FEATURE INTERVIEW WITH:

Mimm’s Nathaniel Coltrane Wilson

Reading Time: 13 minutes
Working across the worlds of fashion, music, art and street food, Mimm’s Nathaniel Coltrane Wilson shows no signs of slowing down. We chat about DJing, bringing people together and flying the independent flag in Nottingham.
Words by Mitch Proctor. Photos by Dominika Rekas.

Hi Nate! Could you start by telling us a little about your childhood?

Surprisingly, I was born in Glasgow, but I moved to Beeston when I was two, then I moved to Hockley when I was 10.

My dad was from Birmingham and he had this view that everyone was going to be moving into the city. He could see the trend would eventually move into town, it’d be the regeneration of Nottingham, and then you’d obviously have gentrification and all that kind of stuff. This was before any of the derelict lace warehouse or the purpose-built flats became somewhere people could live. There was none at all, there was nothing here.

My playground was here, the local was Broadway and places around Hockley before it kind of became the focal point that it is today. That was, like, the start of it all – growing up here. I still had to commute to school in Beeston and that kind of stuff because there’s no schools in town. 

So, yeah, it had a massive influence.

What did you do after secondary school? Where did you go from there?

I kind of floated around for a bit – I didn’t really know what I was going to do. I started working at a shop called 2AD which was based in – you know where the White Rose is just down the road? Next to the Oxfam shop? Well, I started working there. They were a shop that sought out interesting brands or unique brands which you didn’t find in the UK. That was kind of the start of the road to doing this.

I got to about 18 and I was offered the managerial role there. But my parents wanted me to do something a bit more substantial. So either: go to University or go get training under my belt. So, I did plumbing for four years. After that I thought “no, I need to continue doing this” and that was the reason why I kind of went back into retail.

So you didn’t always see yourself doing something creative or entrepreneurial?

Music was always an integral part of my upbringing. My dad was very heavily into jazz – hence why I’m called Nathaniel Coltrane Wilson, after John Coltrane, and my brother is called Aaron Davis Wilson, after Miles Davis. Jazz wasn’t really something I identified with at that young age because it was very obscure. But then my mum was very much into the Bristol scene; so Massive Attack, Portishead. That more electronic side of music was what I kind of identified with, as well as the hip-hop that my brother would listen to, which is you know, the West Coast and East Coast hip-hop.

He was a DJ and he introduced me to Technics and twelve-tens and DJing on vinyl. Then I kind of quickly realised the community element of music, which is an integral part of everything that we do now; bringing people together. I started DJing at around 18, and that was kind of the starting point of it all really.

Mimm opened in 2011. How did you go from realising plumbing wasn’t for you to opening up the store?

Well, I started a course at Confetti in music and sound design. But then I realised it was more the technical side of it, that they weren’t allowing us to make music, so I thought that wasn’t for me.

A person I met there actually told me about The Prince’s Trust., which is an organisation that helps entrepreneurs set up their own businesses, whatever creative ideas they have.

I knew a guy called Rikki Marr who knew my mum, and he had a social enterprise on Canning Circus called The Shop, at the top of Canning Circus. There was a fashion designer, a filmmaker, and an artist in there with this empty unit at the bottom. They wanted me to take it on as something open every day that showcased all of us as a social enterprise. That was the unofficial start of Mimm, me trying out the idea.

I always had this plan of moving to Hockley, because obviously, that’s where I grew up. I was fortunate that Rikki Marr introduced me to Rob, who wanted to create an internet radio station, and we found this building on Broad Street. We converted a studio in the back into an internet radio station for a period of time called Rogue FM, then Localmotive.

 

 

Music is obviously a huge part of Mimm. How did the Mimm music label come to be?

My friend Oli, from Tumble Audio, and I were working closely together. With the passion of our DJing we always wanted to create an electronic-type music platform for people to be able to put their music out there. There’s a lot of wicked labels in Nottingham that don’t necessarily represent that – or there wasn’t back then. At the time, there was only really Wigflex, who were amazing. They were a clothing label, they were a music label, and they were a club night, they had a massive influence on what we did.

