Nottingham Contemporary – the lunch

I played host at a lunch at Nottingham Contemporary this week. The Gallery was re-launching its Business Benefactors programme – now calling it The Business Circle.

Alex Farquharson launching the new Business Circle

Alex Farquharson launching the new Business Circle

There is a good reason for the re-launch. For every £1 raised on sponsorship / support the Gallery are given a matched £1 by Arts Council England.

I was asked to talk about why my firm, Innes England, became the first benefactor over three years ago.

We support the gallery for lots of reasons. And it’s around what Nottingham has to offer a story to the rest of the UK (and world?). Our creative industries and art are really important.

Chris Leslie MP for Nottingham East in his newsletter this week reporting on the Commons debate last week on the arts and creative industries, said:

It was a useful opportunity to note the importance to the UK of the arts and creative industries, with art and culture enriching the lives of individuals, reinforcing a sense of local community, and being vital to the economy, generating more than £36 billion a year and employing 1.5 million people.

That’s the National picture – but what about Nottingham Contemporary?

• In 3 ½ years its made an economic contribution of £30m
• It attracts tourism – 18% of visitors are from outside the conurbation
• It raises the profile of the City – in a positive way – the Haiti exhibition brought £3m of positive press
• It inspires young people – who we hope are the next creative leaders
• It’s an important part of the Creative Quarter

I concluded my brief talk by suggesting that the real reason we are supporters is that Nottingham Contemporary has been a huge success story for Nottingham – and it’s great being part of that success…

Situation Vacant – for a bright surveyor

The Nottingham evening Post used to be the place to go to for jobs – and I guess it still is. But not for what I am after!


This is a bit of an experiment. My assistant has decided that she needs a change after 6 years and is off to pastures new. She goes with my best wishes as I think it is a great career move.

But I need someone to replace her. The Evening Post is not really the place to go. Advertising in the national press is really expensive and last time I used it yielded little or no responses.

So I wonder if my blog might help?

If you know someone who is (ideally) qualified in the last 12/24 months to MRICS level, wants to work on some interesting projects, isn’t afraid of hard work (!) and can start very soon, I’d love to hear from them. There’s quite a bit of property management, valuations, Landlord & Tenant work and lots of other varied jobs!

It’s not hard to find me if you know someone who might fit the bill. I really just need a CV at this stage. And I’ll let you know via this blog how successful this approach has been!

Finally – an easy test. If you are the sort of person who admires those candidates (or aspires to be at their standard) on The Apprentice – save yourself the digital stamp…

Nottingham Transport – part two

We are having a major facelift at Nottingham Station – it will provide a new transport hub – with a tram bridge over the station. Forget that this is the ugliest bridge in the world – the connectivity is important.


The Station has been in a bit of a mess for the last 18 months or so, we have a new disconnected car park (read my blog here) and the front of the station is boarded up. Temporarily the ticket office is in a portakabin on Station Street – opposite the Council offices.

But the real fun starts when Nottingham Station gets properly closed for around 6 weeks from mid-July. This is so the track can be upgraded. If you’re coming from London the closest you’ll get is Beeston.

But last week the Council decided that the route to the station booking office should be limited to buses and taxi’s only. So we poor car drivers are barred. Helpfully there’s a camera – and they’re not going to fine us for the next couple of weeks – whilst we get used to the idea. Not content with putting this restriction in during the track closure they have started it now and are running it for 18 months?

Why not just shut the station altogether?

The only time I go to Nottingham now is to pick up clients who have travelled up from London. It’s going to make a great impression when I tell them they have to walk around the station (10 mins?) to the new drop off zone.

Joined up thinking? Certainly not. Anti- Car? Yep – sound familiar?

Parking costs Nottingham…

You don’t need to worry too much about what inflation is doing if you control the City Centre parking. In the case of the City Council they have just increased parking charges for the shortest stay rates at 6 and 8%


Broadmarsh has risen from £3.50 to £3.70 (six per cent) and Trinity Square is up from £3.80 to £4.10 (eight per cent). Overnight rates have gone from £5 to £11.

In the case of Broadmarsh – this is surely just another nail in it’s coffin.

