Author: Isaac

Beeston Film Festival returns for it’s seventh edition!

The Beeston film festival is set to return this March for its seventh year to celebrate and showcase international short films in the heart of Beeston.

Festival organiser, John Currie, deliberately associated the festival with Beeston, to give something back to his community, a community of strong artists and performers:

“When we started there was not a Nottingham Film Festival at the time, and we could not call ourselves that. So, we deliberately said ‘we are going to be the Beeston Festival’, this is what we wanted”.

The Festival, which is the biggest international Top 100 Best Reviewed short-film festival, will see a wide range of short-movies competing for the BOscar, the Oscar of Beeston.

The programme, which will run from Monday 22 to Sunday 28 March, will be online for the second time this year and will present over 150 films from over 80 different countries at 3 local venues:

“It is going to be a totally jam-packed international program with movies from Africa, America, France, all around Europe, China and Australia,” said John.

The festival will also host famous actors, such as local famous BAFTA-winning actress, Vicki McClure, Dame Maureen Lipman and Helen Lederer among new and emerging talents.

A wide range of genre will be presented, going from Horror, Comedy, Drama to Women’s Voices and Pride. Selections were accurately made by a team drawn from the local community of film enthusiasts:

“This year we had over 650 entries to the festival. So, our local team of film lovers have been reviewing them and going through the selection process. This means we had to watch all the films carefully and respectfully to make the right choices” added John.

Helping with the festival organisation are also 10 NTU interns working full and part-time behind the scenes. An opportunity for them to really get involved in the organisation.

“They are great. They are really helpful and really help enable us to do things that we haven’t done before. The interns will be very much involved in creating a preview program. So just before the festival starts”.

The preview of the program will include interviews with the directors of the films which have been shortlisted for the best and festival awards.

Like last year, the festival will go ahead totally online, and John and his team have had to find new ways to engage people in a covid-safe environment:

“Last year we utilised Facebook Live. But, over the past few years there has been a real growth in new platforms so that is why our social media manager Francesca has been working to explore the opportunity of expanding into TikTok, which is taking over the world”.

Excitement and hopes are also high for the opening of the Arc Cinema, which is scheduled to open its doors in the centre of Beeston this summer. The brand-new cinema, which will offer digital

laser projectors, immersive surround sounds and luxury seats, other than a café/bar area, is set to bring new opportunities and changes for Beeston and its Film Festival, to create a real festival atmosphere in the town:

“I am really excited about it, especially because I have spoken with Arc, and they are actually excited about getting involved with the festival but also having short film nights during the year, to give filmmakers additional screenings. When the cinema will open up, we will look into having regular monthly screenings where we can share some of the back catalogue of films that have been submitted earlier because… Let’s have a break from Netflix!”.

Talking about the future of the festival and for the Beeston community, John has really high hopes:

“Once we get the next in-person festival out of the way our inspiration is to move from one week to two weeks of screening. And we will start introducing feature films as well. We really want to move into a space where we have a longer festival. So, I am very excited about the future”.

Tickets are available to purchase here. Costs range from £10 pounds plus booking fee for the whole festival to £2.50 for individual sessions.

IB

The Staggering Optimism of Students

It’s a turbulent time for everyone, none more so than for the thousands of students currently studying at our city’s university who are nowhere near our city.

Most students have gone back home, wherever home might be. It could be abroad, or hundreds of miles down the road to the coastal parts of our country, but they’re still part of this broken and haphazard group we call the student body. As a university student myself, this year has been the most difficult so far, completing all our lectures, seminars and assignments from the dining room table whilst the rest of your family bustle around you and try and find the small piece of normality they still have left.

It’s been hard to remain positive for many, with social interaction with other students confined to a fortnightly Zoom quiz and Netflix party. It’s been a shock to the system and a change that many weren’t prepared for. But there are a few ways that students are keeping their spirits high during these unprecedented times.

Olivia Stock, 21, an English student at the University of Nottingham, has found refuge in her extracurricular opportunities that have found a way to continue throughout the pandemic.

She said: “Student media has been a lifeline for me during the pandemic. When things were unsettled, it offered a real sense of purpose and constancy. Having the time to indulge in creative projects has been brilliant and for students who often feel anxious or overwhelmed by small-group study sessions, the online learning environment has made for a more comfortable and reassuring experience.”

Olivia also noted how moving back in with her parents helped prepare her for her life after she finishes university as she fully expects to have to live with them for a while again whilst searching for a job.

She added: “For me, living at home for periods of time during the pandemic has helped eliminate that irrational student fear about moving back in with parents post-graduating. I think there’s a real stigma about not walking straight into a job after university, so the pandemic has really shown me that it isn’t all bad!”

“This third lockdown has been particularly tough, being stuck inside all day during the winter months can be really tolling at times.”

Lewis Tibbs, 22, a Broadcast Journalism student at Nottingham Trent University also admitted that he has found it more difficult to concentrate during the current lockdown but has found small ways to stay motivated.

He said: “This third lockdown has been particularly tough, being stuck inside all day during the winter months can be really tolling at times. But there has been a lot of positivity to come out of it as well. I’ve used lockdown to recuperate and refocus and to really think about what I want to achieve and what I want to do with my life. I’ve thrown myself into my work and tried my best to prepare myself for my life post-graduation. It’s given me a purpose every day and something to wake up for.”

