This is Nottingham
Alt-J aren't a band who normally bring moshpits to mind. An Awesome Wave, their Mercury Prize winning album, is a studied, reflective and delicate piece of work, which places them on the artier wing of indie-pop. It's a far from gloomy affair – the melodies are bright and dextrous, and the often unfathomable lyrics conceal flashes of wit – but with a tempo that rarely rises much above mid-paced, it's hardly an album to rock out to.
So what was it about this mild-mannered, neatly groomed band's carefully rehearsed and precisely delivered performance that tipped the main floor of a sold out Rock City into a seething, chaotic frenzy? Perhaps the relative lateness of the hour had something to do with it; following two support acts, and ample opportunities for the crowd to visit the bar, Alt-J didn't take the stage until a quarter to ten. Or perhaps this was simply a crowd that was hell-bent on having a good time, regardless of the source material.
By the third number, Tessellate, the moshers were running riot, bellowing along to the decidedly unanthemic lyrics ("triangles are my favourite shape, three points where two lines meet") and raising their hands into the same shapes en masse (on Apple computers, the band's name represents the keyboard shortcut for a Delta symbol).
"I hope you're all looking after each other, because it's starting to get nasty out there!" said keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton after Dissolve Me, a song that was supposed to be about calming down. His words seemed to have the opposite effect; less than halfway through the next number, Fitzpleasure, a sizeable circle had been carved out in the middle of the floor, ready for the body-slammers to pile in.
Later in the set, Matilda was transformed into a terrace anthem, and by the time that the band reached Ms, supposedly a dark lullaby ("close eyes, open, close again, forget and fall asleep"), a lone shoe could be spotted, surfing the crowd from side to side. Was this standard behaviour for an Alt-J gig? The band's bemused smiles suggested that it probably wasn't.
Away from the main floor, older elements of the audience responded very differently. Although equally rapt, they stood motionless, savouring the beauty of the playing. These were the broadsheet readers, the Later with Jools viewers, the Mercury Prize demographic.
For those less intimately familiar with the material, perhaps the evenly paced set lacked a certain amount of light and shade; it could have done with a bit more drama, and a bit more passion. And at a mere fifty-seven minutes, two or three more songs wouldn't have gone amiss, either. But why quibble, when geeky art-rockers are treated like rock gods? This was Rock City at its best.
Paul Taylor: Billy Davies may feel a sense of deja vu as he prepares for a busy summer at Nottingham Forest
WHEN Billy Davies first bustled his way into the City Ground, in January 2009, he inherited a Nottingham Forest side clearly in dire relegation trouble.
When he returned for a second spell in charge, four years later, he argued that, in some ways little had changed.
Despite Davies' frequently voiced fears that relegation was a genuine threat to the side he inherited from Alex McLeish, however, it was ultimately promotion that Forest were fighting for in the final weeks of the campaign.
That, of course, was largely because of the instant transformation in form inspired by the Scotsman.
But, nevertheless as he now looks ahead to another busy summer, he may still do so with a sense of familiarity, as he looks to ensure that promotion is the only meaningful goal next time around.
After failing to make additions before the window closed a few months after his arrival in Nottingham, back in 2009, the subsequent close season was an intense period of activity.
Eight new players arrived, with around £4m invested as Davies looked to inject fresh life into the Forest ranks.
The end result was a side transformed from one that had struggled, into one that, for many long months, challenged for a top two finish.
Amid the pre-match press conference staged ahead of the final game of the campaign against Leicester, with hindsight, the most telling moment was not among the numerous questions the manager faced about his decision not to talk to the press after the game.
Instead, it was two questions he declined to answer – at least not in any depth.
They were relating to how many players the club needed to sign to make the squad competitive – and how close he felt the squad was, in terms of strength in depth, to being competitive now.
His answers to both amounted to little more than a 'I don't know'. Given the meticulous nature and love of planning and preparation that has become the Davies trademark, that is highly unlikely.
The Scotsman will have identified the areas in which he wants to strengthen long ago – and almost certainly which players he wants to fill the void as well.
His response is more likely to have been inspired by a desire not to get sucked into a discussion on the subject.