The City centre is in real danger of imploding. The landscape of retail is changing – and on-line is on the up (it’s at just over 10% now and is estimated to be at nearly 13% by 2014). If we want to keep out cities we need to encourage people to come into to the centre.

In that time honoured tradition though there is some spin – Councillor Jane Urquhart, the city council’s portfolio holder for planning and transport, said: “We try to strike a delicate balance when setting prices in our car parks, operating in a commercial market but mindful of the need to ensure the city centre remains appealing to visitors, and that there are alternatives such as on-street parking and public transport.”

I’m sorry but our public transport system isn’t currently good enough. On Street parking is limited and at £1 per half hour in Zone 1 is hardly attractive?

At the time when the city is being decimated by works to build the tram – we need to be offering people a reason to come into town. Fighting the roadworks then having inflation busting rises in costs is hardly the answer? What isn’t said is the need for the car parking fees to help balance the Council’s books – it’s an important revenue stream!

Of course this is simply the latest attack on the motorist – after the workplace parking tax, it’s not difficult to see what the Council think about the private motor car. Not much?

Time – where does it go?

You may have noticed that my blog has been a bit quiet of late! I have dropped from my Sanatogen One-A-Day approach to the Martini method – anytime, anyplace anywhere…


There is a reason – and it’s not that I have run out of things to say!

I am busy. I’m not sure that the market is ‘on the up’ but my workload has, in the last six or eight weeks, gone through the roof. I have valuation work coming out of my ears! But, perhaps more reassuringly, I am buying and selling property again. I am actually doing deals. The days may be longer for sunshine, but my office hours have increased too. My colleagues and I are in the office for much longer.

There remains a fundamental problem with the property market though – finance. I can’t say that the High Street Banks are back lending again. The hoops you need to jump through are high and sometimes smaller than you can squeeze through. The confidence in the lending market simply isn’t there. In fact there seem to be more obstacles each time some of my clients talk to their banks.

Until that gets resolved the market is going to remain ‘bobbling along the bottom’.

But it’s not all the Banks fault either. The rules about them lending have been tightened and they are trying to improve their capital base – so they need to be risk averse. It’s a vicious circle.

We do need though to sort this out somehow…

In the meantime, the long hours will continue?

Isle of Wight Festival 2013

My last blog was about the truly excellent Boomtown Rats appearance at the Isle of Wight Festival 2013. But it wasn’t just The Rats’ who were there – although they were the best by a Country mile!

I thought I might share some images and memories…

Firstly, it takes all sorts at Festivals. Often there are people in fancy dress, other times you might just assume that some people just dress oddly?

Nice arse?

Nice arse?

Although you can stay in a normal tent if you like you can gamble on something a little different…

The tents disguised as dice

The tents disguised as dice

There was a retro feel this year – with the appearance of Hugh Cornwell from The Stranglers, Steve Harley, Ian Hunter (Mott The Hoople), T’Pau and Blondie. All superb!

Blondie aka Debbie Harry

Blondie aka Debbie Harry

Then there were The Killers – as good as ever…

The Killers lead-man Brandon Flowers

The Killers lead-man Brandon Flowers

And when you win a big cuddly toy, there is only one thing you should do with it…

Where am I?

Where am I?

Finally, there was clearly a bit of a wardrobe disaster for a number of people? And I love that they had their own flag…

Where's Wally and the matching flag

Where’s Wally and the matching flag

All in all, a great festival…

The Greatest Rock n Roll band on the planet – OFFICIAL

After a break of a few days I’m back with news of a band who have been away for 27 years! I have been on the Isle of Wight at the festival – It was my 10th year. The first year I went really to see Bowie – but this year there was a special surprise.


The Boomtown Rats had re-formed. ALthough it was a relatively short set (which Geldof over-ran as you might expect), they played as well as any of the previous dozen or so times I have seen them. The first time was back in 1979 a few weeks after ‘Mondays’ had been at No.1. Geldof was resplendent in a snakeskin suit – the material for which came from Nottingham!

