House band performing 'broadway'

Peggy’s Skylight, Nottingham’s only jazz venue, could possibly close after Nottingham City Council are set to auction the building. Features reporter, Sunni Gill, takes a look at the influence jazz has on this city.

I can’t pretend I have ever loved the alchemy that is jazz – like most, I had only ever considered it elevator music, eclectic noise with each musician nodding surreptitiously throughout.

Although jazz was at the heart of some of my favourite films: Green Book, Whiplash, and La La Land, I knew there must be a place I could appreciate live jazz music.

Award winning (2021 ‘All-Party Parliamentary Award’ for Best Jazz Venue – UK) Peggy’s Skylight is a real local haunt – nestled nicely into Hockley on George Street – offering Sunday afternoon jazz with their regular Middle-Eastern menu for diners and a wide selection of wines and cocktails. It felt like the perfect place to start.

On entrance, Peggy’s had half price tickets to see the house band but getting in was a curious Chinese whispers routine where the doorman greets you and then speaks to the receptionist, who is immediately behind him.

The distance between you and the receptionist is about three feet, but still the doorman needs to be in the middle. It’s charming, but at the same time it creates a delay and a kerfuffle.

All worth it because what a revelation, within minutes we felt at home, the atmosphere radiated from the building the staff and the guests. The layout and stage are perfect to give a close but not in your face performance from the band.

Unfortunately, with all the tables occupied by diners we couldn’t order food but having a drink at the bar was no less exciting with an excellent selection of cocktails to choose from, we both got margaritas.

Half an hour in I looked across at my girlfriend in incredulity. A jazz song, that I liked; my body registered it first as my foot started tapping – but not out of my usual fidgeting – in time with the piano.

I was informed by a fellow bar dweller that the house band were performing a mixture of songs from the “Golden Era of Songs” (1920-1950) and my first and favourite jazz song was ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’ .

The house band of Eliot Richards – tenor saxophone, Paul Deats – piano, Simon Paterson – bass, and Andrew “Woody” Wood – drums, they were fantastic.

We left before the band finale but it was an amazing afternoon of jazz and drinks, the perfect activity to combat the prospect of a lazy Sunday.

Front of house to Peggy’s Skylight

Sadly my new discovery is likely coming to an end; Nottingham City Council are planning to sell the Peggy’s Skylight building at auction on 23 February 2023.

Business owners, Paul Deats and Rachel Foster have a lease for 10 years, and were only made aware of this action on 17 November 2022.

They told BBC Nottingham: “We’re two private individuals just trying to do something good, something cultural and it’s quite difficult to compete with other commercial potential owners.

“We understand the council’s position that they’ve got to try and recoup some money.

“It’s their building, it’s their right to sell it but we want to do our damndest to try and buy it because we don’t know what another landlord would mean for us.

“We just want a bit more time because we only opened in 2018, we’re finding our feet and had already invested heavily and then the pandemic happened.

“We survived that, we’re surviving an energy crisis, we’re trying to keep our prices accessible, so trying to find the money is extremely difficult.”

An online petition calling for the council to give Peggy’s Skylight more time to buy the building had attracted more than 8,000 signatures.

Despite the City Council’s plans, the venue has lots more coming up in 2023. Hip-hop from Juga-Naut in January, as well as 2022 Mercury Prize nominee Fergus McCreadie, one of the most exciting young talents out of Glasgow, in February.

Find the link to Peggy’s Skylight upcoming events below:

Photo Credit: Sunni Gill