In our New Year January edition of our Why Nottingham articles, we sit down with Susan Hallam, Founder and CEO of Hallam Internet.
1. When did you first start to work in Nottingham?
I married a local boy, and moved to Nottingham in 1985, emigrating to the city from Philadelphia on the east coast of the United States. On the day I arrived, I went to Angel Row Library, and got a list of all the local companies that worked in data management. I sent out a bunch of unsolicited CV’s to every single company on the list, and within a week was working for a great little innovative information retrieval company based in Beeston.
2. What first attracted you to the city?
I loved the fact Nottingham is such a compact city with everything on my doorstep. Our first flat as a newly married couple was in the city centre, and we had theatres and pubs and Rock City and restaurants right on our doorstep. I loved living in town then, and I still love it now.
3. How has it changed during your time here?
We used to call Nottingham the “Queen of the Midlands” and it was known for the best independent shops, and the best music, and for just being cool. I think we have lost a bit of that edgy creative vibe, and I think Nottingham deserves to reclaim that reputation. Our city may have the best universities in the UK, some of the best employers, are leaders in theatre and the arts, but so many of our great stories are untold or unrecognised or just not celebrated. I think Nottingham has lost its confidence, and we need to get it back.
4. What is/are the biggest challenges we face as a city compared with our regional “rivals” and nationally?
Nottingham has made great strides towards regaining our position as a leading city. The £37 million refurbishment of Nottingham Castle will have a huge impact on our leisure and tourism economy. And plans are underway for the Broadmarsh and new office developments near the train station.
But I know it took years of tenacity and perseverance and sheer stubbornness to push these initiatives through. They have succeeded almost in spite our ourselves. Our city leaders need to have the vision and confidence to respond quickly and nimbly to the changing economic climate, and to create a vision that encompasses the new ways residents will use and experience the city centre.
To put it bluntly, we need to create a coherent vision for city, we need to transform that into a compelling business case, and we need to do it quickly.
5. How long is your daily commute and how do you get into the city?
I live right in the city centre, so I am lucky enough to be able to walk to work. My company employs more than 60 people, and it is great to see how many live within easy striking distance of the city centre. A quick commute to work plays a huge part in loving your job and feeling like part of the Nottingham community.
6. What are your favourite places to eat and drink for business and pleasure?
It has to be the Hand in Heart on Derby Road. It’s a dog friendly pub so our spaniel Rosie can come along with us. It’s warm and welcoming and I instantly feel relaxed. As well as serving local beers, the kitchen serves the absolutely best breakfasts on a Saturday, and an awesome traditional Sunday lunch.
When we have family visiting from America we always go on a pub crawl taking in The Trip, the Canal House, over to the Pitcher and Piano, and then the Sir John up on Derby Road. Our pub crawl is always a highlight for our guests, and of course we do drop in other places along the way.
And when it comes to entertaining for business, the World Services is always welcoming and reliable and we have really been impressed with Alchemilla on Derby Road.
7. Finally, if you had a blank canvas, what would you like to see happen in the next 12 months?
Given a blank canvas, I would focus on the quick win of “polishing Nottingham’s jewels.” Nottingham has such an amazing array of assets in our city centre that we just don’t focus on, that we don’t celebrate, and we don’t leverage sufficiently.
The River Trent has such a rich heritage and physical beauty, and it is an opportunity waiting to be exploited. We need to join it up with the city’s cultural life and connect it more closely to our city resident’s day to day lives instead of just being a traffic jam on the daily commute into the city.
Not many cities have such a beautiful substantial market square and Nottingham could be making even more of this beautiful space. It needs cleaning and lighting and transforming into the living heart of the city.
Most importantly we need to be managing Nottingham’s public profile more proactively. We need to be generating more newsworthy good news stories that celebrate Nottingham’s business and cultural and civic life. Rightly or wrongly too often Nottingham is the focus of doom and gloom stories to do with our poor education standards, or crime in the city. Let’s get a professional PR push organised that celebrates that great things happening in our city.
And of course, the business and cultural and civic leaders in Nottingham could all start “polishing our jewels” right now, even if we don’t have the blank canvas proposed in this question. We can all step up and take part in being proud of our city and shouting out about what makes Nottingham great. All it takes is that first small step, and we just all need to take part.