Bow Selector: CoHab-19

Over the centuries and in countless stories, movies, comics, books and performances Robin Hood has fought and beaten a wide variety of foes from the Sheriff of Nottingham and Guy of Gisborne to an entire Norman invasion fleet (yes, I’m looking at you Russell Crowe) and even a fire-breathing dragon from another reality (in ‘Beyond Sherwood Forest’ a truly terrible TV movie from 2009. Just… don’t).

Rarely has Robin been bested by anything except at the end of his story when old and wounded his final act is to shoot one last arrow before asking to be buried where it had landed (which rather embarrassingly turned out to be on a top of a van travelling up the A614).

But last year the annual Robin Hood Pageant, set to take place for the first time at Newstead Abbey as the Castle was (and still is) being redeveloped, had to be cancelled due to desperately bad weather – and this year (still at Newstead but having been rebranded to the much catchier ROBIN HOOD LIVE) it was thwarted by a foe that again can’t be beaten by swordplay, arrows, tricks or quips; Coronavirus.

So what’s an outlaw to do amidst a global pandemic (why do people always say ‘global’ pandemic when that’s what a pandemic is, by definition…)? With no spectacular show, St. Patrick’s or St. George’s Day parades to appear at I’m doing my bit along with most other people staying at home, keeping away from everyone else and looking with frank admiration at the *real* heroes we have in our midst; the NHS workers, bus and delivery drivers, shop staff, police and fire officers and all those other essential personnel who are risking themselves to keep us safe.

I said as much in a short video I made for the good folks at NOTTS TV (which I’m told then turned up on the BBC too), me dressed in my Robin Hood kit and sporting my snazzy badger-like lockdown beard, imploring everyone to ‘be like Robin’ and think of the vulnerable and endangered. But having done that… what?

Spending time with my six-year-old daughter Scarlett, for whom this is an exciting adventure filled with bouncing around, having fun, messing up the house and so much more, of course!

Back in the day, when I was a lad and all this was fields (or industry and shoe shops, actually) we had ‘the winter of discontent’ and all I remember about it was things being a bit grim and power cuts. I definitely remember huddling in the dark around a candle – and when it got really bad we used to light it.

So I wonder what Scarlett will make of all of this – at the moment it’s a time when she’s learned to ride her bike and take up roller skating and pogo-sticking (thankfully not simultaneously), enjoyed building a whole village in the ‘computer Lego’ game Minecraft and written, drawn, sung and watched ‘Captain Underpants’ to her heart’s content. I genuinely hope, even though she’s missing her friends and family a lot, that she’ll remember this as a really happy time.

We didn’t have videocalls or social media in 1978-9 either, or streaming movies – but I do recall my having had a lot more energy then too. Maybe that’s because I was 14 then and, as it is now for Scarlett at 6 the world was still a place of wonder and love, even if nowadays Scarlett does ask some serious questions about the virus and wants to know when it’ll be over. Sadly I can’t tell her that, but I do know when she finally goes back to her beloved Round Hill school I’m going to both miss her incredibly – and demand a massive pay rise for all the staff!

In the meantime stay safe, sane and well – and if you can’t stay sane just remember that in the immortal words of Meatloaf, ‘two out of three ain’t bad!’

TP

Libtard nonsense

The theme this issue is ‘community’ they said, and that sounded great, until I began wondering exactly what the word means. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the actual definition, my voclab… er… vocable… list of words I know… is pretty good. But what is the Beeston community? Is there one?

Yes, obviously. But is there just one? No, just as obviously.

As I walk down Wollaton Road taking my daughter to school of a morning I see a huge number of people I don’t ever really interact with or know about – people who have different lifestyles, opinions, politics and even languages to mine.

I have my own routines, my circle of friends, people I work with or share hobbies with but how much interaction do I have with these strangers, what do we share?

“We live in the same town, are all affected by some of the same events…”

And yet we do share something, even with people we don’t know. We live in the same town, are all affected by some of the same events (as I type the increase in cases of coronavirus is headline news, who knows what it will be like by the time this is published). But tramworks, roadworks, shop closures, cinema building as well as those perennial favourites of shoe shops and public loos probably affect the majority of us in some way or another.

