I am based out of Nottingham, I chose to move here a few years back, after finding myself increasingly involved with the creative communities here. I always wanted to put together a guide for people visiting Nottingham, people new to Nottingham, or anyone who is just starting to discover creative Nottingham and wants to support independent businesses.
If you work for yourself, or want to support people who work for themselves, you should be spending your money with independent shops. It makes good economic sense, independent businesses spend money with other independent businesses, the coffee you buy every week will likely go towards paying photographers and creatives in this city. How much chance do you think that £3 you spent at Starbucks is going to stay inside the city?
Both of these places are great starting points, because the people who run them know a lot about the city, and can easily offer you further advice on where to go next. So if all you remember from this guide is these two business names, thats kind of all you need.
Ideas on Paper pretty much describes itself, but essentially its a lovely little magazine and book shop run by Alex Smith. I include it first and foremost here, because it was one of the first places I discovered myself when exploring Nottingham.
As a photographer, the best thing about this shop is that so much of it is filled with great photography, whether your into portraiture, fashion, landscapes, travel or even food there is content available on it from this shop. Which means you aren't specifically buying photography books, you are buying books and magazines that happen to be filled with great editorial content.
However beyond all the exciting titles to peruse and buy, there is Alex himself. He knows his stock very well, and its actually his personal service that makes this shop such a gem. Rather than be left wondering what to buy, in what can be an overwhelming amount of visual front covers, you are in a position where Alex will happily ask you a few questions and pluck out a few recommendations.
Beyond everything that makes this magazine and book shop great, is what makes this place better than a subscription. I used to have a few subscriptions and it was exiciting getting that through the post, but eventually I would end up with a stack of magazines I hadn't read because the content in those issues just wasn't interesting. Its not that the magazine wasn't great, just that those issues didn't fit.
Now I just walk into the shop, check out a few of my favourites and buy the one with relevant content that month. Or if I haven't got any idea what to get, Alex is always on hand with a perfect recommendation.
Unit 4b Cobden Chambers
The Photo Parlour, to the outside world, appears to essentially be a Film Lab with Darkrooms for hire. The sort of inside secret is that there is so much more to this space than just those things. While the need for those physical spaces definitely made the space possible, its everything that isn't listed as a service that makes this place great.
It is the only and best photographic community in Nottingham. Anyone is welcome to pop along just to look at photo books, have a tour of the space, or generally just hang out.
There are social events, workshops and just last year we ran our first city wide photography festival showcasing work from local photographers - Off-Centre Festival
I have been privileged to be involved with helping Dan who runs the space, in helping build a community around this space. It is here that The Photo Parlour shares a common element with Ideas on Paper, in Dan is someone not only extremely experienced and technical, but a wonderfully relaxed and welcoming person. Anyone is welcome, not matter what level of skill, no elitism, no one talking down to you, just a space where everyone helps everyone else.
Forget the group shoots, forget the 'master manual mode' workshops, just visit this place and keep visiting.
Coffee and Cafes
I love coffee, and I love cake. So naturally I have picked up lots of favourite places in Nottingham to partake in a little. I actually find have a destination like a cafe is great for street photography, as it gives you somewhere to go, as well as somewhere to stop and refuel. Its also great to have somewhere to arrange and meet with other creatives.
I actually first walked into Wired straight after having come out of first walking into Ideas on Paper. It was one of the first proper coffee shops to open in Nottingham. I had seen it online and it was one of the reasons I first bothered to explore the city centre itself.
Wired is a no-nonsense good coffee shop. The coffee is great, using Allpress one of the older UK roasters based out of London, they started using Allpress before we had any coffee roasters of our own in Nottingham, it has served them well and they continue to produce an excellent coffee using the house blend.
Now, while good coffee is important, the atmosphere in Wired is what makes it for me, its always nice and busy, with lots of other creative people found. The staff are always super friendly, including the owner Très, who spends a lot of time behind the bar making coffee and serving.
I think its a pretty important thing to appreciate shops where you meet the hardworking owner actually running the thing.
All of this is backed up with a good selection of sandwiches and cakes.
A lot of the coffee shops and cafes are based over Hockley way to the east of the market square, Specialty is over at the castle end, so if I find myself at this end of the city, this is the coffee shop I go to.
While they do a great job at all their coffee, the real king here is their espresso. I often enjoy grabbing one and drinking it at the bar like the Italians do, which saves on using a take out cup, before heading out for a dedicated round of street photography.
Outpost is the best coffee roasters in Nottingham, ran by a chap called Greg, that I often see running between various places that stock his coffee. They have a small little cafe in the city centre, where you can sit down to enjoy their coffee, or buy some to take home.
They really do a very good job at producing some of the best coffee available.