o there we were, thoroughly enjoying ourselves at our first ever Hockley Hustle (such a shameful admission considering it's in its tenth year) when Photographer Phil has the bright idea of checking the train times back from Notttingham to Leicester.
"Don't worry yourself, Phil", I urge, fully aware that when I work from this fine city I can get a train at 23.10. "We've got bags of time".
"Uh oh", responds Phil, looking up from his trainline app. "Looks like there's engineering works today and the last train is at 20.50."
Thus, our exciting visit to this fab street festival is curtailed and we dart off down Nottingham's mazy streets to just about save ourselves an excessive taxi fare. On the train home, disappointed that we've had to miss so much, we curse East Midland Trains for their planned engineering works, mourn our bad luck at having to miss so much of this lovely festival and resolve to do it better justice next year. "Let's get a taxi-load involved so that we can split the cost home", we agree.
The Hockley Hustle has been on my radar for some time. For one Sunday each year, the cooler end of this city gives itself over to an incredible arts festival. Across 25 venues, largely centred around a couple of key streets, punters can get themselves thoroughly bewildered by choosing between 300 artists. This is a mammoth thing to organise and incredibly, with the support of some profiled partners and an eager team of volunteers, the main aim of the day is to raise funds for some significant local charities.
Yes, I'm sure that we've all been to things like this before? And sometimes they can be events masquerading as festivals but in reality be little more than a series of unrelated gigs across disparate venues. The organisers of the Hockley Hustle neatly sidestep such accusation by really putting significant thought and attention into the things happening outside of the key venues. So, whenever we're meandering between spaces, down Broad Street where the bulk of the action is, you can't avoid colourful carnival processions, dance performances and demonstrations of capoeira. Street artists spray their paint onto blank white canvasses. Should you be feeling peckish (and not want to nip into one if the many great cafés that contribute towards the vibrancy of this area), you can choose between a number of strategically-placed street food vans. As we leave and as darkness descends, we spot headphone-wearing punters dancing to something we can't hear. A silent disco has taken over the street. This really does have a festival feel.
Wristband exchange is just inside the Broadway arts cinema. When we arrive just after two, there's not much of a queue and it's simple to pick up our wristbands that'll provide us access for the day. I do love a good, well-designed cloth band. Apart from being more comfortable to wear, they're very much a statement of intent about the professionalism of the thing you're about to embark upon. We pick up a free fold-away programme and spend the next half hour or so trying to get a sense of what is on.
"Ooh, I've heard of Seas Of Mirth", says Sarah as we peruse the programme over a pint in the Lord Roberts. "Why do I recognise Hallouminati?", asks Phil, scanning further down the list. We all conclude that there's so much on today, the bulk of which we don't know, that the best approach might be to randomly follow our noses, to see where we might end up. Venues are so close together that it's quite easy to move on if we see something not catching our fancy.
First stop after the preliminary pint is upstairs at Rough Trade. The fact that this is the only Rough Trade record shop outside of London and New York should give an indication of its influence here. Each of the contributing venues have line-ups curated by local promoters or arts-based organisations. Upstairs at Rough Trade, there's a fine social space that's given over to 'Fan Club' for today. 'Fan Club' are a community of people who came together last year as a response to media reports showing how few women are involved at male-dominated events. Their modus-operandi is, in a fully inclusive and transparent way, to redress that balance.
We buy a pint and take in the atmosphere as Twin Kidd take to the stage. A three piece with layered backing, they indulge in a modern, exciting electronica. A vehicle for lead singer, Stef Williamson, to display her considerable and confident vocal talents, it's an impressive start to the day. When the band launch into a cover of 'Running Up That Hill', you wonder if they might have bitten off more than they can chew, but they pull it off with such a stylish swagger that you can't fail to be impressed. Later in the day, we come back to Rough Trade for the performance of Kermes. Already turning heads and building quite a reputation in Leicester, this wonderful eight-legged band now demonstrate in Nottingham why they're definitely ones to watch. I last saw them in February and enjoyed them then but they've improved markedly since. A fuller sound brings the lyrics, melodies and Bowie influence to the fore and in lead singer, Emily Teece, the band have a performer who's captivating to watch. "This one's about gender", Emily says as Kermes again show a startling vitality.
A tip for top Hockley Hustling - if you want to get around to see lots at many of the different venues, it might be an idea to drink halves (or to not drink at all) rather than to drink full pints at each venue. Otherwise, you might well be left either exceptionally drunk or still with three quarters of your drink to go, wanting to be elsewhere, at band change-over times. Just saying.
The second venue we strive for is The Angel. A mainstay of Nottingham's rock scene, it closed earlier this year to be renovated and return as an organic gastro-pub with live music facilities. Punks might no longer be throwing up in the over-flowing toilets but I was impressed by the transformation. As we walk into a packed downstairs bar, we catch the last few tunes of The Most Ugly Child. Their niche appears to be an Americana-Soul thing. It's so busy and bustling that I can't quite get a decent view of the band but they make a fine sound. We head to the fantastically renovated upstairs venue here and towards the smell of a room recently painted. The scheduled band appear to be a non-show so we finish our pints in the garden of the Angel whilst gathering tips on potential highlights from other festival goers.
Part of the logistical nightmare in planning an event such as this has to be that, queues will inevitably form outside of the places in which popular acts are playing. There's surely no way around this but I sense that it limits movement between venues. We try to get into the Brewdog pub that's being curated by BBC Introducing but, from quite early in the day, a queue has formed and we choose not to spend our limited time worrying about one-in one-out. I guess that's what happens when you book Liam Bailey to play. Later, as we traipse back to our early train, I notice that queues have also formed outside of The Angel.
The range of entertainment at the Hustle is not to be sniffed at. A chance conversation earlier in the day takes us to GameCity and Nottingham's National Videogame Arcade. This five-storey building houses three floors of exhibitions, event spaces,a full licensed bar and all manner of video games. Today, for the Hustle, they've given two spaces across to live acts. Downstairs, in a blank canvas of a room, we see prominent beatboxer, Motormouf, create and loop some exquisite beats whilst another act, Ashmore, jumps in from time to time, with a bit of rap. You can tell why Motormouf has a wrist full of bands, documenting his travels to different festivals this summer. Upstairs in the more sedate Toast bar, Photographer Phil has a cup of tea as we listen to the competent acoustic covers, calmly delivered by Steve McGill.
In venues we don't get to, there's even more variety. Poetry, rap battles, DJs, grime and soul club nights. It feels so disappointing to only scratch the surface of the Hustle. We do head back to the Broadway Arts Cinema where their downstairs cafe space is given over to music. Here, we see Keto with their fuzzy-felt, dreamy take on porch-based Americana. I'm wanting something more upbeat at this time of the day but there's no denying that there's a band here with talent. We end our day as it began in The Lord Roberts pub. A place popular with CAMRA because of a fine range of local ales, this is a smart yet traditional boozer upstairs. But, head downstairs and you get more music from the Hockley Hustle. I'm not entirely sure who we caught in this downstairs space but you'd file them under epic, instrumental blues-rock.
And with that our day was done. Arriving back to the quiet streets of Leicester earlier than anticipated, we stop off in a couple of bars and show people the Hockley Hustle programme. "How come I've never heard of this? We should definitely go next year", says one person. "This looks incredible", enthuses another. "Nottingham is such a creative city", they surmise. It's hard to disagree. Perhaps, next year we'll be able to take a minibus.
latest on this festival
festival home page
line-ups & rumours