Live music at Nottingham Contemporary


In just under a decade since it opened its doors Nottingham Contemporary has firmly established itself as an innovative and dynamic modern art gallery bringing international names to Nottingham. It’s a city haven if you want to escape the humdrum of modern life, a place to mull over thought provoking and playful art, somewhere to learn about history and culture, and best of all it’s admission free.


Perhaps less well known is the Contemporary’s excellent music programme which has hosted diverse quality acts from the likes of The Futureheads, Polar Bear, and Sun Ra Arkestra, along with the finest Notts talent around. With regular free live music on Saturday evenings in the chilled Café Bar area, and more renowned or theatrical acts hosted next door in The Space, there is always a chance to surprise yourself with a performance that will knock your socks off.

The next big musical name to hit up the Contemporary is British film director, musician and BBC 6 music DJ Don Letts who will be on the decks for the launch of the latest exhibition ‘The Place Is Here’, this Friday 3rd February.

If you are perhaps unfamiliar with the name, you will have no doubt come across Lett’s influence in modern British music. An integral figure in the music scene of late 1970s London, his DJ sets at The Roxy introduced reggae music to punk audiences. After forming Big Audio Dynamite with Mick Jones of The Clash in 1984, Letts later went on to work with countless artists such as Bob Marley and Public Image as a music video director and film maker.

Merging musical acts with the exhibition programme is a regular occurrence at Nottingham Contemporary. ‘Music has influence.’ said Patrick Cannon who runs the music programme there. ‘To some the Contemporary can seem quite unapproachable – a big imposing concrete building with all this highbrow contemporary art which is sometimes quite inaccessible to a lot of people, so hopefully music can be a gateway to all the other things we offer.’

This is the case for local acts from CRS, a Community Recording Studio in St Anns, who will be supporting Letts on the night. ‘There is so much talent that comes through CRS, so it’s a real credit to them and the Nottingham music scene that they’ve got a place to develop talent and then perform live.’ said Patrick.

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‘The Place Is Here’ looks back to the turbulent politics of the 1980s, a time where issues about race, class and gender equality were being challenged, and wider representations questioned. Focusing on the black arts movement, the exhibition sees 100 works by over 30 artists and collectives who worked to explore, define and exhibit black identities to wider audiences during the 80s.

This was also a movement which firmly had its roots in Nottingham culture, and a number of the artists such as Donald Rodney and Keith Piper met at Trent University (then a polytechnic). ‘It’s a really interesting part of Nottingham’s counterculture and art history.’ Patrick said. ‘It’s not art that has to be approved from Goldsmiths and London. It’s for the people, by the people and centred around real life issues, so the gig will try to reflect that.’


With its slick modern design and space to dance, The Contemporary as a venue has the potential to go much further than your regular gig. Events such as Marie Laveau’s Dance of the Dead at Halloween saw spooky sculptures, stunning projections and interactive performers integrated into the evening, culminating in an excellent immersive experience. ‘It’s such a flexible space,’ Patrick commented. ‘A fantastic place to put on a gig, but equally a really amazing room to play with. Obviously music is really important, but it’s that blurred line between music and visuals or sculpture which makes it really different.’

A variety of gigs are already planned for 2017 so check out their links below to keep up to date. In the mean time we’ve selected our favourite gigs coming up and not to be missed at The Contemporary:

3rd Feb ‘The Place Is Here’ Exhibition Launch – Take in the first night of The Contemporary’s new exhibition and dance the night away to Don Lett’s on the decks.

11th FebMas Y Mas – Saturday night regulars Mas Y Mas play their own irresistible mix of Latino, flamenco and Afro-Cuban influenced music woven together by driving dance rhythms and rich vocal harmonies.

25th FebChambers, Diablo Furs, Minatore – Local promoters I’m Not From London present a free evening of rock, punk and garage bands to be played loud and in your face! The line up includes Hull based Chambers, providing dark horror movie inspired rock n roll, with support from local glam garage rockers Diablo Furs and Minatore.

25th March – To celebrate International Women’s Day local event organisers Cultural Vibrations (headed up by promotor Rastarella Falade) present a line up of female orientated music in the Café Bar.

For information on events, times and tickets visit Nottingham Contemporary Listings Page
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‘The Place is Here’ runs from Saturday 4th February to Sunday 30th April 2017. Admission is free.

Posted on 01 February 2017
Featured author: Sophie

Writer and amateur local historian with an affection for English eccentrics. Returned to Nottingham in 2013, only to fall in love with the creative and cultural goings of the city.

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  • Sarah Louise

    A very lucky marketeer in her dream job. Passionate about all things Nottinghamshire and firmly believes if you work really hard and are kind, amazing things will happen!

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    Addicted to music and learning languages. Loves reading, gardening, travelling and everything new media related.

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    Proud to represent the county I grew up in. Travel loving devoted mum of two who carries a torch for the city’s unsung hero, Captain Albert Ball VC.

  • Sophie

    Writer and amateur local historian with an affection for English eccentrics. Returned to Nottingham in 2013, only to fall in love with the creative and cultural goings of the city.

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