Lewis also added that the changes to his university degree have been significant, but he managed to find the positives in those as well.

He admitted: “University isn’t the same in the slightest, of course, it isn’t how I expected to be finishing my degree at all, but the staff work really hard to provide a good quality learning experience, so it’s been okay. I try and talk to my friends as much as possible because it does help. Despite the obvious challenges, I’m doing good.”

Lilith Hudson, 22, an English and Philosophy student at the University of Nottingham, has also found these last few months more difficult than previous lockdowns. However, she has found spending time outdoors as the key to keeping her spirits high.

She said: “There’s no denying that the last few months have been a struggle. Life has become routinely boring in the absence of any spontaneity. As a final year student, it’s easy to think that because there’s nothing better to do you should spend your time studying, but this approach won’t do you or your grades any favours.”

“As contrived as it may be, I’ve been trying to spice up drab days with impromptu jaunts; mid-mornings spent meandering along the Trent and afternoons plodding along the canal. When exercise doesn’t appeal, I do some impulsive baking or randomly call a friend. It’s the little things like this that help you to find something positive every day.”

She added: “The faint possibility that I’ll actually have a graduation was the motive I needed to keep me going, so I’m holding onto hope!”

FP

“Techno Techno Tech-NO!” – The frustrations with technology

Let me just start by saying the last year has been tough, but I think it was the best era for a pandemic like this to happen.

Netflix, Deliveroo, the internet, can you imagine trying to get through this nightmare twenty years ago?

Sitting there for eight hours a day, with terrestrial television, a box set of Bergerac on DVD and snake on a Nokia 3410, it would have been agony. That’s not a lockdown that’s a wet caravanning holiday to Rhyl.

Technology has helped us keep in touch with family. I’ve been stunned by how quickly my parents have adapted to this new online world.

My father is called “Roy”, which is the perfect name for a working-class, Yorkshire Luddite. You don’t get many baby Roy’s these days, do you? That’s not a baby that’s the name of a sixty-year-old bloke with a moustache and a smokers cough. Babies called Roy would come out of the womb already able to grout a bathroom. I reckon my dad was already a tradesman before he even took his first breath. Apparently, he was born by cesarian section, I imagine he probably used his first words to give his mother a quote for the damage. “We can plaster over that love, no worries, two hundred quid, see you Tuesday.”

He got this iPad so he could Facetime my children. He never got the hang of it, because he used to ring us first, half an hour before, to see if we were “prepared for the Facetime” what did he think it was? Live Aid or something? Just be spontaneous Dad!

He couldn’t use the camera either. For weeks we were being Facetimed by a Fridge Freezer. There was nothing there. Then all of a sudden accompanied by some heavy breathing, this eye would come creeping into view. “Here’s Grandad!” the kids didn’t sleep for weeks!

Now he’s setting up WhatsApp groups, video calls, Skype sessions. He’s learnt new words like, “bandwidth” and “emoji” I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before he goes viral on Tik Tok.

Technology is incredible, but it does make our lives more complicated.

I feel like we have to remember more passwords than an MI5 agent these days. I’m running out of options now. I’ve used the children’s names, birthdays, old teachers. I’ve been through the cast of Neighbours, including Bouncer the dog, I’m really struggling now.

Everything is encrypted now too, which just causes more stress. I hate the person who invented that Captcha system. I think we should find them and take them hostage, and only let them go if they manage to spot three fire hydrants a zebra crossing and seven bicycles out of a window. I’m obviously not a robot. As if a robot would be online at two in the morning, googling “What is MC Hammer’s real name?”

I’ve signed up for so much stuff online and I can say with some confidence that I’ve never read those terms and conditions either. Who has time for that?

No one knows what is written in that small print.

I could have just agreed to donate a kidney if I miss a payment, but I want that phone more than I want to be thorough, so I’ll instantly click accept.

During lockdown, I’ve been in a toxic relationship too.

With my inkjet printer.

It’s the year 2021, we’ve put people on the moon and yet we still can’t design a printer that isn’t an absolute arsehole.

“Sometimes our baby monitor would pick up the radio from the local taxi rank. Either that or our youngest was trying to book a minibus to the airport.”

I know they’ll be people reading this who have an inkjet printer, I just want to ask how many times, today alone, have you sworn at it and threatened to sling it through the window? I bet it’s at least fifty.

Mine is possessed. HP, which stands for “Higher Power” I swear it’s trying to break me down.

Once, I got so angry with it, I pulled the power cord out of the back, the light stayed on, that defies physics. There is only one thing powering that, resentment.

Having that printer is like having a teenage boy in the house. This thing just sits in the corner all day, just grunting, there’s a light on but nothing’s happening, I’m always feeding it and it’s costing me a fortune.

I got that printer for thirty quid, an absolute bargain. I remember having to do a double-take in the shop. “They must be making a loss; they couldn’t manufacture it for that price?” This is because they know that they will get you on the ink. That’s not a printer, that’s a gateway drug!

That printer cost me thirty pounds; the ink is costing me over six hundred pounds a year!

That’s like someone selling you a car for five hundred quid and you then find out that it only runs on Unicorn pee!