They romped through stuff, mostly drawn from the early years – the set list was:

I Never Loved (Eva Braun)
Like Clockwork
Neon Heart
Do You In
Someone’s Looking at You
Looking after number one
I Don’t Like Mondays
Mary of the 4th Form
She’s So Modern
Rat Trap

Geldof was suitably ‘adult like’ in language terms. We all needed to go and do something to change the world. But the real message in here was an interesting one. He wrote Mondays and Someone’s Looking at You 35 years ago. Mondays was famously about 16 year old Brenda Ann Spencer who shot at Schoolchildren in California. Geldof recounted a recent story of a similar shooting in Ohio recently. In the introduction to “Someone’s Looking At You” – he suggested that matters may now be worse – if you go to London you have your photo taken around 3,000 times in a day! His song was a bout him being photographed at a protest march for GreenPeace!

I was never going to dislike the gig – they played stuff I grew up with. Geldof sounded great – irreverent as ever! Le Frondeuse? Don’t take my word for it – the Telegraph review is here.

And great news – they will tour in October. I can confirm I’ll be there!

Is it really a year? The Isle Of Wight Festival beckons…

The mud has long since been forgotten. The persistent rain is a distant memory. The tent is in tent heaven…


I posted my top tips at the end of the show last year – you can read them here.

Today I head south to that little Island in the Solent – where I get to spend the next four days in the sunshine watching a number of bands. without doubt the highlight will be The Boomtown Rats on Sunday!

But there’s a few others as well – Stone Roses, Ian Hunter, Laura Mvula, Happy Mondays, T’Pau (!!), The Killers, The Script, Bon Jovi and Blondie…

The blog may go quiet for a few days, but I’ll be back next week – probably with some news on who was good and who was bad…

Life’s essentials – wifi

I had lunch last week with Team Nottingham and our guest was Lilian Greenwood – MP for Nottingham South. Lilian is in the shadow Transport team and has specific responsibility for rail. That is clearly a really interesting gig – especially with HS2.


But we did have a discussion around more pressing things about rail. Notably the service from Nottingham to London on East Midlands Trains. I use the service a lot. In fact this blog post is (slowly) being written in Carriage G!

Many of the group in Team Nottingham have the opportunity to use the East Coast Main Line – and rave about it. It is quicker, cheaper and has brilliant wifi.

I wouldn’t suggest for one moment that EMT is cheap – unless you book in advance. And booking in advance takes away all flexibility. So if I miss my train that’s it – the ticket is worthless. It’s ok for EMT to be 5 minutes late but it’s not for me.

But my real issue is the wifi – which in first class if free. But free shouldn’t mean useless? The service is woeful. It is slow and frequently drops. Sometimes it’s better to tether to my iPhone. Except that the phone signal is equally poor. EMT have a quiet carriage where phones are banned, in my experience most of the carriages are quiet – because phones don’t work…

I know that technology moves quickly and it’s easy to get left behind. But wifi is now such a critical part of business that this is a top priority! It’s not just about trains, it’s actually about our cities. We need to make sure that people can connect and work almost anywhere. I wouldn’t dream of booking a hotel now unless it had free wifi.

One of life’s essentials?

Retail hits the news again

The Centre for Retail Studies have just issued their report on the next 5 years for retailers. It’s not pretty.

NYC_raw 17

The background is that Store vacancy rates (according to the Local Data Company) across the country have increased from 5.4% in December 2008 to 14.1% in March 2013 , a rise of 161%. Nottingham has had its fair share of bad PR about this.

But the CRS are suggesting that the vacancy rate by 2018 could be 20% They also anticipate:

* store numbers will fall by 22%, from 281,930 today to 220,000 in 2018.
* Job losses could be around 316,000 compared to today
* The share of online retail sales will rise from 12.7% (2012) to 21.5% by 2018

What is certain is that our city centres are changing – as our methods of shopping change.

It is clear that we have too many shops. But it is difficult to coherently close sections of our high street in a change of use. Dead frontages are bad news.

Whoever comes up with an answer to all of this is going to be a hero. We have to find a way of making our shopping interesting again. It has to compete with on line – or offer a different experience. Experience shopping will be key. It needs to become a leisure activity.

When I was in New York a few weeks ago it struck me that a lot had changed in a year. Shops had closed and others had opened. The changing backdrop makes for an interesting experience. The monolithic monster boxes of ‘we sell everything to anyone’ are surely numbered? Thank goodness.