Why Nottingham should be European Capital of Culture 2023

Could the home of Robin Hood scoop the prize?

Ravneet Ahluwalia
Friday 18 August 2017 09:17 BST
The Midlands city is putting itself forward for the prize
The Midlands city is putting itself forward for the prize (Getty Images)

It may be six years away but the Nottingham has thrown its hat into the ring to become European Capital of Culture 2023. But does it have what it takes to beat Belfast, Dundee, Leeds and Milton Keynes? We round up the cultural highlights the city has to offer.


The home of Lord Byron and DH Lawrence was named a UNESCO City of Literature 2015. It has 18 public libraries, a host of bookshops and a wide range of organisations that host events and support writers including the Nottingham Writers’ Studio and Nottingham Playhouse. The annual Nottingham Festival of Words has welcomed 125 writers since it began in 2012. Five Leaves, an independent bookshop opened by local publisher Ross Bradshaw, is a must visit destination as is The Sparrows Nest, a volunteer-run library named after local anarchist magazine The Nottingham Sparrow.

The Nottingham Contemporary art space opened in 2009
The Nottingham Contemporary art space opened in 2009 (Getty Images)


The Nottingham Contemporary is one of the largest contemporary art centres in the UK and the New Art Exchange is the first space dedicated to African, African Caribbean and South Asian art in the country. The city has a vibrant scene with talented local artists hosting a range of exhibitions all year round. Check out Primary, a studio complex which is home to 30 artists and puts on exhibitions; the Syson Gallery, housed in the Union Chambers; and Backlit, an independent gallery that hosts artists and has a wide ranging public programme which includes artist-led workshops and debates as well as art shows.


Modern British restaurant Sat Bains boasts two Michelin stars and is blazing a trail in a city that has stepped up its dining game in the last few years. Head to Iberico for tapas, Oscar and Rosie’s for made from scratch pizza and The Larder on Goosegate for a menu that changes every day depending on the seasonal local produce available. It’s not without its quirky venues either; 200 degrees will serve you nitrogen coffee alongside fresh vegan brownies.


Some cities produce a stream of artists that stick to one genre but Nottingham’s recent hitmakers range from folky Jake Bugg, to the dreamy pop of London Grammar and the punky electronic duo Sleaford Mods. In Nottingham it’s possible to find a live gig almost any day of the week to suit your taste. This is down in large part to the city's enviable reputation for live music venues - local favourites include the bijou 60 capacity JT Soar, Jam Café and The Bodega. Nusic supports new Nottingham artists and club goers can find events that cater to their late night needs, with everything from techno to soul on offer.

The bronze of Robin Hood sits in Nottingham Castle
The bronze of Robin Hood sits in Nottingham Castle (Getty Images)

Robin Hood

Last but not least the man responsible for putting the city on the map. Nottingham honours its most famous son and his direct approach to fighting poverty with a statue that lives on the lawn behind Nottingham Castle. The cast bronze work is surrounded by small studies of Little John, Friar Tuck, Alan A Dale and Will Scarlett and wall plaques illustrate scenes from the tales of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. The 11th century castle itself, which was allegedly once home to Mr Hood’s adversary, the Sheriff of Nottingham, is now home to a museum and art gallery. You can also visit the historic caves beneath the castle, with guided tours available.

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