“It seems like historians are everywhere you look on television these days. But although not every academic has the makings of a Starkey, Schama or Snow, it transpires there are interesting opportunities to explore closer to home. I’ve recently dipped my toe into the TV presenting pool, by filming a ten-minute feature about Nottingham’s Lace Market for the pilot programme of a new television series, ‘Notts Now and Then’. It’s to be aired at 5pm on Wed 28 May on the new local channel Notts TV. The station launches on Freeview Channel 8 the previous day.
Last December I found myself doing a mini screen-test in the grounds of St Mary’s churchyard. I was reminded by the producer Stephen Arkell how difficult it can be to walk towards camera whilst talking – without the aid of a script – at the same time. But by January, I was ready to be thrown into the deep end and do it for real.
The series, like the channel, is a new venture with strong support from a range of media and university partners. The aim of the ‘Notts Now and Then’ series is to bring aspects of the area’s past to life in an interesting and watchable way.
My debut report is an exploration of the history of the lace industry in Nottingham and the prominence of the Lace Market in the city’s ‘Creative Quarter’. I meet a range of people whose lives continue to be touched by lace in different ways, including the last remaining manufacturer in the area, Cluny Lace, based at Ilkeston. Their client list includes Burberry and their products graced the wedding dress of Catherine Middleton. I also visit the premises of Kula Tsurdiu, which sells bridal products out of its Lace Market boutique.
But it’s not all bridal dresses and couture fashion. At the site of Thomas Adams’ lace manufactory, now part of New College Nottingham, local historian Mo Cooper describes the difficult working conditions which female lace makers endured during the industry’s hey-day in the early-nineteenth century.
As a historian working on this period, and someone who lives and works in the area, I feel this mini-documentary neatly balances historical perspectives with current-day concerns. Of course, like everyone else, I’ve yet to see the final product – I’ll be interested to see which parts didn’t make the final cut! Whether this is the start of an exciting new side-line to my career at Nottingham, or a one-off experience, I can at least claim to have had some part of fifteen minutes worth of fame. But my mobile is in readiness to take that call….”
As well as being Associate Professor in British History at the University of Nottingham Richard Gaunt is also Chairman of the Friends of Nottinghamshire Archives and a member of the executive committee of Nottinghamshire Local History Association.