Art on the Move – East Midlands Railway & partners including the Poacher Line CRP & Robin Hood Line CRP

Concept and aims

East Midlands Railway (EMR) had identified a ‘horrible’ blank wall at Nottingham Station that by 2023 they had wanted to add artwork to for about a decade. They wanted to come up with a ‘purposeful’ project to bring the space to life.

They wanted to create a design that would represent the young people of Nottingham and the city itself. As such, they partnered with Imageskool, who they had worked with on graffiti art projects before, and Base 51, a youth centre based five minutes from the station.

EMR had a working relationship with the Railway Children charity due to some ongoing work around safeguarding, so also brought them on board with the project, alongside two local CRPs, the Poacher Line and the Robin Hood Line. Additional funding came from CrossCountry and Community Rail Network.

What happened

The project team held a workshop and brainstorming session with a group of young people aged 13-18 from Base 51. Their ideas were pivotal to the creation of the mural, which featured famous Nottingham landmarks and highlighted the role rail can play in the journey from childhood to young adulthood.

Once the concept was decided on, Imageskool drew up a template for the artwork which was then shown back to the young people. They decided on a Nottingham heritage-style colour scheme of ‘Robin Hood’ greens and reds, and devised the ‘We are Nottingham’ slogan. They also included messages emphasising that rail is safe and accessible for young people.

Based on their ideas, the mural featured distinctive Nottinghamshire attractions including Creswell Crags and Wollaton Hall, as well as local dialect such as ‘Ey up Duck’, and ‘Meet me at the Left Lion.’ The group had a graffiti skills session with Imageskool and actually completed some of the mural themselves.

Kaye Robinson, community engagement manager at EMR, said: “We were delighted to be able to support this project and help send the powerful message that our rail network should be safe for all.

“The young people came up with that idea of a journey from childhood to adulthood, and the idea of how trains can massively influence their lives by allowing them to get around. They said we want to make the piece about places like the seaside, which brought in the Poacher Line, and Creswell Crags which brought in the Robin Hood Line. They wanted to make it about great Nottingham is as a city, but also about how much there is to visit, and how the train lines allow you to see those things.

“The phrase ‘Meet me at the Left Lion’ means somewhere you go to meet your friends. We wanted to truly represent the young people of the city, and it’s great that we’ve got these little cute bits of information that we simply wouldn’t have had if the young people hadn’t taken part.”

Results

The mural now takes pride of place at the well-used Queen’s Road entrance to Nottingham Station. It was officially unveiled in November 2023 to positive local media coverage and has proved popular with station users.

Kaye said the project had cemented some great working relationships for EMR, and said they were planning to take the young people on a train trip to Skegness in summer 2024 to thank them for their involvement.

She added that as well as helping to encourage rail travel among local young people, the scale and longevity of the project would offer a fitting legacy for those who brought the mural together.

She said: “The young people absolutely loved it, they really felt like they were being listened to. They feel like they’ve had an impact on something that is going to be in Nottingham for a long time, so that’s great, and it’s a lovely legacy.”