‘In Nottingham no-one could doubt my heritage. It was there in every flattened vowel.’ Peter Mortimer
Due to being at work all week I had missed most of this year’s Lowdham Book Festival which finished on Saturday – but I was so glad I caught the final talk by writer Peter Mortimer. Originally from Nottingham, Peter now lives in Tyneside and is a playwright, poet, editor, ‘extreme’ travel writer, children’s author and much more besides. He was at the festival to talk about his new book, Made in Nottingham, a kind of memoir about growing up on the Sherwood estate and his reflections on returning to the estate last year.
Peter grew up on Danethorpe Vale which happens to be round the corner from where I live. The streets and pubs he described were of course ones I know well but as a newcomer their names do not carry the same weight of memory for me.
At the beginning of both the book and the talk, Peter warns us with a poem about the dangers of clinging onto the past but there is a sense in which it can be cathartic to revisit the place where you grew up. For him, it’s not even about revisiting the people, most of whom are now gone, but seeing the buildings, going to pubs and cycling around the streets.
Of course, Peter has some warm memories of the area and the book is peppered with humorous anecdotes. But there is no fuzzy nostalgia and while the estate, which dates back to the 1920s, provided spacious homes with large gardens, it was a council estate nevertheless and if its residents became successful, they tended to move away.
Today, the estate is largely privately owned or privately rented. There are some residents who, judging by the alterations they have made to their homes, clearly have money and others who don’t. There are elderly folk, families, young professionals and a mixture of cultural backgrounds. And while I suspect the community spirit is not as strong as it once was, residents have a sense of pride in their area, reflected in events such as Sherwood Art Week and the many independent shops.