Nottingham’s Victoria Centre has shared the stories behind some of the faces taking a starring role in its big 50th birthday campaign.
Following a call-out for memories of the centre from the last five decades, hundreds of submissions were sent in – the collection included memories from former employees, people who had met life-long partners in the centre and city-workers who enjoyed lunchtime strolls through the mall.
16 names were chosen to become the faces of Victoria Centre’s 50th birthday campaign, recognising the impact the centre has had on their lives. They can now be seen on screens throughout the centre, as well as the giant digital display above the Parliament Street entrance and across social media.
Among them were:
Reece Richards – NTU photography student and aspiring photographer, who has had his work displayed in the centre.
Gabriel and Jess – ‘store crossed’ lovers who met while working in John Lewis & Partners.
Tess Boyes – met friends at the Emett clock.
Andy Stokes – celebrating his own 50th birthday this year.
Caroline Lausare – remembers the opening of the Emett Clock and witnessed Bay City Rollers playing outside the centre.
James Belmuga and Sheila – James’ wife, Sheila remembers feeling like a princess as she was crowned Miss Player in 1973, following a glamorous invite to the Emett Clock’s opening.
Natalee Onyeche and Son – met friends at the water clock as a teenager.
Liz and Andrew – got engaged at the Emett Clock and fondly remembers its chime.
Cathryn Eagem and husband – married sweethearts bought their ring from the centre’s jewellery shop, Poysers, and it’s still sparkling 47 years later.
Kathleen and Ann Fountain-Hill – Victoria Centre changed their world, with the pair meeting 30 years ago in Tesco and are now happily married.
With the centre’s celebrations set to continue into the year, there’s still time to meet some of the stars who will feature across the centre’s social media and marketing over the course of 2022, marking five decades’ worth of memories.
Marking the start of the campaign, the team at Victoria Centre have released more details on some of the stories to feature:
10 o’clock at the water clock
Liz and Andrew met while working at TSB Bank in Clifton in 1980, and began dating soon after a work night out in Nottingham city centre.
After a six-month whirlwind romance, Andrew proposed to Liz, and on 15 November, the pair took a trip to one of the centre’s jewellers to make the most important purchase of their lives – an engagement ring. Sharing her memory of the centre, Liz said:
“As we walked back towards Boots, the chimes of the Emett Clock started to sound. When we arrived at the clock, Andrew thought this would be a lovely place to put the ring on my finger and he thought we’d always remember where and when this special event took place, because it was ‘10 o’clock at the water clock’.”
The couple, who celebrated their Ruby wedding anniversary in September 2020, continue to walk past the clock and are often reminded of such a happy moment in their lives.
The best thing I’ve found in Victoria Centre
Kathleen and Ann began the journey of a lifetime when they met while working at Tesco in 1990. Together, the pair have 55 years of experience working at the centre, but share much more than memories of work.
Just a year after meeting, they moved in together but were unable to marry. However, in 2009, the couple made their declarations of love in a civil ceremony, followed by their long-awaited marriage in 2015 on Bonfire Night.
Today, the couple share not only a daughter and a son, but seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
“Victoria Centre, you changed our world… she was the best thing I found at Victoria Centre.”
New discoveries at Victoria Centre
Memories come in all shapes and sizes, and even the smallest can help shape a person’s life. Tess Boyes’ life has been intertwined with the centre for many years.
Tess was in her teens when the centre officially opened in 1972, and she recalls the early adoration for the Emett Clock. She said: “I remember the excitement around the Emett clock – crowds would gather whenever it chimed!”
Retail at the centre played a big role in Tess’ life, too. Not only did her mum work in Jessops and Sons (now John Lewis & Partners), she remembers buying her favourite maxi trench coat from Miss Selfridge, fabrics from the market and getting her haircut at the men’s barbers.
The centre’s coach station also became a regular feature in her early relationship, marking the start of many trips to London to see her boyfriend at the time.
James Belmuga shared a story about his partner, Sheila, who was crowned Miss Player at the John Player Company in 1973.
Sheila was invited to attend the opening ceremony of the Emett Clock, and recalls being driven to the event in a Rolls Royce. Although photographs of the glamorous event have not yet been rediscovered, John explains:
“She was very proud to be crowned Miss Player and given the honour to attend the ceremony.”
Discovering new talent
Budding local photographer at Nottingham Trent University (NTU), Reece Richards, has been a star at Victoria Centre for some time.
Having displayed his work both inside and outside of the centre over the years, through the centre’s continued support of NTU, Reece was invited back to become a campaign star.
Over the years, the centre has been known for supporting causes close to home and local talent like Reece, and he believes his work with the centre in recent years “was a memory worth keeping.”
Reece’s starring moment is not over just yet though, as his work is set to become a familiar feature for further events that will mark the 50th birthday.
Commenting on the stars of the campaign, centre director at Victoria Centre, Nigel Wheatley, added:
“I’m really proud to be able to introduce you to our amazing campaign stars, all of whom have told us of their unique memories over the years, while sharing one commonality – Victoria Centre. It’s humbling to hear just how much of a pivotal role the centre has played in so many lives, and the outpouring of support we’ve seen since we encouraged the submission of those memories last year has been nothing short of incredible.
“Although 16 faces were chosen to be our stars, there were so many anecdotes that we’ll be sure to treasure for the next 50 years – tales of meeting new-found love and starting a career, gathering with friends to witness the debut of famous names in music and memorable days out shopping with the family.
“Keep a look out for our stars’ faces appearing across the centre, and stay tuned for more birthday surprises taking place throughout the year.”