It was more by chance than design that I started making so many sketches of the Malt Cross Inn over recent years; my ever present pocket sketchbook coinciding with suggestions from other creative Nottingham spirits that this would be a good place to meet and chat. It certainly proved to be such.
The daylight as it streams through that antique arched glass roof, to then sweep steadily across the room as the hours go by, creates a visual effect akin to being inside a huge sun dial. Or, if you’re on your third pint, maybe a kaleidoscope. The atmosphere is an interesting juxtaposition of a predominantly contemporary, even youthful approach, with art gallery and stage events, against a respectfully tended backdrop of red and green 19th century music hall ironwork. It shouldn’t blend so well. But it does. And the final result offers sanctuary to those of us not particularly enamoured with the garish multi-media lights and fast fry delights on the menu elsewhere in town. If I want to look at a TV screen I’ll stay home.
It’s impossible to do justice to the Malt Cross in a photograph. There’s too much visual information for the lens to digest. One needs to edit. In that way the sketchbook can be much more successful, bringing out particular features. Some of my sketches come from the times I sat here engaged in half sober conversations with other artists and musicians, imagining we were perhaps the Ginsbergs at the San Remo, the Dylans at the Café Wha?, or even the Adrian Henris at Ye Cracke. Until we sobered up, and realised we were not.
Other sketches were simply made after a quiet read, or attempting to compose a few more sentences for my intended novel. All were “worked up” later in my studio, and a few were requested by the venue to be used as part of their bid for funds to help restore and preserve the place. One day I should get the larger canvases out and explore this place further. It has much in common with other favoured subjects in my portfolio: A dramatically lit scene where music hall history still lingers in the shadows and the cellars below.