Author: beestonia

Beeston (B)Eats

I write this column with minutes to go before I head over to Splendour Festival over at Batman’s crib, Wollaton Hall. I have prepped myself for war with wellies and full on outfit changes for every weather outcome, a bit drastic I know, but as you can tell, this ain’t my first rodeo cowboy. It had only taken a total of 15 minutes to throw together an outfit, leggings check, t-shirt, (in case of miracle, however unlikely), Rain Mac and Hoody for warmth (check). The truth is I may have had more time to prep however I had spent the morning on a vital and massively important mission, namely heading to the Farmers Market to pick up some B.B.C’s, yep that’s Beeston Brownie Company and their little slabs of brownie heaven. The eyes fought it out over the varieties on offer and I walked away clutching a telltale brown bag filled with a Caramac and Salted Caramel treats (I never was any good at picking one choice) stopping myself at the three for £6 offer and managing to leave happy in the fact my addiction hasn’t yet spiraled out of control.

Once home I raided the cupboard for snacks to take as a picnic, if I was a nice person the brownies would have taken place in my rucksack to share amongst friends at the daylong music festival alongside the Rhubarb and Custard creams and Kettle Chips, however I am not, and left them to chill in the fridge safe in the knowledge that I am a greedy adult that doesn’t have to share goodies, more importantly they would sit as a reward for when I eventually made it home.

I arrived at the Splendour gates full of hope, as the sun shone on my face, heading over to the Confetti stage I naively took out my blanket and perched down as Notts Own Do Nothing took to the stage, I should have known I had tempted fate and soon enough the heavens opened leaving the masses to fight for coverage under trees. The merry dance of ‘Quick grab a jacket it is raining!’ to ‘Omg the suns out am sweating ‘happened over the hours like a clothing version of the Hokey Cokey. Luckily the sun finally made an appearance for 90s Britpop act Ash who absolutely killed it performing ‘Burn baby Burn’ and my guilty pleasure ‘Girl from Mars’, The vast majority were present for Mr. Rory Graham otherwise known as Rag N Bone Man, for those in the dark, his deep baritone belted out this smash from 2016-All together now. “I’m only human after all, I’m only human after all, don’t put your blame on meeeeee’.

My love of priest comedy Father Ted introduced me to the band I had come to see, ska supremes The Specials , they quickly pulled out all the stops on an enviable back catalogue (‘A message to you Rudy’, ’Too much Too Young’ and ‘Rat Race’. I was most gutted the set list didn’t include ‘Ghost Town’, if you do not get the reference, stop reading this at once and watch ‘Think Fast Father Ted’. It’s ok I will wait….

The last act on in the disappearing daylight were Welsh rockers Manic Street Preachers, while their brand of political hits didn’t appeal to me ‘Back in the day’ (I was a raver dance head) I heard the music with fresh ears, the anger, the warning in the lyrics contained in “If you tolerate this your children will be next”, maybe back then it was all too feely and deep thinking and didn’t have any horn samples or sped up vocals for my tastes. I couldn’t tell you what they finished with or an encore as usual I had darted out before the masses and was in the fridge with a face full of my cherished brownies and a hot chocolate by half ten (so rock and roll) I was even thoughtful enough to save the partner a bite of one, see I can share!!

Down on the Reserve: Bumper Harvest!

A combination of one of the warmest springs in the last 100 years and a wet and mild June has provided the perfect growing conditions for plants and there is currently a wonderful display of colour at Attenborough Nature Reserve.

The most noticeable as you walk around the Reserve at the moment are the flowers and
blackberries on the bramble. This familiar thorny shrub grows almost anywhere on the Reserve and can commonly be found in woodland, grassland and within the hedgerows. The white and pinkish flowers are literally covering the bushes and on sunny days attract a huge number of bees, hoverflies and other pollinating insects.

Bramble is incredibly valuable for the wildlife at Attenborough. Not only do the flowers provide opportunities for pollinating insects, but the fruit provides food for mammals and birds – particularly during the autumn migration. The dense spiky bushes give valuable protection for nesting birds and also provides a habitat for a range of other small animals.

Whilst the blackberries are the most obvious fruit, a vast array of edible delights can be found around the Reserve including dewberry, elder, cherry, blackthorn, hawthorn and rose to name but a few

Incredibly some 400 micro-species of wild blackberry grow in the UK!
Following an abundance of flowers on the bramble this year it seems that we are going to be in for a bumper crop of blackberries! The fruit ripened some weeks earlier than we
would typically expect.

I have fond memories of foraging with my parents as a child. My mum in particular was a keen jam-maker and would have a large jam pan on the stove from late spring to autumn as different fruits became available. Blackberry season was always one of my favourite times of the year, and I possibly ate as many berries as I put in my ice-cream tub for the jam.

There is some evidence to suggest that trees and shrubs are fruiting up to three weeks earlier than they were 50 years ago, the result of global climate change. Although it would take many more years of data to confirm this, as an indication of just how far the seasons have come forward in the last 30 years, it would have been in the week before I went back to school after the summer holiday that we would head out to pick blackberries. In the last few years, I have taken my son out picking in the first week of the school holiday.

Wild foraging is certainly a great way to engage children in the wonders of the natural world. Whilst the blackberries are the most obvious fruit, a vast array of edible delights can be found around the Reserve including dewberry, elder, cherry, blackthorn, hawthorn and rose to name but a few. Most are wild set, but others such as crab apple, pear and plum serve as a reminder of the Reserve’s history within an agricultural landscape.