And you, dear reader – I may not know you personally but I imagine there’s a distinct ‘Beestonian’ community too, people who are interested, involved and have a real passion and pride in our town. You may not all agree on the same things of course – as I’ve mentioned previously our street art certainly divides people as does the number of student residences for instance, but I’m quite sure most readers could happily share a conversation and thoughts on our experiences and lives here.

And I like that – a lot. As a middle-aged bloke who’s lived in Beeston almost all of my life (I’ve had brief periods living in Nottingham itself, London and – for a short time – a castle in Cheshire) I love being part of something bigger than just my experience or limited worldview. The people who make up Beeston now come from the town itself and sometimes much further afield, including our annual influx of students too. We have a wide variety of restaurants – Persian, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Chinese, Italian, Indian – pretty much global – run by people who know and have a passion for their own cultures and cuisines but a desire to share that with others to add to the diversity, choice, interest and variety on our doorsteps.

And yet there are also those who don’t have as wide a choice as the majority; it would be a particularly inattentive person who hadn’t noticed the increase in the number of people sleeping rough or at least living on the streets in Beeston. There has been some robust discussion on the Beeston Updated Facebook group about the reasons and causes of this – as I mentioned, politics sometimes differ – but from the incredibly expensive houses of Beeston Fields Drive to sleeping bags on the High Road it can certainly be said almost all human life is here.

As a man who plays at being the country’s most famous outlaw, famed for a rather proactive redistribution of wealth, I’m not advocating anything as radical but I hope we can all realise we’re part of something bigger, to see outside our own narrow frame of reference and help each other – even those we don’t know – to live and thrive in our great town, one I truly believe is one of the best and most welcoming in the country.

TP

Bow Selector: A look back on 2019…

As I write this I’m dressed in a silly costume, representing a world-famous character who is renowned for doing the right thing and being very generous – although this time I’m not Robin Hood, today I’m being Santa at a sold-out Nottingham Albert Hall for two performances of their annual Kidsophonic Christmas Concerts which combine festive music played by a brilliant orchestra with games, poems, songs and carols and of course a visit at the end from the portly philanthropist.

It’s a lovely event and for my five-year-old daughter Scarlett (six on Boxing Day) it’ll be her fourth time of attending – and each year I wonder if this is the year she’ll spot her favourite Santa (who mysteriously knows so much about her) is in fact me! Maybe this year will be the one, I don’t know…

But whilst Christmas is a time for tradition, the New Year, also rushing towards us apace, is a time for reflection and change. This year has been one of huge change for all of us and I don’t expect 2020 will be any less tumultuous. Obviously things have been ‘interesting’ this year for any number of reasons – national and international politics for a start – but don’t worry, I’m certainly not going to dredge all that up again. One of the other hats I wear (aside from Robin Hood and Santa hats) is that of an admin for the wonderful ‘Beeston Updated’ Facebook group and it’s been fun (I think that’s the word) trying to keep the place as apolitical or neutral as possible whilst a storm of divisiveness crashes around us all.

But things have changed here in Beeston too this year – some of it sad, with some businesses closing their doors for the final time. Personally, I was gutted to see the wonderful games, comic store and social hub Chimera disappear from the Broadgate end of the High Road and of course, The White Lion also shut.

There are good news stories too though, farewell Table 8, hello Yak and Yeti for instance. And Andy and Heather from Chimera are keeping the legacy of their store and community alive by running ‘pop up’ gaming sessions in other local venues like our splendid micropub the Pottle (near Sainsbury’s) which keeps the social and retail aspect alive and fresh without the worrying cost of keeping a physical shop going; it’s a great way to utilise and promote other local venues too. The White Lion looks to have a new team coming in soon and there are even vague rumours that the redevelopment of the dead land by the tram station might actually come to something!

“The enthusiasm I see from the people of Beeston is incredibly heartening…”

The downside of that is that the Beeston Beach may not reappear again – much to Scarlett’s dismay as she loves it – and sadly the splendid mural of Robin Hood will have to be demolished (but I’m happy to stand in its place for hours on end for a very reasonable fee, I promise). The vibrant art scene in Beeston is another wonderful and unique ongoing point of interest – again on Beeston Updated there were a number of views expressed including some folks who thought (and presumably still think) that such public art does nothing for the town; I must admit I side with those who think it’s beautiful and enhances the place.

I know we’re all still waiting for the arrival of a shoe-megastore and some proper public toilets but the enthusiasm I see from the people of Beeston is incredibly heartening and gives me some real hope for 2020.