It’s a scandal, people would march against these companies, but they can’t afford to print the placards.

I’ve got an idea for a new Terminator film; I’m going to email James Cameron this week. It’s the perfect concept, something that pitches man against machine in the ultimate battle to the death. But they’ll be no guns, no gadgets, no time travel, it’d just be one man trying to print a Ryan Air boarding pass for three hours!

We are obsessed with putting technology into things now too. Everything has to be internet ready and it’s getting out of hand.

I got bought a video doorbell for Christmas, it connects to the internet and you can tell you who is at your door when you’re away from home. When you’ve been in lockdown for over a year that’s just what you need. They may as well have got me vouchers for British Airways.

I’ve had a cheaper version of this gadget that has been working well for over fifteen years now, it’s called the front room window. It’s cheap, it’s low maintenance and doesn’t text me like a needy girlfriend every time some stranger looks through it.

I have enough stress to deal with in my life without my doorbell being able to contact me. I’ve got two kids, a cat and a mortgage, now I’ve got a doorbell to look after, I can’t deal with that!

If you’re already an anxious person, this is the last you need in your life. Imagine being sat on a beach in Greece (when we are allowed) on your holidays, trying to relax. Then your phone flags up a notification and you have to watch in real-time, someone trying to burgle your house, whilst you’re sat on a sun lounger, powerless and panicking, holding a Cornetto

“I swear sometimes, in the early hours, I’ve actually heard that poor smart speaker sobbing.”

You can buy a slow cooker that connects to the internet now. Just in case you want to monitor a casserole remotely. How boring is your life if part of your day is to check in on your slow cooker?!

“Everything okay Pete, you’ve gone pale”

“I’ve had an emergency at home”

“Oh no, is it the kids are they okay?”

“It’s worse than that, the slow cooker has got stuck on simmer!”

You can buy a Pepper Spray with a Bluetooth connection, camera and 4G. So, you can spray the assailant whilst sending a photo of them to the police. Imagine trying to do that?

“Mate, I know I’m terrified and you’ve got a knife, but can we do another one, I had my finger over the lens!” “Sure, I didn’t like that one anyway, my chin looked a bit fat”

You can buy an internet ready onesie so you can put your baby online too. With an accompanying app that monitors the heart rate and oxygen levels.

The perfect gadget for those parents on the edge who are already terrified of leaving their kid alone. Having a baby is nerve-wracking enough without having it wired into the grid. It’s bad enough having a baby monitor. That’s meant to bring you peace of mind, but all that happens is you’ll be sat in the front room having a cup of tea listening to your exhausted partner swearing at your child. Very embarrassing, particularly if the midwife is there.

Sometimes our baby monitor would pick up the radio from the local taxi rank. Either that or our youngest was trying to book a minibus to the airport.

It was really weird, you’d be listening to the sound of her breathing, a lullaby being played on the mobile, then it would just get interrupted by Darren at Cable Cars.

“Tony, pick up at Oceana night club mate, you nearby!”

“Can do mate, Roger that!”

Can I just say at this point, I’m ashamed of the way I speak to my Alexa. It’s appalling.

I’m just barking orders at that poor woman all day long. “Alexa, play Radio 2” “Alexa, set the timer for my eggs, Alexa what happened to Zammo from Grange Hill?”

I can just see her at the other end, just running around all stressed and flustered. I never give her a break. If I spoke to my wife like I speak to my Alexa she’d hit me with a frying pan.

The worst thing is sometimes Alexa gets told off for stuff that isn’t even her fault. She gets caught in the crossfire during our marital arguments.

She’ll be playing the radio as I’ve told her to do, my wife will be annoyed with me for some reason and when she walks into the kitchen who does she shout at first? Not me, poor old Alexa!

She turns to that blue light and with venom and hatred she yells.

“ALEXA……..OFF!”

“SHUT YER FACE ALEXA!”

I swear sometimes, in the early hours, I’ve actually heard that poor smart speaker sobbing.

We should have an adoption agency for mistreated appliances like this. Kindles who haven’t been charged for years, old I-phones that have been discarded in drawers and Fitbits that were worn once and then slung angrily into the corner of the room, after the owner realized that running was yet another thing in life that they’ve failed miserably at.

I think technology has changed arguments forever. They aren’t as much fun as they used to be, are they? It used to be an angry shouting match, people screaming down telephones, tears, maybe even actual violence.

Now, just one sentence sends us into a panic, “David has left the WhatsApp group!” “On no!” “What have we done to David!”

When technology lets you down, there is nothing worse.

We’re in a constant battle with our broadband at the moment. It’s become an essential service and ours is appalling. I rang up to complain to my service provider, I was all charged up, foaming at the mouth, ready to give these clowns both barrels.

But what I’ve noticed is that some of these companies have what seems to be, a secret Nanna department. It’s so clever. I was expecting to get some seventeen year old idiot called Gavin who I could have happily unloaded both barrels on. But instead, I got Dorothy, a softly spoken Scottish woman with a voice like Mrs Doubtfire, and it totally threw me.

I reckon it wasn’t a call centre at all. Just a care home, with a load of lovely old ladies, sat in rows with headsets on and a tartan blanket on their knees. Taking calls in between Countdown and Homes under the Hammer.