Whilst we do not discourage visitors from picking blackberries, we kindly ask that if you are going to go foraging on Nature Reserves such as Attenborough that you stick to the footpaths and do not trample the vegetation in order to get to the juiciest fruit. In 2011 we had a similarly early crop ofblackberries and the actions of blackberry pickers, trampling down the vegetation, led to a bird’s nest being uncovered – the chicks, unprotected by the prickly vegetation, were subsequently predated and died.

Please enjoy the wild harvest, but only pick what you know you will use/eat, leave some for the birds and other wildlife and finally only pick what you are certain is edible and that you have identified correctly.


I Am Beeston: Johnny Pusztai -Butcher

Few people can handle a sausage as well as Johnny Pusztai: the larger than life butcher extraordinaire talks to The Beestonian

I have been trying to get Nottingham’s famous butcher to do ‘I Am Beeston’ for
practically two years now, but with running several businesses, it’s been almost
impossible to pin him down for a chat. But finally we managed to get together, at
L’Olvia’s, which is turning out to be one of the best and most popular restaurants
in Beeston.

“I was born in Worksop, North Notts. My father Dezso came from Hungary and
immigrated to Nottingham in 1956, where he worked as an engineering welder.
My Mum Pamela was a local girl, and sold tickets at the ABC Cinema. From
Worksop, we moved to Mansfield, then to Sherwood, when I was seven”.
“We lived across the road from the JT Beedham butchers, and my dad used to
take me to see what was for sale. I was fascinated with all the different sorts of
meats, the cuts and the terminology. I got on really well with the owners, George
Beedham and Bill Robinson, so they set me on as a delivery boy when I was 12.
Then when I turned 16, I got an apprenticeship with them. I really got stuck into
the thick of it and learned all I could. I took over the business in 1991, but I
worked in a slaughterhouse to earn enough to buy it. I worked on the boning
line. It was the most boring job, but the best paid. I kept the Beedham name out
of respect for George. He was probably the best butcher that ever lived”.

Johnny first became well known to the general public when he appeared on the
Great British Menu TV series with local Michelin starred chef Sat Bains in the
second series, which aired in April 2007. Sat won the Midlands & East of England
heat with his starter, which featured ham from Beedham’s. It received three ‘10s’
from the judges. Since then Johnny has become Sat Bain’s preferred butcher.
Johnny also supplies a few restaurants in the city centre and the very place
where we are sitting chatting. “I’ve known Marco since he opened. We’ve
become very good friends. There used to five or six butchers in Beeston. Now
there’s only two. The problem with supermarket meat is that they are not
bothered about quality. It’s more to do with profit. I like Beeston. It’s a nice town
with friendly people. I just love Nottinghamshire. It’s a wonderful county to live
in” The secret to Johnny’s success is of course the meat itself. “I have a farm up at
Wellow near Rufford, where we rear pigs and lambs. I also get meat from
Brackenhurst College near Southwell. They breed red heifers, which is the best

Further appearances followed, including BBC2’s Market Kitchen with Gary
Rhodes in November 2008. Then invitations to present cooking demonstrations
at food festivals around the country stated to come in. A number of awards have
also come Johnny’s way, such as the Guild of Fine Food for his sausages and
bacon, and the Observer Food Awards in 2011. Johnny is very modest about his
achievements. “I still work 16 hours a day. My job is never boring. I don’t drink, but love a good coffee and some nice food. I’ve seen Zulu 38 times. It’s my
favourite film. My daughter Lara and I have just done the catering in the VIP Tent
for Splendour at Wollaton Park. It was a very long day for both of us. But she is
off to university to study Business Management and Marketing. So when she gets
her degree, she’ll be able to promote me properly, as it’s something that I’m not
that good at”.
One part of Johnny’s businesses that hasn’t done as well as expected is ‘The
Snobby Butcher Bistro’, which opened in May this year, after a year and a half of
construction work on the adjoining Sherwood shop. “The restaurant has a
future, I just have to reconfigure the idea. It just wasn’t working for me”.

“I still work 16 hours a day. My job is never boring. I don’t drink, but love a good coffee and some nice food. I’ve seen Zulu 38 times.

But there are two areas that have proved to be very popular; the food and drink
shows and the experience days. “I have appeared at food festivals all over the
country. There’s even one now in Worksop, where I grew up”. Beeston actually
held one a few years ago, which Johnny attended. But it wasn’t a great success.
Possibly poor planning and publicity were to blame. Certainly the very wet
weather on that particular Saturday didn’t help. The festival was split between
the Square and Broadgate Park, and there were problems at the park, due to very
muddy conditions. So it has sadly never been repeated.

“The Experience Days have really taken off. People will spend the day with me at
the shop and get involved in all aspects of butchery. We teach them how to bone
a chicken or a piece of meat, make sausages, create flavours and cooking skills, so
they can make the same dish at home”.

One aspect of Johnny’s life that due to modesty didn’t want to mention was that
he used to be a professional ice hockey player for the Nottingham Panthers. But
some research showed that he played centre during their 1980-81 year. Despite
his busy schedule, Johnny still finds time to coach the University of Nottingham
team. “My father had a saying: we are born to be workers, so lets be the best that
we can.” Well Johnny, I don’t think anyone could argue with that. Christopher Frost, Community Editor.

Robin Hood and The Old Peoples Home For Four Year Olds

There was time when I was known as ‘Nottingham’s official Robin Hood’ (a truly wonderful job I still do, rumours of my retirement being substantially in error) but these days I’m much more likely to be known as ‘Scarlett’s Dad from that Channel 4 documentary series’ – and actually that’s quite fun.

‘Old People’s Home for Four Year Olds’ is a documentary series that was filmed in Nottingham (at the Lark Hill Retirement Village in Clifton) and featured ten residents from there aged between 86 and 102 and aimed to see if introducing them to a group of ten children aged 3-4 over a protracted period would have any effect on their mental and physical well-being.