Either way, between now and July, the issue will be the manager's sole focus.
And, if he were to offer a glimpse at his shopping list, would it be too different to the one he compiled in the summer of 2009? Probably not. In fact, it could be almost identical.
Because, while the squad may not require the almost top-to-bottom rebuild that Sean O'Driscoll had to complete in a few short weeks last summer – when he brought in 12 new faces – there are significant holes to be filled.
And they are not too dissimilar to the ones Davies addressed four years ago.
In that first summer as manager, Davies signed three strikers, in David McGoldrick, Dexter Blackstock and Dele Adebola, keeper Lee Camp, flying winger Paul Anderson, defenders Joel Lynch and Chris Gunter and midfielder Paul McKenna.
When Davies sits down with Fawaz Al Hasawi to discuss his budget in the coming days, he will probably tell the club's owner and chairman that at least six or seven signings are required.
And among those will be at least one right back, one or two central defenders, two wingers and a few recruits to bolster the front line.
The performance of Karl Darlow since replacing the departed Camp as first choice have ensured a keeper is not likely to be a priority for Davies.
But, otherwise, there are plenty of parallels to be drawn, when it comes to the areas in which Forest do need to strengthen.
Firstly, there is the clear need for a right back, following the return of Sam Hutchinson and Gonzalo Jara to parent clubs Chelsea and West Brom, respectively.
Davies has already stated that he wants to see Hutchinson return next season. The defender has undoubted quality and outstanding potential.
But his injury track record might also ensure that two right backs are required, if Hutchinson is given a chance to prove himself.
Greg Halford performed well when asked to slot in on the right side of defence, but Forest may well also look to bring back Jara, who barely put a foot wrong, before seeing his own season ended by injury.
The Chilean international has one more year to run on his contract at the Hawthorns, but would seem to be surplus to requirements in the West Midlands.
With Elliott Ward and Daniel Ayala both having returned to Norwich, Forest are also short in central defence.
Ward in particular must have done enough to ensure Forest will head the queue of clubs interested in snapping him up on a free transfer, when his contract expires in July.
Simon Cox produced some outstanding performances for Forest this season, with his industry and work rate often a catalyst for the way the Reds played.
But, as he admitted himself, his goals tally of six was too meagre, as the Irish international went 26 games without finding the net, at one stage.
With Blackstock also under contract, Forest do have two strikers who would walk straight into many Championship sides.
Darius Henderson also fits into that category – and is likely to be offered terms to extend his stay at the City ground, after initially joining on a short-term deal from Millwall in January.
While top scorer Billy Sharp, who was on loan from Southampton, is likely to be a man in demand, given his scoring record at this level of the game.
He scored 11 times for the Reds and, while he was not always first choice under Davies, he would be a valuable addition, if Southampton can be persuaded to do business, either on loan or on a permanent basis.
Key to those front men, however, will be the addition of wingers; a couple of men with pace who are capable of providing the ammunition for them to dine out on.
Forest made an audacious attempt to sign Raheem Sterling on loan from Liverpool, before the loan window shut.
And, while the budding England star may be beyond their reach this summer, a player of his ilk, with pace, trickery and the ability to cut open defences could make all the difference.
Mathematically, Forest were one win away from securing a top six finish this time around.
But their physical short falling was a lack of width; a shortage of quality balls into the box.
At the start of Davies' tenure, it was less of an issue, purely because the fluid 4-1-3-2 formation was working so well, with the likes of Radi Majewski, Andy Reid and Henri Lansbury combining with such menace in midfield. But, by the final weeks of the campaign, it had become a telling factor.
Even with the seemingly imminent departure of Lewis McGugan, when his contract expires, Forest are well stocked in midfield.
But what they do lack is a figure in the mould of McKenna, who was arguably Davies' most important signing of the summer of 2009.
Chris Cohen and Danny Collins have both led by example, when handed the captain's armband. But neither has quite provided the leadership that the terrier like midfielder did, during the two seasons Forest claimed top-six finishes.
Forest do have quality players and they have men with experience – but they lack the inspiration that McKenna provided.
Regardless of the position, if Forest can find somebody with those qualities – and they have been linked with Stoke's Charlie Adam, who has the ability and creative vision to do exactly that – it could again prove to be a vital addition.
