Like a Boss!

An email pings into The Beestonian inbox: “Did you know we have the National Governing Body for a Paralympic Sport right here in Beeston?” Well, no we didn’t. Beeston consistently  punches above its weight – one of the reasons we set up this mag a decade ago – but considering that the Paralympics is imminent and one of its most fascinating sports is based here, we have to find out more. I jump on my bike and pedal round to one of the buildings near the Padge Road sorting office.

Boccia England (BE) have been based here for 3 years after moving from just over the Nottingham border in the Lenton Science Park with Cerebral Palsy Sport. “It’s ideal in many ways” Cally Keetley, BE’s fundraiser tells me “Being so central to everywhere in England”. Their office could be that of any modern office, apart from the floor, which is marked out with a Boccia court, and the set of leather balls on the table we talk at. What, however, is Boccia?

Considering it is perhaps the most inclusive sport in the world, it has probably not appeared on many of our reader’s radars. Pronounced ‘Bot-cha’ (the name is the Latin for ‘boss’) it’s one of only two sports at the Paralympics that doesn’t have an Olympics counterpart (the other being goalball). It resembles boules or petanque, with players trying to get their balls as close to a jack as they can. What makes it a wonderful sport for the Paralympics is its sheer accessibility: it can be played with hands, feet, or even for those with severe disabilities, a ramp to direct the ball. There are resources that allow the visually impaired to play, and, provided they stay seated, the able bodied can join in. It’s difficult to imagine a more inclusive sport.

Making it’s paralympic debut in 1984, it currently has 54,000 regular players spread over 60 clubs in the UK alone and is fast growing worldwide. And no wonder. A glance at Boccia games on YouTube  is not dissimilar to how people get drawn into seemingly simple looking sports and realise the fiendishly wonderful tactics required. Remember when the UK went curling crazy at a previous Winter Olympics, and we all became experts at broom technique and stone angling? Similarly, Boccia is a gripping sport to watch. “You haven’t seen sport until you’ve seen boccia” wrote Times sports editor Simon Barnes in 2012. He’s not wrong.

But it’s more than that for those who take part. “It’s a wonderful way for people to socialise, to have a challenge to work at, and to grow confidence” Cally tells me. “It changes people’s lives”.

It also saves them: “I had a real horrid time after my accident…Boccia pulled me round. It gave me friendship, it gave me skills…it literally saved my life” says one player in a BE video. Its amongst numerous testimonies saying similar: this is more than a sport.

But on a purely competitive level, things are gearing up ahead of the Tokyo Paralympics. Cally’s colleague, BE’s Team Administrator Dan Headley, is preparing to fly out to Japan when I visit in his role as an international boccia referee. “Boccia will be streamed online throughout the Games” he explains “And Team GB is confident of medals”.

His hot tip? “David Smith. It’s amazing he’s not better known”. Absolutely. David Smith, MBE, should be as well known as Mo Farah or Becky Adlington. His Paralympic medal haul – 2 gold, a silver and a bronze – when added to his multiple World and European titles makes him the world’s most successful Boccia player ever, an inspiration to those, like him, with Cerebral Palsy – and anyone who loves a world class athlete. He also pulls some mean doughnuts in his wheelchair.

They are doing great things down on Padge Road, and that work will hopefully pay off in medals at Tokyo – as well as giving many thousands of disabled individuals a sport that adds so much to life.

If you’d like to find out more, check out BE’s website: https://www.bocciaengland.org.uk/ where you’ll discover a huge amount of info and resources- including how you can help raise money for them.

MT

Tree Guardians Wanted!

Summer here in Beeston is increasingly unpredictable. Of course, the British love to discuss the weather, but extremes of cold and heavy rain, hail and flooded gardens one week and scorching hot sun the next is a marked reminder that our planet is heating up and extreme weather conditions become more extreme and more predictably unpredictable!  Such changes mark a significant shift in our landscapes, activities and the survival of species on our planet, not least that of human survival.  As regular readers of Trees of Beeston column will know, I am passionate about valuing and protecting the arboreal inhabitants of our part of Nottinghamshire.  Trees bring multiple benefits – oxygen production, carbon-dioxide absorption, providing habitats for bugs, birds and mammals, food provision for all kinds of animals, to say nothing of the shade in the summer, water absorption capacities when heavy rain and snow descend. Everyone should have a tree that they look after.

Trees of Beeston column is handed over to the fantastic Helene who is spearheading a campaign to reforest Broxtowe. I’ll let Helene explain more. If you would like to become a tree guardian and grow some acorns, please see the end of this article for more details. If everyone planted a tree what a phenomenal legacy it would be for future Beestonians! Here’s Helene with more:

OK, in a nutshell, national government climate change targets are talking about increasing the urban tree canopy to 30% (currently around 15%). Do you want to make sure that happens on our patch, on our watch?

