking, no one is filming, everybody just listens, completely mesmerised by the performances. I can’t remember having been to a single gig where nobody was waving smartphones and selfie-sticks into the air, so this was quite a weird experience. Weird, but wonderful: everybody – the group of students celebrating a birthday, the hip couples in their late 20s, the old lady accompanying her teenaged granddaughter and the artists themselves – left the room with a wide smile, pledging to come back soon for another magical night.

What a contrast to that afternoon in the city centre. And what a contrast to the gigs I’m used to! I love festivals and concerts where you can sing along and jump around like an idiot, completely lose yourself in the moment and just be part of the crazy joyfulness around you, but there’s something really special about more intimate gigs – maybe it’s the connection with the artist, maybe it’s the laid-back atmosphere, maybe it’s the element of surprise. Very likely, it’s a combination of all that.

After the gig, I felt so cheerful and elevated that I didn’t even mind having to spend the next few hours at a train station. At least not until I was there and remembered how slowly time passes when you’re cold, bored and tired.

But it was worth it.

A Head Full of Trees

wood-nature-walking-darkI sometimes wonder why I – priding myself to be an emancipated young woman – am so attracted to fairy tales (sexism and gender stereotyping, anyone?).

Maybe it’s the atmosphere of wonder and magic. Maybe it’s the illusion that anything – absolutely anything – is possible. Or maybe it’s just the presence of mysterious, dark forests full of ancient trees, strange beasts and deadly secrets.

Oh, I bloody love these forests. So much that when I dream, this funny space inside my head is covered in trees sometimes: I hear the rustling leaves, the whispering twigs, the wings of ravens and owls and whatever else might be hiding in there. I smell the earthy, green wilderness and feel the presence of thousands of eyes in there, making the whole forest seem like one big breathing entity more alive and much wiser than anything else on this planet.

And I wish I could be there for real, not just in my head.

Forests fire up my imagination unlike anything else. Somehow, this seems to be the case for most people, and it’s probably why they go together so well with fairy tales: Just try to imagine Little Red Riding Hood getting lost in a sweltering swamp or Hansel and Gretel leaving breadcrumbs on a sunny beach – the stories just wouldn’t be the same.

Not surprisingly, fairy tale forests are frequently interpreted to symbolise the human unconscious: both are mysterious places inhabited by beasts and secrets, and just like fairy tale heroines have to face what is hidden in the shadows of the trees, we have to come to terms with the beasts buried deep inside us – our fears, our desires, our dreams.

I should probably spend more time trying to find and tame the creatures inside me, but dreaming of unicorns and werewolves just seems a lot more fun.

Screw the Prince

prince-and-princess-1473275137lbzFairy tales let me fall in love with storytelling way before I could read or write a single word. Little Red Riding Hood, Briar Rose and Hansel and Gretel have been my friends long before I had real friends, and I remember only too well begging my mum to read me just one more story before it was time to sleep.

Looking at fairy tales now, as a grown-up (at least according to my ID) and a feminist, they appear very different to me. They’re no longer the innocent stories I remember. Yes, they promote perfectly innocent values: virtue, bravery, kindness. But also heteronormativity and sexism.

I should have seen that all along, but of course, you only see what your eyes have been opened to. As a little girl, you hardly ever question why every female’s goal is to marry a prince they’ve never met, why every ambitious woman is a cruel witch or a spinster, why it’s usually the men who go on adventures and save the world.

A study from 1990 shows just how much this gender stereotyping influences children: when 2.500 pupils were asked to write their own fairy tales based on a given introduction, almost all chose a female protagonist if the first line indicated victimization and oppression; if the sentence promised adventure and autonomy, on the other hand, they chose a male protagonist.

Sure, fairy tales can have a positive effect on children: they boost their imagination, show them how to tell right from wrong, and teach them that life isn’t always easy or fair.

But if we don’t address the underlying sexism and stereotyping, they believe that’s normal – just look at all the girls still thinking it’s enough to be beautiful and to wait for a prince to come along and save them.

Screw the princes, ladies. Be brave and save yourself.

City of Beards

Nottingham, the city of Robin Hood.

Or the city of beards?

Ever since I went to Nottingham two weeks ago I tend to believe the second option. I saw a Robin Hood food truck in the city centre, and there was a small exhibition about him at the castle, but that was all; compared to the mass of stylish little shops full of bearded men, that’s nothing. Robin Hood, make place for the true symbol of Nottingham: the well-groomed, bearded gentleman. (I don’t want to claim that facial hair and gentleman-like behaviour are related in any specific way; “bearded gentleman” just has a much nicer ring to it than “bearded bastard”, although the alliteration certainly has its appeal…)

Anyway, enough about beards.

