I love this time of year, the early nights, the smell of bonfires and fireworks, brown and gold falling leaves, the flickering reflections of car rear lights glistening on shiny wet streets and family gatherings with food, laughter, and friends. It’s autumn, cold and although sometimes rainy, full of promise – warm drinks, dark beer, snuggling under big fluffy blankets and best of all getting my young daughter Scarlett to bed on time, because it’s not blazingly bright and still hot outside.

Also for me and a lot of other people it’s been time for the annual Nottingham CAMRA Robin Hood Beer and Cider Festival, which as you may imagine is one of the highlights of my year. It used to be held at Nottingham Castle, but when that closed for renovations it moved briefly to the Motorpoint arena before settling at Trent Bridge Cricket Ground.

It’s a great venue – perhaps not quite as evocative or romantic as the Castle with its marquee tents, drifting music from the bandstand and strings of fairylights, but it’s certainly excellent for ease of setup, accessibility and facilities. It has a great atmosphere of its own and really is going from strength to strength.

One of the best things about the festival though are the people who attend it (as well as the brilliant organisers, staff, volunteers and vendors of course). The visitors aren’t what you might think of as a typical cartoon flat-capped beer-drinker from days gone by, but a huge and wide variety of men and women of all ages and from all walks of life, all hopefully (at least that’s the intention) enjoying a great variety of food, drink, music and good company.

That’s what makes it such a great event for me, as rather excellently I get asked there annually as Nottingham’s Official Robin Hood to mix, mingle, have photos, talk… and yes, have a few beers. I even get to judge the cider competition too – it’s a tough life!

This year amongst many great conversations about anything and everything – history, politics, the weather, archery, many jokes and an entirely understandable bit of mickey-taking (hey, I’m a middle-aged man with a dressing up box, what do I expect? I really should get a proper job one day)  I found out that a couple I see there regularly had literally just agreed to get married. They were ridiculously happy, as I am for them too.

I discovered people than you’d imagine have travelled vast distances specifically to visit the festival, that almost no-one has the same tastes in beers and (rather excitingly) that several readers of THE BEESTONIAN were there too!

I had a couple of very nice chats with some lovely people who came up to say they enjoyed reading this August (no pun intended) publication and it was during these chats I realised we don’t really get much feedback about what we write – or at least if bagfuls of praise, complaints, offers of freebies or marriage proposals turn up at Beestonian Towers (wherever that is) I never get to hear about them. (Although for all I know all the other contributors might be driving around in free Aston Martins but haven’t bothered mentioning it to me*).

So I was doubly delighted last weekend when I was up at Nottingham Castle (for ‘International Robin Hood Day’, no less – get me!) meeting loads of lovely families, couples and other visitors from all over the country and abroad. One of the best conversations I had was with a lovely couple with the smiliest and happiest little boy ever who also said they read The Beestonian (well, the couple did, I imagine it may be a little while longer before it’s all three of them). It turns out they absolutely love Beeston and had returned here from London because it feels like home, has a great sense of community and is a wonderful place to raise their son – how cool is that? <Waves at them all, if they’re reading>

And whilst I’m waving at people who make Beeston the place it is – “hello” to the wonderful Linda in Hallams (another great and unique local company) who always keeps a copy of The Beestonian for my brilliant mother-in-law Joy – so to turn this around now I know from personal experience there are people out there who enjoy what we do (which is both humbling and wonderful) can I say a big and heartfelt “thank you” to all of you for reading, stocking and sharing it.

Happy Autumn!

*In the spirit of full disclosure as a massive James Bond fan I was delighted to be asked the other day if I wanted a press ticket to an exhibition by James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan to be held not in London but in nearby Long Eaton so I could write about it here.   I was bemused and mildly incredulous but very excited and really looking forward to attending (and perhaps even meeting 007 himself) right up until Mr Brosnan himself said it was all untrue, denied it was ever going to happen and issued a Cease and Desist letter to the gallery. Ah well, *definitely* no free Aston Martins, then!