22nd February 2023Careers

The past, the present and the future – Working at The Island Quarter


The Island Quarter has long been a significant source of employment for the people of Nottingham. Winding the clock back to the turn of the 20th century, more than 1,000 city residents worked at the network of pharmaceutical factories situated along Island Street, which formed part of the growing Boots’ empire.

The James Alexander and Great Northern warehouses were bustling hubs of activity for a century or more from the 1850s, with dozens of workers hauling the thousands of tonnes of barley and wheat transported by train into the city from Lincolnshire and beyond.

Even as far back as the 1820s, the Raff Yard area of site was seen as an early incarnation of a business park, housing artisanal craftsmen, lace finishers and many other trades, all of whom were able to take advantage of the goods links provided by the Nottingham and Beeston canal, as well as rudimentary access to the south serviced by what was then known as Bridge Street – now London Road.

Jump ahead to the third decade of the 21st century, and the regeneration of what is now known as The Island Quarter will create more than a thousand jobs throughout its construction, with hundreds more once the new city within a city is fully operational.

The seeds for this hub of employment have been sown at 1 The Island Quarter, the first phase of our multi-stage project.

Over its extensive build programme, the construction of the three-storey bar and events space – led by main contractor Sir Robert McAlpine – employed 72% of its team from the East Midlands, 25% of which was directly from Nottingham.

Perhaps taking inspiration from the philanthropic legacy of Boots, the first phase also saw a number of apprentices employed, as well as supporting local small and medium-sized businesses by spending 21% of the subcontract value within ten miles of the site, and 43% in the wider East Midlands.

Completing in September 2022, 1 The Island Quarter – chiefly comprising bar and grill Binks Yard and finer dining restaurant Cleaver and Wake – is Nottingham to its core.

Its chef patron Laurence Henry was born and raised in the city, even listing the former London Road railway station – now the Virgin Active gym adjacent to 1 The Island Quarter – as his favourite building in Nottingham when he was growing up.

His passion for developing young people and creating an environment of learning and opportunities was a key factor in his engagement with the overall project of The Island Quarter, and the former Masterchef: The Professionals champion has worked closely with Tom Huffsmith and the project delivery team to create a manifesto for careers for the entire site.

The approach is clearly working – of 1 The Island Quarter’s 87 staff, 82 live in Nottingham and the surrounding area, with 24 of these being students who either work there in term-time, or return to the city during holidays.

The past, the present and the future - Working at The Island QuarterEmelye Wood, who is HR director for The Island Quarter, believes that the development’s guiding principles of learning and growth are what will define its success overall.

Speaking at the launch of 1 The Island Quarter, she said: “Learning and development is high on our agenda and The Island Quarter will provide a wealth of opportunities in hospitality and several other sectors across the whole site, with provision for people to grow, develop and learn a diverse range of skills.

“Our aim is for our employees to feel valued in the provision of an exceptional guest experience in Binks Yard and Cleaver & Wake and enjoy working at The Island Quarter as much as our guests enjoy experiencing the versatility these brands and the subsequent plans the site will offer – in new, fun and inclusive environments.”

Tom Huffsmith, who heads up the delivery of the overall site alongside Richard Watson, says that his own experience of moving up through the hospitality industry – from entry-level roles all the way to president of Regent Hotels – has taught him that developing the skills and experiences of junior team members creates a strong sense of loyalty.

“Since the very first day we became involved with this project, we have been building the idea of how working at The Island Quarter can be a career, not just a job. We want someone to be able to come to take their first job as a server at Binks Yard and have the opportunity to develop skills that can see them progress to other roles not just in hospitality, but wherever their skills and desires take them.”

As has been the case for more than two centuries, The Island Quarter’s position and scale have made it the perfect site for creating jobs. With Sneinton to the east, the Meadows to the south and the city centre to the north – not to mention Nottingham’s main railway and tram interchange just eight minutes’ walk away – the range of opportunities in the new city within a city will see it continue to grow for decades to come.

For more information on working at The Island Quarter, visit our careers page.