As I was planting a few acorns collected on the Bramcote Ridge in Autumn, I mused, wouldn’t it be great if everyone grew and planted a few trees each year? I know plenty of people like me with gardens or allotments. Do you have a little outdoor space for a few pots to grow a few saplings? The basic idea is to get as many people as possible who will be willing to plant and look after 20 or more saplings in their gardens/allotments.

The Guardians will grow the tree saplings from seed or cuttings, look after them for approximately 2 years and then either give them back or plant them out themselves in the places designated by Broxtowe Borough Council. The aim is to give growers a vested interest in their trees, from seed to planting out, and into the future with watering and perhaps surveying. I would love for people to be able to plant their trees local to them so they can watch them grow to maturity.

I wanted to start this project in Autumn 2021 with some organized forays into woodland areas to collect seeds, nuts and acorns. Broxtowe Borough Council were very supportive of the idea.

However, fate or Mother Nature had other plans. Apparently 2020 was a bumper year for acorns. The council were contacted by a couple who have a 180 year old oak in their garden. They had sacks and sacks of acorns and were trying to find a good home/use for them. We were put in touch and I couldn’t refuse. So this year we start with oaks.

I first did a little pilot survey with members of a local nature reserve ‘Friends of’ group and some friends. After a very positive response to the idea I decided to go ahead. I already have over a hundred growers and around 2000 acorns distributed. But I still have a lot more if you have space and the inclination. All it takes are some pots, some earth and water to keep them damp. I’ve been storing the acorns in damp leaf mulch and they are sprouting nicely, they just need foster homes. They really are no trouble.

In future years the project will expand to include birch, hazel, holly, hawthorn, black poplar, alder, ash, aspen, beech, wild cherry, bird cherry, crab apple, field maple, juniper, lime, poplar, scots pine, rowan, yew, white beam, willow, wych and elm, basically any native species bar a few.

Since this venture began, I have made contact with a lot of people and one of the nicest surprises has been to find many people who already grow trees or rescue them from their lawnmowers and flower beds. I was happy to be able to help some of these people who had large saplings to find a permanent home for them in a place designated by the council. So the project has already had its first planting out session too.

What I would also love to see in the future is people participating in tree surveys. Check out the Treezilla.org site. By surveying an urban tree or two we can contribute to a Nationwide database. The data collected will help future town planners with their tree planting choices, the aim is to put a value on each tree in terms of carbon capture, diversity and pleasure.

Could you be a tree guardian?

Please contact Helene hlaanest@yahoo.com or 07852 818178/0115 8775304.

Canopy 2050 website and email to come soon.

Dr JN

Shop Fronts

We love links to the past Beeston, and in recent times a bit of refurbishing work has seen a couple of old shopfronts revealed from the days of typewriters, black and white TVs and rickets. Bizzy Kids on Queens Road was once home to an early DIY store, whilst on the High Road what is due to become Yellow Wood café was evidently a shop that sold Golden Meadow Butter.

There are probably loads more of these in Beeston currently buried behind modern frontages, but if any are spotted then we’ll do our best to include them in here.

JC

Beeston welcomes The Arc Cinema!

After many months where giant screens and sound systems were closed around the globe, as seats remained
empty, the film industry like many other industries made many changes to survive. Thankfully none of these changes stopped The Arc Cinema in our beloved Beeston from being built and opening its doors last month.

What have you missed the most? The epic big screens and surround sound that soundbars/speakers and even professional home audio set-ups just cannot provide? The feeling of sharing an experience with a room full of strangers in a darkened and magical space as the lights go down? Someone else making your much-loved popcorn? Or just being transported away for a couple of hours of immersion where no one can disturb you as you sink back in your chair to be entertained and turn off your phone?

For me, it’s all of the above and now with The Arc Cinema being only a 10min walk away, I’m very excited to get a new ‘church’. A cinema to me is honestly a place of worship, or appreciation and of faith. It's the place I learn, laugh and feel alive as I watch hundreds of stories a year unfold in front of me. For me, it’s all of the above and I’m very excited to get a new place and plan to escape regularly.

For those who don’t know me, I’m a true cinephile I’ve been going to the cinema, (or the pictures as my family fondly refer to it) multiple times a month since I was about 5. Not being able to go during the pandemic has honestly been one of the most difficult parts of lockdown for me. I’ve had a paid job as a film critic who used to get to run around London attending press junkets, seeing preview screenings in secret cinema rooms all over the big smoke (the best straight out of uni job!). For 7 years I even owned and managed the smallest cinema in the world (yes, really!) – Screen 22 in Nottingham town centre. So for someone who’s literally lived above a cinema having 8 brand spanking new glorious screens of mystery, full of new stories to be told and shared so close to my house is the dream.