I first found out about the project (or ‘experiment’ as the producers preferred to call it) when the wonderful Roopam Carroll from the excellent Beeston Nursery (which Scarlett was attending at the time) contacted me to ask if I might be interested in her taking part, as the producers were approaching several local nurseries looking for potential participants.

As you may know I lost my beloved wife Sally to breast cancer last year and I was (and still am) a bit of a mess because of it – suddenly becoming a 54-year old widower with a 4-year old after months of caring for Sal at home left me dazed, confused and directionless, so it seemed like a fine idea to suggest Scarlett might take part as it would provide her with a new adventure, new friends and a unique experience I certainly couldn’t give her myself.

Apparently a couple of thousand children applied (well, their parents did) and there was a long process of careful selection and diligence on behalf of the producers – who I can’t praise enough for their compassion, caring and consideration for all the children – and eventually two were chosen from Beeston, Scarlett and Phoenix (who if you’ve seen the documentary were both featured very heavily in the first episode).

We had film crews visit us at home to film background interviews and a child psychologist come to discuss what the ‘experiment’ might entail and whether Scarlett and I were genuinely happy to be involved and if it was right for us. Of course one of the questions involved how it would be if one of the older participants passed away during the course of the show (an unlikely but potential happening) and how that might affect Scarlett having lost her Mum so recently. Obviously I hoped it wouldn’t (and thankfully didn’t) happen – but if it did I thought it was more likely to ‘normalise’ Scarlett’s experience than anything else.

And then we got to meet the older residents, and they were an utter delight! They were (and are), as with the children, a very diverse group, some with health issues, some very shy, some full of laughter – but all curious, excited and not quite knowing what to expect.

102-year old Sylvia, who turned out to be a real star onscreen, was a joy – when I met her she told me how she enjoys visiting Lark Hill’s bar in the evening and always walks her much younger friend home to make sure she gets home safely! I asked her why she enjoyed the bar so much and she told me there were lots of widowers she could get a kiss from… and when I mentioned I was a widower she coyly pulled her long skirt up to show me a bit of ankle and winked at me!

When the children met the residents too as part of the filming it was just as wonderful, Scarlett made a bee-line to 86-year old Beryl who she instantly became inseparable from – and even though filming has now finished we still see regularly both at Lark Hill (when all the parents, children and residents have a lunch and catch up together) and on our own with Sal’s Mum Joy for Sunday lunches. It’s like having a new family for us all, and is just joyous.

There’s a moment in episode one where the children are asked to write party invitations for their mummies and daddies and Scarlett turns around and says, very matter of factly, that ‘my Mummy has died so I’ll make it for Daddy and Gran-Gran’. It’s shocking in its simplicity and openness and (as of writing) that clip, put online by Channel 4, has had nearly six million views. But for me, it’s the heart of why I wanted Scarlett to participate in the programme – because she’s been through such a lot but can still speak of losing Sal whilst at the same time knowing how much Sal loved her – and would be so proud of her.

I’ve never really been a fan of ‘reality’ TV but this show helped everyone involved and judging from the press and media attention it gained and the comments both online and personally I’ve see too has helped and affected a lot of other people too, both in starting a discussion about how we shouldn’t segregate the old and the young because they both benefit hugely from such interaction, but also how we talk about the loss of a parent to children.

This will be the second Christmas we’ve had without Sal now and whilst I’m still hugely bereft and lonely I’m deeply glad we’ll be surrounded by family and friends – but also a new extended family too, the promise of those bonds continuing for many years to come and lessons Scarlett and the rest of the children can carry with them for the rest of their lives. I’m certain #SalWouldApprove.

Oh – and I’m not supposed to say anything – but watch out for the Christmas special, we finished filming it last week! J

Happy Christmas!

Town Hall in Virtual Reality Shoe Takeover

Venture capitalists with an interest in footwear to turn threatened Town Hall into a cutting edge venture.

Fed up Beestonians are rejoicing in the news that a footwear cyber-retailer will soon be opening their doors in the town.

Nottingham University Technology Society have teamed up with venture capitalists New Opportunities for Buying Shopping, to create a state-of-the-art environment for trying on shoes, despite them not holding any stock whatsoever.

The new store, named ‘Vir-Shu-Al Reality’ looks set to open within the Town Hall on Foster Avenue, just as soon as the current council administration can sell it off. It is hoped that they will operate from a small office inside the iconic building.

Not much is space will be needed because the entire shopping experience will be virtual, thanks to cutting edge technology developed by university boffins. Chief Executive Chelsea Heale explains the concept:

“We are offering customers the chance to browse a range of literally thousands of styles from hundreds of brands, all through a futuristic yet available now headset. Simply put it on, and you will find yourself in the world’s largest shoe shop. You don’t even have to get up off the chair, as all the stock will roll past on a virtual conveyor belt.”

“Not only that, you can even ‘try’ on the shoes thanks to a footwear simulator which was developed by NASA. This is fitted with reactive sensors and superbly accurate pressure pads which shape around the foot exactly as the chosen footwear does.”

Chelsea explains that the simulator amazingly generates the pinching pain of high heels, creates the imbalance of platforms, and the ankle wobble associated with flimsy Ugg boots and their cheap imitations.

Vir-Shu-Al Reality hope to open branches throughout the UK if their Beeston store proves successful. They have chosen the town to host the pilot store because of perceived demand from local residents.

Sue Horn from Chilwell is delighted at the prospect: “I know there are several places to buy footwear in Beeston, and dozens more very close by in Nottingham, but I do think that there should something that caters to my every whim.”

