In this next edition of the “Why Nottingham” articles, we interview a man who needs no introduction to the Nottingham professional services community.
Alistair Wesson, Nottingham Office Managing Partner at Mazars LLP, gives us his story of working in Nottingham, the changes he’s seen over the past 37 years and the improvements he’d make to this great City of ours.
1. What first attracted you to Nottingham?
The firm I was joining back in 1983, had just joined forces with a small Nottingham firm called DWH Phipp & Co. I was considering my options and liked the attitude and potential experience I would gain from joining a rapidly growing entrepreneurial office versus more established and larger offices. That started the association – I then got to know Nottingham better and liked the vibrancy of the City and its atmosphere and ‘village’ feel.
2. When did you first start to work in the City?
August 1983 was my first working month, following a long search for somewhere to live and ending up in Beeston. Even then Derby Road used to be a car park at the wrong time of day so I became an expert in avoiding it on my way to work. The offices were on Gregory Boulevard almost opposite where the tram stops at The Forest but many meetings and lunches were in the City itself.
3. How has it changed during your time here?
In the early 1980’s, Nottingham was a major lace manufacturing centre and also headquartered a lot of other textile sector businesses. Back then there was also a significant mining influence on the City and surrounding areas, as many businesses supplied the Nottinghamshire Collieries. Boots was already very well established but giants of the 21st century like Experian and Capital One were not. However, around the major core industries and business was always an entrepreneurial feel with many smaller, very agile businesses flourishing across numerous sectors. When I first came to Nottingham in the 1960’s on a day trip, I was open mouthed at the trams rolling through the City: maybe the more things change the more they stay the same in some ways?
Now we have a vibrant services sector and two fantastic universities which are genuinely world renowned and attract tens of thousands of overseas students, back then they existed but were nowhere near as prominent. Education and services certainly predominate but with BioCity and MediCity we can also see a great niche for the City which has developed with the support it has received. Still lots of smaller, agile entrepreneurial businesses starting, scaling and progressing too.
4. What is/are the biggest challenges we face as city compared to our rivals?
Perhaps controversially I think Nottingham maybe got a little complacent somewhere down the years enabling Derby and Leicester to gain some ground and be considered as places equally valid for investment. We have seen a lot of business headquarter itself in both competing Cities and I am pleased to see effort being put into maintaining Nottingham’s reputation now we have got over the bad press the City received over crime and violence. I think a current challenge is the size of both education and service sectors and the business which has come to rely on them across retail, leisure and hospitality sectors. The last few weeks have shown that we don’t have to be sitting in an office in a City centre or business park to be properly and fully occupied and viable. This will challenge the accepted norm and drive evolution and change in the City :and quickly too. We may need to do more to attract people into the City so the focus on public transport is vital and maybe making Nottingham more parking friendly in terms of location and cost should be considered .
5. How long is your commute into the city and what is your method of transport?
On a good day it takes me about 40-45 minutes to get into the City from my home in Derbyshire. If I have meetings out of the office, as happens most days, I drive in otherwise I take the train. I sense less office time / less driving time as we enter the brave new world post lockdown but let’s see how things develop as a sensibly structured return to work plan is rolled out.
6. Where are your favourite places to eat and drink for business and leisure time?
I think Nottingham has an absolutely amazing range of restaurants , eateries and bars to cater for all tastes. Old traditional venues like The Laguna, World Service and Mr Mans remain popular and have stood the test of time. Newer entrants like Memsaab / Calcutta Club and Zap have also broken into town. I tend to use them all across the year and if I fancy a pint then The Crafty Crow, Castle or VAT and Fiddle probably get a little more use than others .
7. Finally, if you had a blank canvas, what would you like to see happen in the next 12 months?
An interesting time to write this bit. First and foremost I would like the world to overcome the pandemic and for us all to be healthy again and feel safe. I would hope that the measures announced by the Government do help to keep a lot of our businesses in existence so we can re-acquaint ourselves with them soon. I hope the world economies recognise that the world needs to liaise more closely and work together to recover from the last few months and in doing so many of the conflicts we continue to see come to an end. If some significant change in behaviour isn’t seen , my fear is that it all happens again and I am not sure we can easily deal with that.
On a Nottingham level, I’d like to see us work with the other Cities to drive business and create opportunities and jobs and continue to foster innovative entrepreneurs like we always have done.