What has been born out of that is the amazing artists that have come through the Mimm label. Members of Three Body Trio and Yazmin Lacey, who met through Mimm, have been doing the rounds and the festival circuits. Congi have always been doing their own label, there’s Ben’s label, Medikul, and Yazmin and Three Body Trio have their own label, Running Circle. We feel that what we’ve done is kind of brought these people together and that’s the most important thing for us: bringing people together. They go and do their thing, make waves, and then we can come back and do our own things together too.

I think that something that’s on the horizon now, after having the hiatus and focusing on the Street Food Club and Coffee Club in Victoria Centre. I think it’s about bringing it back to our roots, which is the Mimm label and the musical side of stuff. We’ve just managed to secure a space, which is like an arts space, at the back of the shop on Broad Street. It used to be a recording studio, but we’re looking to be able to do art exhibitions, music nights, getting a recording studio set up in there which just kind of solidifies our creativity a bit more, you know?

 

– Nathaniel (right) at Mimm’s first club night

 

That sounds really interesting!

We’re going to call it My Yard and launch a new radio station called Mimm Radio as well, most evenings. It will be a bit of a live stream in the shop with electronic music style Nottingham brands and labels involved every single week. It’s something that they do in Amsterdam – Red Light Radio. They’re having someone set up in the window with a nice little lightbox saying ‘On Air’ and then people can choose to tune in and see the stream. It gives people another outlet to show their music and I think that’s what we want to bring back.

 

“I kind of quickly realised the community element of music, which is an integral part of everything that we do now; bringing people together.”

 

You mentioned the Street Food Club; with Mimm you’ve got clothing and music. What made you think “street food is the next thing for me?”

For me, wherever we’ve done something within our passions we’ve always looked for a gap in the market. We’ve been to various different cities and seen that street food is rife.We have so many amazing creative chef’s such as Pete Hewitt from Homeboys and we want to support that at a grassroots level, helping showcase the amazing food they have to offer and hopefully give them the platform to progress to opening their own place in the future. The amount of money that we’ve made over the past year has probably pumped in over half a million pounds into the creative food scene, which is amazing.

We started doing a few events at Sneinton Market, then we did a few events on Broad Street, and we just saw that the turnout was amazing. From all the stuff we’d learnt previously, we wanted to bring people together through food, and I think that’s the most important thing. I’m passionate and I love food. Then, fortunately, Victoria Centre approached us, and they said to us that they had this massive space, did we want to take it on? We kind of bit their hands off. It just seemed like a normal thing to do.

How did the Coffee Club come about?

Victoria Centre needed someone to occupy the space. It’s another place for us to showcase local people. We’ve had Bake House in there, we’ve had 200 Degrees coffee, Mumma G’s Bakery, Tough Mary’s Bakery and Doughnotts as well. These are all independent people who might not need our exposure but it’s good to give that to the general public. We are sometimes stuck in a little bubble down here, in which we know about this cool stuff, but we can’t give that spotlight to a wider audience. Rather than going to one of the big chains, they’ve come to us and experienced something more personal.

You wouldn’t really associate what we’re doing with a shopping centre. It’s like a reverse gentrification. We’re occupying space in a shopping centre, and rather than the space being occupied by a lot of businesses, we’re taking over spaces there.

It was a surprise when the signs first went up.

I know, and I can imagine that was a lot of people’s’ first thoughts. I feel that now people have got their heads around it and we’ve increased our footfall and turnover by about 25% since April. We had a full year of Street Food Club and we’ve increased it. Hopefully, that will continue and we just keep getting it out there to more people. Victoria Centre have got some big plans to make that area even better. So watch that space.

 

“You wouldn’t really associate what we’re doing with a shopping centre. It’s like a reverse gentrification.”

 

How do you go about working with or collaborating with others on the label?

It’s an organic process really. Sometimes you’d meet someone through that person and someone through that person and so on. We don’t go out there and think ‘let’s find the next big person’.

One of my proudest achievements is finding people organically and then seeing them going on to greater things, like seeing what Yazmin Lacey is doing now. Pete Beardsworth of Three Body Trio, which was a part of the Mimm collective, was doing a lot of music stuff for us and we introduced him to Yazmin. They formed a relationship, he brought his mates in on it, and now we have a full five-piece band and she’s the lead singer. Giles Peterson plays her stuff every week. It is amazing to see that. 

I think that if you build something like this then you will attract the right people.

 

– Rave in the Grave 2009

 

Does it work, more or less, the same way with the clothing label?

