A part of my regular morning walk through the city of Nottingham becomes quite suddenly a striking view on a sunny April morning as the bright and and showy narcissi appear, heralding another Springtime.
Arkwright Building, Shakespeare Street, Nottingham
Nottingham Trent University’s Arkwright Building is placed in stately fashion along the city’s Shakespeare Street and is a building of much familiarity to me over a period of many years. It was in this building in a former apparition as a technical college that I studied to be a compositor in the 1970s. Often distracted by looking out on those same pretty lawns, the green swards through the window seeming an attractive proposition as opposed to following instructions from an old blackboard.
Many years later, I studied again within the same institution when it was by now a university, also spending a period of time working within the university supporting disabled students.
Perhaps one of the college’s most famous alumni is the writer, D H Lawrence who graduated in 1908. A few years later in 1916 he wrote ‘View From A College Window’ of his own times studying in the Arkwright Building, his words very evocative of my own later experiences and feelings there a few generations on.
From a College Window (D H Lawrence)
From New Poems (1916).
The glimmer of the limes, sun-heavy, sleeping,
Goes trembling past me up the College wall.
Below, the lawn, in soft blue shade is keeping,
The daisy-froth quiescent, softly in thrall.
Beyond the leaves that overhang the street,
Along the flagged, clean pavement summer-white,
Passes the world with shadows at their feet
Going left and right.
Remote, although I hear the beggar’s cough,
See the woman’s twinkling fingers tend him a coin,
I sit absolved, assured I am better off
Beyond a world I never want to join.
D H Lawrence
The building’s somewhat intricate Gothic design has an individual slant as it brings together three great aspects of Victorian education: the university college itself, a public library and a museum of natural history, complete with stuffed animals.
D H Lawrence called it the ‘finest pile of public buildings in Nottinghamshire’, although qualifying this by opining Nottingham of the day as a ‘dismal town’. Lawrence, a brilliant writer could be described as a difficult man who upset many people of his own locality, particularly in his home town of Eastwood, Nottinghamshire.
The Western end of the the Arkwright building sustained a serious direct hit from the German Luftwaffe in 1941. Not to be deterred however, the shattered end of the building was rebuilt in its former glory.
THE END OF SEPTEMBER 2015 is nigh and this means that the streets of Nottingham around the Nottingham Trent University city campus are once again thronging with ‘Freshers’. The areas including Shakespeare Street and Goldsmith Street adjacent to the Arkwright and Newton buildings being particularly awash with new students, locating their accommodation and general whereabouts for the coming academic year.
Nottingham Trent University
With my own place of work being quite close, a saunter through the area on Thursday brought the sight of a teeming group of young intakes to the streets, identically dressed in a uniform of bright orange t-shirts proclaiming the legend ‘FRESHERS CREW across the chest and personalised names on the back, football jersey style. The faces were those of young people principally just having left home for the first time, expressions of excited expectancy, underlined in some cases with a slight etching of self-doubt and apprehension as they settle in to making new friends and locating their place in various groups and pecking orders.
Next week will probably see the beginning of the processions of large groups of students in fancy dress, heading along Mansfield Road and other main thoroughfares, congregating in the city centre and its clubs, pubs and inevitable ‘student nights’. It’s a familiar sight each year and brings a knowing smile to my face
Nottingham, being a city that boosts the two places of learning, Nottingham Trent University and the older, illustrious University of Nottingham, is very much a university town these days. Sometimes, there have been reports of the city’s students bring problems to inner-city residential areas where they have tended to colonise and indulge in boisterous, noisy and non-neighbourly behaviour as young people often inevitably do. It should be said though that, for me at least, the city is breathed new life when they return each September. Apart from economic factors alone, I feel they bring something to the modern culture of Nottingham and of course, I have walked a mile in those shoes years ago and therefore don’t feel so far removed from them and what they are experiencing, although my own home was in Nottinghamshire.
Nottingham Trent University, Arkwright Building, Shakespeare Street
A happy thought is that many of these young people will be making friends for many years or even a lifetime. They’ll form new allegiances with the city’s sports teams, visit places with friends that they’ll recall fondly as long as they are able to remember. Some will meet their life partners and some may even settle that well they never leave the city again and call it ‘home’.
Autumn term beckons, good luck to the returning and new students of the Queen of The Midlands.
Work hard and play hard.
It’s mid-October and the golden leaves are now falling steadily, swirling around and sweeping the streets. It’s a time when energy levels can be depressed but often need to
be heightened, as in the case of the many people within my working environment at a local University. For October is a time of enormous activity in any such organisation.
The city centre campus is inevitably teeming with bodies and droves of hopeful and excitable young students, many on their first sojourn from home, pouring along Shakespeare Street and Goldsmith Street. Books and satchels in hand, hopes and fears for the future in heart.
Today as I write it is very sleepy in student land. An 8.15am stroll from the Victoria Centre bus depot sees surprisingly few people or traffic, an unusual scene for the middle of a sizeable city such as Nottingham. It’s a Thursday morning and every Wednesday night is a discount student night in some nightclubs in the city which might offer an explanation for the sluggish and rheumy eyed beginning to the day. By the time I emerge from a lecture mid-morning it will be a different academic world.
The University has seen many recent changes and as I walk around the lower levels of the city-dominating tower of the Newton building it strikes me that I’m standing on the very spot that I did more than thirty years ago. In those days it was in my first incarnation as a student studying Letter Assembly for my job as an apprentice compositor in the print trade. The plush surroundings I’m observing now where once a car park stood which I would kick a ball through with my friends for morning coffee in the refectory.
There really is little comparison with the environs of the Trent Polytechnic of the 1970s and the modern Nottingham Trent University of today with it’s freshly appointed ambiance borne of huge investmen and very few similarities apart from geography. The Newton building has been gutted and refurbished and so has the historic but slightly run down Arkwright building of my teens. Sadly, the building where I was based in the composing room is no longer and has been razed to the ground in aid of progress and a seemingly little-used courtyard.
In those days Trent Polytechnic was largely inhabited by local students who were industrially-based in regular jobs, there appeared to be very few lofty academics in evidence and even people wearing white laboratory coats appeared to consider themselves a superior breed to us printing apprentices in those days. As I look around today there are many overseas students from China, Thailand, Korea and many other far-flung countries surrounding me. It is an interesting and vibrant panorama and this is perhaps just as things should be in the Autumn of 2010. It is however still an interesting comparison with those long days passed of enrolling in 1975 and stepping out of ‘Trent Poly’ in 1980 to face a new decade and the full-time world of work.