And now I’ve written all of this I can reveal that there was another change this year – at the end of the concert, just as she’d had her photo taken with Santa in his sleigh Scarlett turned round, hugged me and whispered in my ear “I love you Daddy.”

It’s the end of an era – but also the start of another.

Happy New Year!

TP

Bow Selector: Tim Pollard

One of the things I love about Beeston is how it changes – for instance when I was younger you couldn’t move for shoe shops but now they’re almost all gone, replaced by a proliferation of hairdressers, charity shops and vaping emporiums.

One of the shops I miss the most is Bodens, towards the Chilwell end of town; a now long-gone fabled place full of second-hand furniture, pictures, nick-nacks, books and sculptures which stretched back seemingly in time as well as space. It was, to my young eyes, the kind of place you’d see in a Hammer Horror film (or an Amicus or Tyburn Production for you 1960’s horror movie aficionados), run by Peter Cushing and with a dreadful story to each piece – and a dreadful fate for whoever bought something.

Thankfully it wasn’t some repository of cursed horror though – I used to buy loads of small items and still have the fabulous reproduction Chinese sideboard I fell in love with so many years ago. But it was my lovely mother-in-law Joy who found what is to me the most interesting item I’ve ever seen from there (and that’s no mean claim); a ’Roll of Honour’ from the First World War commemorating local men, men from The Angular-Hole Drilling & Manufacturing Co. Ltd. who had left to serve their country during that great conflict – and although we’re now approaching Halloween and all the faux-terror that it commercialises, I wanted to share this historic part of Beeston’s past with you as we also move once more towards Remembrance Day.

“It’s very sobering to look up the names on the Angular Hole list to see how many of these young men lost their lives a century or more ago.”

According to David Hallam’s very informative ‘Exploring Beeston’s History’ website I found the company was founded before 1913 by one John W Gaze and was initially situated on Station Road but eventually moved to Dovecote Lane where ‘it continued for many years’ and was one of the many industrial/manufacturing companies our town had at the time.

The roll itself is very telling – it lists sixteen employees who joined up; thankfully it’s not a casualty list, although of course not all of the men returned home. One, Private Frank Willett, is listed as having joined the RAF so that must date it to after its creation in April 1918.

The names listed are: Driver Richard Sims Army Service Corps; Private Joseph Hardy 7th Battalion Sherwood Foresters; Private Joseph Hunt 1st Lincolnshire; Private Clarence Hazzeldine King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry; Private Jack Athin 1st Leicestershire; A.B. Alfred Brewster HMS Hindustani; Private Thomas Sweeney 3rd Sherwood; Private Ernest Orchard King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry; Private Amos Martin R S Fusiliers; Private Albert Walker 2/8 Battalion Sherwood Foresters; Driver Cecil F Smith Royal Fleet Auxiliary; Private Herbert Baker Notts and Derby; Private George Keelley Notts and Derby; Private William Hardwick Notts and Derby; Private Frank Willett RAF; Private Chas H Beales Royal Engineers.

What happened to these young men? Turning again to the invaluable resource that is the ‘Exploring Beeston’s History’ site you can find a very detailed Roll of Honour there too which lists every person from Beeston killed in The Great War. It’s very sobering to look up the names on the Angular Hole list to see how many of these young men lost their lives a century or more ago. It’s also interesting to see that some of them changed regiments too – for instance, Private 28027 Ernest Orchard who joined the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry but transferred to the 2nd Battalion Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby) Regiment. Sadly Private Orchard died in the battle of Ypres on Wednesday, 9th August 1915 aged just 18 and has no known grave. Spend some time yourself looking at some of the others right here

The Angular Hole Drilling Role of Honour is a lovely, poignant and unique piece of real Beeston history that now hangs with pride in my house (right next to that Chinese sideboard) – and if anyone knows any more about the company or any of the men listed I’d be fascinated to hear from you…

Robin Hood and The Old Peoples Home For Four Year Olds

There was time when I was known as ‘Nottingham’s official Robin Hood’ (a truly wonderful job I still do, rumours of my retirement being substantially in error) but these days I’m much more likely to be known as ‘Scarlett’s Dad from that Channel 4 documentary series’ – and actually that’s quite fun.

