The Beestonian decade has clearly been a packed one. But it’s not all been about slinging together a magazine here and now: we’ve often branched off and done other things, like the aspirant multi-media empire we aspire to be. Here’s a top-ten:
- The Beestonian Film Club at Cafe Roya
In 2013 The Beestonian ran a special issue on the wealth of screen talent that the town has produced, with an accompanying article about the history of Beeston Cinema from our own buff on all such matters, Jimmy Notts. This was followed by a call to action: why doesn’t Beeston have a cinema? In the finest tradition of DIY, Roya from the eponymous restaurant got in touch: “I’ve got a space upstairs, and don’t open on a Monday. Would you like to use it?”
Tim Pollard, our ‘Bow Selector’ offered a projector, we printed up some programmes, Roya mixed up a special commemorative Bloody Mary, we selected some films, and the Beestonian Film Club at Cafe Roya was born.
We showed anything we found interesting, and brought in local filmmakers to show their work, and talk about their careers. A real coup was secured when Shane Meadows – my favourite director – offered to put on a retrospective. “Of course, come along!” we urged, and so he did, accompanied by Vicky McClure. The resulting evening, with a Q+A led by Guardian / Empire film critic Ali Catterall, bussed up from London; was a night I’ll never forget.
The Club carried on for a while, until other commitments meant it became unviable, save for a few special charity events. Still, for a short time, it was the most fun to be had in Beeston on a Monday; much good food was eaten; much fine wine (and Bloody Marys) swilled; and many great films watched. Now we have a proper cinema, one where the projector doesn’t get so warm we’d have to break films off for a few minutes to let it cool, and one when the curatorial policy is a little more professional than our method of finding a short on YouTube and luring the director over with promises of a free veggie meal.
2/3/4. I Am Beeston / We Are Beeston / We Are Community
It was 2016, and I was on holiday in Greece. A strange holiday: my wife was heavily pregnant, the European Championships were in full swing, and halfway through, the UK voted to leave the EU. Despite a vow not to check my phone while abroad, I couldn’t help have a sneaky peek, curious to what chaos had been unleashed in the homeland.
The first notification was for a message from a young Beestonian telling me how a friend of his had gone to a Beeston pub to watch an England match, shortly after the referendum result, and been racially abused. “Get back to India, you’re not welcome anymore” was amongst the insults hurled at him. This made me both angry and profoundly depressed: one of Beeston’s joys is its ease with multiculturalism. Industry and the university have long fed into a diverse, ever changing community, bringing with it multiple benefits.
Of course, there has always been the racists and the haters, but they’d tended to keep their bigotry silent. Now, as the cynical racist campaigns that met their apotheosis in the Leave vote, those once quiet, muttering racists felt emboldened to enact their hate into other’s faces.
This was not the Beeston I knew, this was the not the Beeston I loved. Lying on beaches as the holiday drew to a close, I tried to work out what we could do. Back in England, I took a camera and went out into the streets with a bit of card reading ‘I AM BEESTON’. The intention was to photograph Beestonians who’d made their home from elsewhere, and tell a little about their life, in their words. I wanted to introduce them to the town, and show that they had just as much a right to say ‘I Am Beeston’ as someone like myself, whose family has been here for generations.
This was met by a very positive response when it went online, and I was lucky enough to meet a wealth of great people. Then a friend (Roopam, from Beeston Nursery, herself born in India) explained it would be more effective to continue this project, but don’t select people solely for being from elsewhere. Celebrate all Beestonians – we are all Beeston.
This idea was taken up, and the project handed over to a professional photographer (our very own Community Editor, Christopher Frost) who bought in his own style and much better framed photos.
After we’d accumulated over a hundred and got them online, we realised we’d built a brilliant archive that deserved a wider audience than those who followed us online. And so, with funding from CP Walker and some sterling carpentry work from Peter Urbacz, we created six upright display boards with faces and stories of various Beestonians were mounted. These were displayed at Carnivals and other events, and currently stand proud in the window of the Beeston Showcase – the brilliant space that turns an empty shop into a creative treasure.