So, I tried to put my complaint to her.

“Listen, this broadband isn’t good enough Dorothy, I’m trying to work from home at the moment, we’ve got the children being home-schooled, it’s slow, expensive and unreliable and frankly I’ve had enough of it”

She paused and then her little gentle voice piped up.

“ahhh, two wee girls, what are their names?”

“Olivia and Sophia”

“Beautiful names, I’ve got two wee girls myself. They’ve grown up and left home now, one of them is in Canada, I rarely see her. They all leave dear; I suppose you’re going to do the same are you?”

“Errr…..right okay, sorry about that. No, I don’t want to leave but it’s the upload speed that’s the problem, Dorothy, It’s useless”

“I know my dear, and that’s the one thing we don’t guarantee, I’m so sorry”

“Where I live is the same, my little cottage here on the isle of Sky, we have to make do dear. There are people dying in this pandemic, but I know that a little bit of buffering whilst you’re trying to watch Bridgerton is more than anyone should have to deal with”

“If I could I would come down there with some cable, a shovel and a wheelbarrow and put in that fibre myself. I would my dear, but I can’t do that poppet, I’m 83, my best installation days are behind me now!”

So, I rang up to complain and all I did was have a chat with an old lady for twenty minutes. Worse thing is, she was so good, I’ve not even left, I’ve signed a contract for another three years.

Scott Bennett Comedian

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The power of friendships, old and new

When living and working in the Rylands you become very aware of the long-established families and friendships within the community. What’s less obvious are the new relationships and friendships being formed through social groups such as Friday Club (the weekly social dining club for the over 60’s). Here’s the story of two Friday Club regulars Peggy and Freda, and what their friendship means to them.

Around two years after her husband’s death, Peggy was only going out to do her shopping and was struggling with her grief and feeling lonely. She was told about Friday club through a friend in the Rylands. She went the first time with a friend and started to look forward to going. Freda joined the group a little later and in Peggy’s words their “friendship just exploded from there, it was so easy to be friends with her they just clicked straight away.”

The first adventure was to Bardills garden centre and they started walking together locally once or twice a week. They attended Janet’s 24-hour danceathon in October 2019 where
they danced and laughed the night away till 4 am.

Their birthdays are two weeks (plus ten years) apart and they started a tradition of having fish and chips on Queens Road to celebrate. Social distancing wasn’t going to deter their
friendship this year as they sheltered on opposite ends of the bus shelter to enjoy their feast.

Peggy shared that if she didn’t have Freda she might have not gone out as much over lockdown and have “locked myself away again – I am really pleased about being friends, we
can just laugh and be at ease.”

Following the death of her husband Bob, Freda moved to Beeston to be nearer her daughter. Freda knew no one else, and would just go walking. Like Peggy, Friday Club was
recommended to her, and a regular called Frances met Freda at the car park so she didn’t have to go in on her own. At her first meeting, she sat between the regulars Peggy and
Sheila where there was a space. Peggy, Sheila and Freda just got chatting, and after a while, she started joining them on little trips to places like the film club at the heritage centre.

Sadly Sheila passed away, and Peggy and Freda’s relationship just developed. Freda explained that they go walking and have little adventures, “It’s just nice – and it’s a laugh. We
speak every day on the phone. She came to my birthday party last year and my 70th this year so she knows all the family – they think Peggy is lovely and they’re amazed at how I’ve
opened up. When I have bad days – sometimes she senses it – it’s weird.”

Peggy explained that another Friday club member has christened them the “lively birds” – “lets face it, we all know each other at Friday club, before Friday club when my husband was still alive I would see people around the Rylands and say hello, but life was so busy I never really knew them. Friday Club brings people closer together, we all have grief in common, friendship is important. I don’t laugh with anyone else as much as Freda.”

Friday Club is open to all residents over 60. Meetings are every Friday between 1.30 and 3.30 pm for food, friendship and fun. Since the latest COVID-19 restrictions it’s changed to
phone calls, Zoom meetings and food deliveries, but Friday club will be back as soon we can meet safely again.

JB and NR

Students and the pandemic

Since March last year, students have been plunged into the deep end, forced to keep up the same standard of work in very abnormal circumstances. It’s been difficult for all the university students finishing their degrees, but arguably even harder for those starting and moving to the city for the first time.

Not only were these ‘freshers’ trying to navigate their way through a strange city, meet new people and succeed in their studies, they had to do it all in the middle of an international healthcare crisis, exacerbating any feelings they may have had of feeling isolated and out-of-place.

Irene Bisoni moved to Nottingham from Italy in September to start her degree, but did not expect living and studying during a pandemic to be so isolating.

“I had a lot of hopes about moving to another city and starting anew. The first lockdown was bearable for me but during this lockdown I’m really starting to feel isolated and I’m incredibly homesick. Not talking to people in real life makes things incredibly hard at times.”

Irene also felt like the presence of a lockdown has severely affected another key aspect of university life.

“In terms of my student experience, it is virtually non-existent. I haven’t been able to truly experience university as a fully functioning student. I also feel like university students are forgotten easily because people think they’re older, more mature, and more able to cope with the workload, but I don’t agree at all. A lot of emphasis has been put on students partying and breaching rules during the pandemic, and although I am completely against the breaching of rules, there have been circumstances where we have been wrongly demonised. I’m hoping that after the pandemic is over I’ll be able to see Nottingham in a different light.”

