Day 7: Mythologies


All kinds of peformance art are welcomed in Nottingham.

Nottingham is a place of myth. Not a mythical place but a place where those structures of signification that Barthes, in one of his more lucid moments, termed second order semiological systems, abound.

It’s Monday night and we’re playing the open mic at the Golden Fleece. It has been postulated that the orgins of the Jason myth – an early version of the Odessey, incorporating the quest for belonging, love, betrayal and revenge – stem from the practice, in Asia Minor, of holdng sheepskins in streams in order to catch small particles of gold. Once the fleece was saturated with gold dust it would be incinerated, leaving the precious metal behind.

The advertising for the night at the Golden Fleece describes it as ‘legendary’ and it also has history – the antithesis of myth – having run for the last 11 years. While it’s a perfectly good open mic night, in the main the acts aren’t quite exciting enough to make it ‘legendary’ I feel. Of course we could have hit a quiet period. Summer isn’t the best time for a lot of events like this.


Local performer, Summer and Winter.


Punk poet and handy guitarist, John Marriot.

Nonetheless, it’s smoothly run and there are some interesting numbers from several of the performers. I’m particularly taken with John Marriot‘s surreal punk poetry, accompanied by some deft playing on a beautiful Epiphone semi-acoustic.

I’m also impressed by female singer Summer and Winter’s original number. After two covers that, despite being delivered with a fine voice, leave me slightly underwhelmed, her own composition is affecting and exquisitely delivered.

Lewis and I go down well (Lewis more so than me, as usual). Here to see me play is an old school friend, who I haven’t seen from those days, when we used to be in a band together. The myth-making continues. Our first gig, the songs we played, the girls we used to fancy, the people we didn’t like, the goth bands we were into. Harmless enough, and really quite fun. It’s good to see him.

We give him and his mate a lift home and fall slightly foul of the one-way sytem.The roadsigns aren’t terribly helpful. As Barthes said, ‘neutrality ends up functioning as the sign of neutrality’ and being lost ends up signifying the same thing at an existential level.

The next day we take a look round Nottingham. The city’s predominant myth is Robin Hood, that chameleon political figure, capable of being attached to almost any cause. His name, along those of his associates and enemies crops up all over the place. By extension, the crusades also play their part. We have a pleasant lunch in the Trip to Jerusalem Inn, a place recorded as playing host to crusaders on their way to the Holy Land (presumably fairly near the start of their journey) as early as 1189 – giving evidence for the claim that it’s England’s oldest inn.

The place is interesting for more than that, being fashioned partly out of caves, partly naturally formed, partly hewn out of the curious rocky outcrop that supports the castle. The caves are part of a much larger network, itself the subject of numerous other myths relating to dates and origins.

Later, in search of more caves, we wander into the Galleries of Justice and are directed to the free exhibitions. The Robin Hood theme is extended to a general look at crime and punishment and there are seveal rooms dedictated to old punishments (I pose for a photo in the pillory), mugshots and criminal investigation paraphernalia.

We leave with an impression of Nottingham as a harsh place – this isn’t fair, everyone we met was friendly and civil. But the myth of the outlaw still pervades the place somehow.






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