Inevitably, now the project is five years old it has become a piece of local history: the stories of people from years past. Also inevitably, and less welcome, some of the participants have since died. Where we can, we’ve asked the families of those who have passed if they want their loved ones image / words removed. No one – to date – has, preferring to see it as a fitting memorial.
The idea morphed and grew, and we designed a kit to inspire other communities to do similar and hopefully increase community cohesion and understanding. Unfortunately, this launched in the early months of 2020, shortly before the very idea of getting close enough to anyone to snap a pic became a virtual criminal offence. As the Covid crisis alleviates – and my wooden desk is firmly being touched as I type this – we hope to get this back on the road very soon.
5. The Beestonian Pub Survey
Beeston has GREAT pubs. That’s a given, and has been for decades. Yet there has been much change, and in 2012 we decided to map it by instituting the Grand Beeston Pub Survey…or as more cynical readers saw it, the Grand Beeston Pub Crawl.
Armed with notepads and leaving out alka-seltzer sitting pretty by our bedsides, a surprising proportion of the magazine staff embarked on the tough journalism that is going to pubs, drinking, and then assessing how good they were.
The subsequent article was a fine, if borderline incoherent piece, laying down a benchmark for future surveys. And so it was, in 2016 (like the Olympics, they take place every four years,this being the average length of a hangover takes to pass after you turn 40) we ventured out again. Our designer Dan tried to illustrate the journey: fine sketches swiftly descended in unrecognisable scrawls, before he fell asleep on a table.
We collated notes afterwards, and the general gist was: the state of pubs in Beeston was inversely proportionate to the state of us: the more pubs, the worse we became.
Covid put paid to our 2020 Survey, but perhaps in Spring 2022 we should venture out again, once we’ve sourced some spare livers and a gallon of milk-thistle.
6. The Beestonian Student Special
We’ve always recognised the contribution our neighbours at the University make to Beeston: while some University suburbs suffer from a polarised, never-the-twain town vs gown situation, Beeston’s relationship with the Uni works well. There are concerns, of course: the spread of Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) is one, and some are worried about us becoming more like Dunkirk and Lenton, which often feel like vast halls of residence.
Yet the value of the students using local businesses, bringing diversity and vibrancy, and the fact that the people supporting them – academics and support staff – make this their home means Beeston has been greatly spared the harsher realities of manufacturing moving away and chain stores moving out to focus on the internet. Fresh, bright minds are continually discovering Beeston, often accidentally when they leave the wrong gate at the Uni, and making this their home, setting up businesses, raising families and so on. It’s part of what we are.
So we thought it right, in our first year of existence, to put together an issue welcoming students. We also thought we’d make it alluring if we printed in colour. Which is great if you’re printing on decent paper, but back then we used the cheapest bond of paper available. The end result being the Student Issue was slightly damp,even a week after it had emerged from the printer. We handed some out at a wet Fresher’s Fair, and watched, distressed, as they seemed to dissolve in the students hands. If the Uni has any academics specialising in who wish to conduct a real-world experiment in fancy printing on a shoestring, hit me up and we’ll revisit the idea.
7.Buzzword: A poem for Beeston?
Well, why not? There are a fair few poets here already, and our town was once a must-visit destination for touring poets. Henry Normal, who had a stellar career with Steve Coogan as TV producers (The Royle Family; Gavin and Stacey etc) before returning to his first love as a travelling poet told us in 2018 “Beeston was spoken of in hushed tones: this place that could guarantee an audience of fans of verse”.
We decided to run a competition, and the standards of entry astounded us so much we farmed out the judges to actual proper poets. The winner – The Beekeeper, at the bottom of this post, was the deserved winner…perhaps it’s time to get it on a wall somewhere near the eponymous statue?