The interior of The Arc is tasteful, classy and harks back to what cinemas used to look like, with bright stylised lighting and plush carpets, with the oh-so-familiar but missed smell of popcorn wafting through your nose as you enter. There’s a bit of a seating area for pre- and post-film drinks too and the place is, in a word, slick.

The Arc contains 700 luxury leather electric reclining seats in total and boasts laser digital projection and Dolby Digital 7.1 sound in 6 of its 8 screens. For the non-technical amongst you, that’s the most up to date way to view your cinematic content. The other two specialist screens are Hypersense, which use 4k laser projection and giant (14m) wall-to-wall screens, which in short means maximum impact and precision. Those seats are extremely comfortable and there’s a lot of legroom available!

Did you know that Nottingham once had over 100 cinemas? Back in times where going out to the flicks was an event that people dressed up for, smoked through and were seen at. In the days when cinemas showed
newsreels and not trailers, and there were double feature matinees for children of a Saturday afternoon.

The film heritage of Beeston is strong, beginning back as far as the early 1900s, when Waller Jeffs came to town with his travelling show. This included one of the first times that the general public could view film as a form of entertainment, with his shows performances attracting significant sized crowds daily. In 1907 a local Greengrocer, Henry Peberdy set up the Cozydrome and later Kozy Kinema, which were accessed down the alleyway which still exists next to Greggs, where punters were said to have paid pennies to sit on wooden benches and watch as the projector was hand-cranked and oil lamps provided the light. Sounds utterly magical to me.

A love of cinema continued in Beeston with many options available for fans to enjoy. Two larger cinemas of note were situated where Iceland and the Co-Op now stand. Others that older readers or the families of may recall taking trips to include:

  • The Palace Cinema – 1913 – 1960 
  • The Palladium – 1914 – 1959
  • The Astoria – 1936 – 1975 
  • The Majestic/Essoldo- 1938 – 1968

Over more recent years film nights and screenings have been run in Cafe Roya which used to host ‘The Beestonian Film Club,’ The Berliner has been known to host film nights and of course, the ol’ Barton bus depot, or The Garage as we now know it, event built a mini-cinema with authentically restored seats showing classics throughout the year. Now we welcome our new purpose-built cinema, Arc Cinema.

We now live in a world where some film studios will offer you the chance to watch a film at home for more than the cost of a cinema ticket, on the same day it’s released in cinemas. Some film studios are making deals where films are screened for as little as 17 days in a cinema before they can be streamed online and at home and moves are being made that will change the industry forever, changes that cinemas have tried to fight for decades. Is there a place for everyone in this new model?

Time will tell, but the highly desired new addition to Beeston is certainly proving popular and will hopefully be here for many years to come.

At The Arc there are plenty of discounts available keeping our visits to the pictures on the more affordable side; including:

● Meerkat Movies on Tuesday and Wednesday – giving you 2-4-1 tickets on all films,
● Kids club screenings for anyone attending at £3.50 a ticket on weekends and in school holidays
● Off-peak pricing before 5pm in the week,
● Family discounts and parent and baby friendly screenings too

Local resident and new cinema manager Caroline said:

“Myself and my team are delighted with the response from the people of Beeston in coming out in our first week to support us. Opening on a bank holiday weekend and into half-term week meant so many local people got to see what we have to offer, and we have seen many people returning already.

I am so pleased with the fantastic reviews and feedback we have received in the first week and I really do look forward to continuing to build on that success. Thank you for welcoming us!”

AVG

To find out more about Beeston’s new entertainment and be a part of their online community-
https://www.facebook.com/ArcCinemaBeeston

To see showings and make bookings visit their website – https://beeston.arccinema.co.uk

The Rylands Project

Hiraeth

(Welsh) A spiritual longing for a home which maybe never was. Nostalgia for ancient places to which we cannot return. It is the echo of the lost places of our soul’s past and our grief for them. It is in the wind, and the rocks and the waves. It is nowhere and it is everywhere.

Virtually everyone’s a pocket photographer these days. Carrying our phones everywhere, loaded with snaps from our travels, our pets and our favourite people. It has never been easier to capture a moment and keep it forever.

I imagine the pandemic has prompted many of us to become focused on documenting the world getting smaller, studying that which we may have overlooked when we were distracted by the vast array of choices and opportunities we used to have at our fingertips. More acutely aware of our surroundings and the season’s subtle changes, recharging in nature and reconnecting with our local area. A  quick flick through Instagram tells me I might be right, and it is via Instagram that I first discovered the ‘Rylands Project.’