We found because of what we represent as a brand, people would much rather by a Mimm t-shirt, or a local Nottingham brand, than they would something from LA or New York. We have our own brand and we release our own collections, but we also have space for lots of local brands. We’ve moved from buying brands in that were exclusive to Nottingham, if not the UK. to becoming predominantly a Mimm brand curated by Elliot Caine (Elroy), Eloise (Mimm Manager) and myself, and we haven’t really looked back. There’s no-one in Nottingham doing that and I think that’s really important for our ethos.

What would you say is the biggest creative risk that you’ve taken in your career so far?

I don’t know… I think everything is a risk. But obviously, if there is no risk then it’s not worth it. You have to plunge yourself into those situations, and you will fail sometimes, but it’s about surviving as much as possible. Eventually, you get to that stage where even if you do take a risk, and you take a hit, it’s nowhere near as bad as when you were first starting out. But that’s what you live for, you live for the risk. It’s what makes you really think about what you’re going to do.

Doing something that you love makes the risks worth it. You could be in a job that you don’t really enjoy, and you could take a risk in that, but the payoff isn’t going to be as great as when you’re doing something that you actually have a passion for. So it makes even the failures easier because you know it’s all going towards something that you love.

 

 

How does working and living in Notts influence you?

Going back to where I grew up, Hockley is the biggest influence on everything that I do. The people of Hockley, being around all these amazing and creative people inspire me, you know? We bounce off each other. Being in this creative environment, it is a buzz, and I think I will stay here for as long as possible.

You do see things from outside and you try and bring here. Stuff like the scene in New York back in the eighties, that was a big inspiration for me. And all the stuff that’s happening in the major cities now.

Everyone around me at the moment is just really inspiring, so I vibe off that, definitely. It’s about surrounding yourself with good people.

I think the size of Nottingham really lends itself to the kind of collaboration and creativity you’re talking about.

It’s on the brink though, you look at cities like Leicester and Derby, they’re about the same size as us and they don’t really have that creative scene, an area like Hockley and Sneinton. I think what CQ is doing is great too, with the regeneration of Sneinton Market, it becomes an extension of what Hockley is, rather than being a completely different area. They could have easily gone to Canning Circus at the other end of town and developed that, but it would have been too disconnected.

 

“Everyone is different, but we see it as a positive as opposed to it being divisive.”

 

Would you say that you’re creatively satisfied?

I think that to be creatively satisfied is to be creatively stagnant, I’d say. I’m sure that you’re the same, you always want to be looking for that next project to run – it’s never a final thing. In terms of when you’re doing clothing collections and street food and stuff like that, that’s an ongoing project. You’re never going to be creatively satisfied, you’re always going to want to progress and be better.

I think it’s important to never be creatively satisfied. If you rest on your laurels then you’ll fall behind. You have to keep going and never be stagnant, never stand still.

What advice would you give to a young person starting their creative or their entrepreneurial career?

You should always be prepared to take risks and be prepared to fail and don’t allow that to get you down. The more determination you have, and the longer you go, the better you’ll be.

Also, immersing yourself in whatever scene you like – whether that’s indie, or that’s art, DJing, clothing. Find the right people and surround yourself with them, because they will inspire you to progress and you’ll make so many good links out of it. I was fortunate that I didn’t have to go out there and find people because I had The Shop, so they came and found me.

If you can build something where people can find you or if you can go out there and socialise and network with people, that’s the most important thing.  

Take risks, be determined, and get out there and network.

Thanks Nate! We always finish off by asking what kind of legacy you’d like to leave?

In this current, hostile environment that we find ourselves, I think what’s important is that community and creativity bring people together.

That’s what I want Mimm to represent in the future, the ability to bring people together from any background, allowing people to collaborate and come together. Everyone is different, but we see it as a positive as opposed to it being divisive.

I think that we have that in the city centre, but when you go further out you find problems. There are so many bad things in the media, and huge issues that need addressing, but when it comes to racism and prejudice, I have no time for that. Everybody who is a part of Mimm, we are from so many different backgrounds, sexualities, ethnicities, everything. None of that matters, and that’s what society should be.

So I guess that’s the legacy that Mimm needs to represent. That’s the most important thing for me.

Visit Mimm online or visit the store on Broad Street in Hockley, and check out the Street Food and Coffee Clubs in Intu Victoria Centre’s Clock Tower Dining.

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