University of Nottingham student Lauren McGaun has also just started her second year studying Politics and American studies. She expressed her discontent with the clarity surrounding the ever-changing regulations and understands students’ frustrations.

“I think the constant changing of rules is just frustrating for students as there’s no clarity around the decisions. We were assured that we would be given a relatively easy return to campus from September and that blended learning would continue throughout this year, but that quickly changed. I, and I am sure many others, feel that it would’ve been better to just continue with home learning so that students didn’t waste thousands of pounds on accommodation that simply isn’t being used.”

Lauren also went on to say that she feels students have been forgotten by the government, aggravating students’ frustrations over the past several months.

She said: “There’s rarely ever a mention of university students in government briefings even though we’re a generation whose futures will be most affected by this crisis. It seems that all students are grouped into one perception of all acting irrepressibly even though, for the most part, this isn’t true. The student experience has been hugely different this year but I do commend the university for taking the steps they did for keeping the campus safe and covid-secure.

Lauren added: “It has been very difficult to adjust as most of what was meant to be some of my best years at university have been spent working at home and struggling to focus which is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.”

Throughout this pandemic, the lives of students at university have been turned into a chaotic string of events, despite the fact that university should be some of the best years of their life. Students have been at the forefront of this pandemic, often for rule-breaking, but here’s hoping when we eventually return to normal, the scapegoating of students will return to normality too.

FP

Mellow Yellow

I have been watching with great interest since the beginning of October, the renovations at 42 Chilwell Road. Ever since my childhood when dad used to take me onto building sites (his job was to lay the foundations), I have been fascinated by how buildings are constructed.

Quite recently a general store, this particular ensemble of bricks and mortar had been empty and neglected for quite some time, but its sturdy Edwardian exterior held the promise of another reincarnation. I was particularly excited when I passed by mid-October and noticed that the original signage, on the top part of the large front window, had been uncovered – the past was being slowly revealed. I found myself looking for excuses to walk past just to keep an eye on progress.

By the end of November, the rotten window frames had been replaced and the surrounding brickwork repaired. More renovations, including the installation of a fire escape, which could have had embarrassing consequences – they knocked through to the neighbouring pharmacy’s upstairs toilet! Luckily nobody was sitting on it at the time, there might have been some very red faces.

Things were really taking shape at the end of December. New pipework, rewiring, new ceiling, concrete floor and the framework for shelving went in. The beginnings of Yellow Wood Café were in place. Cheered at the thought of Beeston’s burgeoning independent café scene gaining a new venue,  I felt it was time to catch up with its creator to hear all about future plans.

It’s Saturday afternoon and the Farmer’s Market is ‘safely’ bustling in the square, cheerfully masking the closed and empty businesses. There is a lightness in my tread as I make my way down the High Road to the corner of Colin Street and knock eagerly on the whited-out glass door, delighted to be getting the opportunity to see what was going on inside. Iain greeted me warmly and invited me to look around. There had been significant work done on the ground floor and I could see the future of this room, full of people enjoying coffee and each other’s company to the backdrop of a busy street scene.

Iain got the keys in August but started the project and negotiations back in March 2020, just as it became apparent that we were in the throes of a pandemic. Not everyone was as enthusiastic about his vision, nevertheless, the opportunity was too good to pass up. Ever since he was fifteen, Iain had a passion for cooking and felt this was something he would enjoy doing for a living. Instead, he studied engineering and forged a successful career as a sound engineer at one point working at the BBC as a radio engineer and more recently as an associate professor in acoustics at Nottingham University.

Taking voluntary redundancy in June left Iain with new options to explore, and just like Robert Frost in his poem ‘The Road Not Taken’, Iain knew that he had to choose the right path thus enabling his teenage dream to materialise. This poem resonated with Iain and the ‘yellow wood’ came to symbolise the community café space that Iain was keen to create – no regrets, no looking back just enjoying the journey.

Iain has done much of the restoration work himself. He talks me through this with all the enthusiasm and trepidation of a man who knows he has taken on a huge project but is driven by a desire to restore and expand on the building’s former glory. He talks me through some of the horrors he has discovered dismantling the modern fascia and signage revealing the rotten lintels, and of course the most precious of all the things he has been working hard to preserve, those fabulously authentic windows! There have been a few tense moments, but Iain tells me that working with an enthusiastic local builder helped to reassure him that they were in good hands and with someone who really appreciated the attention to detail that was required.

Cornish-born but with much of his early life spent growing up in Yorkshire, Iain has lived and worked in Beeston for over twenty years now and resides in one of the network of terraced streets that have been part of Beeston’s heritage since the 1800s. An all-absorbing career, raising a family and recent ill-health left him feeling quite detached from his local community and this is definitely something he would love to remedy – also something we both recognised as incredibly important in light of recent events.

