Market Square Makeover

Words: Jenny Hill
Photos: Florence Gohard
Thursday 01 December 2005
reading time: min, words

The centre of town is set to be closed for a year and get a makeover. This is what we make of it...


Hundreds of people pass through Nottingham’s Old Market Square everyday. From the busy businessmen to the hungry homeless, not many people stop to think of the impact the Square has had on them. OK, so it is probably just a convenient meeting place for most people but the Market Square does have more significance than you might expect. Throughout time inspirational people have been honoured with the freedom of the city in special services in the Council House. Among those given this privilege are Torvill and Dean, Brian Clough and Sir Paul Smith. However the Square is not just a place to celebrate proud moments in Nottingham’s history but also one to reflect on tough times. In recent years people have come together in the Square to observe a silence to remember Danielle Beccan and a make poverty history human circle to try and make a difference for the rest of the world.

In the days of merry men and compulsory archery practice on Sundays, the Market Square was home to St Matthew’s fair. Legend tells us that this paid host to the Sheriff’s archery competitions, attended by Robin Hood himself. This fair gradually evolved into the infamous Goose Fair and was held in the Square until 1924. Back then it wasn’t a place for eager kids and pissed up teens but was a market to enable people to get their goose ready for Christmas (and we complain at Trent FM playing festive songs in early November!) The candyfloss and chaos of the fair expanded and relocated to Forest Fields a long time ago but the hustle and bustle atmosphere of the market remains central to the Square.

Nottingham’s Market Square is the biggest in Britain according to EMNET (it’s actually the second biggest after Trafalgar but London doesn’t really count.) It is an impressive 15.5 acres and was built in the middle of communities as a central meeting place. Recently the skateboarders that used to weave there way between the crowds have been forced out. The baggy-trousered dudes who do persist in skating can no longer get away without at least a police warning. This has been rectified by the Square hosting a skate event earlier this year that involved a massive ramp and professionals for passers by to view. The pigeons are probably the only group who could never leave the Square. Despite attempts to eradicate town’s dirtiest residents the rats with wings remain, although we are no longer allowed to ‘feed the birds’ and encourage them.

The current layout of the Old Market Square has been in place for about 75 years but this is set to change. The new town centre will be ‘classy and classic and not something too trendy that won’t stand the test of time’ according to Councillor Jon Collins, Leader of Nottingham City Council. So no buildings that were once so hip but now look like blocks of concrete for us then. Water terraces, trees and lights will help achieve this timeless look. Water channels, fountains and jets will be a major feature of the Square. They will be able to be turned off for events and if the weather gets too cold to prevent them turning into ice statues. So all you original pranksters will have even more places to fill with washing up liquid making the water hilariously bubbly. Plus those of you who can’t quite make it to the toilets will have more than just the old fountains to piss in! Alternatively we could always try and make the new Market Square stay nice…

The new Market Square is not just pleasing to the eye but has practical benefits too. Most bus routes have already been diverted away form the Square, much to the inconvenience of tired grannies and lovers of Debenhams. This will create a safer area though. Other safety features include coloured lights guiding the people of Nottingham to different areas of town. It is anticipated that the Square could be a safe haven for everyone at any time and will never have to be avoided. This comes as a relief to me as when I was a bright eyed and bushy haired young girl my dad used to tell me what the Square was like after dark. I’d listen enthralled as he described how on the stroke of midnight the lions stretched and yawned before prowling round the perimeter of the Square biting the heads of anyone who dared walk past. As I grew older and wiser I realised that lots of grown ups actually stay up past 12 O’clock and it was odd that no one else had noticed this phenomenon but the fear of being in town at night alone still sort of remained. With more lighting and security those pesky lions and any other scary creatures of the night should be kept under wraps. The toilets will also be safer and hopefully will not have to closed at night, just when you need them! Ramps and lifts will be provided to assist disabled residents as the facilities finally catch up with the fact that it is a new millennium.

So do we actually need a new Market Square? Well the design will allow for safety, fun and beauty but were any of these things and actual problem in the past? There will be more room for the popular market stalls to bring back the original aim of the place, to enable people to meet and trade. There is also more chance for events to be held in the Square. The Christmas turning on of the lights should be bigger and better in future years. If you see destruction and building being done over the next few months just be patient and it will all be worth it. As long as I can still meet my mates by the left lion I’m happy.

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