A watery image of luminescent grasses under milky blue canal water halts me in my scrolling. I absorb the soothing glow from the small screen in my hand then scroll up to see what came before. It’s a photograph of a familiar place which looks like it was taken several decades ago, rather than the sixteen months that has lapsed between these two photographs. Curiously I inspect the cars parked alongside the canal and note that despite them most definitely being cars from this decade they have a vintage look about them, achieved by the muted shades of the paintwork on the vehicles. The subject of this particular photograph appears to be a trio of giant green cotton balls on top of slender trunks – its captivating.

Taking my virtual tour around Beeston Rylands, I am struck by how much the photos remind me of the Polaroids of my childhood. Not least because they have transported me blissfully back to the long hot summers of the seventies, a time of freedom and adventure, but because they are incredibly grounding. When I meet up with the photographer Jonny, we talk at length about the appeal of his images and how he came to be living in and photographing the Rylands.

‘I always feel at home near water.’ Growing up near the South Welsh coast, living just outside Cardiff and then spending time in the big cities of Leeds and London, it made sense that he would be drawn to somewhere like Beeston Rylands. Though Nottingham is pretty landlocked itself, Jonny recognises how beautifully the area ‘satisfies that faded coastal glamour.’ This seems to have increased significance for him and I feel he captures that ‘holiday’ atmosphere well. Nobody is rushing in the Rylands, especially around Beeston Marina. Life seems to have a much easier pace.

Far from being a ‘pocket photographer’ you will see Jonny at the start or the end of a day setting up his tripod for the weighty Mamiya medium format camera which suits this style of photography well. Favouring the sensitivity of real film for this project, and the depth he can achieve in his images, he tells me the light fits the mood at these times of the day and lends itself well to the translucency of natural forms, producing softer hues that you often associate with looking into the past. This explains the wave of nostalgia you might experience when viewing the photographs.

Paying homage to life in slower motion, Jonny takes his time over each image he produces. The medium format system gives him more room to experiment with depth of field, which is particularly useful in landscape photography. It is this which gives the viewer a sense that they are ‘in the scene’ rather than observing from afar, and makes Jonny’s work so engaging. They are not traditional landscapes and there are no people in his photographs. The objects he photographs are intended to ‘belie the presence of people.’ An empty patio chair next to a bus stop, the curve of grasses suggesting a human form was pressed against them at some point, you are invited to consider the story behind the image. He executes this excellently, and the character of the people and the place is discernible in each frame.

His visual documentary of the Rylands began in May 2018 with a photograph of the almost empty playing fields, just two tiny figures can be seen at the back of the field. There is a sense of desolation as you scroll through the images from the summer of 2018 until the last one of that series in November. The next image is the water grasses from April of this year, but the feeling is the same. Like so many creatives, Jonny did not feel inspired throughout the initial months of the pandemic which partially explains the pause.

After a long stint at The British Film Institute, Jonny is currently working as Project Photographer at Nottingham University painstakingly photographing DH Lawrence’s original manuscript of his first novel The White Peacock, some of his letters and his poetry. It is precision work ,’insanely hight resolution stuff.’ I feel this is what gives him his critical eye for those all important details in his photographs. He is planning to review the Rylands project at the end of the year so look out for a potential book and exhibition in the future.

www.jonnyldavies.com

Instagram: @rylandsproject

DU

Featured Artist – Zoë Zegzula

I remember talking to Zoë about her Toucan at almost the same time last year when I was writing up an update on how the pandemic had impacted on the ABC Art Trail, and of course on the artists themselves. Like many public events, the Trail had to be cancelled. Although this was a huge disappointment for all involved, we at The Beestonian did our bit to support by creating a gallery of each artists work accompanied by a short bio.

Back then Zoë told us:

‘I love working with a variety of media, but textiles hold the greatest fascination for me.  The immense variety of textures and colours, natural or manmade, provides inspiration for endless ideas. I find working with textiles very relaxing, rewarding and essential to my well-being. Taking inspiration from our British Countryside continuously inspires me with inspiration for new work. I love combining art with textiles which stretches the boundary between art and craft.’

A complete change in direction for her, it was great to have an opportunity to discuss her move from muted pastels to a more vibrant exotic colour palette. Sitting on the sun-baked balcony at The Canalside Heritage Centre, Zoë tells me that at the start of the first lockdown she was ‘knocked for six.’ She felt so worried, and that along with all the cancelled events completely squashed her creativity. As an escape from the blanket of sadness that seemed to have suddenly engulfed many of us at the time, she sought refuge in her home and garden. 