The Beestonian has always been a strong advocate for community consultation when it comes to Beeston’s development, so when news broke in 2014 of the post-tram future of the town – notably the huge patch of land where the bus and fire stations stood – we held public meetings that in turn inspired a group called Beeston Continuum to form. Consisting of representatives from the council, erstwhile Broxtowe MP Nick Palmer, the Civic Society’s Judy Sleath and many others, we persuaded the University of Nottingham Built Environment department to run a real-world project. Much of the subsequent work went into inspiring many innovations in Beeston: not least the cinema. While flawed, Continuum did set in train discussions around determining Beeston’s future (see Beeston Updated elsewhere in the issue), as well as teaching me another word with two consecutive U’s, significantly upping my Scrabble game.
9.The Beestonian Campaigns
There’s been a fair few of these: when we’ve noticed something grossly unfair happening we’ve tried to do what we can to stop it. These have been both doomed – trying to save the Town Hall from being sold off; declaring Beeston an independent country (well, it was worth a punt) to the successful: stopping Network Rail from closing down the Meadow Lane foot crossing; lobbying for businesses and individuals to be treated fairly when the tramworks hit town.
My personal favourite was when we heard a certain well known high street bookies had turfed a much loved local charity out of their premises so they could keep it empty while they waited for changes of legislation to allow them to stick more Fixed Odd Betting Terminals (aka FOBTs, aka the crack cocaine of gambling) in the place: effectively leaving a High Street premises empty, indefinitely.
We weren’t happy with that, so put together an article revealing the cynical plans. We contacted the bookies, warned them we were going to do the story…to which they reacted by withdrawing their lease, apologising and giving the charity a large sum as a way of saying sorry. This isn’t the way campaigns usually work, in case you’re under any illusion it is, but nevertheless welcome. Until we suddenly realised the story we’d already sent to print, which featured several different versions of the phrase ‘greedy bastards’, would have to be hastily amended…
10. Beestonian: The Movie
We’d been running the film club a few months (see above) and was therefore exposed to dozens of locally shot short films. It gave me an idea, which I pulled in then-editor Christian Fox to help develop: could we make a short about the weirdness of Beeston? Probably not, he replied, but nevertheless we watched far too many Jonathan Meades documentaries; looked up ‘psychogeography’ in the dictionary and wrote a script. Melvyn Rawlinson, a fantastic puppeteer-cum-film maker from Toton took the lead as director and Only Crew Member Who Had Any Technical Skillz Whatsoever (official title) and we began. The legendary Jamie Clayden,impeccably shod in a dark suit (and at one point, a loincloth) was sent around Beeston on a twisty tale of Beeston’s history, mythology,and future. Filmed during the tramworks, it’s become something of a heritage piece in itself.
Weirdest moment came when we were shooting on Chilwell Road and bumped into Shane Meadows. A brief conversation, and he agreed to shoot a scene with us. I hastily write the scene there and then, before finding myself in the unlikely and terrifying position of directing my favourite filmmaker. I even said ‘Cut! And that’s a wrap!’ after the end of the second take, and hoping the ground would open up and swallow me whole.And it did: a few moments later I toppled over a crash barrier and into one of the trenches cut into the tarmac for the tram works.
I have still not had a call to direct the next Star Wars.
pays much attention, receives little,
despite his years of witness to the bright parade –
babies, boffins, students, shoppers,
meeters, makers, workers, walkers –
the whole brilliant buzz of you.
He has learned the Art of the Chocolatier,
knows intimately the Land of Books,
the stories the clicks of your bicycle wheels
relate, the shush of sheltering leaves
above your fragile heads.
All hours, all weathers, he watches over you,
glad from time to time of your sweetest gifts –
red pom-poms for his heavy boots,
a blue balloon to dangle from his resting hand,
a traffic cone to warm his cold stone head –
keeps safe, perched on his knee,
someone’s drunken midnight daughter,
welcomes the small boy who stares
into his inscrutable eyes
to find his one and only need –
for you to stop, just once,
let go your busy work and settle here
beside him. Sit. Be still. Be stone.
by Cathy Grindrod