Sunday, March 27

Format Festival in Derby, UK. Part 3: the opening weekend

On Saturday, after critically reappraising the exhibitions at Quad with Joni Karanka of Third Floor Gallery fame, we buzzed off to see the photo exhibits at the Silk Mill aka Derby Industrial Museum. Unfortunately, this interesting museum, which hosts temporary exhibitions, faces an uncertain future after Format: ‘The Silk Mill will be mothballed for a period of time after Sunday 3rd April 2011.’ Ouch.

Next, onwards with Joni to D├ęda, a dance-focused performance space type building to view some more exhibitions, including pictures by Kate Hooper. After bumping into a succession of great photographers who I had only previously had contact with online, the afternoon was spent critically appraising the beer at Ye Olde Dolphin pub. Several photographers who had attended the University opening party the previous night were now suffering from the effects of over-refreshment, which made me feel slightly less bad about missing out on that event.

Sunday – you can’t go home again
On Sunday morning I had a wander down by the River Derwent. Very scenic, and a nice weir. There seemed to be dozens of lifebelts in the parks next to the river – in the water, up trees, but just about none in their designated positions.

In the afternoon I got on a train and took a look around Nottingham city centre. Like the daytrip to Birmingham, this proved to be a bit of a mistake… Again, I had hoped to take some photographs but I found Nottingham city centre uninspiring. I had been a student there in the 1980s, and it was nice to see the trams for the first time, at least. I remembered the Hockley area as being a slightly ‘alternative’ area of the city, centred around the veggie deli Hiziki (no longer there as far as I could see) and the radical Mushroom bookshop (definitely not there – closed in 2000) but it seemed less distinctive now.

With no inspiration for photography I embarked on what I knew would be a pointless and slightly depressing nostalgia-fest, visiting some old addresses and favourite haunts from ye olde 1980s, such as Russell’s bar, which turned out to be a pleasantish bar called The Orange Tree. Could have been much worse.

Further out in Lenton, I checked two old addresses – 10 Teversal Avenue and 128 Harlaxton Drive – expecting to find my blue plaques, but they were conspicuously absent. For one long, glorious summer at the Teversal address, we were graced with the presence of the-then Trent Poly photography student Nick Waplington, but even this remains unacknowledged by the blue plaque people.

Moving back in the general direction of the city centre, I passed by another old local, The Happy Return. The pub looked less than inviting, which reminded me of the old landlord’s cheery farewell at the end of the evening, ‘now fuck off to your trendy student parties’.

By now, my feet were giving me real gyp. In a sitcom-type scenario, I had left my shoes overnight on the radiator of my suite at the Kingsway Retail Park Travelodge and they seemed to have shrunk. I hobbled down through the upmarket Park area in order to rest my limbs at the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem pub.

Despite being a major tourist attraction (carved out of solid rock underneath Nottingham castle, etc., etc. see website), I was pleased to discover that the beer was pretty cheap. As I was nursing my half pint in the atmospheric surroundings, who should walk in with a pint of foaming ale but Micky Dolenz. Yes, your actual Micky Dolenz, out of The Monkees!

To be continued

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