I’ve just read one of Tim Garratt’s recent posts on his blog (check it out and follow him yourselves, here: http://timgarrattnottingham.co.uk), regarding that old chestnut – the relevance of Robin Hood.
I’ve actually never met Mr Garratt, but have come to respect some of his views on how we should challenge the accepted thinking around ways to help Nottingham(shire) attract visitors, investment and generally, prosper.
“Robin Hood – Relevant to Nottingham?”
I’m fascinated by this question: I just can’t imagine the public consciousness of Scotland’s Loch Ness, or Cornwall’s Tintagel, ever asking themselves a similar question about the monster or King Arthur.
Note that the two examples above are also legendary characters, though the same question could easily have been posed by Stratford-upon-Avon or Belfast, with regards William Shakespeare and RMS Titanic.
Whether real or born from folklore, the only difference between these hugely popular and successful examples and Robin Hood, is that they have been truly championed.
Visit any of those other places and the associated characters or creation, seem intrinsically linked. Moreover, there’s a stubborn pride – a true belief in the very positive outcomes of association.
Interestingly, Tim refers to a set of ‘brand values’, created by John Lyle, back in 2009 for the Sheriff’s Commission, extolling very positive virtues for Robin Hood.
Half a decade earlier, John also headed up the team that created the ‘Wonky N’ (as it became known), – the identity developed for Experience Nottinghamshire, prominent tourism promoters for the county.
Well, it’s often said that times change, as do people and ideas, but the last time I checked, the legend of Robin Hood, hadn’t.
Identifying such positive virtues for Robin Hood, it begs the question: “Why was the county’s tourism body ever promoted without some stylistic nod to the legend?”
Now I have met both Mr Lyle and Experience Nottinghamshire. I worked for John for 6 years; and working to support Experience Nottinghamshire over the years, helped build my own business – I have fond memories of both.
But recalling the question: “Robin Hood – Relevant to Nottingham?”, I just can’t imagine any sane mind answering “No”. So, why does the question keep resurfacing and when will a definitive answer by provided and acted upon?
Well, speaking from experience, creating a brand for county promotion that distanced itself from any of the direct Robin Hood values didn’t help. It was almost as if the county no longer loved its most (in)famous son. Yes, we inherited a ‘mark’, something that offered a contemporary and easily employed device, by which to endorse all of the diverse offerings of a county that has so much to offer. But boy, did we lose some soul. Some passion. Some identity.
From that point on, there’s almost been a reluctance to employ the brand of Robin Hood for anything meaningful in Nottingham(shire). It was as if we had swept him under the carpet, thinking one day, we’d search him out, dust him down and maybe, just maybe, be brave enough to get behind all of the romantic values the legend is known for. Yes, there’s a planned development up at Sherwood Forest now and the Castle will once again, be applying for Lottery funding for developments, too.
But that’s hardly a unified approach. As a county we’re still reluctant to employ Robin Hood as our door opener, ice breaker, champion.
Even though his legacy means that you can journey almost anywhere in the world, mention that you’re from Nottingham and hear people say, “Ah – Robin Hood!”.
Of course Robin Hood is relevant to Nottingham in 2013. He’s never changed, but the people in both the public and private sector, who’s responsibility it has been to look at if or how we use him, have. Thus far, it seems they’ve never really fallen in love with him – they’ve never taken those romantic values to heart.
As a parting thought, if those same people are adamant that there are better ways to promote the county and all it has to offer, it would be great to put them on the spot: if as a concept he could be sold to another county (I know Yorkshire have been after him for a while!), would they sell him?
But then, if he means so little to them, how much of a bargain would he be?