To round off our 2019 “Why Nottingham” series, we sit down with Paul Southby, Chairman of the board for Marketing Nottingham and Nottinghamshire and Partner at law firm Geldards LLP.
Q1: When did you first start to work in Nottingham?
I came to Nottingham in 1989 having trained as a solicitor in London and spent a few years there, and a further few working in Sheffield after I qualified. I came to the city to work for Eversheds, but then moved to Browne Jacobson in 1997. After that I spent a couple of years working for the CBI, which was an interesting time in the early recession years and in the lead up to the 2010 election. I re-joined the profession late in 2010 and spent a couple of years working with Richard Nelson before moving to Geldards in 2012.
In 2011 I was asked to chair what was then known as Invest in Nottingham Club, which subsequently became Nottingham Means Business and now Nottingham Partners. I currently chair Marketing NG, of which the local inward investment agency Invest in Nottingham, the destination marketing organisation Visit Nottinghamshire, and Nottingham Partners are part. Through that work I do what I can to help our local authorities and business in the city economic area attract new investment to Nottingham, and bring visitors here. I have also recently become chair of the board at Broadway cinema in the Lace Market area and am a trustee at Nottingham Playhouse.
Q2: What first attracted you to the city?
Work, frankly. I was a partner at a large law firm in Sheffield and was approached by Eversheds, who were looking for a commercial litigation lawyer, via people I knew who worked there at the time and with whom I had worked both in London and Sheffield. I knew Nottingham only a little at the time mainly through playing football here in the 1970s with a youth team from my home town of Chesterfield.
Q3: How has it changed during your time here?
Massively, and mostly for the better. Many physical changes to the city centre have improved it a lot – the renewed Old Market Square, the tram system, the fact that there is now such a variety of places to eat, drink and be entertained, the works around the Lace Market and Hockley and the development undertaken by our two universities, much of which is spectacular and a great addition to some of the beautiful historical buildings within the city area. In many ways the city seems bigger as a result, but compared with the other Core Cities, Nottingham is still a small city.
Certain business sectors have grown massively and for the city’s benefit with the support of our City Council, local businesses such as Boots and our great universities. For example in 1989 who would have thought that 30 years later Nottingham would be such a hub for life-sciences and biosciences businesses, or have the reach it has in gaming and the digital and creative sectors?
Q4: What is/are the biggest challenges we face as a city compared with our regional “rivals” and nationally
Fully understanding our city vision and future plan and then – as a whole city – subscribing to it in the long term. Nottingham is a fantastic city area and has a distinct personality. There is no need for the city to try to be anything it is not, or to be like anywhere else. We should have the confidence to be truly independent in our thinking and in our vision for our place and – most importantly – to work together to make Nottingham the best place for all who live, work, are educated and do business here. Very often I see an unfortunate willingness to pick good things apart which might not be working optimally, notwithstanding that circumstances have often led them to that point and they could easily be mended with a little patience and goodwill – to make the best of Nottingham we all need to work together to a plan and with a vision in mind to make it happen. By the way, there is some great work currently underway in relation to future vision and a long term plan for the city and I welcome that.
As a small city, we need to ensure that we work effectively externally to ensure Nottingham’s voice is heard at a national and international level.
Q5: How long is your daily commute and how do you get into the city?
12 miles from Ravenshead by car or bus/tram, or 14 miles by bicycle on less congested roads. I do all of those things – car when I need it, bike when I don’t, and bus/tram if I am having a beer or two in the evening or just fancy being driven or a change. We are fortunate to have such good public transport links in and to the city.
Q6: What are your favourite places to eat and drink for business and pleasure?
It’s pretty difficult to pick things out really because the variety is so good, but I really enjoy Harts, Bar Iberico and Mowgli. I enjoy eating and drinking at the Herbert Kilpin and the Vat & Fiddle. I also really enjoy a number of the small independent coffee shops in the Lace Market area and Sneinton Market, and sitting in a bar at a music venue having a chat around a gig there – I still love seeing live music and we are really well served in Nottingham for great venues with real variety. I do also really enjoy (and I would have said this even if I was not involved with it) the café bar at Broadway, which is a great and inevitably happy place to meet friends.
Q7: Finally, if you had a blank canvas, what would you like to see happen in the next 12 months?
I know that I will see some of this, but completion of all of the works across the south side of the city, the college, the castle, the HMRC hub at Unity Square, the developments at the old Boots Island site kicking off, the new main stand development at Forest, and further sympathetic development around the city centre area to help improve our place but also provide good jobs for Nottingham people. I would like to see Forest promoted to the Premier League and Notts County (and Chesterfield!) back in the Football League. I would like to see all relevant agencies in the city working collaboratively together towards a long term future vision for (appropriate) growth in Nottingham. I would like to see those people who live here who do not have a home, find a home they are comfortable and happy in. I am also interested to see progress towards making Nottingham the cleanest city in the UK and ensuring that we appropriately mitigate the environmental impact of what goes on here.