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

#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

Hope beyond hope

It’s been a decade since Hope House first opened on Boundary Road. Founder Nigel Adams tells us how the pandemic has proven a challenge, but one they’ve met head-on.

The laugh Nigel Adams gives before telling me what this year has been like for him contains just the right amount of sardonic cheer to almost make his reply redundant. “It’s been weird’ he says, his eyebrows letting me know this is quite the understatement.

It certainly has been a far from normal few months for the founder of Hope House, the food bank in Beeston North that has been a safety net – and a trampoline, which we will explain in due course – for the past decade. “We knew instantly we had to react fast. We decided to close half of the food banks in our network (Hope oversees 14 similar places across the county), as many of our volunteers had to shield, and we saw that a delivery service was the best way to help.”

Nigel opened Hope House ten years ago, perhaps uncoincidentally the same year a new austerity-inflicting government came to power. An engineer by trade, he had taken ‘a leap of faith’ to change careers to set up the charity, after helping the Parish Pantry, an under-resourced (“It was little more than a Portakabin, no water, and a sideboard to store the beans in”) soup kitchen operating out of Wollaton Road Methodist Church. “We had a vision to set up something more holistic on bigger premises and eventually got offered Boundary Road Reform Church he explains The CAB were signposting many people to us, and people presented themselves in all sorts of situations”. Seeing demand would only grow, he took up an offer to take over the disused Boundary Road Reform Church and registered as a Trussell Trust foodbank. Since then, it’s become a much-praised institution, that’s helped countless vulnerable individuals and families.

Yet food is merely one element of what they do there “Food is important, obviously. But we have to have a more holistic approach, so as we’ve grown we’ve put in place things to help people help themselves: help accessing the right benefits, help getting back into work. We have a literacy group, an IT tuition group. The church itself is a community cafe” Nigel is very much an adherent to the idea of addressing the cause, not just the symptom “We build confidence, we give people the tools to help themselves. Often they come here as a last resort – they’re literally starving – and while we can address the hunger immediately, we want to be able to get that person out of the situation that led to that hunger”.

It’s a much more rounded approach: while food banks are often seen as single-purpose – handing out food parcels – they often address a variety of needs It’s a myth I acknowledge I’d believed before talking to Nigel, who is quick to set me right “The longer you spend in a bad situation -debt, joblessness, whatever – the harder it is to come out of it. The sooner we can help, the better. Yet it’s often only desperation that means they seek help”.

That decade of experience proved invaluable when the pandemic hit and with it lockdown. “Just getting food was difficult” Nigel explains “Panic buying had emptied the shelves, so people who don’t have the financial means to do a big shop for staples were left struggling. We had to help people stay at home and stay safe just as much as to mitigate against poverty. Yet there was a tremendous outpouring of good, with organisations coming together to help. We worked with Himmah (Muslim charity based in Forest Fields) and other food banks as well as local authorities. Everyone pulled together, and did so well before central government got going”. Demand rocketed, yet with its offers of help “Post-apocalyptic films always show that society reacts to disaster with an ‘every man for themselves’ attitude” he laughs, and with more than a hint of pride says “the reality is people actually just want to help”. Such was the response, an answerphone service had to be added to the phone line “Otherwise our admin staff would have been overwhelmed…it’s a great instinct, to want to help”. In just one fortnight in May, Hope House distributed more food than it usually does in a year.

This help, alongside generous donations and grants from the speedily, set up Robin Hood Fund, DEFRA and others ensured that they could keep providing help across the region. They were able to not just hit a food in -food out equilibrium, but, in the manner of more conventional banks, store up some supplies. “We have a stockpile ready for winter. We tend to see much generosity over Christmas, but that falls back in January and February. By March, our shelves can be fairly empty: just as high energy bills hit households and topple them into debt. We have a buffer this year”.

Is he confident about the future, as the shadow of Covid falls over a long winter, with the wave of a mighty recession about to break on the shore? As the moratorium on evictions and the furlough scheme approach an end, things could get very grim.

“I’m an incurable optimist,” Nigel tells me. “Opportunities will arise, society will restructure” In no way should this be mistaken for complacency “We’re readying ourselves: strengthening the job clubs, working closely with the CAB, and so on”.