‘Old People’s Home for Four Year Olds’ is a documentary series that was filmed in Nottingham (at the Lark Hill Retirement Village in Clifton) and featured ten residents from there aged between 86 and 102 and aimed to see if introducing them to a group of ten children aged 3-4 over a protracted period would have any effect on their mental and physical well-being.

I first found out about the project (or ‘experiment’ as the producers preferred to call it) when the wonderful Roopam Carroll from the excellent Beeston Nursery (which Scarlett was attending at the time) contacted me to ask if I might be interested in her taking part, as the producers were approaching several local nurseries looking for potential participants.

As you may know I lost my beloved wife Sally to breast cancer last year and I was (and still am) a bit of a mess because of it – suddenly becoming a 54-year old widower with a 4-year old after months of caring for Sal at home left me dazed, confused and directionless, so it seemed like a fine idea to suggest Scarlett might take part as it would provide her with a new adventure, new friends and a unique experience I certainly couldn’t give her myself.

Apparently a couple of thousand children applied (well, their parents did) and there was a long process of careful selection and diligence on behalf of the producers – who I can’t praise enough for their compassion, caring and consideration for all the children – and eventually two were chosen from Beeston, Scarlett and Phoenix (who if you’ve seen the documentary were both featured very heavily in the first episode).

We had film crews visit us at home to film background interviews and a child psychologist come to discuss what the ‘experiment’ might entail and whether Scarlett and I were genuinely happy to be involved and if it was right for us. Of course one of the questions involved how it would be if one of the older participants passed away during the course of the show (an unlikely but potential happening) and how that might affect Scarlett having lost her Mum so recently. Obviously I hoped it wouldn’t (and thankfully didn’t) happen – but if it did I thought it was more likely to ‘normalise’ Scarlett’s experience than anything else.

And then we got to meet the older residents, and they were an utter delight! They were (and are), as with the children, a very diverse group, some with health issues, some very shy, some full of laughter – but all curious, excited and not quite knowing what to expect.

102-year old Sylvia, who turned out to be a real star onscreen, was a joy – when I met her she told me how she enjoys visiting Lark Hill’s bar in the evening and always walks her much younger friend home to make sure she gets home safely! I asked her why she enjoyed the bar so much and she told me there were lots of widowers she could get a kiss from… and when I mentioned I was a widower she coyly pulled her long skirt up to show me a bit of ankle and winked at me!

When the children met the residents too as part of the filming it was just as wonderful, Scarlett made a bee-line to 86-year old Beryl who she instantly became inseparable from – and even though filming has now finished we still see regularly both at Lark Hill (when all the parents, children and residents have a lunch and catch up together) and on our own with Sal’s Mum Joy for Sunday lunches. It’s like having a new family for us all, and is just joyous.

There’s a moment in episode one where the children are asked to write party invitations for their mummies and daddies and Scarlett turns around and says, very matter of factly, that ‘my Mummy has died so I’ll make it for Daddy and Gran-Gran’. It’s shocking in its simplicity and openness and (as of writing) that clip, put online by Channel 4, has had nearly six million views. But for me, it’s the heart of why I wanted Scarlett to participate in the programme – because she’s been through such a lot but can still speak of losing Sal whilst at the same time knowing how much Sal loved her – and would be so proud of her.

I’ve never really been a fan of ‘reality’ TV but this show helped everyone involved and judging from the press and media attention it gained and the comments both online and personally I’ve see too has helped and affected a lot of other people too, both in starting a discussion about how we shouldn’t segregate the old and the young because they both benefit hugely from such interaction, but also how we talk about the loss of a parent to children.

This will be the second Christmas we’ve had without Sal now and whilst I’m still hugely bereft and lonely I’m deeply glad we’ll be surrounded by family and friends – but also a new extended family too, the promise of those bonds continuing for many years to come and lessons Scarlett and the rest of the children can carry with them for the rest of their lives. I’m certain #SalWouldApprove.

Oh – and I’m not supposed to say anything – but watch out for the Christmas special, we finished filming it last week! J

Happy Christmas!

Bow Selector: Vigilante Robin Hood?

As I type, slightly over deadline and basking in one of the hottest summers in a great many years things are changing in the world of Robin Hood.