I honestly didn’t know much about Nottingham before I went there, and if it hadn’t been for a concert I desperately wanted to see I probably wouldn’t have gone there any time soon. People tell you to go to London, Liverpool, Manchester, York, but no one ever seems to recommend Nottingham. That’s a shame — it’s a fun city with lots of really cool places to discover.

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Cappucino at 200 Degrees Coffee Shop
For example, 200 Degrees Coffee Shop. My Couchsurfing host Jake (a bearded barber, by the way) suggested this as a meeting point, and since I could really do with some caffeine and a croissant after the rather tiresome train and bus ride, I gladly let Google Maps take me there. The café is housed in a gorgeous 17th century coaching inn, and it’s just about as cool as a coffee shop can get. There’s dark wood panelling on the walls and a massive old fireplace, and there are a lot of simple wooden tables all over the place where hipsters and a few normal people sit around with their laptops or simply enjoy a cup of coffee with friends. And the coffee and the food are absolutely delicious.

Anyone who likes pancakes should stop by at The Pudding Pantry. It’s a cute, bright café with white and pastel coloured interiors that serves amazing pancakes in every variation you can think of: Classic with maple syrup and butter, with blueberry compote, with peanut butter and banana, with bacon, with chocolate, with cream and fresh fruit. The scrambled eggs and zucchini fritters also looked great, and everything is prepared freshly and with love.

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Super fluffy pancakes with blueberry jam and cream.
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The Pudding Pantry
 

There are also some pretty amazing art galleries. The fabulous P Spowage Art Gallery is — surprise! — next door to a barbershop on Byard Lane. It spreads over several floors and 10 rooms, each of them with a different style or theme: one room is full of simple, powerful img_8565paintings showing silhouettes of people on white canvas, the next one shows bright, colourful animal portraits, and another one showcases impressionistic watercolour cityscapes. Most paintings are by Pete Spowage, but he also rents out rooms to other artists. That day, two of them were just working on their latest pieces and told me about their art while letting me watch them, which was really fascinating.img_8569

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Nottingham Contemporary is another great gallery. At the moment, it shows Marguerite Humeau’s brilliant exhibition FOXP2. In a way, it is one of the strangest art installations I’ve seen so far: the first part is a sound installation in a dark corridor simulating the moment when the gene FOXP2 mutated and triggered the development of language, while the second part can be described as a luminous “biological showroom” full of huge white sculptures of mourning elephants, the only colour in the room being a pastel shade of pink here and there to make it feel a bit less sterile and laboratory-like. That sounds weird, I know, but it doesn’t feel weird at all when you hear and see it.

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Biological Showroom FOXP2
Hockley, the creative and “hip” part of Nottingham, is great for strolling around without aimg_8593 plan. There are loads of brilliant vintage shops, small galleries, lovely cafés and weird pubs. Additionally, there’s Broadway Cinema, one of the best independent cinemas in the region (I wish we had something like that in Lincoln). And, just a few steps down the road, there’s Rough Trade, the legendary independent record store originally from London. I don’t even have a record player, but there’s something about record stores that magically pulls me towards them. Rough Trade is especially dangerous because they’ve got a tremendously nice selection of books there, too.

Since I’ve already mentioned books: There’s a multi-storey Waterstones in the city centre, but even better is Five Leaves Bookshop, a small and charming independent shop specialising in politics, psychology, LGBT and international literature. You’ll find classics and bestsellers there alongside carefully selected quirky and little-known fiction and non-fiction works, and it’s by far too easy to forget the time in there while browsing through the shelves.

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Nottingham Castle
Last but not least, there’s Nottingham Castle, easily the most famous attraction of the city — and that even though the castle no longer exists! The original castle (built on orders of William the Conqueror in 1067) was destroyed in the 17th century, but shortly afterwards the Duke of Newcastle had the Ducal Palace built on the site. This then was set on fire during riots in 1837 and later remodelled into a museum for fine art.

 

The permanent exhibition of portraits and landscapes shows a beautiful selection of artworks from local, national and international artists living and working between the 12th and the 20th century. Additionally, there’s an exhibition about Robin Hood and one about the riots, and there are a number of temporary exhibitions displaying contemporary art and historical artefacts. It might not be a real, big, Game-of-Thrones-like castle, but it’s a lovely place nonetheless.

All these things easily filled my two days in Nottingham, and from everything I’ve heard and seen, there’s a lot more to see and do there. Watching ice hockey or taking a tour down to the caves below the castle, for example. And Nottingham is supposed to have some amazing clubs, bars and live venues.

If I’ve learned anything about Nottingham, it’s this: there’s a whole lot more to this city than Robin Hood. Or even beards.