Such is the effectiveness of the social and signposting activity at Hope, the hardest part of lockdown is having to shut the cafe. Such is its worth as a safe space, a place for confidence, sociability and employability to rebuild that having closed for any period of time greatly slows down the way Hope works. Yes, they can keep people fed, and do that well. Getting them out of the rut that leads them to need help, not so much.

What can we, as caring helpful Beestonians do? “A simple thing to do, which would have such an effect if we were all to do it, is instead of just giving to a food bank, check your neighbour. See how they are. There is a poverty of companionship in this country, and we can make giant steps by just looking out for our community directly. It’s often much harder to check your neighbour than drop some pasta off with us, and could mean we wouldn’t see that person present to us”.

And if, by some miracle, everyone had enough to eat and Hope’s role became redundant “We need community. If we weren’t doing food we would be still providing that. Community is – like food – a basic need, but one much easier to overlook”

Picture credit: Nottinghamshire Live

MT

Students breaking the stereotype

It feels like every day there are student stories in the news at the moment. Students are flouting coronavirus restrictions and holding parties in their flats. Hiding party-goers in their basements, attempting to evade police detection and avoiding hefty fines. Unfortunately, this is an illusion that some people have subscribed to and believed. But from what I can tell, it’s the minority.

Across our university campuses in Nottingham, students are raising funds and collecting food for our city’s residents who are in a less fortunate position, offering a helping hand to their community.

Max Adler, who acts as the charity secretary for the University of Nottingham football team, helped organise an initiative that provided children with free packed lunches over the half-term break, inspired by footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign. After teaming up with St Paul’s Roman Catholic Church, the team helped distribute over 200 free lunches in Lenton, using money from their own pocket. Any leftover food was then donated to food banks to prevent anything from going to waste.

Max said: “While students get looked down on, so do members of sports clubs – they’re often known to be quite loud and noisy. Following the government’s decision not to provide free school meals for school children over the half-term holidays, the University of Nottingham football club wanted to help the community. We understand the difficult times we are living in and we firmly believe that no child should ever have to go hungry.”

Zain Gillani, the football team’s equality officer, also said: “Getting involved in the community and helping out as much as we can has been one of our main priorities every single year. Whenever we see we can help make a change, we go for it.”

Alongside this, the Portland building on the University Park campus has also seen an increase in donations. An initiative was launched at the University of Nottingham to help support local food banks. Partnering with the local food distribution company Foodprint, university students were encouraged to donate food outside the Spar shop in the Portland Building, which would then be distributed to food banks and homeless shelters across the city.

Foodprint itself was a company founded by University of Nottingham students in 2017 to battle the amount of food waste in a society that also tackles hunger. To them, the latter should not coexist with the former. They have worked throughout lockdown, selling surplus food in their Sneinton store to avoid it heading to a landfill.

As well as food donations, students at the University of Nottingham are also encouraged to donate the drinks from their meal deals if they don’t want them, and on Sundays, students can use up the remainder of their balance on their meal cards to spend on non-perishable food especially for the food bank donations. Whilst this operation was halted last semester as a result of cross-contamination fears amid coronavirus, workers at the Spar shop have noticed that food is once again being left for food bank donations so it is believed the initiative will start up again.

While sometimes students might be scapegoated, taking a further look can provide an insight into what students are really doing in lockdown, other than studying.

FP

The season of Noel and antibacterial gel

So as I write this dear readers we are all in the middle of Lockdown 2 and like most sequels it’s not nearly as good as the original. What did we expect though? We all saw the trailer back in March and we didn’t enjoy that either. This isn’t Terminator 2, it’s more like, 2 Lockdown: 2 furious.

At least in the original there was some poignant moments, the clapping for the keyworkers, the excitement of that first family zoom quiz, the satisfaction of taking that first Banana Bread out of the oven. It even had a cool catchphrase…..”stay safe” amazing, that’s like the new, “I’ll be back.”

Rumour has it that this second film is already way over budget and that’s just the millions the government have wasted on this track and trace app.

We were all impressed by the stunts in that first lockdown film too, they felt new and fresh. “Eat out to help out” was a good one. That bit with the big spike at the end was really impressive, even if we did all see it coming.

The first lockdown film, just captured the public’s imagination. It had a plot that united the country, then some bloke drove to Barnard Castle to check his eyesight and people suddenly lost interest. We all know it’s a movie, but that twist was too farfetched for even the most imaginative of us.