Yesterday and over last weekend I had the fun of welcoming around 9000 people from Nottinghamshire and all over the world to Nottingham Castle before it finally closed its doors for at least two years for much needed repairs and renovations intended to turn it into the world-class tourist attraction, museum and art gallery that we deserve.

But that means I’ll be needed there a lot less whilst the work is ongoing, so what to do? Luckily I’ll still be Robin Hood-ing all over the place – civic events, beer festivals, parades and for whoever else books me – but a few people have jokingly suggested I use my spare time (as if I actually have any, looking after my four-year old daughter, Scarlett) protecting Beeston from the scourge of petty crime that’s becoming a depressingly regular topic on Facebook (and other social media) groups like ‘Beeston Updated’.

“I’m not sure vigilantism is the way ahead…”

I say ‘petty crime’, but if some scrote nicks your beloved bike from the tram stop, from your own garden or outside Tesco, your shed is broken into or you have your purse snatched on the High Road it’s anything but petty and almost impossible not to take personally. All the arguments are well rehearsed online – take care, increase police funding, buy better bike locks (etc.) but there’s certainly a perception, albeit generally expressed in very vague terms that ‘something needs to be done’ – hence some people suggesting (although obviously jokingly) that Robin Hood starts to protect Beeston.

Now I know a few years ago Wollaton Hall was used as Bruce Wayne’s ‘Wayne Manor’ in the film ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and that Batman and Robin are good friends (c’mon, Batman and Robin. Oh, suit yourselves…) but I’m not sure vigilantism is the way ahead – it turns out that even if I caught someone pilfering my bike (not that I have one) I’m not actually allowed to wave a sword at them, much less shoot an arrow in their direction.

And of course that’s right, proper and sensible (not the least because my real life archery skills are nowhere near as good as our legendary hero) and I’ve spent about twenty-five years convincing the local police, CPO’s etc. that I’m actually, all appearances to the contrary, a sensible law-abiding chap and not a weapon-wielding maniac.

Remember the appalling riots in Nottingham a few years ago? The day after I had a gig at the Council House and found myself walking across the Old Market Square, armed to the teeth under the full glare of literally van loads of police from Yorkshire who’d been bussed into stop any further violence. Luckily it turns out waving, smiling and being friendly leads to a lot less confrontation – and I know Sal and I were positively vetted to meet the Queen, Will and Kate on their 2012 visit so I’m not sure a career change to Beeston’s Dark Knight would be that sensible as I’m pretty sure they know who I am. Well, that and I’m quite lazy, obviously.

So what do we do in Beeston? Do we just resign ourselves to lost bikes, damaged sheds an a perception of increasing fear of lawlessness? I hope not. I hope we can all pull together as a community and keep an eye out for each other and our property. Be aware. Help those who need it because (and I say this with a massive amount of irony) we can’t let the outlaws get away with it.

Tim Pollard
Nottingham’s Official Robin Hood

The Beestonian is: Tim Pollard – Robin Hood

Just to be clear, I don’t actually think I’m Robin Hood.

My heroes are James Bond or Captain Kirk but bizarrely Robin Hooding is genuinely my full time job – although it’s more fun than work, meeting incredible people and VIP’s, guiding tours, supporting charities and doing lots of very silly things!

I married my beloved and brilliant wife (and Maid Marian) Dr Sally Pollard in September 2016 but heartbreakingly she died of breast cancer in June 2017, aged just 39 – so these days I concentrate more on bringing up our beautiful four-year old daughter Scarlett than pretending to be a hero – except in Scarlett’s eyes, and now that’s what really counts.

Bow Selecta

If I haven’t overstepped my deadline (something I do on a regular basis) this issue should be out in early December, just in time for the Beeston Christmas Lights Switch-on.

Almost every end of year magazine issue is full of ‘Round ups of the past year’ or ‘What will next year be like?’ articles and it would be wrong of The Beestonian to avoid such traditions, of course – but as I’ve written about my traumatic past year in previous issues and the coming year will be pretty trying too, let’s talk Christmassy stuff.

Robin Hood-ing for me is a very seasonal business, with summer tours at the Castle ending around the time of the October Robin Hood Beer Festival, yet again a splendid event albeit very moving as four local breweries had all made beers named in honour of my late wife Sal; the Robin Hood Pageant a week afterwards (except this year as it was cancelled due to extreme weather);  November’s MySight Nottingham Charity Firewalk which I’ve done annually for eight years now and the Nottingham Christmas Lights Switch on (which I confess this year I missed for the first time in about as long as I was at a prog rock festival in Wales).