As we walk around the shell of the old shop (at a safe distance of course), Iain talks enthusiastically about his plans to integrate his love of good honest food and fresh coffee with his passion for music, one he shares with his wife Kay. There is ample space over the three floors to provide music and ‘soul food’ to customers, bookable rooms that can be used for study or work and space for Kay to operate a counselling service. A definite feel-good space, Iain smiles as he describes the feeling he gets as he arrives at the shop to work in the mornings. Fortified with fresh coffee, the radio and the morning sun streaming through the windowed frontage, he approaches each task with care and curiosity – weighing up what will work best in each room and how it will eventually look. It has definitely been an antidote to the doom and gloom in the news.

With all the major wiring work and fire regulations adhered to, apart from the spiral staircase fire escape from the first floor out to the garden terrace at the back, Iain is hoping to be open for business by the end of April.

To accompany Iain on his renovation journey, follow on Facebook and Instagram.

Visit their website here.

DU

I am Beeston: Jamil Ahmed – Postmaster

“I grew up as a migrant child in greater Manchester. We lived in some of the poorer areas of Manchester. At the age of 10, my father got a job in Nottingham and we made the big move from Manchester to Sneinton. I went to Greenwood School which later became the Nottingham Academy. We moved to Beeston in 1994, as it was a friendly area and also well known for good amenities.

“In 2013, an opportunity arose to buy the local post office on Broadgate. I decided to take this opportunity, as I wanted a change from my previous job. Living in Beeston and having a business in Beeston, allowed me to stay connected with my local community and allowed me to contribute to the local area. It also helped me to gain knowledge of the local community. The post office plays an important part when it comes to serving the local community, and I don’t just mean the products and services that it offers, but from helping customers with non-postal related issues to conversing with some of the elderly and vulnerable customers who don’t have anyone to talk to, but love coming into the post office to have a chat. I often see the majority of my customers in and around Beeston, and some of them I know so well, that I have built up a good relationship, that even when they move out of the area they still come back to use my post office.

“What I like about Beeston, is that it’s very lively with the university and there are many prominent businesses around. A lot of green spaces such as university park and Rylands. Beeston is very diverse and very friendly and I think that’s what makes the town so unique. Most people are very relaxed and this creates a great atmosphere. Since 1991 the town centre has been transformed a few times. The old shops such McDonald’s, Superdrug, Be Wise and many others have all gone. But the construction of Tesco’s and now the new cinema bring new opportunities. Not forgetting the tram.

“One thing I have done is the development of two derelict commercial properties on Chilwell Road and transformed them into a modern retail premise and two flats.  My brother and I bought the shops back in October 2015. They were derelict and completely ruined and so we spent most weekends and evenings fixing it up. The work took us 18 months in total. These were featured on the TV series ‘Homes Under the Hammer’. I had great fun doing the show, and the episode was aired in 2017. After that, it was nice to get recognised around Beeston when shopping and at work. It still turns up on daytime TV, and someone will say that I’ve been on TV again”.

“There are so many funny stories that have happened at the post office. If I had to pick one it would be when a student came in and handed me an item, unpacked, and with no address on it. They simply walked out whilst I was walking back to the serving counter. Another one is that someone once posted a parcel, and then three years later he received it back and he asked me why. 

“I’m proud to say that as a sub-postmaster, I enjoy serving the local community and I hope the local community will give me the opportunity to serve them. I would ask everyone who reads this article to use their local post office and encourage friends and family to use theirs. Post offices are run by individual Postmasters, and we rely on the customers’ footfall to keep us open. We offer a wide range of services such as postal services (Royal Mail and Parcel Force worldwide), local collect services, currency exchange, travel insurance, DVLA services, passport check and send and many more. We also sell greeting cards, stationery, toys, gifts and household items. You can even drop off your dry cleaning.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the lovely people of Beeston for making it such a great place to live.

CF

Broxtowe Community Projects

Ever wondered what has happened to the old Carphone Warehouse shop on Queens Road? It is now occupied by Broxtowe Community Projects, who have been in there since the start of November last year.

The project is a self-referral foodbank covering all of the Broxtowe Borough Council area, which was originally set up in the Labour office on the High Road. ‘Self-referral’ means that anyone in need can go and request help, rather than having to be referred by social services or other agencies.

As well as collections, volunteers deliver food parcels throughout the borough. The service is open on Mondays from 10am to 1pm and delivers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. This covers all of the borough, across to Stapleford all the way up to Kimberley and Eastwood.

The project runs on donations from the public, as well as supermarkets. As well as food parcels, those in need can also be provided with toiletries, nappies, formula milk etc.

Anyone wanting to donate can take items during opening hours. If that isn’t possible then there is a collection point outside. What is working really well is neighbourhood collections that can be taken to the project in one go during opening hours.

Donations that are most useful are pretty much anything that has a shelf life – tins, packets and jars. Especially breakfast cereals and porridge oats, tins of soup, tinned meals such as chilli con carne or Bolognese sauce, rice, pasta, spaghetti. Also toiletries, nappies etc.

As well as serving those in need, each Saturday from 10.30am to 12.30pm the project is open to anyone who wants to come and take surplus food in exchange for a donation. As well as raising much-needed funds, this also eliminates a lot of food waste.

The project is always on the lookout for volunteers, so if you have time to spare then get in touch and see how you can help – 07434 664 174 or email broxtowe.cp@gmail.com

To keep up to date with what is happening at the project, follow them on Facebook here. 