McGoldrick was one of the best finishers at the club on the training ground, but never quite produced on the pitch.
And Lynch had potential, but rarely held down a regular first team place.
But, otherwise, the majority of those players Davies signed a few years back made an impact at Forest.
If the Scotsman can show the same level of judgement this time around – and he is backed – then there could be a sense of familiarity about next season as well, in the form of another push for the top six.
A FAMILY whose daughter was brain damaged at birth has been awarded £10 million after a 22-year battle for compensation.
The High Court awarded the multi-million pound payout to the parents of a woman who has severe cerebral palsy due to oxygen starvation during her birth at the Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham.
The family, who cannot be identified due to a court order, were then living in Nottingham sued the East Midlands Strategic Health Authority.
The High Court yesterday ruled that the family should receive a £2.75 million lump sum, plus £150,000 a year to cover the costs of care and support.
The family's legal team said the total value would be £10 million, assuming the woman lived until she was 70.
Her parents, who were in court, sued the health authority for "negligent mismanagement" of the birth.
Their legal team said the 22-year-old's disabilities would have been avoided had hospital staff accelerated her delivery. But because of delays, she suffered permanent brain damage, said her barrister, Jane Mishcon.
The woman is in a wheelchair and has severe learning difficulties, but was described as a "very strong-willed character" with a passionate desire for independence.
Miss Mishcon commended her parents for their "22 years of selfless love and devotion".
Describing her as a "splendid young woman", Margaret Bowron QC, for the health authority, said: "She has made absolutely the best of what life has thrown at her."
Mrs Justice Slade approved the settlement and praised the parents, saying: "They are to be congratulated and honoured."
Describing the claimant, she told the court: "She is a very remarkable young woman, who wishes to be as independent as possible and lead as full a life as possible."
The East Midlands Strategic Health Authority ceased operating in March. Its responsibilities were transferred to the NHS Commissioning Board.
The Department of Health said: "The NHS remains one of the safest health care systems in the world but there are rare occasions when care falls below acceptable standards."
BILLY Davies has told top scorer Billy Sharp he does want to bring him back to Nottingham Forest.
The Reds boss met with all his players individually last week, to discuss his plans and their futures.
The 27-year-old striker has officially returned to parent club Southampton, following his season long loan at the City Ground.
Sharp netted 11 goals for Forest but had been in and out of the side since Davies returned – with Darius Henderson replacing him in the starting XI following his return from suspension as the season reached a dramatic finale against Leicester.
But Davies has told the player he is keen to bring him back to the club next season, as he plots another push for promotion.
The Scotsman is set to discuss budgets with club owner and chairman Fawaz Al Hasawi – which could influence whether Forest attempt to sign Sharp on loan again or bid to sign the former Scunthorpe, Sheffield United and Doncaster man permanently. But the popular front-man is very much part of Davies' future plans and could yet return to the club next season.
"Fawaz and I will sit down and discuss the vision, budgets and what is necessary to move forward," Davies told the club website.
"We'll put a plan in place regarding new signings, targets and restructuring the football club.
"The intention, the desire and the ambition of the Al Hasawi family is to take this club to the Premier League. That's what we'll try to do as quickly as possible. It's what this club, these fans and owners deserve."
Forest are also poised to offer a new deal to striker Henderson, who signed on a short-term contract from Millwall in January.
Davies must also decide whether to make a move for the other loan signings. The manager has already stated his desire to bring Chelsea defender Sam Hutchinson back.
Elliott Ward is available on a free transfer when his Norwich contract expires, although the club seem less likely to make a bid for his Canaries team mate Daniel Ayala, who has rarely figured under Davies.
Forest may also look to sign West Brom defender Gonzalo Jara.
Meanwhile, Lewis McGugan may have played his last game for Forest, with a string of clubs, led by newly promoted Cardiff City, looking to snap him up on a free transfer.
John Pemberton has joined Sean O'Driscoll at Bristol City, as assistant manager. The 47-year-old had been development coach during O'Driscoll's Forest tenure.
O'Driscoll's staff also includes director of football Keith Burt, who also left the Reds a few months ago.