But I do get to be Robin at several festive tours of the Castle caves, lots of tourism promotions and some banquets – and even get to change my costume colour from green to red (like some abstract mythical traffic light) as I’m also going to be Santa at the Albert Hall for the second year running, which is great fun.

And this year I’m going to Lapland to meet the real Santa.

In fact by the time you read this I’ll have been and come back, and I have no doubt it’s going to be very moving and emotional, as I have the huge honour to be travelling with a group of very poorly children and their families on a plane chartered by the ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ charity, a superb Nottingham-based organisation who specialise in making very sick children’s dreams come true. A few years ago when I was doing medieval banquets at Center Parcs we did some shows for them and they were astounding – the joy, laughter and sheer fun we had just blew away our concerns it would be a sad or gloomy time, and I can only imagine the happiness on everyone’s faces as they meet Santa inside the Arctic Circle, see the Northern Lights and even get to meet husky teams in the frozen forest!

Of course the children being so ill makes a difference and it’s a long day for everyone – a 3am start and returning to East Midlands airport about 10pm at night (so the return journey will probably be a bit less riotous than the outbound one) but I was so pleased to have been asked, I love the idea of Robin Hood helping local children and their families have an unforgettable trip, and it certainly puts a lot of things in perspective.

And although Sal’s and my three year-old daughter Scarlett (who’ll be four on Boxing Day, where does the time go?) won’t be travelling with me she’ll be seeing one or more Nottingham-based Santas over the festive period. Last year she saw about three on various visits with family and friends and firmly decided the last Santa was the best because he greeted her by her name, knew all about her Gran-Gran Joy, her special cuddly White Bunny and not only gave them all a chocolate frog but also gave her one for Mummy who was poorly at home. And rather marvellously, Scarlett then asked for another one “For my Daddy, because he’s working”.

That was a truly beautiful moment and Santa was very moved. Because, dear reader, I was that Santa. And what’s more, she actually gave me the chocolate too. So from us both (and Santa) may we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

https://www.whenyouwishuponastar.org.uk/

Tim Pollard
Nottingham’s Official Robin Hood

Bow Selecta: Nostalgia

Over the past few issues I’ve written about my wife Sal’s incurable cancer and how grateful we both were for the fabulous help we had from the City and QMC hospitals, Sarah, our local Macmillan nurse, the local Red Cross and the brilliant community nurses at Dovecote House on Wollaton Road.

Sadly, as some of you may know, Sal died at home, surrounded by her friends and family in June and it has been a hugely traumatic time for all of us who loved her. But I’d very much like to thank not only the organisations that helped but everyone in Beeston who have given us so much love, support and friendship. Sal appreciated it greatly, as do I and our three-year old daughter, Scarlett. They say it takes a village to raise a child and I think Scarlett is growing up in the best village possible.

One of the few events I’ve attended as Robin Hood since Sal died was the (re)opening of Beeston Library, on the 9th September, the day before what would have been our first wedding anniversary. I’ve lived in Beeston all my life and when I was growing up the library was incredibly important to me, giving me access to worlds, ideas, stories and new horizons – and when Scarlett was born Sal and I took her to the brilliant ‘Shake, Rattle and Roll’ baby music classes there which we all loved. I was asked a long time ago to attend the opening, to do some Robin Hood storytelling and help celebrate the renovation and Sal had planned to come down with Scarlett to see it too. Sadly, that wasn’t to be, but I really wanted to go for her and for me – and I’m so glad I did.

In these harsh economic times, where public money is increasingly difficult to find, Beeston’s ‘new’ library is a revelation and a joy to visit. Entirely redesigned, light, bright and airy but full of resources, space and almost unrecognisable from the old version it can and will be a wonderful community resource we can all use, enjoy and support. In a time of austerity and closures it’s something we should all be proud of – if you haven’t been yet, please do, you really won’t regret it.

Other community hubs are still being forced to close though sadly – as I write it’s just been announced that another stalwart centre of Beeston life (albeit for a slightly different demographic) is to shut its doors for good; The Greyhound, a frankly awesome rock pub famed not just locally but across the Midlands and further afield for passionately putting on some of the best live rock music gigs, will close its doors in a few weeks’ time, frustrated by brewery avarice and a massive increase (a doubling) of business rates.