It wasn’t until a friend asked her if she could make her a peacock brooch that Zoë contemplated sitting at her sewing machine at all. As a consequence she began pulling together a more intense selection of fabrics and threads – working with such brilliant colours her creativity was re-ignited. Adding orange and lime green threads to her stock colours, she started to look at other exotic birds and settled on a toucan for her next subject. Zoë created a few different versions and sold some of the larger pieces quite early on. The idea for the rainbow-billed toucan featured in this issue’s magazine, was more than likely a direct reference to the rainbows that she had seen suddenly appearing in windows up and down deserted streets, adopted as an emblem of encouragement and hope. 

The origins of Zoë’s carefully created textile pieces began when she was a child growing up in a small mining village between Wakefield and Pontefract when a make-and-mend attitude was fostered by families and communities passed on their skills. Her mum taught her to use a sewing machine and recycled materials were often used, nothing was wasted or thrown away – she mentions rag rugs and quilts as other ways she saw fabric reused.  In her home studio Zoë has a huge stash! Boxes of colour coded fabric scraps she enjoys rummaging through to find the perfect pieces to represent the texture of whatever natural form she is depicting. She talks about a delightful piece of beige lace fabric that was passed to her by her friend Pam – it had been a beautiful 1930s cocktail dress worn by Pam’s mother and had come to the end of its life. Zoë loves that she has managed to extend its use a little longer and it features in quite a few of her coastal scenes. 

She credits her confidence to experiment with a range of fabric types to her excellent training at South Nottingham College where she studied for several years to gain a City and Guilds certificates. The college was then known as a Centre of Excellence for the East Midlands and had annual end of year exhibitions of work that was considered to be of a very high standard – Zoë was truly inspired. She learned the full scope of what you could achieve with a sewing machine and a range of textiles. Courses included textile design, fabric techniques, which featured dyeing and manipulation of fabrics and machine embroidery. Being provided with great opportunities for practice  gave her the confidence to experiment and take risks – she felt she learned a lot from the other women on the course as well as the course tutors, who had created a empowering environment for their students to develop their practice. The course started with a return to mark making and drawing, which she already felt confident with. You can see by the way Zoë picks out the details in her pieces how adept she has become at free-machine embroidery. I recently admired how she used stitching to add weight to a bouquet of pink satin tulips in sugared almond pinks but I particularly love the tactile appearance of ‘Three Teasels’ and the depth she achieves in her landscapes.  

Zoë has been part of the ABC Art Trail since it became an off-shoot of Broxtowe Open Studios which was wider reaching but felt a little inaccessible as the studios were so far away from each other. She currently holds the position of Vice Chair and welcomes the community feel of the current event. As well as being heavily involved in the organisation and exhibiting in the Trail, she has also been the co-ordinator for the gallery space at Attenborough Nature Centre for the past ten years having initially being invited to exhibit there. She is hoping to exhibit a collection when the centre re-opens to the public later in the year.

Look out for our update on a new date for the ABC Art Trail, also in this issue!

https://zoezegzula.co.uk

DU

I Am Beeston – Stuart Baird – PR Guru

“I was brought up in West Yorkshire and met my wife at university. She had moved to Wollaton at age 10, when her family relocated to Nottingham from East Yorkshire, so she knew the area well. After we got married, I was working up in Manchester, but we always had our eye on Beeston, as we wanted a house where we could to walk into a town, to pubs and restaurants, get into Nottingham easily and had a real community feel. It ticked all the boxes. My job also meant I had to go to London a lot, so the rail link was perfect.

Even when we were first looking at houses, I got a good feeling about the place. It’s hard to put your finger on it, but it feels ‘grounded’. It is genuinely one of the best places to live in the UK. We have some fantastic schools locally, and those who work there are so committed to providing the best they can for the children and the students. We have more than our fair share of great places to eat, not least the best vegetarian/vegan restaurant in the country and the pubs are not half bad as well. I have mates from the four corners of Nottingham, and when I invite them for night out, they all say, “why can’t we have all this stuff you’ve got in Beeston?”

And if I need to escape back up north to breathe Yorkshire air, visit family and go to the football, I’m 5mins from the M1.

 People from Yorkshire (and I am one of them) always think that is the friendliest place, but I know how it works up there – unless you’re one of their own, they’ll only accept you after maybe the first 30 years! We have always felt at home in Beeston. We have some incredibly intelligent, talented and creative people, but there is a sense of bonhomie, of community. Regardless of who you are, or what your background is, you will be accepted. We are blessed with living on a great street, our next-door neighbour showed us pictures of her at a street party on Enfield Street as girl during VE Day 1945 when we had the celebrations last year. She was in the same class as Paul Smith. When we had last year’s street party, everyone walked up and down the street, chatting to each other (from a safe distance). It was the one highlight of the lockdown for me. It was amazing.

