Life is a cabaret, old friend

For many, the words ‘British Legion’ means a place that old soldiers can go to for a bit of company and a cheap pint. While that part may be true, the Legion in Beeston also means being entertained at a reasonable price. As four years ago, David Clifford, the former road manager of Nottingham’s Paper Lace and Bittersweet, together with his partner Anita opened the club for cabaret evenings. You can forget the end of the pier and novelty acts that made their way onto the stage in Peter Kay’s comedy series Phoenix Nights, David attempts and succeeds in attracting quality acts that people want to see for a very reasonable on the door price of £5, through his many contacts in the music industry.

David, with much help, charity and goodwill from people and companieshas transformed the inside of the nondescript building into a warm, welcoming space for everyone to enjoy a night out. Full Steam Ahead is a sponsor for instance. Some of the improvements have included LED lights for energy conservation, improved soundproofing to stop the neighbours complaining and stage lighting that originally came from Plessey.

The original use of the building hasn’t been lost, as there’s still an area dedicated to veterans of the Korean conflict and the bar is named Troopers, after the Paras. Although most members of the armed forces now tend to go to Chetwynd Barracks for their companionship.The Cabaret Club’s main audience are people in their 30s and 40s. There’s no age restriction either, so families are made most welcome.

“a warm, welcoming space for everyone to enjoy a night out.”

So what sort of entertainment is on offer? Tuesday evenings are set aside for line dancing, Wednesday’s are bingo nights, Beeston Camera Club meets there on a Thursday, while the cabaret nights are the first Friday in the month. There’s also music or comedy on a Saturday too. The venue can also be hired for private parties like weddings. And David has just opened a smaller room that can be used for meetings. Car parking isn’t a problem, as there’s enough space for 60 cars. The club currently has around 150 members and has a loyal following. David and Anita are always thinking of ways to improve the club, as they would hate to see it close.

For that first-hand experience, David invited me and my wife Gail along to see a show. The next cabaret night featured a Cliff Richard and Cher tribute bands. So I thought that would be a good one to choose. We arrived to a packed house who were enjoying the songs of Cliff and his backing band the Shadooz. Will Chandler does a fair impersonation of Harry Webb and tended to keep to a lot of his early back catalogue songs from the 1960s, so we were spared his latter tunes like ‘The Millennium Prayer’. Kelly Marie as Cher came on next, dressed in a similar costume that she appeared in the ‘Turn Back Time’ video. And no, it wasn’t ‘that’ Kelly Marie, who had a hit in 1980 with “Feels Like I’m In Love’.

At the break, a cheque presentation was made to Breast Cancer Care of £620. This was raised by the club, as one of its members Jayne Walker was diagnosed with the disease four years ago but is now free after going through 16 months of therapy. I had a quick chat with Jayne, who comes from Hucknall and she really wants to get the word out about the charity and its work and was genuinely pleased that the club had raised so much through a charity evening held there earlier this year.

There’s a real family atmosphere to the club as members have their birthdays celebrated. While we were there Cliff led the singing of Happy Birthday to one member.

With a change of costume and Cliff was on again for some more songs to entertain the happy audience. I wondered whether Cher would make another appearance, and she did. Well, Kelly did, but as herself. And was something of a rock goddess. She did an amazing version of Guns & Roses’ ‘Sweet Child of Mine’, which went down a storm with the audience.

So if you fancy having somewhere new to go, then why not give the Legion on Hallcroft a go. You never know, you might decide to become a member.

If you want to know more about the club and what it can offer, then give David a call on 07917 773003.

CF

 

I Am Beeston: William Charles Wheatley MBE

The name of William ‘Bill’ Wheatley may not be known to that many Beestonians, but to those that do, he means a great deal to them. My only time of meeting Bill was when I went to his house to chat with him as a subject for the ongoing ‘I Am Beeston’ project. Although I managed to take his photograph, for some long-forgotten reason the interview never took place. Now, of course, it is too late, as Bill sadly passed away in June. So as a way of recompense to him and his family, here is a potted history of his life and his many achievements.

William was born on 31st October 1929 on Moorbridge Road in Stapleford. He was the oldest of four children. Archie his father worked at Stanton Ironworks, while his mum Elsie was what is known as being in service, before becoming a wife, parent and homemaker. When Bill was eight, the family moved to Stanton-by-Dale. At 15, Bill got a job at the Ironworks as an apprentice electrician. National Service arrived when Bill reached 21.

Having knowledge of electrical matters, Bill served in the REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) where he instructed recruits on radar systems, at their base in Arborfield, Berkshire.

When he was demobbed in 1952, Bill specialised as an electrical engineer in mining and petrochemical sites. He became a member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers and a Chartered Engineer (C Eng MIE). He retired in 1992, after being an engineer for 50 years.

Life changed for Bill when he married his wife Cynthia Chapman in 1957. Bill met Beeston born Cynthia through his involvement in the local Methodist Church on Victory Road. They enjoyed 53 years of marriage, living in the same newly built bungalow on Trent Road in the Rylands before she died in July 2010. The couple had two daughters; Kathryn and Helena. Bill became involved in the church at a very young age, through firstly becoming a choirboy, then as a bell ringer. He loved the Methodist Church nearly as much as Cynthia. as he was involved in the church’s many activities such as teaching, leading the Sunday School, organising a boy’s club and the Christian Endeavour, which aimed at helping young people to find God. In 1963, Bill helped to create the Midland Camping Venture (MVC). This group provided week-long summer holidays for young people and gave them an opportunity to get involved in various outdoor activities. It proved to be very popular, as thousands of young people signed up for these camps. Bill also became a local preacher and looked after the Victory Road church.

But religion wasn’t the only thing that kept Bill busy. After seeing shire horses as a child, Bill found his love of all things nature. He learnt to recognise the calls of different birds and know lots about plants. He even sold rose bushes to Wheatcroft’s. In 1996, he and the late Keith Corbett started the Beeston Wildlife Group, which is very popular with wildlife enthusiasts, and became Chair, after Keith’s passing eleven years later. He was also heavily involved in Attenborough Nature Reserve and other local conservation projects.

His community work was formally recognised in 2008, when he took a trip to Buckingham Palace and received his MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for Voluntary Service to the Community in Beeston, Nottinghamshire’. Bill described this as one of his proudest moments. Then in 2012, Bill was given the Freedom of the Borough of Broxtowe. A fitting tribute to such a remarkable man.

 

Away from the church, nature conservation and helping others, Bill enjoyed reading, with his favourite novel being Laurie Lee’s ‘Cider With Rosie’, possibly whilst listening to some jazz music. He supported Derby County and was a fan of motorcycle racer Valentino Rossi. He also liked steam trains and a bit of plane spotting at RAF Waddington. Bill also spent the best part of 25 years learning Spanish, and at the age of 79, drove for several hours, so he could do some birdwatching.

An inspirational man by any standards. I went to his service of thanksgiving at Beeston Methodist Church on June 22nd. It was a sad, but joyous affair, with many people relating stories and fond memories about their connection with Bill. A lot were from the days of the MVC. This was followed up with a later meeting that day at the Attenborough Nature Centre.

With many thanks to Kathryn Randall
and Heidi Tarlton-Weatherall for the information and photographs.

CF

 

 

 

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