I went to The Greyhound on the same day as I’d attended the library opening to see a brilliant (and local) Marillion tribute band, ‘Real to Reel’. You may remember Marillion’s most famous single ‘Kayleigh’ from the now 30-year old but still fantastic album ‘Misplaced Childhood’. I’ve been a Marillion fan since 1983, introduced to them by my school friend Rob Reid, who now fronts the tribute band. They played a blinder, and as you can imagine on the eve of our wedding anniversary it was a very emotional gig for me, as a year before Sal had walked into the hall to the sound of Marillion’s ‘Lavender’, a beautiful song which Scarlett even now loves to listen and dance to. So when the band played it as their final song of the night I admit I was in tears and very glad to have the support of some really good friends.

That’s the power of music, and also the joy of community. It’s a real shame we’re losing The Greyhound in its present incarnation because it (and its passionate staff who rescued and relaunched it not too long ago) rocked, both figuratively and literally. It will apparently become a gastro- and craft beer pub, which may well be wonderful – but will never be the same.

But then I guess learning to live with significant change is something I, and we all, have to do.

Tim Pollard, Nottingham’s Official Robin Hood

What does Beeston mean to you?

What does Beeston mean to you? Is it your home or a place you’re visiting (and if you live here is it somewhere you’ve been for a few months, a year, decades or your entire life)?

When you look at photos of ‘old’ Beeston from last century (maybe on one of the excellent Beeston Facebook pages) do you remember how it was, or is Beeston’s current incarnation your only experience – and how do you see, live in, use and enjoy Beeston these days?

Lots of questions, I know – but the reason I ask is I’ve recently become much more aware that ‘my’ Beeston isn’t the same as your Beeston – the places I frequent you may never visit and vice-versa. Places I think are great and make our town new, exciting and vibrant may be places you’d never dream of entering and there are plenty of local shops and venues I really should try for the first time.

I recently had an interesting and eye-opening conversation on one of those Beeston Facebook pages about the possibility of late-night noise pollution from a (very good) restaurant near my house which has applied for much extended licensing hours. Most replies thought I was concerned over nothing as it wouldn’t affect many people and the benefits would outweigh the potential disruption to the few locals who it did – and maybe they had a point, maybe the needs of the many do outweigh the needs of the few (to quote Mr Spock from ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’). But again, it got me thinking about what different people want from our town; for instance a good night out, an excellent and profitable business or a good night’s sleep uninterrupted by loud and protracted conversations right outside your house at closing time.

My view of Beeston changed when we had our daughter Scarlett

So, what makes your Beeston?

Over the past few months I’ve written a lot about my wife Sal’s advanced and incurable breast cancer, which is weird, because I’d never have thought I’d write about it, let alone have it published. I certainly had no intention of writing an ‘Our Cancer Diary’-type column, partly because it just feels a bit wrong but mainly because it makes it a bit tricky to drop jokes into; Bad Cancer is hardly a laugh a minute subject for anyone.

But in the same way my view of Beeston changed when we had our daughter Scarlett and I suddenly discovered Beeston had a great medical centre, soft play areas and parks that I’d really not bothered about before I now know what great at home and on-call medical services Beeston has – and after Sal finally made it out of the house on her borrowed electric wheelchair what utterly dreadful pavements and roads we have, as well as what places are easy to get into and around, something yet again I’d not really thought about until I had to.

The biggest change for me though is where all of these things come together.

As I said, I never intended to write about our experience of Sal’s cancer. Hell, neither of us want it, we want a long and happy and pain-free life of course – but the other day I had a truly wonderful email from someone who’s relatively new to Beeston, someone we’ve never met but had initially read about Sal and me on the ‘Beeston Updated’ Facebook site and just wanted to send both of us best wishes and support. We were genuinely touched, humbled and astounded as it was a truly lovely thought and gesture. We ended up talking about why their family had moved here (it turns out they love Beeston and couldn’t be happier to have moved) and I realised that for us the reason Beeston is such a great place to live isn’t just our friends and family (awesome as they are) or the facilities, shops, services or even late night restaurants – it’s the brilliant, wonderful and caring people we have here.

Beeston, you are awesome, thank you.

Tim Pollard
Nottingham’s Official Robin Hood

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