If council leaders get their way, the Town Hall could see the store open within months.

The most famous writer you’ve never heard of…

Beeston publishers Arundel Books were recently approached to publish a novel from a writer you may not have heard of…though you’ve more than certainly heard (and laughed) at his work. Lee Stuart Evan’s, in a piece originally written for the Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature’s website, tells us about DH Lawrence, Frank Skinner, and the romance of the NG postcode…

By John Baird

You have most likely laughed at Lee Stuart Evan’s work before, through whatever comedian he is working for. His first novel, a nostalgic coming of age gem, sees him step out into the limelight…

Lee Stuart Evans is someone who makes others look good: he’s a comedy writer, providing the lines that get the laughs. Evans’ writing credits include such shows as 8 Out of 10 CatsRoom 101, Would I Lie to You and I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. A full-time writer of jokes, he has provided the punch for many a well-known comic, counting Dawn French, Sue Perkins, Stephen Fry, Jonathan Ross and Michael McIntyre among his clients. Last year saw the release of his first novel Words Best Sung, much of which is set in the north Nottinghamshire of his youth. Before revealing more about this engaging coming-of-age story, I was keen to know more about his job – writing for comedians.

“There are shows where you write the script and never see the host, but those hosts are usually presenters rather than comics,” he explained. “On 8 Out of 10 Cats, the show I’ve done most – 25 series, if you include Countdown – there might be one or two writers with the performer on the day of the show, and perhaps the day or two before, to bounce ideas round with, talk about the angles and interesting ways to make a dullish story about tax evasion funny for a young late-night audience. A half-hour show usually takes 2-2½ hours to record, and the stories change constantly, lots of items get dropped, new ones added, right up until recording, so you need a small team to help generate lots of material each week, most of which never sees the light of day.”

Of the many shows Evans writes for, the topical comedies are especially challenging. “It’s the sheer amount of material they gobble up,” he said. “We did an 8 Out of 10 Cats show on election night 2017, and we were still writing new jokes in the studio as the first results came in at 10.30pm, while the show was being recorded, and feeding them in during ad breaks, just to be as up to the minute as possible. Really good fun though.”

“I loved that Lawrence’s stories were written by a young man who lived just a few miles away, a lad who’d grown up surrounded by, and was writing about, people and landscapes practically identical to those I could see from my bedroom window”.

Another consideration is that each gag has to be tailored to the personality/character of the comedian delivering it. As Evans put it: “You can be the smartest, funniest writer in a room, but if the jokes don’t fit the persona of the performer you’re writing for, they’re worthless. A joke that might work fantastically for Jimmy Carr would probably not suit Sue Perkins and vice versa.”

Among the stars Evans has written for, one stands out as the reason he’s a writer: Frank Skinner. “I’d been in TV nearly 3 years when I got a job as a researcher/guest booker on [Frank Skinner’s] chat show,” said Evans. “I told him I wrote jokes in my spare time and sent them on spec to BBC radio shows like The News Huddlines. He asked if I’d like to sit in his office for a couple of hours after work, when he would write his topical monologue, and to chip in if I had any ideas. I’d always loved Frank’s stand-up, so it was a bit terrifying at first, especially as he’s so quick and sharp. Frank can think of a joke, say it aloud and have it written down before most people can read a headline. It was meant to be a week’s trial, but I must have done okay, or I make great tea, because Frank said I could do it again the following week, if I wanted to. It was a 10-week series, and I was in there five nights a week learning to write jokes with the funniest man on telly. I started to get more writing work after that, and I did four more series with Frank. I feel very lucky and very grateful to have had that.”

Evans was raised in Warsop on a council estate, at a time when the mining industry was being strangled, but he doesn’t think he’s a working-class writer. “I’m a writer from a working-class background, and proud to be so,” he said, “but I hadn’t consciously set out to write about working people, or to tell a story from a working-class perspective.”

London has been his home for the past 13 years but he tapped into his Notts upbringing for the writing of his first novel, a love-letter to the county. As a lad he’d spend weekends here with his beloved uncle John, either spotting trains or travelling on them. Like many a Notts writer, Evans didn’t respond well to authority and he left school at 16. After working as a car salesman, he returned to education at West Notts College. That led to university and a course in TV/Radio production.

It was between comedy writing jobs that Evans began to write about the places and people from the hometown of his youth. I wondered if this writing had benefited from the perspective of distance. His said: “I’d moved quite far away mentally as much as physically since I worked in a garage in Notts, so when I came to write about Nottinghamshire and was starting to think about the sort of things I wanted to remember, research and perhaps use in the story, I felt as if I were seeing a lot of it for the first time, and I was pleasantly surprised at my reaction to it, and also how much I enjoyed seeing if I could put across on paper how I felt about the place in terms of making it a setting for a novel. I’m not sure I could have done that, or would even have wanted to try, from my old bedroom in Warsop.”

The inspiration for Alastair – the protagonist of Words Best Sung – came from a few photographs of Uncle John as a young man at Langwith Junction, and a comment made after his death at the age of 61. “My grandma said she felt the only time my uncle had ever been truly happy were the few years after he left school and had worked on the railway,” said Evans. “I just kept thinking about her words, and how at that age you can be so idealistic, so innocently optimistic.”

That age was the early 1960s, a great time to be young but a challenging one for steam engines. The excitement of the era is well-captured in Words Best Sung, a novel with a route to publication that took an interesting track. In seeking a publisher, Evans contacted Beeston’s Alan Dance of Arundel Books. An author of Notts-set fiction himself, Dance was not accepting submissions but he was so impressed by Evans’ manuscript that he agreed to publish it.