JC

#Beeston2020Vision a glimpse at the future

Since January last year an independent group of individuals, inspired by the past and passionate about the future, has been encouraging an online conversation about the future of Beeston. They did so in anticipation of a special #Beeston2020Vision event planned at the Pearson Centre – initially intended for May 2020, but now postponed twice by the pandemic until some safe point in 2021.

This simple step of seeking creative ideas to help shape our town over the next decade continues, with each delay drawing more contributors from a broad spectrum of the Beeston community from the Mayor down.  Their responses show how tapping the imagination and insight of Beestonians can contribute to a depth of understanding when creating a diverse, independent and vibrant future.

We can use this information to begin to unpick why Beeston is special, what makes the town centre tick, what becoming an exemplar carbon-neutral community might mean and much else besides. There are exciting project ideas, thoughts on lockdown and much more.

The #Beeston2020Vision project stems from ‘The Story of Beeston’ written by local historian David Hallam and commissioned by CP Walker and Son to mark their 120th anniversary, and from an earlier Vision for Beeston event sponsored by the Beeston and District Civic Society in 2017.

Why is Beeston special?

We are special because of a rare mix of good fortune. As a diverse community, we share a riverside location with a world-class nature reserve, close to the City and to the University. Grace Li, (Youth Mayor Broxtowe, 2019-2020) describes with pride her experience of growing up in a lively, creative, multi-generational and multi-cultural Beeston, well connected to a wider world.

Others refer to a welcoming, tolerant and resourceful place, where community action is shaping our lives. Volunteering is at the heart of the success of the Attenborough Nature Reserve, the recent Canalside venture, station improvements and other initiatives – channelled through strong local institutions such as the Middle Street Resource Centre, Beeston Library and the Pearson Centre.

Jeanie Barton, notes just how many creative people live in Beeston, including musicians of all genres, plus poets, writers, film makers, graphic designers, photographers, dancers, actors, presenters, painters and so on. She describes it like Camden without the physical vibrancy, leading Jeanie to start the Beeston Street Art project to reflect and encourage the abundant creativity of our town.  Attractions and events help the retail experience and cultural vibrancy is attractive to residents too.  She believes that creativity is a unique selling point for Beeston that will continue to bring in visitors from far and wide.

David Hallam sees Beeston is a resilient community that has successively and successfully reinvented itself over the past 120 years to meet changing needs.  Public initiatives will play an important part in future change, but input from all who care about our future – that should include all of us – is essential and can make a difference by developing ideas and driving them forward.

Managing a changing town centre

David Hallam also notes that towns are judged by their centres, now increasingly under threat by out-of-town shopping and on-line buying. Encouraging places where people can relax with a coffee and more has worked well in Beeston, but Covid and increasing on-line shopping has accelerated this threat to retail. He suggests encouraging a sustainable number of demand-led retail outlets, returning empty units to residential use.  This could be transformational especially if coupled with more green space.  An agreed strategy to protect and manage the High Road area might protect us from the worst of market forces and help to achieve longer-term objectives.

Nelson Blackley suggests that the future of Beeston town centre depends on flexibility and resilience; localness, connectivity and greening. He notes that pre-pandemic Beeston had a retail vacancy rate of 5%: lower than the national average of around 12%, while above-average numbers of hair, beauty and nail salons, barbers and estate agents reflect the relative health of the personal care and property markets in our local economy. At the same time, Beeston had only around 5% of its total shop units occupied by local and national charities, that is below the national average of 8% for towns of similar size.  Beeston could do with a marketplace or public square where people can gather, as Beeston Square is too off-centre on the main retail axis of Chilwell Road and High Road to fulfil that function.

Peter Swann, praises Beeston as a good local retail centre, with many excellent shops, cafes and restaurants and with much of the High Road pedestrianised, yet Beeston does not achieve especially good ratings in the league tables produced by various consultancy companies.  These rankings are designed for high streets and retail parks that have many of the big brand chain stores, and that sort of measure does not do justice to the things that Beeston does well.  Peter would like to see a new sort of location ranking emerge, which is not so preoccupied with big brands but tries to measure how well a retail location serves the diverse needs of a local population. Such an index would go beyond existing measures of retail quality to consider rankings for retail diversity, sustainability and a healthy independent sector, doing justice to things that make Beeston special.

Beeston as an exemplar sustainable community?

On broader issues, Gary Smerdon-White believes that a sustainable carbon-neutral policy will be central to every aspect of future town development, design and construction over the next decade.  Embedding sustainability into all activities, developments and programmes will help climate change, enhance air quality and improve our health and well-being.  Gary would like to see Beeston and Broxtowe working with the City to become a medium-sized town exemplar in sustainability.  He develops this theme in the contexts of the built environment, transport and travel, suggesting Beeston as a working hub for green technology.  Considering the extent of detailed individual adjustments necessary to make this happen, he asks whether we are ready for this challenge?

Creating a green corridor and other proposals

Giving Beeston a bio-friendly makeover need not cost the earth and we could create a lush green environment as part of that process.  Robert Howard proposes an imaginative green canopied corridor from the Square via the High Road and Broadgate to the University’s West Entrance to restore a sense of vibrancy and difference. A continuous canopied run on both sides of the High Road, with well-placed wind breaks, could be achieved in stages over time as resources permit. This practical idea is the incremental extension through enterprise and partnership of our present green pedestrian area. As the climate warms, so trees, shade and breezes become ever more important.