 When my children were at College House (now The Lanes), the headteacher asked us for help with the (Civic Society) Richard Beckinsale blue plaque launch as at that point I was doing PR for the NHS and was used to running events. Before I knew it, Kate Beckinsale was flying in with her Hollywood director husband, alongside her ex-husband Michael Sheen and best friend David Walliams, and of course her mum and friends of Richard. We had a bit of media circus which was good fun. The highpoint was when about 200 kids, who didn’t have a clue who all these people were, spotted David Walliams and charged towards a fence, screaming like Beatles fans, to get to him!

 Recently my agency helped launch the Arc Cinema and new square which was a real privilege. Shane Meadows did a brilliant job and was so gracious with his time. Broxtowe Borough Council really need to get credit for their work on the new square. I remember the horrible car park and public toilets that used to stand there.

 We have made lifelong friends here, we have wonderful neighbours with beautiful spaces on our doorstep, our children have grown up safe and happy, what more can you want? You hear about places in London and other cities that become gentrified and price local people out. I hope it keeps grounded, while still being inspirational and a lovely place to be.”

 CF

Tip Top

Every Sunday morning at ten o’clock I’m there. Joining that queue with all the other broken people. Ready to cross that threshold and purge our souls, which are laden with the excesses of everyday life. I don’t consider it worshipping, it’s more like a pilgrimage. But here you don’t need a bible and a prayer mat, all you need is a people carrier and a permit. 

Whatever your story, whoever you are, you’ll always be welcome at the local tip.

Words cannot express the sheer cathartic joy I get from slinging bits of wood into a skip. Hearing it crash into the sides, making that thumping noise which sounds like a giant kettle drum in a steel band. I feel clean, I feel centred. This is the mindfulness money can’t buy. 

In this pandemic we’ve all craved something more spiritual. A connection with a higher power that gives us hope and guidance. Many people put their faith in religion. I always find it interesting when people say that it would be great if Jesus came back. Would it though? I think he’d just be frustrated, he’d be a celebrity wouldn’t he? The first week would just be him doing meet and greets! 

He’d be saying, “Can I sort out this famine in Nepal?” and they’d say, “sorry Jesus you can’t mate, you’ve got a book signing session at Waterstones and then you’re on the One Show!”

He’d just be sat there bewildered on the sofa in his sandals, next to Christopher Biggins wondering what on earth he was doing there. He’d have to get used to the modern world too. I can imagine him sitting in front of the laptop replying to all the negative feedback for the Bible on Amazon. 

“Seriously, who gives a miracle one star?!”

“Yes, it did really happen Dave_5673, I was there!”

He’d be a big player on the celebrity circuit too. Going on talk shows, occasionally throwing in the odd party piece like turning water into wine. Taking the Turin Shroud on The Antiques Roadshow. 

He’d probably have an agent too, who would be constantly trying to raise his profile.

“Jesus you need more of an online presence”

“I’m omnipresent mate!”

“You need more followers!”

“Followers?! I’ve got millions!”

“They’re not the right type of followers Jesus!”

“You’ll have to go on Love Island Jesus”

“Fine,but tell them I can’t do Sundays!”

Anyway, back to the tip. That Sunday morning visit has become a regular feature in my life now. As a forty-year-old father of two, it’s the closest I get to a little holiday. Sometimes as a treat I take my children with me. The first time they saw that place they were almost moved to tears. They couldn’t believe their eyes. Sat in the back of the car, buried by grass clippings, their faces pressed in wonder against the glass, taking in the sights, the sounds and the smells of this Disneyland of debris. 

A trip to the tip is an adventure for any kid. Up there with an afternoon in the laundrette, going through a car wash or going to Pets at Home, which is basically a free zoo. 

The tip is a true assault on the senses. You see so much there. A man carrying a full wardrobe on his back like a giant wooden tortoise. Couples dragging rubble sacks across the tarmac, like they are competing in the final of ‘World’s Strongest Man’. And an elderly gentleman who has queued up for an hour just to get rid of one tiny hanging basket. He could’ve put it in his wheelie bin at home but he’s here for the atmosphere.

Then there is that moment when the skips are replaced. It’s a ceremony which could rival the changing of the guard. There are lorries, chains and huge diggers that compress the rubbish down like the foot of a giant transformer. 

A recent addition saw a huge metal structure installed over the top of the cardboard skip. Constructed from galvanised steel, like the set of a Wrestlemania cage match, it had a small access slot, to force people into folding down their boxes. It’s a feat of engineering excellence that wouldn’t look out of place on an episode of Grand Designs.  