Words Best Sung is a feel-good read about a group of friends transitioning between school and adulthood, in an age when youth culture came to life. It’s the 1960s and the colliery towns of north Notts are not immune from the musical revolution. A comic romance ensues as our naive lad is knocking about with his mates, making them laugh, and mixing with a couple of potential love interests. Alistair could go down an academic route but he loves the steam engines. It’s full steam ahead for our likable lead when the group take a trip to a holiday park in Skeggy, where one man’s misfortune presents a life-changing opportunity for the pals. London calls for the final act where conflict and a shocking revelation await. The fashion of the time tops up the nostalgia in a novel that will be loved by anyone with a fondness for the swinging sixties. The Notts dialect, with its insults and phrases, is spot on – as is the cockney – and there are plenty of laugh-out-loud lines.

The stories of the old steam engine days that inspired Words Best Sung also fired Evans’ own love of trains. And it was through reading railway books that he got into reading more generally, including the novels of D. H. Lawrence. Evans told me about his interest in Lawrence’s books: “I loved that Lawrence’s stories were written by a young man who lived just a few miles away, a lad who’d grown up surrounded by, and was writing about, people and landscapes practically identical to those I could see from my bedroom window. A lot of the time I couldn’t see what he was getting at, especially in some of his more mystical or lecturing moments when he gets all repetitive and bangs on and on about ‘godheads’ and men and women ‘yielding’ either too much, or not enough (there is a lot of yielding in Lawrence, almost as much as there is the knitting of brows).”

But Evans kept returning to Lawrence, drawn back by his sense of place, and the mixture of the rural and industrial, and the books gradually made more sense. He said: “I think as you get older you see different things in them, bad as well as good. I still struggle with the Plumed Serpent and the Australian novels, though, they seem hard work, but I’ll try them again. Whenever I re-read Lawrence it’s usually a Notts-linked story. I’ve always thought Sons and Lovers was my favourite, it’s the one I’ve read most, or The Rainbow, but I’ve recently read The First Lady Chatterley for the first time and enjoyed it so much – it’s more tender and largely obscenity-free. I’m starting John Thomas and Lady Jane to see how that sits between the first and the final versions*.”

There are comparisons between Lawrence and Evans that extend beyond their writing. “I like that sense of his writing always coming from an outsider,” said Evans, “whether a character is an outsider in his/her home or town, or, like Lawrence himself, an exile abroad, there always seems to be this constant fight to keep pushing on, of trying to find his true place, physically or sensually, which Lawrence himself did of course, in his writing and in life. I think as a working-class lad who had (and still has) ‘unrealistic’ aspirations, ideas above his station, I find his stubborn outsider position oddly reassuring, and, in a slightly depressing sort of way, very inspiring.”

He might now be a London boy but Lee Stuart Evans has written a proper Notts novel, producing the dialogue that only someone from these parts could muster. Evocative and entertaining, Words Best Sung is available from all good bookshops.

* Lawrence wrote three versions of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, the novel known by this title is the third version, published in 1928. The first (The First Lady Chatterley) and second (John Thomas and Lady Jane) manuscripts contain similar plots but the characterisations vary and the dialogue widely differs in all three version.  


Beeston Town Hall: What’s Happening?

Hopefully, this article isn’t news to you, and the substantial media coverage the planned selling off of the Town Hall has garnered over the last few weeks has already informed you. I’ve spoke about it in the papers, on TV and radio and, of course, all over social media, as have representatives from Beeston and District Heritage Society and others.

It is often the case that when big issues like this come about that a lot of confusion follows: rumours, misinformation etc. It is seldom malice, but more a case of Chinese Whispers, as the story pings around the internet or through general chatter. I helped man a stall in Beeston Town Centre on Saturday, and was surprised by some of the suppositions bandied about. While the vast majority of people I talked to were very much anti disposing of the Town Hall, most had a phalanx of good questions the answers of which might be obvious to me,(who has been working on things like this for years so sees the cogs and wheels), but not so much to someone who hasn’t got that same geekish attraction to civic stuff.

As such, I’ve written the following FAQ (frequently asked questions) to help clarify as much as I can right now; and to show you how YOU can have your say. Information is a vital component to democracy; do not hesitate to get in touch if a question you have remains unanswered here, and myself or a fellow member of the Civic Society will be happy to attempt to answer.

Although I am a committee member of Beeston and District Civic Society, the entirety of this article does not necessarily reflect the exact views of the society, and are expressed in a personal capacity as a resident of Beeston. 


The building was built on Foster Avenue by the people of Beeston in 1936 as a civic centre to Beeston. It’s a fine building, with some wonderful exterior and interior features, and since the adjacent library was rejuvenated last year, has been seen from a new perspective as the library now opens out onto the area. With the library, the new council offices and the police station It forms a civic centre to the centre of Beeston, on a parade of fine buildings.


The building currently has several functions, serving as offices and as a location for council committees and meetings. It has a purpose-built council chamber, reception rooms and more. Civic functions are also held here on occasion.


Money and ideology.


Of course. And if the figures issued by the council are to be believed, the upkeep of the building is considerable, totalling over £100,000 per annum.


That’s the way the council are portraying it. If the council continues to spend so much money, then that is cash diverted from more pressing needs. However, this argument presents a false dichotomy. This is not a question of ‘this or that’.

The first point to note is that the figures released by the council on the upkeep costs are open to a great deal of scepticism. Not only do they not seem to tally with other figures in the public domain, but they include duplicate and transferable costs: business rates for instance. Staff costs and server costs are also included, those these are costs that will have to be retained even if the Town Hall closes. It seems that an emotive, 6 figure number has almost been plucked out of the air in an attempt to justify this.

