“If what we see and experience, if our country, does not become real in imagination, then it never can become real to us, and we are forever divided from it… Imagination is a particularizing and a local force, native to the ground underfoot” – Wendell Berry
I began 2021 with a creative challenge to myself, partly to bring me out of a period of low-mood and stagnation over the ongoing pandemic and partly to understand where my boundaries were when it came to writing. I was going to write a poem a day, inspired by titles presented to me by friends and family.
I had written songs, poems, stories, and plays, over the years, to create resources for my children’s drama company. I had even written and published my own children’s story, but that was all within one style and for one audience. Would I manage this?
Within 50 days I’d written 50 poems from the profound to the ridiculous. It was a bit of a creative epiphany; I was a poet. But, then came the question, “What do I do with that? How does one make something of a skill like that?” I had no idea that within the next six months I’d be tasked with a mammoth job using all the skills and confidence I’d gained from my challenge.
I have been commissioned to write a poem for Carrington Street, and its adjoining streets, as part of the Townscape Heritage Regeneration Scheme, which has already seen some of the shop fronts returned to their former glory, amongst other things. The poem will be about the buildings, the creation of the street, and people of note who have touched its history. A fitting way to portray the history of a UNESCO City Of Literature.
It will be presented as an audio recording and attached to relevant buildings by a QR code. Passers-by will be able to scan them and hear the poem, along with visuals to enhance the experience. They will be whisked away to various points in Nottingham’s history and introduced to the street by these buildings, which have stood there for so long.
This is my approach: to bring the buildings to life by imagining them as characters themselves, products of their own history and their functions over the years. They will be telling their own stories, as the village elder would, sat around a fire, passing down tales of local history through spoken word. Remembering, reminiscing, and imparting important morsels of information.
The principles of placemaking – creating vibrant places to strengthen the connections between people and local spaces – are coming into full effect
To set to the task, I have spent a good deal of time researching, and wandering up and down Carrington Street, in the last week. There was many a time in my youth I dashed up from the square, through the shopping centre, and passed the buildings on Carrington Street, without giving them so much as a second glance, as I ran to catch a train. I couldn’t tell you what used to be on Carrington Street in the 1990s, as I rushed past. It wasn’t a destination, it was a through road, and it felt disconnected to the rest of the city, serving merely as a way in and out. Many others I have spoken to have also echoed this feeling.
So, why do we miss this street with its impressive architecture and deep history?
With the new developments in the area, the principles of placemaking – creating vibrant places to strengthen the connections between people and local spaces – are coming into full effect and the Regeneration Scheme is hard at work bringing Nottingham’s neglected gateway back to its original glory. Maybe this was what was missing before? Connecting decisions about an area, to people.
And this is where I hope you come in. I need to fill my piece with real memories and stories. I want to hear from as many people as possible who know the area and can share their thoughts. These stories will help breathe real life into the piece and bring the history to life, through words.
I have created a short online questionnaire to collect this information, so if you, or anyone you know, has any memories to share please do fill it out!