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‘Custom-made to foster hipness’: Is Norwich going to be the new Notting Hill?

PUBLISHED: 10:39 17 September 2017 | UPDATED: 13:40 21 September 2017

Elm Hill, Norwich. Picture: Peter Dent

Elm Hill, Norwich. Picture: Peter Dent

(c) copyright citizenside.com

Is Norwich about to become the next Notting Hill?

Revellers during children's day of the Notting Hill Carnival, London. Photo: Sean Dempsey/PA WireRevellers during children's day of the Notting Hill Carnival, London. Photo: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire

That is the question posed by a London nightclub owner and gallerist, who has been eyeing-up the Fine City to see if it is cool enough to be “the new somewhere else”.

Alex Proud, writing for The Sunday Times, headed to Norwich by train because he had been “hearing rumours that Norwich is having a moment, muscling in on hip and happening forerunners such as Notting Hill, Brighton, Shoreditch, Dalston, Peckham, Walthamstow, Deptford and Margate”.

He gives Norfolk’s capital the once-over across a weekend that included taking in Elm Hill, Cathedral Close, The Lanes, pubs, restaurants and cafes.

Norwich Lanes summer fayre 2014. 
Picture: Simon Finlay.Norwich Lanes summer fayre 2014. Picture: Simon Finlay.

And - despite being perturbed that he couldn’t buy a notepad after 5.30pm and worrying about the absence of a “destination hotel” - he was impressed.

He wrote: “For me, a lot of it recalled a Notting Hill of long ago. The one where you could walk into a pretty shop and the prices were aimed at normal people, not bankers’ wives.

“I walked past an inviting-looking pub. With my jaded London eye, I assumed it would be an ultra-gentrified shrine to pale ale, with near-Michelin-star food prices. In fact, it was just a nice pub with a good mix of drinkers.”

Lower Goat Lane, Norwich. Picture: Denise BradleyLower Goat Lane, Norwich. Picture: Denise Bradley

The Lanes are apparently “almost custom-made to foster hipness”, a “charming, funky place to hang out”.

Mr Proud highlights the low average age of people in Norwich, the “arty vibe”, the relatively low average house prices and the beautiful buildings.

The Bicycle Shop cafe on St Benedicts Street gets special praise for “serving everything from haute-mixology cocktails to eggs benedict”.

He adds: “Some of the other positive indicators are a nice compact centre and tourist potential. I think Norwich gets this right — the city centre is attractive, but not so unspoilt that it’s chocolate-box pretty, like Bath. It’s also a decent size and has a kind of critical mass.”

The friendly atmosphere of the city also gets a mention. “I am reminded of Notting Hill, Camden and Shoreditch in the glorious 1990s, when part of the fun was physical proximity. You went out to the pub round the corner after work. Then you walked home. Even if Uber had existed, you wouldn’t have needed it. Everything was on your doorstep and you always saw your friends.”

In conclusion, Mr Proud writes: “So here’s what Norwich reminds me of. It feels a bit like one of those sizeable northern towns that is far enough away from London that it doesn’t wait for trends to arrive from the capital.

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“It reminds me of Cambridge without being a global tourism brand. It reminds me of handsome French provincial cities. It reminds me of Bristol. And, yes, it reminds me of a Notting Hill that now exists only as a kind of London folk memory.”

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