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   Inside Out - East Midlands: Monday February 14, 2005

TWO TOWN MAD

Two Town Photo gallery
St Ann's street
The times are a-changing - Nottingham's St Ann's
VIEW THE TWO TOWN GALLERY

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

Ray Gosling in 1963
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.

Rock'n'roll rebellion

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.

Chimneys
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.

College of art
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.

St Ann's
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".

Slum clearance

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.

Women drinking
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.

Leicester building
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.

See also ...

Inside Out: East Midlands
Raleigh

On the rest of Inside Out
Sam Hanna

On bbc.co.uk
BBC 4 - Ray Gosling
BBC Nottingham - Ray Gosling
Homeground - Life Through A Lens

On the rest of the web
The Guardian
Nottingham Local History
Leicester City Council
Nottingham City Council

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

Sue Woolley
Brought back a lot of memories,forgot what Leicester looked like in the sixties please show some more.

pat holmes
it was great to see the old Nottingham. I lived in St Anns during the slum clearance and remember Ray Gosling being involved in a group called SATRA. There were lots of changes during that time,some good some not so good. I thoroughly enjoyed the programme and my trip down memory lane.

Paula Taylor
Congratulations. What a wonderful, riverting and nostalgic film. It was full of happy memories of places and people. Seeing the 'town lads', buildings, transport, the clothes we wore, hairstyles etc. again was a true blast from the past. I was sad I was watching on my own. What a forward thinking town we lived in the 60's, the centre buzzed at night. Not so now. Leicester has had it's heart ripped out.

Christopher Frost (Beeston, Notts)
Enjoyed the programme a lot. Just a shame we didn't see the full version of Ray's original film, as I'm sure there were some more interesting sights to see. A shame both cities have been ruined by the 1960's & 70's town planners. Progress is one thing, but destroying something that was perfect in the first, seems a great shame & sadness to me. Alas I'm too young to remember much of Nottingham before the bulldozers arrived, but looking at old photos shows me of what an interesting and architectual delightful city it was.

Ed Grummitt (Nottingham now Leicester)
I just channel flipped into this superb programme! Thank God Ray's back doing this sort of thing once more. I worked down St Anns Well Rd. in 1966, and can remember the pawn shop,Alf's shop next door (he was the area's Del Boy Trotter - sell you anything) and Pork Farms' old factory round the corner.

Careen Wild
Is it possible to purchase a copy of this programme? I was born in Leicester and it brought back many memories including seeing an advert. on the back of a corporation bus for A. H. Soar (my Father) who owned The Evington Garage and who was assured that a bus carrying the advert. on the back panel of a bus would pass around the clock tower every ten minutes!!!

Tony Stanger [ moose]
i was one of a team that helped destroy leicesters city center i worked for a demolistion firm i was classed as a top man that meant that i started at the top of buildings and bought them crashing to the groud.buildings such as the Bell Hotel.the Tower Vaults.and all the beautiful shops .your so right Mr Gossling they ripped the heart out the city center in the 1960s.

Neil Brown
Ray Gosling's points are sad but true, one of Leicester's problems is due to 60's planning, and parts are clogged with traffic for seven days a week. The city deserves what Nottingham has - a proper transport system in the form of trams, and bus and tram services that link up with the railway system. The centre of modern Nottingham is redressing the balance with a practical approach - cities should be for people first and cars second!

Lisa Mckenzie
Tonights proggramme was fascinating and enjoyable, however are you aware of another similar film made by Ken Coates and Bill Silburn at the University of Nottingham in 1968 'Gimme Shelter', they looked at the St Annes area in nottingham as the bulldozers moved in, it was in response to thier research study, 'Poverty the Forgotten Englishman'. Bill Silburn still teaches at the University and is a great historian and sociologist, i'm sure i'm not the only one who would like to encounter more of our history and tonights proggramme i'm sure was enjoyed by many.

Ann Loudon
As a girl in the 1970s when most girls liked Donny Osmond,I was besotted by Ray Gosling. Gosling's Travels were the highlight of my week, I live in Leicester, and didn't realise that Ray had lived here too. I wish I had known that he was coming to Leicester to film because after 30 years, he's still my favourite, and I would have loved to meet him. So if he comes to Leicester again.......or I could always travel to Nottingham!!!!!

john treece
the two town episode was brilliant i was born on osbourne st, behind the old players factory liveing alongside most of my relatives who lived in the same street.even my grandmother and mother worked in the factory at one point,plus my gran even remembered the filming of saturday night sunday morning and it was wonderfull to see the old area back as it was in its glorious early years. Please tell me where i can obtain a copy PLEASE

Dave Nichol
What a fascinating insight (new and old) into the life and times not only of Nottingham and Leicester, but also of Ray Gosling. I remember, with nostalgic affection, some of the memorable programmes that he produced in the past e.g. 'A miners Tale'. He has this uncanny knack of telling it 'how it is' or in this case, 'how it was'. It good to see him on the 'telly' again. Lets have more.

Sean Salmon (Derby)
Captivating, understated, absorbing. A time past - maybe better, maybe worse... Who knows? But many good values and wholesome community attitudes no longer to be found today, even in our own families, I guess. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

tony worn
great to see Ray Gosling out and about and looking better than his last main tv programme. Having grown up in Leicester in the 1960s the programme was a wonderful piece of social history, and a trawl through our memories.



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