The building is an asset to the council, and an either be cashed in once, or made to work to generate income into the future (and still be ours).


We can only find that out with proper scrutiny, in the form of an impact study. However, the council have not responded to the Civic Society’s call for this to be conducted, which means the savings they set out are utterly pie-in-the-sky. We call on them to conduct an independent assessment.


Of course, buildings do. But the Town Hall serves a purpose and has great potential to recoup costs – and possibly even turn a profit – if used correctly.


Well, venue hire is an ever-growing market.


You can, but the council have been notoriously keen NOT to promote this. The Hall was once licensed for marriages: I met a couple of pensioners who had done just that many years ago. When I married a few years back, I enquired about marrying there, but found their license had lapsed, so instead had to have the ceremony at Nottingham Council House. With very little effort, the council could make the place available.

That’s just one idea. I’ve heard dozens of brilliant suggestions over the last few weeks, including a fully costed detailed submission from a local retired academic.


Errr….no. The public consultation form that is currently available for residents to complete gives just three options.


  1. RETENTION: leave the building as it is (where it will be left to decay and then sold off at a later date)
  2. SELL FOR HOUSING: This sounds ok, as we do have a housing crisis, but would almost certainly mean the demolition of the building as it is purpose-built to be functional as a town hall and would cost more to convert than to start from scratch. Plus, many of the exterior and interior features are worth a lot of money on the open market, so would be too attractive to retain.
  3. DEMOLITION AND SELLING OFF TO A DEVELOPER: This is almost certainly the favoured choice for the council, as it means getting a quick buck and having the building off their hands as soon as possible.


Indeed. The way it is worded, and the way the council are refusing to extend the consultation plan despite the Civic Society requesting as such (conducting a consultation over Christmas, when the populace is less likely to notice it in the haze of Quality Street and turkey dinners- see also Network Rail last year) suggests that the administration is keen not to consult, but close down any objection.


While I am sure many Conservatives do think that way, and for that they deserve our credit, the leader of Broxtowe, Cllr. Richard Jackson takes a much different ideological view. Paradoxically, he does not believe that the council he leads should exist at all, having voted for the abolition of Broxtowe at County level, where he is also a councillor. To suggest that abolishing a council and absorbing the responsibilities into the County would be financially beneficial ( Broxtowe Councillors receive a relatively small expenses payment for their role, while County councillors receive a significant sum that would no doubt be boosted by extra responsibilities) is perhaps unfair: this is more about Cllr. Jackson’s philosophy that a council should do as little as possible. After his plans to abolish Broxtowe were thwarted at County level, he’s doing the next best thing: selling off the council incrementally. The council will thus receive a bump in their budgets through selling off the Hall, but once it is sold, it is gone forever.

We propose that the building is retained and invested in so it becomes sustainable,  so future generations can enjoy it and feel that they have some stake in their town, as our predecessors in the 1930’s so wished.


A moot point. Broxtowe absorbed the building when it came into being in 1974, but it will require scrutiny on the legalities of their responsibilities of property from the Beeston and Stapleford Urban District, Broxtowe’s predecessor.  Only a proper impact assessment can determine this.

Not a single councillor mentioned that they wanted to sell the Town Hall in their 2015 election materials. This is utterly without mandate.


Yes it can, but you have to do it, and do it now.

  1. Fill in the consultation form online: it takes five minutes. We recommend ticking ‘none of the above’ and putting your suggestions on usage in the space provided.
  2. Sign the petition. We have had a staggering response to this so far and will be presenting it to the council soon, but still ensure your name is on it.
  3. Write to councillors: first, your own, then members of the committee who will determine this decision. These can be found in full below. Be reasonable and polite in your correspondence. 
  4. Write to the MP: Although she is for selling it off (see below) she is obliged to listen to you at the very least. Again, please be reasoned and polite when doing so: 
  5. Tell people about this: not everyone is on the internet or has noticed this, so ensure friends and neighbours, or even random passers-by, are informed. Feel free to print this off and distribute if you so wish.
  6. Attend the council meeting where this will be discussed. The council meeting where the matter will be discussed will be held in the Town Hall at 7pm on the 31st January: it is here that the petition will be handed to the mayor and a representation given. Please attend -and see the Town Hall at the same time!


We’ve even been surprised by the response: several hundred consultation forms have been returned to the council already, and the petition has 2070 signatures online and many more over other locations.


  • SIR NEIL COSSENS: The retired head of English Heritage has come out to support the campaign, and has written to the council expressing his dismay at the plans.
  • PROFESSOR SIR MARTYN POLIAKOFF: As well as being a global scientific sensation, Martyn is also very proud of where he lives and frequently engages in civic matters.
  • BEESTON AND DISTRICT LOCAL HISTORY SOCIETY: The venerable local historians do a wonderful job showing Beeston’s rich past history.
  • DR PETER ROBINSON: The brilliant mind behind Beeston’s (and beyond!) Blue Plaque project is very much against the sell-off, and has accordingly sent representations to council.
  • STEWART CRAVEN: Over a decade ago, Stewart looked at the canalside cottages by Beeeston Weir and saw a potential no one else could. Gumption, hard-work and belief saw this vision made real when the cottages opened as the Canalside Heritage Centre last year. Such an addition shows how we can be innovative with our heritage, and build something for all of us to share.
  • THE BEESTONIAN: Well, of course.
  • POSSIBLY, BROXTOWE COUNCILLORS: Steve Carr (Lib Dem) has stated his opposition, and we’ve heard rumours of discord within the Conservative group about the proposals. Labour, as far as I am aware, have not set down an official line which is rather disappointing.  If this changes, I will willingly amend.