AROUND 90 volunteers have taken part in a trial run to test buses that will operate during a major revamp of Nottingham railway station in the summer.
Staff from East Midlands Trains posed as passengers and caught buses and carried luggage across the station.
The simulation was ahead of a £100 million upgrade to signalling between July 20 and August 25 when the majority of trains will not run from the station.
East Midlands Trains customer services director Neil Micklethwaite said: "We've had a very successful day and the event has achieved what we set out to achieve.
"We tested a range of scenarios relating to the planned bus replacement services and we are pleased with the results. There are a few areas that we can improve on and we'll take them away to work on. That's why we carried out this event – to make sure we are fully prepared when work starts."
Businesses and workers welcomed the plans to keep the city moving at an event held at the Park Plaza Hotel on Friday.
They were briefed on how commuters heading to London, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield would have to catch replacement bus services to East Midlands Parkway station for connecting trains.
Andy Gray, owner of the Talbot House Hotel, in Bridgford Road, West Bridgford, said: "We have a lot of people from Australia staying with us during the Ashes Test match at Trent Bridge in July, so it's gratifying they have moved the dates of the work back until after this.
"Anything that rejuvenates Nottingham has got to be a good thing."
Nick Harrington, principal planner with engineering company Laing O'Rourke, which is working on the upgrade of the A453 between the M1 and Nottingham, said he was "very much pro" the station works.
He said: "No one likes being stuck in traffic jams and diversions. It's all about keeping Nottingham open for business."
The work also means there will be no trains running on the Robin Hood Line for nearly six weeks.
Between 25 and 35 buses will leave Nottingham station every hour, taking passengers to nearby stations.
A new 100-space car park will be created at Beeston to cater for extra passengers.
THE former head of litigation at Leicester City Council has joined law firm Browne Jacobson in its Nottingham office.
Anthony Cross joins the company's administrative and public law team.
In this role, he will report to partner Laura Hughes.
With over 25 years of experience, Mr Cross has worked in both private practice and local government.
He has held a number of senior positions and has specialised in areas including planning, highways, environmental, governance and standards issues.
EMINATE, a wholly owned subsidiary of Nottingham University, has secured a patent in the USA for its salt-reduction product Soda-Lo.
The ingredient is licensed to Tate & Lyle by Eminate.
The product allows food manufacturers to cut salt levels by 25 per cent to over 50 per cent in various applications without affecting taste.
The process transforms normal salt crystals into microspheres.
This enables much smaller crystals to be delivered more efficiently, reducing the amount of sodium consumed.
Made of real salt, it has none of the bitter aftertaste associated with some other salt compounds or substitutes.
The US patent covers not only Soda-Lo itself but also the manufacturing process.
Neil Davidson, chairman of Eminate, said: "Salt reduction in food is a vital global health issue. To be awarded the US patent is a major achievement for Eminate and reinforces the platform upon which our partner, Tate & Lyle, can continue to grow demand for this unique and innovative product."
THE UK economy will continue to grow throughout this year, with GDP growth expected to pick up in 2014, according to the CBI's latest economic forecast.
Recent economic data have been promising, but clear challenges remain both at home and abroad, the CBI warned.
It is forecasting GDP growth of 1 per cent in 2013, unchanged from its previous forecast.
In 2014, the CBI is expecting growth of 2 per cent.
Lucy Haynes, CBI East Midlands director, said: "Although recent data suggest rising business confidence, the economic climate remains tough, hampering demand here and overseas."
The CBI expects inflation to peak in the second quarter of 2013 at 3.1 per cent, then fall for the rest of the year.
TWENTY of the region's business leaders have been named in a shortlist for the Institute of Directors' (IoD) East Midlands Director of the Year awards.
The winners will be announced at a presentation lunch on Thursday, May 16.
Ron Lynch, IoD East Midlands regional director, said: "We are always impressed by the standard of applications for these awards, but this year's entries have identified some particularly interesting stories of entrepreneurial success achieved in a challenging economic environment."
Nottingham Trent University is the main sponsor of the lunch at the Nottingham Conference Centre.
