I’ve been going to the Forest Tavern on Mansfield Road for more than twenty years. One of the back rooms used to be where the Nottingham East Labour Party general management committee drank after their monthly meetings. I remember one evening finding a red faced drunk in a badly stained suit talking to our agent. He was going on about Northern Ireland in an authoritative but boorish manner and I, an unemployed graduate, asked him how he knew so much about it. ‘I am chairman of the Northern Ireland Committee’ he announced. And, indeed, he did turn out to be the MP for our neighbouring constituency (which was abolished shortly afterwards).
The back of the Forest Tavern, built by world champion bare knuckle boxer William Bendigo (it still holds the world’s only bare knuckle boxing ring, though it isn’t used as such) was converted into a venue some time in the nineties. The owners, Tyne Mill, have a good line in pubs that serve a wide range of fine beers. The Maze hosts many poetry and theatre performances. I’ve also been to loads of gigs there, from Ryan Adams to Slaid Cleaves via the Willard Grant Conspiracy. Nearly all of them were promoted by Cosmic American Music. Last night, however, was the last one, featuring a fine young Welsh singer/songwriter called Jack Harris and the redoubtable A.J. Roach, from Tennessee via Oakland, California.
Why is the Maze closing today ? (to be more precise, the name is moving – the venue name will continue downstairs at the Old Vic, otherwise known as Cabaret 2, a venue I know well, having organised stuff there myself. However, I can’t walk home from there in 15 minutes after the last bus has gone and it’s a less welcoming space) Because Tyne Mill is selling the place off to create yet more student accommodation. For more info, this is how the Nottingham Evening Post covered the story on Monday. Now, Nottingham is student city and I take part of the blame, since I work part time running a Creative Writing MA course for NTU, which has its main base in the city centre. But there’s no shortage of places for students to live, whereas there is a shortage of great, intimate, music venues, especially such a historic one on my side of town.
So I call on Tyne Mill to change their mind (evidently they’ve not yet got a definite buyer, nor have they tried to flog the venue as a pub, as otherwise it would compete with their other pub on the same street). Failing that, I call on the City Council to reject planning permission for a change of use. If you want to help this campaign, you can write to the directors at “The Directors Mega Close Ltd, 120 North Sherwood Street, Nottingham, NG1 4EF” and the campaign can be emailed at Savethemaze(remove this bit)@aol.com
Update – March 7th Mega Close Ltd (the company that were planning to turn the Forest Tavern into student flats) have pulled out of the deal. This is largely due to letters of objection to the development, coverage in the press – letters written to the Nottingham Evening post have been a great help (whether or not they were published_ and objections to Mega Close’s plans to turn the property next door into student flats. So is there anyone out there willing to buy the place and reopen it as a pub and venue?