The Midland’s city of Nottingham, situated in the very heart of the country, although still somewhat mysteriously referred to as “the North” as in the term “it’s grim up north” by anyone south of the Watford Gap, is the somewhat little-known seventh-largest urban conurbation in the UK and owes its international name recognition, or such that it has, to two loveable rogues who took up residence and the county and are now commemorated by statues in the city.
The first, but only chronologically speaking, is the medieval folkloric outlaw Robin Hood, whose legends, replete with references to local landmarks of Nottingham Castle and Sherwood Forrest, have been adapted for the screen innumerable times. However the lamentable state of both of these locations, with the once mighty forest reduced to 423 hectares clung around a decrepit oak more scaffolding than tree and the Norman castle razed following the Civil War to be replaced by a 17th century Ducal Mansion wholly unsuited for the home of the Sherriff of Nottingham, as of yet none of these adaptation have been filmed locally, not even Ridley Scott’s recent “Robin Hood” (2010) which in development was simply titled “Nottingham”.
A far more iconic figure, perhaps only locally speaking, however is larger-than-life football manager Brian Clough, who took the club named after his predecessor’s arboreal home into the league of top-flight football during his stint from 1975 to 1993 and yet has somewhat mysteriously so far only been immortalised on screen once in Tom Hooper’s “The Damned United” (2009) which follows an earlier and some would say far less interesting part of his career in nearby Leeds.
An equally controversial native was the novelist D. H. Lawrence who set many of his oft-filmed major works, including “Sons and Lovers”, “The Rainbow” and “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” in the country estates and burgher’s houses around his native Eastwood, although of the numerous screen adaptations only Jack Cardiff’s Oscar-winning “Sons and Lovers” (1960) has been shot locally.
Angry Young 50’s novelist Alan Sillitoe, who had once worked in the city’s famous Raleigh bicycle factory, set many of his works in the industrial environs of his native Nottingham, far from his literary predecessor’s rural idyll, the first two of these were later filmed in the region as Karel Reisz’s “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” (1960) and Tony Richardson’s “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner”, as was a later work, as Harold Becker’s “The Ragman’s Daughter” (1974). Lindsay Anderson’s “In Celebration” (1975) based on David Storey’s play about a Yorkshire miner also took advantage of the city’s numerous colliery locations despite being set in a neighbouring county.
The 80’s was a truly grim time as the evil Iron Lady tore the still beating industrial heart out of the country leaving the county to suffer deprivation and the resulting Miner’s Strike which turned brother against brother with only the continued success of Cloughie to bring a smile to the city and although later films such as Shane Meadow’s “This Is England” (2006) and “This Is England ’86” (2010) have subsequently tried to recreate these dark days, little other than violent news footage was filmed locally at the time.
The aforementioned Staffordshire born director Shane Meadows put the city on the cinematic map when he relocated to Nottingham at the age of 20 and started making short films here before moving on to locally made features such as “Small Time” (1996), “Twenty Four Seven” (1997), “A Room for Romeo Brass” (1999), “Once Upon a Time in the Midlands” (2002), “This Is England” (2006) and “Le Donk & Scor-zay-zee” (2009). Jersey born film maker Chris Cooke also learned his craft in Nottingham before making his feature debut with the locally filmed “One for the Road” (2003).
Oscar-nominated native actress Samantha Morton shot her directorial debut “The Unloved” (2009) locally as well as appearing in Anton Corbijn’s locally filmed biopic “Control” (2007). Another native talent is MUBI member and sometime filmmaker Graham Ball, who has shot films such as “Subculture Artisans” (2000), “Nottingham Nobody” (2004) and the feature-length “East Midlands Babylon” (2006), as well as returning to his hometown of Sutton-in-Ashfield for “The Art of Smoking” (2005) and “19th December” (2006).
Nottingham landmark locations also occasionally crop up on screen. Andrew O’Connor‘s “Magicians” (2007) climaxes at the city’s proscenium arched Theatre Royal. Nicolas Winding Refn’s biopic “Bronson” (2009) features local landmarks Stanford Hall and Welbeck Abbey, albeit as stand-ins for Broadmoor and Rampton psychiatric hospitals respectively, as well as the city’s seedier districts of Sherwood and St. Anns. While Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012) features the Elizabethan splendour of Wollaton Hall.Read less