TWO TOWN MAD
Acclaimed film maker Ray Gosling revisits the East Midlands 40 years after he made his first documentary film in the area.
Gosling compares the fortunes of its two big cities - Leicester and Nottingham, and asks whether they have changed for the better. He also recalls some of his vivid memories of the 1960s of work, rest and play.
"I am a Midlander and I do believe that is the most uninspiring, interesting, unexciting English tribe to belong to... Home is the other side - the East Midlands - Leicester and Nottingham - the two towns I've grown up around, that I've got mad about, and that I have to go home to." Ray Gosling.
Back in 1963 an energetic young film maker made his first film about a subject close to his heart - the cities where he grew up as a teenager.
The documentary Two Town Mad compared Leicester and Nottingham - the people, their work places, their night life, and what it was like to grow up in the East Midlands.
Inside Out takes Ray Gosling back to the places where he spent his rebellious youth.
Journey back in time
|Gosling can't understand "how they could tear good things down" |
Ray Gosling has made more than 100 documentaries, but it's his first that remains one of the most poignant for him.
Going back to the East Midlands where he made his first film Two Town Mad is a sobering experience.
Thirty years on there have been many changes and both Leicester and Nottingham have moved with the times.
In his 1963 film Ray talks about how living in the East Midlands changed him, how he cared deeply about its two cities, and how he found so much that puzzled him about their modernisation.
Thoroughly modern Leicester
Ray Gosling arrived in Leicester as a student during the late 1950s. He spoke of it with great affection in 1963 when he made Two Twin Town.
Leicester was seen as a truly modern city in 1963. It had the first automatic multi storey car park in Europe, it boasted the first Tesco supermarket outside London, and it had a drive in post office and a drive in bank.
One of the White Swan pub regulars at the time praised Leicester for its friendliness:
"Leicester is still the best city - it's more friendly than any other city in England".
But he also recalls the huge changes that were going on, especially the tearing down of the city's West End.
Ray remembers the city fondly, but is less taken with it today. "Leicester's changed for the worse," he concludes looking at its ugly modern buildings and slightly "tacky" air.
Gosling recalls the heady days of the Sixites in Leicester, when breaking the rules and being a rebel was something to be proud of.
"We were the first ones that were breaking with what your parents told you to do, what the church told you to do, and what the boss told you to do.
|Leicester's chimneys smoking away in 1963|
"We were the first to say what we wanted to do. In some ways we were overthrowing the working class culture that was very regimented."
Ray lived on Leicester's Fosse Road from where he could see thirteen factory chimneys, all smoking away.
"Now they're gone," says Ray with air of resignation, "it's as if Leicester doesn't make anything like it did".
A night out was a trip to the pub, the social club or the bingo. The age of the teenager was about to explode as rock'n'roll was hitting the dance floors.
Ray compares the early 1960s with today, "The tradition was not to look young, the tradition was to look old.
"Whereas now you get people in their seventies and eighties going around in jumpsuits in the strangest sorts of colours!"
Queen of the Midlands?
When Ray moved to Nottingham 26 miles away in the 1960s, it was a city hoping for a "powerful" future on the back of the coal industry.
|Warsaw on Trent - the art college looked like a Soviet import |
Comparing Nottingham and Leicester brought up some interesting comments from Ray at the time.
"Leicester was provincial compared to this metropolis. Nottingham is such a different city, it's a metropolitan town," he proclaimed.
"The change from Leicester hits you - the public buildings in the city... Nottingham is queen of the Midlands - there's a pomp about the place.
"The art and tech (college) looks like the palace of culture the Russians built for the Poles in Warsaw.
"It's a regional capital and that's some centre, Slab Square. Here there's northern rawness - big and pompous."
Today Ray is still very fond of the city but regrets the loss of some of its old buildings, "I regret Drury Hill going, I regret Maid Marion Way coming, but the Lace Market - the architecture is still there".
Monster raving loony?
The Sixties was a time when the bulldozers were moving in and places like The Meadows and St Ann's in Nottingham were being torn down.
|Ray's campaign saved only a few old parts of St Ann's|
Ray Gosling was shocked by the slums in the city and felt he had to do something about the conditions in places like The Meadows.
So he stood in the local elections for the Lenton ward - his party affiliation on the voting forms was "madman".
Gosling claims to have invented a new political party as a result of this rebellious act.
"I was the begatter of what became the Monster Raving Loony Party," says Ray with a wry smile.
"Dave Sutch (Lord Sutch) got in touch after the elections and asked me how to do it." It was the start of Sutch's political "career".
Ray Gosling fought hard to stop wholesale slum clearance in the St Ann's area of Nottingham.
"All they needed were bathrooms on the back. Some railings. They were good houses. They didn't have to pull them all down."
"They were humble dwellings but there was nothing wrong with that. And the people who lived there, they didn't want to be pulled down and moved to Top Valley or who knows where."
"There was spirit - there was no letting big people and authorities do what they wanted to do.
"You had to say 'no' - that's what I mean by rebellion."
Nottingham by night
Gosling remembers Nottingham's lively night life in the 1960s, Yates' Wine Bar being a favourite haunt.
|In the Sixties women had a new freedom to do what they wanted|
"I love Yates - all my life I've been drinking in Yates."
In 1963 Ray particularly liked the bar's mixed clientele and its distinctive atmosphere, "it had a feeling that I'd left the south and I was in the north".
"They had all these slogans on the walls to improve you - like 'The whiter the bread, the sooner you're dead'".
Two towns today
So what does Ray Gosling make of Nottingham and Leicester in 2005? His views are as controversial as ever.
"Leicester - it's a bit tacky compared with Nottingham.
"When it was the 1960s Nottingham and Leicester were fairly equal, but Nottingham has come up and it's a much bigger city than Leicester now.
|Modern Leicester - how does its new architecture rate?|
"Leicester hasn't got so many new buildings. Nottingham's a bit smarter, a bit bigger and has kept a lot of its old buildings."
"So many buildings have been pulled down in Leicester. They've pulled the heart out of Leicester."
These days Gosling still lives in Nottingham although his work takes him around the country.
"It's so nice when you're in one place for so long. I'm glad I never went back to London."
Visit the Two Town Mad photo gallery.
Tell us what you think about the pros and cons of living in Nottingham and Leicester today by using the form below.
We also want to hear about your memories of the early 1960s.