It’s a fact that kids love a job. They like to have a sense of purpose and responsibility. The tip trip is a chance to put that theory in action. When I saw my five-year-old giggle with excitement after flattening a cardboard box, and post it into that skip, I could understand why child labour was a thing for so many years. 

The place is truly wonderful, however there is one thing that can always upset the balance. One thing that prevents this unique world from being a true utopia. I’m talking about the much-feared tip marshals. 

These people are like the Orcs in the Lord of The Rings Films. Terrifying foot soldiers, clad in high vis jackets and safety boots, they prowl menacingly amongst the skips, waiting for their moment to strike. And just like in the Lord Of The Rings films, if you’re in the wrong shire, you’re in trouble. 

There is nothing quite like the joy you see when they are telling someone they can’t get rid of their rubbish because they don’t have a valid permit. The look on their faces is almost orgasmic. 

Sure, the man lives in the area, he pays his taxes, but if he didn’t manage to navigate the simple 40 page form to validate that permit, he’s nothing more than a common criminal. So what if he’s spent six hours loading a car and strapping a sofa to the roof? Like bouncers at a nightclub, if your names not down, you’re not coming in. They watch him drive away, knowing he’s probably going to fly tip it in a layby around the corner, but they’ve won and that’s what matters.

The amount of ID required to dump your own rubbish these days is truly staggering. You need a recent utility bill, your name and address, a driver’s license, a passport and your own mother in the back seat to vouch for you. Honestly, it’s easier to fake your own death than get rid of some garden waste. Who do they think you are, Jason Bourne?! “I’m deep undercover but today I’ve been gardening?”

Many of the men that work at the tip have something about them. I don’t understand why they don’t feature more in sexual fantasies alongside fireman and soldiers. They have a brooding intensity, an assured sense of self-confidence and the brute strength to rip the flex out of a knackered sandwich toaster using their bare hands! Phwoooaaar!

The tip is a haunting place at times, especially on a foggy morning. There are often workers rummaging in skips. Searching and separating. Sometimes without warning they’ll just pop up through the rubbish, frightening the life out of you like the dancers in the Thriller video. 

They will also claim a weird toy as a kind of macabre souvenir. You’ll always see a plastic baby with one eye missing nailed to the door of their little hut or tethered to the front of a lorry like a ghoulish mascot. 

During the pandemic the tip marshals became drunk on power. They often sat at the entrance on an old deck chair with a clipboard like a military checkpoint. As soon as you opened your boot they would interrogate you. And let me tell you there is no fear like that moment when they ask you what’s in that bin bag, it’s like a suspicious wife asking to see the messages on your mobile phone. 

They miss nothing:

“What’s that mate” 

“Some floorboards, I’ll just put them in the wood skip” 

“Wait a minute son………………….Tony!” 

A man then comes out in a white coat with a clipboard and a microscope. He rubs his finger along the wood and then licks it.

“We can’t take that mate, it’s got asbestos in it” 

“EH?!?!?” 

“Health and safety pal, nowt we can do” 

I try and speak their language, try and connect with them on their level, basically what I’m saying is I whistle and use the word “mate” a lot. It rarely works. 

Although there is one way you can outwit them, one way you can pass through security undetected. It’s quite simple. Go at lunchtime. As soon as they disappear into that little hut with a brew and a sausage roll, you could get rid of a dead body. Although if you do, then take precautions, please put it in the right skip number seven, non-recycling. 

Scott Bennett Comedian

www.scottbennettcomedy.co.uk

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Mega Extra Beasty Beats Edition

Confession time. I have had a major crush on records for most of my entire life, although I am not able to tell you why or how it happened, I was drawn to record shops like Orbit Records in Long Eaton or Selectadisc in Nottingham like a moth to a flame. I have spent many a day idly scanning the treasures in Rob’s Records while also trying to ignore the OCD in me that screams that there needs some kind of order to his hectic ongoing collection. It’s the artwork, the ownership, the fact that records are living a well over due resurgence. I decided to chat with fellow local record enthusiast Rory James about love, life, his 10 most influential albums and all things musical…

“First vinyl I ever bought. I am not fully sure, as I have been collecting since I was about 8-10 years old. I think it was a second hand copy of Metallica’s Master of Puppets. Metallica had come on my horizon and I thought wow, who are they? Then played them so much that I killed them beyond repair. My first ever purchases of music were actually tapes. 

I was living in Hull where I was born and had really started to focus on music. It was the late 70’s/early 80’s and music had caught my attention massively with Toyah and Adam and the Ants, as well as many other new wave/punk and electro acts of the time mostly via TV. 

I had been saving my money to buy myself some music and I bought three albums all on tape as my first ever music purchase. These were The Beatles ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, ZZ Top ‘Eliminator’ and The Cars ‘Greatest Hits’. I still own the tapes even now.