  • CLLR RICHARD JACKSON: The brainchild behind this, the aforementioned Jackson is a vigorous asset-stripper and a staunch opponent of public ownership.
  • ANNA SOUBRY MP: We can perhaps forgive Soubry’s lack of civic affinity to Beeston as she lives in the rather more genteel bucolic fields of Charnwood, Leicestershire, but she has stated that she supports Cllr Jackson and wants the building disposed of. She claims that she doesn’t support demolition, but as explained above that would be the most likely outcome of any sale.
  • DEVELOPERS: While the council have struggled to find a developer for the Square Phase 2 (despite numerous promises that a deal is ‘nearly done’, huge amounts of public money have so far failed to get anything certain), the location of the Town Hall is hugely attractive to developers, prime land that could be used for high-end housing, or simply for land banking.  


We can, and with determination, we will. Last year, Network Rail were shocked by the level of opposition to their plans to close access across the tracks to Attenborough Nature Reserve and put the plans on ice for the foreseeable future. We can do this, if we do this together.



Currently not being made available: we will explain more when we find out why.





Beeston on the Telly: A Top Ten (well, eleven)

1. Auf Wiedersehen Pet:

Produced up the road at the Lenton Lane studios, it probably no surprise that Beeston was used for many of the suburb location shots in the show. Beeston variously doubles up for Newcastle, Birmingham and Derby (!). Beeston resident Kate told The Beestonian how she remembered the filming “They were all outside Roundhill for a day. Jimmy Nail knocked on my door and asked to use the toilet. I let him. He was some time”.

2. Van Der Valk

Der-der-der-der; der-der-der, der derder der der der…. The excellent theme tune, Eye Level reached number one in the Seventies when this TV show became a hit. The story of a cynical Dutch detective solving crime on the more salubrious streets of Amsterdam, the title character was actually a Beestonian, the renowned actor Barry Foster. Rumours that Foster Avenue was named after this son of Beeston are as yet unconfirmed.

3. Better Call Saul

Breaking Bad is often described as the best bit of telly ever made, generally by people who are obsessed with lists and will write into Q Magazine if they find some spurious


100 Best Albums of the Nineties puts their favourite obscure Indie LP at a position lowerthan they would like. But whatever, it is good, and the spin-off show Better Call Saul is also an understated masterpiece.

Set in deepest New Mexico and full of Americana you’d expect the producers to find a US band to provide the twangy, sultry guitar for the theme music, they instead got in touch with Little Barrie, a three-piece headed up by Barrie Cadogan, a through and through Beestonian and, as his name suggests, of urchin-like appearance.

4. Virtually Every Documentary in the Early Noughties

While we’re on the subject of theme music, we have to mention the majestic Bent. The electronic duo Simon and Nail hailed from Stapleford and Beeston respectively, putting out a slew of great music for a decade. Such was the excellence of their tunes they became staples as incidental music on countless shows during the time: if it wasn’t them, it would be Röyksopp or Lemon Jelly. We interviewed Simon a few years ago for The Beestonian, read it here.

Interesting fact: Bent were chosen by Michael Caine as one of his Desert Island Discs. So impressed was he by their unique sound he decided to make his own compilation of music of a similar, err, bent. This was released in 2007, and was, quite wonderfully, titled ‘Cained’.

5. Jamie Johnson


The story of a 12-year-old footballing protege with a difficult home life, this kids TV show used Beeston as its backdrop, notably filming on Hope Street, Humber Road Chippy and The Vic.


The remake may be mere slops, but the original is a stone-cold classic. Ronnie Barker delivered the performance of his life, but the ensemble cast made it what it was, cramming some of the finest talents (and Christopher Biggins) into the claustrophobic dark stone walls of Slade Prison. Yet the relationship that really endured was that between recidivistic burglar Fletcher and his naive young cellmate Godber. The father-son chemistry between the two characters, never mawkish, never overstated, made the show something else: in real life Barker, and Richard Beckinsale became good friends.

Beckinsale, of course, hailed from Beeston where he attended College House School (where he is memorialised with a blue plaque), and Alderman White. Took down tragically early -he was just 30- by a sudden heart attack, the world lost one of its finest comic actors.

Great fact: the original script drafts imagined Beckinsale’s character as a minor part, and didn’t even give him a name, merely mentioned as ‘Lag’….this later became ‘Lenny Arthur Godber’.


The Star / Drum, with classic Bartons bus besides.

Another ’80’s Central TV production, every local schoolkid would claim to have seen Michael Elphick and a mulleted Neil Morrissey pegging it around town on a motorbike. Also like Auf Wiedersehen Pet, The Star was Boon’s pub of choice, renamed The Drum.  Beeston Square was also featured in episodes. Ahh, Central TV. Gave us loads of filming opportunities and, thanks to Bullseye, the highest ratio of speedboats-to -household of any major land-locked county.

8. Prisoner Cell Block H.

It is a little-known fact that our local MP Anna Soubry, who lives in Leicestershire but has an office in Beeston, was once the UK’s Prisoner Cell Block H expert. She’d regularly travel the world, giving complex lectures on the semiotics of Bea and Lizzie’s relationship, and devised the seminal work that laid the foundations for the now established academic study of Wentworth dialectics.

Her renown was such that ITV made her a regular guest on This Morning, snatching her from the fusty halls of ivy-tower academia and into the front rooms of daytime telly viewers, which saw a marked decrease in dole claimants as thousands fled to find work when she appeared.

