My first year in the Midlands

Tessa Cooper
Jan 1 · 6 min read

Over the past decade I have lived at ten different addresses. Nine of them in and around London and one of them (my current home) in Nottingham.

We decided to move to Nottingham purely by chance. We have no close family or friends that live here, or even in the Midlands more widely. I actually first asked my partner to visit Nottingham with me after I came to speak here at the Women in Tech meet-up in Aug 2018 and discovered how friendly people were. Moving to an entirely new city has been tough at times, particularly with young children and inconsistent income, but after a year here I know this is home. To celebrate finally finding the place that I want to continue to raise my children I wanted to share some of things I’ve enjoyed and gained from living in Nottingham so far.

Culture

Okay, I admit it, I lived as a deluded snobby Londoner for many years thinking that nowhere else in the UK could be as enjoyable or interesting to live. I believed that most other cities in the UK lacked ‘culture’. But not only has Nottingham proven me wrong a thousand times over, it has also provided me and my family with much more accessible experiences too.

Whether it’s the brilliant free art galleries such as New Art Exchange and Nottingham Contemporary, or the family friendly celebrations & festivals such as Nottingham Mela and Hockley Hustle, Nottingham is buzzing and vibrant. Living here has also given me easier and cheaper access to other cities in the North & the Midlands and their galleries, museums and theatres (The cost of train travel in and out of London was always too extortionate to justify a day trip anywhere else.)

Left: Hassan Hajaj exhibition, New Art Exchange( Free) Right: Luminarium at Lakeside Arts Gallery (£4 each)
Left: Dissident lines exhibition, Nottingham Contemporary (free). Centre: Nottingham Contemporary family programme,(free). Right: Barbershop Chronicles at Sheffield Theatres (£30 train travel & ticket — living in the Midlands has provided me with much easier access to Northern cities)
Left: Story in the Parks, Wollaton Hall (Free). Centre: Nottingham Mela, Arboretum (Free). Right: Daughter dancing to man playing piano in Hockley (small tip)

I’m so excited that my children will grow up in a city not just brimming with a sense of creativity, hope and joy, but also one that embraces diverse cultures and individuality. If there is one gift I can give them in such a turbulent and pessimistic world it would be this.

Work

Not only did I move home at the start of 2019 but I also quit my full-time job in London and set up Collaborative Future. Looking back on what I’ve managed to achieve this year, and how I’ve managed to achieve it, I’m fairly certain that it’s partly thanks to living in the Midlands that I’ve been able to create a successful business. I can understand now why organisations and individuals in cities outside of London are frustrated by the London-centric narrative in politics and business. There is such little recognition for the fact that, in spite of a lack of funding, the Midlands is full of inspiring people who are collaborating with one another, bringing transformative ideas to life and building thriving businesses and community organisations.

I‘m so grateful to have crossed paths with so many Midlands-based businesses and communities that have supported me in my first year of business including 383 Project, Big Old House, Developer Society, Near Neighbours Leicester, Tech Nottingham and Works Social. Plus all of the freelancers I’ve met and exchanged ideas and experiences with along the way.

Left to Right: Brainstorm hosted at 383 Project, Facilitation workshop hosted at NXIS, Inclusion workshop with the Developer Society (all Birmingham)
Speaking at Tech Nottingham at the start of the year
Left: Han, Co-founder of Works Social, and myself speaking with Notts TV. Centre: Local community in Leicester that I facilitated. Right: Rodocodo and Organised.Fun working with Sonia & Adell in our the work placement pilot at Works Social.

The way in which Works Social, Tech Nottingham and a community of freelancers & micro-businesses all rallied around me to help deliver the pilot of our work placement scheme just blew me away. I feel so privileged to have found such an ambitious, values-driven and enjoyable bunch of people to collaborate with.

Community

Whilst much of the community I’ve discovered in Nottingham has been thanks to my work (such as Tech Nottingham and Works Social), I already know that the people behind those organisations would be (and have been) there for me during personal struggles too.

Beyond the community I’ve developed through work I’ve also been made to feel so at home by neighbours and local people. I never even knew most neighbours when I lived in London but here in Nottingham I’d consider my neighbour one of my best friends. Aside from being brilliant company, she looks out for all of us and even looked after my daughter at the crack of dawn when I went into labour with my son.

Left: Riz speaking at Women in Tech Nottingham. Centre: Lise, Rach & Han at the Works Social Christmas Party. Right: Sam & Sally at the Pride march
Left: Katie my lovely neighbour and amazing friend holding my newborn. Centre: Sally with her new best friend Daisy Right: Sally dancing in the dress the barmaid at the Crafty Teller gifted to her.

As well as the kind-hearted individuals I meet day in and day out in Nottingham, we always get an amazingly warm welcome from the majority of pubs, shops and cafes in the area. Down south I’ve often felt like a burden or a nuisance when taking our kids out for a meal, but in Nottingham strangers frequently seem to chip in with entertaining our kids so that we can relax a little. Our 3 year old feels so looked after by our local community that the other day she felt confident enough to pick and pay for our grocery shop (with the help of staff) whilst I waited outside with the dog, and she’s even been known to run up and hug Stacey the lovely barmaid that works at the Crafty Teller.

Thank you to everyone who has welcomed us to Nottingham in 2019, and to all our family who have supported us in moving here. Fingers crossed for many more happy years to come!

Left: Sally chasing pigeons in Nottingham City Centre. Right: Sally chasing ducks at Rufford Abbey

Tessa Cooper

Written by

People consultant and founder of Collaborative Future. 28. Proud Mum of Sally. Posts generally on things like equality, politics, education or technology.

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