Entertainment in Nottingham

Nottingham has a delightful array of fascinating tourist attractions, suiting everyone from the history buff to the Robin Hood fan, but the city has a lot to offer beyond half-day excursions for out-of-towners.  For those who live in the city proper, or in its surrounding conurbation, and for those who visit on day trips and holidays, there is music of all sorts, theater, dining, shopping, sport and nightlife.  Entertainment is rich and plentiful in the modern city of Nottingham.

For classical music, there are several performing groups to choose from, including the Nottingham Symphony Orchestra, the Nottingham Philharmonic Orchestra, the Harmonic Society, the Bach Choir, the Symphonic Wind Orchestra, and the Early Music group Musica Donum Dei.  The government also sponsors an annual series of orchestral concerts known as the Nottingham Classics, and the Nottingham Music Society hosts chamber music performances at the Castle Gate Congregational Centre.

The city is home to several other exciting music venues, including the Royal Concert Hall and the Nottingham Arena, which feature a wide variety of modern performers.  More intimate shows are played at club venues such as Junktion 7, The Old Angel, the award-winning Rock City and its sister venues, and many more. Nottingham has a very lively pub and club scene, sustained by young adults from the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University.  The local music scene has produced the bands Swing Out Sister, Ten Years After, Paper Lace, Tindersticks, Stereo MCs, Pitchshifter and Consumed.

The discerning theatre buff may attend plays at the Nottingham Playhouse, the Theatre Royal, and the Nottingham Arts Theatre.  Smaller local theatres include Albert Hall Nottingham, the Bonington Theatre, the Clarendon Community Theatre, the Courtyard Theatre, and the Lakeside Arts Centre.  Each year Newstead Abbey hosts summer theatre, with Shakespeare and other offerings, while in the winter time they present nostalgic Christmas pageants.

Dining out in Nottingham twenty years ago was a rather grim business, as the choices were rather narrow and bland.   These days there are many fine restaurants, some winning national awards, including Hart's, Jesse's, Merchants, Petit Paris, Pretty Orchid, Punchinello's, and The Mediterranean.  There are a wide variety of local and ethnic cuisines to choose from in the city's numerous restaurants, cafes, delivery places, and take-aways.  Indian, Middle Eastern, Spanish, Italian, Egyptian, Caribbean, Mexican, Russian, Greek, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and even American food is available.

Sport is a prime diversion in Nottingham, with three major venues within direct line of sight of each other.  The local football teams are Nottingham Forest and Notts County (the oldest Football League team in the world).  The Trent Bridge cricket ground is home to the champion Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club. Each year in the fall the acclaimed "Robin Hood Marathon" and a handful of shorter races are organized in the city centre.  The National Ice Centre skating rink is where international skating stars train and compete in various sports, and the Nottingham Panthers play ice hockey.  The city also has facilities for professional level rugby, tennis, rowing, sailing, and canoeing.

Victoria Centre and Broadmarsh Shopping Centre (with its cave exhibits underneath) are the two main sites for commercial entertainment, housing retailers such as Jessops/John Lewis, Debenhams, Marks & Spencer, and House of Fraser.   Smaller retail sections can be found at The Exchange Arcade and the Flying Horse Walk.  Designer shops have a home in Bridlesmith Gate; this is where designer Paul Smith got his start, and the home of the Nottingham School of Fashion which he founded.  Hockley Village caters to an edgier crowd.

Some central entertainment areas for nightlife in the city include:

  • Lace Market, a historic area full of stylish 18th century factories and warehouses, now full of apartments, shops, restaurants, as well as the Galleries of Justice museum beneath the old County Gaol
  • Hockley Village, adjacent to the Lace Market, has shops, galleries, bars and pubs, restaurants, pavement cafes, and the world's smallest cinema with just 21 seats.
  • The Waterfront/Castle area features The Waterfront bar, with outside balconies; the Canal House with a canal and bridge running right through the middle, a comedy club, karaoke bar, and more pubs and restaurants
  • The Corner House has bars, restaurants, a cinema and a gym, inside the old Evening Post building across from the Royal Concert Hall.
  • Old Market Square offers more bars, clubs, and pool halls, including the gothic club the Pit and the Pendulum.

In addition to the many year-round attractions, Nottingham also plays host to the historic Goose Fair for four or five days every October, at the Forest Recreation Ground.  This gigantic attraction started as a trade fair over seven hundred years ago, in the days of King Edward I.  It has been known at times for its fine cheeses, for wool and lace, and for the geese driven by the thousands to the city from Lincolnshire.  Today the Goose Fair has evolved into one of the largest shows of its kind in the world, with over half a million people visiting every year, enjoying over five hundred rides and games, and hundreds more stalls for purchasing food, gifts and souvenirs.

In short, Nottingham is rich in culture and entertainment, and there is something good to be found for every taste and interest.

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