The government keeps dangling the idea of Christmas in our faces as some kind of bribery-bauble. I don’t think they get it, do they? I spent the entire month of April sitting on the sofa=eating pringles and watching the Tiger King back to back. I’ve had my Christmas. I don’t want Santa, I want freedom!

This is the only thing that makes this second lockdown bearable for me. In the first one my social media timeline was flooded by those annoying people. The one’s that looked at this whole crisis as a gift. You remember those ones, we had a name for them didn’t we? What was it now? Oh yes, I remember, “Bellends.”

They never stopped banging on about this moment as being the chance for them to finally finish that novel, grapple with a new language or learn that musical instrument.

What is wrong with them? Don’t they understand that no crisis in history has been improved by the addition of a trumpet?

As for finishing a novel, time isn’t the only barrier there is it? if it was just a question of having time on your hands then why aren’t we seeing serial killers bashing out endless literary works? Take Rose West for instance, twenty five years and not one book, not even a podcast!

Many of us during the first lockdown, myself included, realised that time wasn’t the issue, we just lacked motivation. Some days were bleak. The lowest point was a Tuesday in April. All I did that day was griddle some aubergines. An entire day and that was my only achievement. I remember I needed a wee, but I decided to hold it in because I thought it would be nice to have some plans for the day after.

I get why people find these lockdowns frustrating, it feels like we’ve all been grounded by Boris Johnson.

If the R-Rate goes up again he’ll probably take our games consoles off us and send us to bed with no tea.

But this is the first time in history where staying in your house and doing nothing is seen as being heroic. You’re saving the NHS one boxset at a time. In the war you used to hear things like:

“It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country!”

Well now it’s:

“Do your bit, be a lazy sh*t”

When this is over, we might all get medals, but not a George cross, just a gold brooch in the shape of a pizza slice.

Lockdown 2 isn’t about personal goals, bettering oneself or getting fit. It’s cold, it’s dark, we’re all a bit tired. This is a month of letting yourself go, sticking the elasticated sweatpants back on and trying to get gout by 1 st December.

The fact remains though, that Christmas is going to be very different this year.

Firstly Christmas shopping isn’t going to be the same. The traditional Black Friday sales at the end of November will have to be done online. It’s good that we can still get those discounts but I will miss the adrenaline rush of having to wrestle another man to the ground just to get my hands on a cheap coffee maker.

It means more people shopping online. This is going to make Jeff Bezos from Amazon the richest man in history. By January he’ll have more money than Bruce Wayne. Can you imagine what his tax bill will be though? Of course you can, It’ll probably be nothing, same as last year.

It’s everyone’s first Christmas during a global pandemic, and I think there will be some key differences. The first one concerns Santa himself. What if he has to self-isolate? Are his reindeer in his support bubble? These are worrying times. Kids can still visit him, either over Zoom, direct to the North Pole, (if his broadband is up to it), or in person, with Santa handing over a freshly sanitised present on the end of a fishing rod.

He won’t be the first person who’s had to change their business practices this year. In an increasingly cashless society, 2021 will be the first year that the Tooth Fairy brings in a chip and pin device.

Everyone is worried about how the new regulations will impact upon the plans people have for Christmas. It’s going to affect us, especially if the rule of six is still in place on Christmas day. Only six people will allowed around the table and that’s a problem. Myself, Jemma and the two kids are in obviously, but what about the grandparents?

We’ve decided the best way to so this is to have a “Royal Rumble” style battle between them all for the two remaining seats at the table. I put money on my mum. She may be seventy but she fights dirty. She does Pilates, she’s spent hours lifting a Dyson and wringing out dishcloths, she’s wiry and lethal.

These regulations are also the perfect way to get rid of those family members who always ruin your Christmas! All those snide comments, those crap presents, now it’s payback time!

You could eliminate them like a talent show. Sit them down one by one in the kitchen.

“Uncle Alan, we’ve come to our decision, it’s been very difficult, you did very well, we all liked you and your attempts at humour…but I’m afraid to say, it’s a no!”

Feel free to come back and audition next December!

I’ve just found out that my four year old’s school Nativity play is happening without an audience this year. You can’t see my face but if you could, you would see how utterly devastated I am. I’ve decided to try and still recreate that experience at home though. My wife and I will sit for three hours on tiny chairs with our backs to a radiator, reading lines from a script at a breathtakingly slow pace at a volume practically inaudible to the human ear.

