Journey 9: Nottingham – Nomad Gathering

After 8+ years of life, an amazing array of guests and a significant evolution of ‘Nomad’ as Podcast/Blog/Video’s of Hope/Reflections/Spirituality Series and even some mini gatherings, Tim and Dave aka Team Nomad decided to take a big risk/experiment and put on a gathering in their home city of Nottingham. As an avid Listener to Nomad Podcast and a big advocate of their journey and approach, this was one not to be missed, and so I set out on my penultimate journey in my birthday series of 10 on the train from St Pancras to the city of Nottingham for the weekend.

Pre Gathering basking in the Nottingham Sunshine

Before things got going at the excellent Canalhouse Pub for the gathering, I had the luxury of arriving early and having a good explore of Nottingham. It was great to wander around the City and soak up the atmosphere and the sunshine. As I walked Nottingham’s streets, it dawned on me that despite studying in nearby Leicester, other than venturing to Nottingham a couple of times for gigs, including an incredible Radiohead gig at Rock City in late 1995, I hadn’t ever really been to the city and certainly hadn’t taken the time to explore it. From the Canal walk, Castle, Old Market Square, ancient pubs and taking in an exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary, I had a great afternoon. It may have been the anticipation of what was to come, it may have been the sunshine, it may even have been the cheeky Guinness that I supped in the said Sunshine, but I loved the afternoon and Nottingham’s charm and beauty won me over, especially with scenes like this one below! A great start to the weekend.

Friday Evening – The Tables are Turned – The Interviewers become the interviewed

Rather than slip into their more usual and accustomed position of being the interviewers, for Friday Night, Tim and Dave took the extremely rare and very brave step of being interviewed by friend of Nomad Podcast, David Benjamin Blower. It was an epic interview covering a vast array of the themes that Nomad has been exploring over the years, and a rare opportunity for Tim and Dave to wax lyrical on the themes of questions they were asked as opposed to them reflecting on the interviews they had just done.

Saturday Morning: Live Podcast with Mark Vernon

We regathered for the start of day 2 and fueled by fresh coffee and a good breakfast and a dose of yet more glorious sunshine and the buzz of conversation, we looked beautiful, primed and fresh for a ‘Live’ Podcast/interview with Mark Vernon. Mark’s story and experience were fascinating and incredibly insightful. He came across really well when interviewed, a sharp intellect, wit and also a Man really in tune with himself, the moment and combining robust intellectualism with a deep sense of exploration of the self, the other and what it means to be human. It’s well worth listening to the Podcast/Interview episode and engaging more with Mark’s work and writing.

Saturday Afternoon: Stories and Conversations

After the Live Podcast and a fabulous lunch the afternoon was all about storytelling and conversations. The Nomad Team had lined up 3 really excellent stories from people who were attending the gathering, and their stories sparked off so many great conversations exploring doubt, ego, deconstruction/reconstruction of faith, struggle, honesty, hope, being reformed and reimagining faith.

There was lots of opportunity as the afternoon unfolded for conversation before venturing out into the sunshine and to walk around the city and eat dinner before returning to the Canalhouse for the evening.

Saturday Evening: The Nomad Charity Pub Quiz

Tim put together a brilliant nerdy knowledge and hilarious picture quiz matching the faces of podcast guests with the Bodies of famous people from Nottingham as depicted in the photo above. The Rob Bell face on the Carl Froch body was particularly incredible as Bell’s face looked perfectly matched for the occasion! However the sheer comedic genius of Archbishop’s Welby and Williams on the bodies of Torvill and Dean were priceless.  It was a great way to relax, unwind and have a good laugh after a great but pretty full on, intense day. The really superb thing is that the quiz raised £400 for the work of Nottingham Refugee Forum.

Sunday Morning: Jonah the Musical and Discussion on Loving our Enemies 

Sunday morning got going with performance by David Benjamin Blower of his recently released ‘The Book of Jonah‘. It was the perfect anti performance, whereby he was able to draw us into the music and involve us, it was magical and poignant. Just as he had captivated me, and a room full of people last November with his work ‘Welcome the Stranger’, so he did again with this performance. From the opening echo microphone and whistles through the story and the songs, it was a brilliant piece of music performance.

During the performance both from the words David spoke, and the way the songs unfolded, it was clear that this work and the accompanying book ‘Sympathy for Jonah’ are trying to retell/reimagine/reclaim the story that has previously been subjected to the Sunday School treatment

This excellent review sums up both the works and their intention to provoke and enable us to rethink the story and relevance of Jonah for today.

These songs bring to light themes of imperialism, terror and otherness: the second half of the conversation begun in Blower’s book, ‘Sympathy for Jonah’, published last year. The Book of Jonah is, after all, a story about a man who travels to Mosul to reason with extremists.

This unique work re-imagines what an album is for, crossing the thresholds of cinema, theatre and literature; evoking Sergio Leone, Tarantino, Herman Melville, and more. Embedded in the rich language of the King James Bible, it reconnects this ancient tale to a very new world.

After the performance, David opened up space for a really great conversation drawing out some themes from his book on Enemy Love.

There was then time for a fabulous Tim Nash Sermonette on communion, that led us into sharing communion integrated with Lunch before being sent on our way with a recorded blessing from Brian McLaren and the sounds of the Nomad Podcast intro music.

It was great to have the opportunity to hang out in the sunshine afterwards before catching the train home to review the weekend a little and bask in the brilliance of the curation and variety, and how good the content and the venue was. What will stick with me is the opportunity to meet so many wonderful fellow listeners, to share so many great conversations and to have had the opportunity to think, speak, listen and take part in a really enriching, fun, challenging and life giving gathering.

This was an absolutely superb weekend.

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