Inevitably there are many other possible projects.  Based on experiences elsewhere Ian Culshaw would like to see locally run cafes in the town’s parks to encourage safer use.  He would also like to see less plastic, fewer pubs, more clubs and more focus on younger people. There is an idea for a bee based town trail and app, stimulated by the Beekeeper. Opening up more of the town centre to pedestrians and a performance and exhibition space like Lakeside are other suggestions.

Lesson from Beeston in lockdown

There are thoughts on lockdown. Working from home can be empowering for some – avoiding commuting makes the day longer, healthier and our world more sustainable. We are getting to know our neighbourhoods and our neighbours more intimately by exercising on foot, while more individuals, families and communities are volunteering. Lockdown highlights Beeston as a place of gathering that satisfies a real need, but social media is no substitute for face to face contact. Proximity, rubbing shoulders, handshakes, hugs, are all things that we have come to miss.

That said suburban settings like Beeston are well placed to meet the needs of a more home-centred world.  Our town is big enough to support supermarkets and small enough to be conveniently accessible on foot or bike, which makes it healthy for us and good for the planet.

Our past suggests that meeting changing needs is a tested survival strategy. If we want Beeston to continue as a shopping and services centre we must plan to meet needs that cannot be met easily online and as individuals and as businesses we must use our local services if they are to survive. Council-led initiatives have a role in supplying a policy framework with clear objectives.

What can you contribute to the diversity, independence and vibrance of Beeston?

Rex Walker defines modern-day Beeston by its diversity, independence and vibrancy.  We are not a homogeneous community. It is the interactions and combinations that make Beeston a special place. Traditional town centres will continue to face overwhelming pressures over the next decade, but building our way out of trouble should be much more than a numbers game.

Developing pride of place starts with accepting and celebrating the town’s individual character.  In ten years time, each of us might look back and ask “how did I contribute to the diversity, independence and vibrancy of Beeston in the 2020s?” What will your answer be?

There is no shortage of ideas, but we would like to encourage more. Check out the Beeston Vision corner of the C P Walker website for yourself and the Facebook page, or contact us directly by email at beeston2020vision@gmail.com

PR

Survive and thrive: Why community matters part 2

As once again we find ourselves in a second lockdown, with Christmas approaching it feels appropriate to capture the mood and reflect on what we have found during our community work in the Rylands.

For many there is an expectation to maintain a stiff upper lip and plough through these unprecedented times, when in reality there is a need to allow ourselves to mourn our seasonal traditions and get-togethers that we’ll be missing this year.  This year, the picturesque ideology that we often feel pressure to achieve seems more out of grasp than ever. So we’re starting a conversation to say that it is okay to admit that it’s not OK. Feel free to say that this is rubbish! It’s okay to verbalise that this is hard, and difficult and dismal at best, that we miss our loved ones and friends. It’s okay for our Friday Club Clubbers to be unhappy that their weekly get together is on hold, and to not want to embrace Zoom calls or elbow rubs or face masks or social distanced walks in the torrential British weather.  It’s okay for our young people to miss youth club, and it’s okay for volunteers to be tired and ask for support.

There is a trendy slogan doing the rounds on social media stating “We are all in the same storm but we are not in the same boat”. While this in many ways is true, we can offer lifeboats to those who might be taking in water, we can recognise that some boats may be weathered or weary and giving out distress calls. This does not mean the boat and its crew are doomed it simply signals that its community needs to help slow the leak and support that struggling ship to navigate itself back to safe shores.

This Christmas for many of us is about weathering the storm and remembering that behind every dark cloud is blue sky. We all have different ways of coping, whether it’s go for a run by the river with your permitted one companion, going for a walk with your family and picking up a takeaway coffee on the way, or staying home keeping safe and warm until the storm passes. It’s likely that Christmas will be different this year for most of us, so let’s be kind to ourselves and one another. Let’s enjoy the simple pleasures of the season and remember there is hope around the corner in the shape of vaccines, our caring community, and the thought of the arrival of a brand new year.

Beeston Rylands Community Association update

Beeston Rylands Community Association (BRCA) continue to provide lunch deliveries and support to elderly residents. All the while the team keep adapting their work to comply with the changing COVID-19 restrictions. When we emerged out of full lockdown, we reintroduced Friday Club (our social dining club for the over 60’s), and therefore reduced the food deliveries.

We instead introduced a food voucher scheme, where all those previously receiving a food delivery could go to the Boat House Cafe and get some hot or cold food twice a week.

Since the tightening of restrictions, we’ve reintroduced twice-weekly lunch pack deliveries for the most isolated in our community. This work made possible thanks to Sarah, Sandie and Tony of the Boat House Cafe, our team of volunteers, and our funders: Broxtowe Borough Council, Nottinghamshire County Council, NET Coronavirus Appeal Programme, Martin Lewis Emergency Fund, and individual donors. If you need help, please contact Janet Barnes, Development Officer / Volunteer: 07904 067160, janetmbarnes@ntlworld.com.

JB