Something we’ve all got on our Christmas lists this year is that vaccine. This is our only hope for a route back to normality again.

The recent news has been encouraging. It’s a full on race now, with Oxford, Pfizer and the Russian one, Sputnik 5 all competing to be the first to get the doses ready for the population.

The Russian one is my favourite so far, Sputnik 5. That sounds like one up from Cillit Bang. Putin was so confident that is was safe, that way back in May he tested the first batch on his own children. What a hero, I can’t even get my two to try Broccoli.

In order for it to be effective we have to persuade the anti-vax lot to take it, which isn’t going to be easy.

“But I don’t know what’s in it, I don’t trust it!”

“Fine, Susan, I’ll have your share, you go and try your luck with some herbal tea and some ginseng from Holland and Barret.”

The conspiracy theorists claim that Bill Gates is trying to inject a microchip into all our brains, to track our every moment. I don’t mean to sound dismissive of that but haven’t you already have got something in your pocket that can do that? Your mobile phone.

“Why would you think that Microsoft would be interested in planting a chip in your head Alan?”

“All you’ve done today is read the paper, scratch your nut sack and make a cheese toastie, no one is putting that explosive information into a spreadsheet mate.”

A lot of people have said they don’t want to take the vaccine as they don’t want to put something they don’t trust inside their bodies. It’s funny, a lot of these people probably spent their teenage years experimenting with any chemicals they could get their hands on. Back in the nineties they would willingly hoover up drain cleaner off a cistern in Yates Wine Lodge every Saturday night, but now all of a sudden their body is a temple?

The vaccine will have to be stored at temperatures four times lower than the average freezer. Scientists haven’t decided on the location yet, but the other day I was in Iceland and I noticed that they had cleared a space next to the oven chips, so it looks like it could be sorted.

The vaccine will have to be stored at temperatures four times lower than the average freezer. Scientists haven’t decided on the location yet, but the other day I was in Iceland and I noticed that they had cleared a space next to the oven chips, so it looks like it could be sorted.

I haven’t seen one trailer, or music video. The vaccine hasn’t even got its own twitter account yet?

Surely this is the easiest PR job in the world, isn’t it?

I’ll give them the slogan now, “If you want to go outside again mate? Then stick this in your arm”, job done.

But whatever you do this Christmas, whoever you’re with, just remember that you’ve made it through, you’re still here and you’re doing brilliantly. So kick back, relax, take the pressure off, after the year we’ve all had, we totally deserve it.

Merry Christmas everyone and a happy new year.

Let’s be honest it can’t be worse than the last one, can it?

SB

www.scottbennettcomedy.co.uk

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Jamie Ireland: owner, The Cycle Inn

There are few people who will one day look back at 2020 and not see it changed them in some way. We wanted to find out what lockdown (the first one) was like for a variety of the population, and how they have emerged as different people. One phrase that was said in nearly every interview was “the new normal”. That means many things to many people, as we discovered:

“Our lockdown? One day! After the first lockdown announcement when Boris said “that’s it, everyone’s got to stay at home” we closed, but that same evening the list of the services that could stay open was produced, and third on the list was cycle shops.

“I came in the next day and was faced with a High Road with no people walking up and down it – I thought ‘how long can I stay open with no money coming in?”- but by the end of the day I was running around like a headless chicken.

“A lot of people needed to still get to the QMC to work, and with restricted public transport there was a surge of people needing bikes to get about. Then people were permitted one form of exercise, and if you don’t have a dog to walk, getting on a bike was suddenly a legitimate reason to escape for that hour.

“Lockdown showed (people) the freedom bikes gave them.”

“Within the first week people were rushing to buy bikes – we sold 20 bikes in a week, that’s usually a month’s worth – the whole UK bike trade has gone through the roof.

“There aren’t any 2020 models left in the country, pretty much all the 2021 stock has been pre-sold. It’s changed individuals and families -my neighbours never cycled much, now they’re a family of dedicated cyclists. Lockdown showed them the freedom bikes gave them.

“The ball is still rolling: people are reluctant to use public transport to get to work, to get to school. I’ve never seen such an epic boom – I’m working 6 or 7 days a week, 12 hours a day to keep Beeston rolling. But it’s great to see so many discover cycling – the more converts the better!”

MT