The overall winner will be named East Midlands Director of the Year. All category winners will be submitted to the IoD's UK Director awards later in the year.
The regional shortlist – selected by a panel of judges following interview – includes eight Leicestershire entries, six from Nottinghamshire, four from Northamptonshire, three from Derbyshire and two from Lincolnshire. Some are shortlisted in two categories.
The shortlist includes: Bob Dunn of Dunn-Lite at Eastwood; Jo Bradley of Groundwork in Greater Nottingham; Matt Wheatcroft of Purpose Media, Notts; Murray Carmichael-Smith of bcsAgency, Nottingham; Nick Wright of Crowdicity, Nottingham; Shane Mullins of Fiscal Engineers, Nottingham.
EAST Midlands firms took on extra staff for the thirty-first month in a row during April, according to a Lloyds TSB-sponsored survey.
The rate of job creation was modest, but picked up slightly and was faster than the UK economy average, says the PMI index. Those questioned partly attributed higher staffing levels to company expansion plans.
The survey identified solid increases in output and new orders and a slower rise in output prices. The rate of input cost inflation remained solid but companies raised their output prices at a reduced rate.
The measure of manufacturing pointed to the fastest expansion of activity in nine months.
Output increased at a faster pace in the East Midlands than across the UK as a whole. Better weather and higher new orders contributed to growth.
Roger Galbraith, area director for Lloyds TSB in the East Midlands, said: "A second successive solid increase in new orders bodes well for maintaining output growth in the coming months."
A NUMBER of city centre roads will have restrictions in place during the work at Nottingham station in July and August.
Some traffic restrictions will be in place on surrounding roads to allow access for buses.
General access to the north side of Station Street will be via Canal Street and Trent Street, while all routes out will be via Station Street and towards the London Road roundabout.
The following will be affected: Canal Street, Carrington Street, Collin Street, Evelyn Street, London Road, Maid Marian Way, Plough Lane, Poplar Street, Sheriffs Way, Station Street, Trent Street and Queens Road.
HARD-UP residents are calling Nottingham City Council at a rate of more than one a minute over worries about benefits changes that came into force last month.
The Post can reveal that between April 2 and 16, the council answered 5,300 calls and had 2,854 face-to-face enquiries, meaning it dealt with nearly 750 queries a day.
The remainder of the month was equally busy.
Compared with the same period last year, the service has received 71 per cent more phone calls.
The council has taken on an extra 14 benefits advisers to its team of 58, for the next 11 weeks, to help cope with the demand. Staff have also been working overtime and have cancelled holidays.
Research shows that Government welfare changes, which include changes to Disability Living Allowance, Child Benefit and the Spare Room Subsidy, or Bedroom Tax, will take £120 million out of Nottingham's economy.
Clive Thorpe, 51, of Strelley, is among those affected by the changes.
He is having his housing benefit cut by £10 a week.
He added: "The way I see it, it's the tip of the iceberg.
"People are anxious and so they're going to the council clearly in their thousands.
"Before long, people are going to stand up against this – I can easily see these welfare changes ending up like the Poll Tax, with people taking to the streets."
City council deputy leader Councillor Graham Chapman said: "These welfare changes are unfair and the last thing we need at a time of recession, especially in deprived areas.
"The people most likely to be affected are working families who rely on benefits to supplement their low income. We have prepared for the changes, though, and I'd like to thank our staff who are doing their utmost in difficult circumstances to deal with the high volume of queries."
Deputy chief executive and corporate director for resources Carole Mills said: "Our dedicated team are working long hours and individuals have foregone annual leave to meet customer demand. We're sorry for any delays people experience in the light of such high demand."
It is not just the council that has been seeing more people seeking help following the changes. The number of people going to Framework, a charity that helps homeless and vulnerable people, has also risen.
Service director Dave Smith said: "Compared to last year we have seen the number of people presenting in person at our head office more than double to around 50 per month.
"Likewise, in Nottinghamshire County, our drop-in and surgery services are seeing around 230 people a month – up by 20 per cent since the beginning of the year."
The Government has said the old benefits system was "broken" and that the reforms were needed.
For more information and advice on the welfare changes, visit www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/welfarechanges or call 0115 9154944.