The Guardian – 22 February 2008
Editorial – In Paise of Nottingham
The capital of the east Midlands has been in the news for the wrong reason more often than the right one in the past couple of years. But Nottingham’s history is mightier than its more recent reputation as the heartland of youthful binge drinkers. The city that brought us the genius of Lord Byron and DH Lawrence, the legend of Robin Hood and the wit of Brian Clough (”I wouldn’t say I was the best manager in the business, but I was in the top one”), not to mention the immortal Raleigh Chopper, has fittingly been chosen to pilot a brave adventure in free speech. Today – in a space in the market square almost at the feet of a new statue of the late, great Nottingham Forest manager – work will start on a new Speakers’ Corner, the first in Britain since the original in Hyde Park, London. An eclectic lineup in the first “day for debate” teams Eddie Izzard with the Zimbabwean human rights campaigner Adrian Lunga in what the promoters, the newly formed Speakers’ Corner Trust, hope will lead to a national revival of public debate. And by debate, they promise, they mean debate in person. They also say it will be non-adversarial, although the home of HP Sauce surely suggests otherwise. Recently voted the best British city to live in, one of its many famous literary sons (not Robert Harris but Alan Sillitoe) wrote once that Nottingham was “the magnet of the east Midlands”, with “a self-confidence no one could fault”. No Saturday Night, Sunday Morning flash in the pan, then, this latest honour.