After being called to give evidence at Home Office inquiries into the female penal system, she developed a taste for politics and successfully stood for MP, unsuccessfully campaigning for new prison walls to save money by being built of flimsy chipboard painted with a brick design.

9. Coronation Street/ Crossroads / Emmerdale


….all starred Beestonian born and bred Sherrie Hewson, who also is a regular on Benidorm, Loose Women and has even done Big Brother. Appropriately, she’s currently in panto in Nottingham, so don’t be surprised if you see her having a cheeky half down The Last Post on an afternoon.

10. This Is England / Line of Duty


While Beestonian Shane Meadows decamped to Sheffield to film the movie spin-off, he has used Beeston on of occasion as a backdrop. The stand-out, BAFTA winning performance from Wollatonian -turned-Beestonia *smatter of applause* of Vicky McClure led to her taking leading roles in Line Of Duty, the adaptation of Conrads The Secret Agent, and The Replacement. A phenomenal talent, Wollaton can do one if they think they’re having her back.

11. Beestonia: The Movie

Y’think we’d get this far without giving ourselves a plug? Don’t be daft. Filmed during the height of the tram works to show a town in transition, this epic (over 20minutes) film has baffingly not been selected for any BAFTA’s yet, but does have a cameo from a BAFTA-winning, mentioned-above Shane Meadows. Watch it, before we have to remove it from YouTube when Paramount or Disney buy the rights.

‘Tis the Season

An extra big helping of The Beestonian this Christmas…


It’s rolled around again, Foxie at Hallams dons her Santa Suit, the pied wagtails flutter across the Square, and poor old Beeman suffers a season of silly-string toupees and drunken snogs by post-office party drunkards. Ah, Christmas!

It’s been a year of ups and downs. We’ve seen new businesses pop up all over town, and our creative scene once again punch well above its weight. The Canalside Heritage Centre, a labour of love for the last decade, finally opened its doors. Our I Am Beeston project blossomed into a bit of an institution (look out for an exciting twist we’ll be bringing to that in the New Year). Lets Go To Beeston was relaunched.  We gave Beeston its first bespoke poem, and felt a bit sad that Bartons was going –but very happy that housing will soon be springing up on its expansive brownfield site. We took on Network Rail when they threatened to close the foot-crossings into the Nature Reserve, and won (for now). Oxjam, as you will read inside, smashed all previous records.

Yet there has been sadness. We lost many great Beestonians, not least with the tragic death of Owen Jenkins in the Summer. Also much-missed are Sally Pollard, wife (and Maid Marion) of our columnist (and Robin Hood) Tim Pollard. Nobel Laureate, MRI inventor and charming Beestonian Sir Peter Mansfield; local musician and Blue Monkey ale aficionado Mikk Skinner: RIP. We’re still awaiting any concrete news on the mess that is the central Beeston Phase 2 development, despite a flurry of vague statements to the contrary.

But we’re blathering before we’ve even been properly introduced. So let’s sort that.

Dear Reader,

If you’ve picked this up at the Lights Switch On, and wonder what the dickens you’ve got possession of, welcome. We’re The Beestonian, and we’re pleased to meet you. Open me up: you’ll find stuff all about this wonderful town from Indian poets to Thai cafes; somersaulting geniuses to supermarket horrors.

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll note we’ve put on a bit of weight. Don’t worry, it’s not over-indulgence of mince pies, but the fact that we had so much stuff to cram into this issue we’ve gone up to 20 pages. We just keep on growing, and we’re still free. We’ll always be free.

How do we do that? How do we act like local Santas and give you this all for free? Well, we’re ran by volunteers and our print costs are paid by our lovely local sponsors. Find them inside, and pay them a visit, and tell ‘em we sent you. And if you run a business and fancy your ad sharing space with the excellence within, we’d be delighted to have you: see inside for details.

And if you see one of our writers in the pub, and fancy buying them a drink: well, that will be the best Christmas pressie ever. Have a good ‘un!


Gossip from the Hivemind

Once again, some dolt expresses a wish for Beeston to ‘emulate West Bridgford’, presumably meaning we’ll lose all our character and be nothing but a dormitory town on the outskirts of a city, rather than a vibrant place with its own identity and character. The dolt in question is erstwhile used-car salesman Cllr. Richard Jackson, the boss of Broxtowe Borough Council and a man not exactly blessed with much of an imagination.


It’s almost like he doesn’t really care about Beeston, or indeed Broxtowe. Like he once voted to abolish the very council he runs. Nice to see you care, chief.


While that vote failed, it hasn’t stopped Wacko Jacko from his quest to destroy the council: rumours suggest that morale is at a snail’s belly low at the council, as a huge falling out rages through the council. And is it true a secret committee has been formed to investigate another secret committee, all at huge cost to council tax payers? Watch this space…


As the council infighting rages, it’s up to Beestonians to imagine the future of the town, and where better to look than our sister Facebook Page Beeston Updated? As the 11,000 members of the site well know, public toilets and shoe shops seem to occasionally dominate the conversation. Or rather, the lack of them. So here’s an idea. Why not combine the two into one handy place? Shoe and Poo anyone?


Props to our columnist Scott Bennett, who when not penning pithiness for this rag is a professional stand-up comedian, and recently was roped in to support Rob Brydon on his tour. As Brydon is his comic hero, Scott was delighted, and took along an autographed copy of Brydon’s memoir, which the craggy Welsh funster signed a few days before Scott did his first ever gig. This happened. Our hearts and cockles are duly warmed.


If you haven’t heard the podcast that Scott does with three other contributors to The Beestonian, then you really should. It’s so funny it could turn Droopy into a hyena. You’ll find it by going to . But grab a girdle first. Your sides aren’t safe from splitting.


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