Travel at a Natural Pace; Enjoy the Journey

Malt Cross, sky light, Nottingham

It is possible to live in a place for a lifetime and still be surprised by new discoveries. The Malt Cross on Nottingham’s St James’s Street right in the city centre is just such a recent discovery. I have lived in Nottingham most of my life but only recently started using it frequently.

I had heard of it but never visited this former music hall until I joined Nottingham’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) group for a meeting there. I recently showed it to a Canadian friend, Jill Brown, who also writes on slow travel at Middle of the Road Less Travelled. As a result I now use the Malt Cross routinely for a coffee or lunch and to do some writing in quiet and interesting surroundings.

Malt Cross, St James's Street, NottinghamThe Malt Cross is easily missed; St James’s Street is just off the Old Market Square but it is not the smartest of locations and the Malt Cross entrance is squeezed in next to the barred, and somewhat scruffy, entrance to a closed basement restaurant. As so often in modern towns the façade is more interesting if one looks up to the first floor and its interesting roofline with arched dormer windows.

Walk through the doors and the interior has real impact, it is a large open space with a striking glazed roof casting interesting shadows on the walls. There is a first floor gallery with cast iron balustrades that provides a view of the stage. Round the walls are booths for 4-8 people and the rest of the space is filled with a motley collection of sofas, tables and leather armchairs,. They may be rather worn but they are comfortable and add to the character of the place. At the far end is the tiny raised stage. I have not yet been to a performance; I will address that oversight very soon.

Indeed I have not yet visited in the evening at all but it promises to be a lively place. There are quiz nights most Mondays. There are frequent performances, mostly musicians on the current programme but a friend started his conjuring career performing at the Malt Cross.

Unusually the Malt Cross is run by a Christian charity that is committed to preserving Nottingham’s last surviving music hall, a Grade II listed building. They intend to renovate the basements, cellars and caves to provide more space and facilities to go with the existing gallery space. Like the restoration to date it is hoped that the Heritage Lottery Fund will help support the new work.

The Malt Cross was set up in 2003 by a group of local churches, St Johns theological college and University Chaplains. Its profits go to support the charitable outreach projects: Safe Space and Street Pastors “to care for, love and protect anyone using Nottingham’s night life on Friday and Saturday evenings.”

Having started to explore the Malt Cross I am hoping to get to know it and the people much better. If I can I want to create a photo-story about the building, the venue, the refurbishment and the work of the charity in Nottingham. If it works out I would aim to exhibit the results, logically in the gallery at the Malt Cross. This project would be the essence of slow travel; engage with a place and its people, get to know them properly.

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