Things to do in Nottingham before you Graduate

Whether you’re coming to Nottingham fresh-faced or you’re a careworn returner finding yourself hurtling ever faster towards graduation, there are plenty of ways to enjoy all that the city’s thriving art scene has to offer, even on a budget. From neophytes to regular gallery hoppers, to aficionados in modern contemporary dance or even dabblers in school theatrical productions, Impact Arts’ list of Things To Do Before You Graduate will guide you in the right direction. We’ve compiled this ‘cut out and keep’ selection to help you make the most of your time in Nottingham and explore your inner artistic self.


Nottingham has a broad range of large and small art galleries, which exhibit the work of local, national and international artists. We have collated a shortlist of those who we think are must-sees!

New Art Exchange: NAE prides itself in being “the first dedicated African, African Caribbean and South Asian facility for contemporary visual arts in the UK”. NAE is a testimony to the fact that if you seek cultural and artistic diversity you do not have to be in London to discover it. It is located in an award-winning building on the edge of the city, and, for the lazy, it is only a tram stop away from the centre.

Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery: You will most likely have had your first encounter with the castle whilst hitting up BZR in Fresher’s week and posing next to the Robin Hood statue for a comical Kodak moment. The castle also has a lot to offer where the arts are concerned. All year round, it has permanent and temporary collections that are hugely diverse, along with various cultural activities and festivals.

Surface Gallery: This tiny venue, which is tucked away behind the ice arena, is a volunteer-run, contemporary art gallery. Although the exhibitions are small scale, if you are interested in pursuing a career in the arts, whether as an artist or in arts management, it is worth checking this place out and getting involved as its main function as a gallery is to support people wishing to work within the industry.

Lakeside Arts Centre: No excuses for not ticking this off your to do list as it is less than a hopper bus ride away for most, situated on our very own University Park. Spilt between the Weston Gallery and the Djanogly Gallery, it offers a variety of temporary exhibitions, ranging from the extremely modern to obscure antiquity, and from international to local artists.

Nottingham Contemporary: This stunning addition to Nottingham opened in 2009 and has since been drawing the world’s contemporary art to the city. It is located in the Lace Market to which it structurally pays homage by having lace patterns subtly engraved on its outer walls. It has exhibited the likes of David Hockney, Diane Arbus and hosted the BAS7. It also regularly holds free-guided tours, evening events, talks and discussions.


Not only does Nottingham host touring shows hot from London’s West End, but it also has its own theatre productions worthy of commendation. These are just a handful of our ‘must-dos’!

– During term time in Nottingham, see some up-and-coming acting talent in one of New Theatre’s weekly performances, which run from Wednesday to Saturday. New Theatre is located on campus and is the UK’s only completely student-run theatre. Previous shows have included Hamlet, A View From the Bridge, Arcadia and Fresher the Musical.

– Venture off campus and check out some of the newest shows that are touring the country as well as one-off performances at the Nottingham Playhouse and the Theatre Royal.

– At the end of the autumn term, get into the festive spirit by booking tickets to a Pantomime and inevitably spot a former Big Brother, X Factor or soap opera celebrity in action too!

– Go and see a musical! Rumour has it that Dreamboats and Petticoats and Sister Act are both coming to Nottingham this year.
Clear a date in your diary to enjoy an evening of open-air theatre in the grounds of Nottingham Castle. Previous shows have included Pride and Prejudice, The Canterbury Tales and The Taming of the Shrew.


When deadlines are pending and Hallward Library opens its doors 24/7 in preparation for looming exams, we will all need a break and a reason to laugh; so rest assured that you will never be far from a night of comedy to set you straight!

– Enjoy a variety of stand-up acts at The Glee Club, Nottingham. Student tickets are available as well as good food and drink.

– Go to The Forum on a Friday or Saturday night. The much-loved nightclub is transformed into comedy venue Just the Tonic and attracts big names from the comedy circuit to perform in a more intimate setting.


Swap a night on the dance floor at Ocean for something out of your comfort zone. Living outside of London has its benefits as we escape the extortionately high ticket prices most dance companies charge and are offered much more competitive student rates.

– Check out one of the dance shows at the Lakeside Arts Centre. They regularly host small touring dance companies who specialise in everything from ballet to breakdancing.

– Well-known national dance companies and individual dancers also perform at the Royal Centre, including Matthew Bourne and Northern Ballet.


– If you’re a complete novice or fancy yourself as a budding Michelangelo, go to a Life Drawing class organised by Art Soc.

– Unleash your creative side and be spontaneous with Improv Society, the University’s improvised theatre group who claim to have “no scripts, no rehearsals, and no fear”.

– Join Musicality, the University of Nottingham’s musical theatre society for a sing-along; who knows, you might even end up doing a solo in their Christmas production!

– Be a part of New Theatre’s 24-hour Freshers’ Play, either on-stage or off. The 24-hour Freshers’ Play is a round-the-clock project in which a group of First Years devise and rehearse a one-hour play, created from scratch, to perform the following day.

– If you are snap-happy and reckon you might be the next Rankin, pop along to Photography Soc to hone your skills.

– Do we need to say it? Join Impact and get an article published in your very own student-run magazine!

Forthcoming Events

We have lovingly selected a mere smidgen of what’s happening in the coming months in Nottingham to give a taste of what the city’s flourishing arts scene has to offer.

Northern Ballet’s Cleopatra @ Theatre Royal 27th September- 1st October: What better way to break into the world of dance by seeing the tragic story of one of the most famous females since ancient times. The Guardian listed this performance as one of the dance highlights of 2011.

War Brought all the Art Out of Me @ Nottingham Contemporary 19th Oct: “Dr Celeste Marie Bernier will discuss the paintings, prints, photographs, and drawings produced by Black US artists who served as combat soldiers in World War I.” This is conveniently being run during black history month. Snap up an opportunity to engage in a free lecture on a relatively overlooked aspect of WWI art.

Journey’s End @ Theatre Royal 15th November- 19th November: Perhaps some poignant parallels can be drawn to those of us who are coming to our journey’s end at Nottingham and facing that final push into oblivion.

Lowry paintings and drawings @ Djanogly Art Gallery 16th November- 5th February: Lowry has been celebrated for his paintings of industrial scenes of Northern England in the early 20th century; what better location than the ex-industrial city of Nottingham to view his work.

Legally Blonde @ Theatre Royal 22nd November- 3rd December: The three time Laurence Olivier award-winning production makes its way to Nottingham; watch Elle Woods as she sings her way through the ups and downs of her chaotic first year at Harvard and overcomes the prejudices of her fellow students and teachers.

Roseannagh English and Melanie Solomon

ArtsThis Issue

Leave a Reply