Music was actually in the blood for me without me knowing it. Mum was a massive fan of The Doors and many other bands from back in the 60’s and 70’s, my dad played guitar in a band and sang and they named me in part after his guitar hero Rory Gallagher. 

I was heavily influenced by the whole hippy rock thing my parents were into. My actual earliest memory of owning vinyl would have been a record I still own now. It’s not the original copy from back then, but I re-found it in recent years as a collector, which massively brought memories flooding back. It was a Disney record for Mickey Mouse’s Christmas. 

I also remember before moving from primary school to secondary school when electro music and hip hop hit the airwaves. At that age I was trying to work out my own identity. I got massively into Michael Jackson for a short while, then discovered Metallica, WASP, Sabbat, Bon Jovi, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Def Leppard and so on. 

My mate at the time who lived not too far away was a huge rock and metal fan. Alister was his name, he showed me WASP records and lots of skater thrash bands and that was it. I was hooked on the whole thrash metal scene. Oh yeah, and then came along Iron Maiden with their images of Eddie. I bought myself a denim jacket, lots of band patches mainly of Maiden and grew my hair long.

By the time I was 15 we moved to Nottingham. I’d watched a documentary on TV by Arena all about the UK rock and metal scene, had seen Rock City on it and a load of head bangers moshing around the dance floor and ‘I thought I want to go there one day’. Let’s just say I lived in Rock City from the age of about 17 right through into my early 30’s. So music and vinyl have been massive parts of my life.

Musically, vinyl was always in the house as a kid, I loved the sound, the crackles and the pops. The other reason I loved it and still do is the artwork, that fact you had something to look at, read, explore, work out what was engraved on the run out in the centre of the record and the messages you could find from the bands to the fans. It was and always has been a journey.

I moved away from vinyl and tapes in the 90’s, had a brief but limited journey with CD’s but got into downloading music when the internet came along. But by that point I had already amassed quite a large collection. But I returned to vinyl around 10/15 years ago, when I started buying second hand from charity shops,

I then started going to markets and charity shop warehouses, offering cash for larger job lots, often walking away with tubs full of vinyl for not much money. Then with the resurgence in vinyl for bands and collectors I started buying new vinyl. The first one I can remember buying was David Bowie’s ‘Black Star’, which was a massive deal as he passed away literally 2 days later. It was at that point I saw the value in vinyl. I bought the LP for £25 brand new online, and if I remember rightly, the day he died the value went up to at least £100.

So I have many, many stories all music related through all the years of buying vinyl, from meeting bands, sitting in recording studios, working with the drummer from Sabbath in Long Eaton, working for Ferocious Dog (I built their first website and did photography for them for a time). I have even done photography once at Rock City for the Levellers, oh yeah and I was DJing in town, mainly at the Maze and Albert’s in between bands until COVID hit.

I have roughly 6-9,000 records, CD and Tapes in my collection. I also regularly buy new vinyl online, usually limited editions. My most recent purchase that was delivered was Gary Numan’s new album ‘Intruder’. Great album and great artist. I am waiting for the delivery later in the year of the latest Fear Factory LP (back to my metal thrasher routes).

So where do we go from here…I have been gifted or bought friends and family’s entire collections many times because I am well known for collecting and selling the odd bit also. I have built up a very wide collection of genres and knowledge to go with it. I always wanted to end up working in the music industry, in a shop or as a roadie or something but as much as I have delved in a slightly it never happened. I currently work for Public Health England as an admin manager helping fight COVID, its funny where you end up isn’t it? I’d still love to head into the music industry especially with the skills and knowledge I have built up.

10 most influential albums of my journey:

So it has to be my first 3 tapes – Beatles – ‘Sgt Pepper’, ZZ Top – ‘Eliminator’, The Cars – ‘Greatest Hits’.

Then Pink Floyd – ‘Wish You Were Here’ (always makes me think of my dad in Australia)

Metallica – ‘Master of Puppets’ (my door way into rock and Metal) \m/

Tool – ‘10,000 days’ – such an amazing album, every time I listen to it, it puts me right in the same place, it’s very dark in places, atmospheric and when I am really feeling quite low it really helps me process the darkness inside and empowers me to let it go.

Fields of The Nephilim – ‘The Nephilim’ – If you don’t know this album then you’re really missing out.

More recently my most loved and cherished album is by a band called Heilung and the LP is called ‘Ofnir’. This is Pagan/Viking music played with many traditional instruments including bones. It may sound crazy to some but take a listen and watch them online, if you can go see them live, it’s very earthy and grounding music.

Electronic music was (and still is) a huge part of my musical journey, and none more than The Prodigy. I would be straight on any dance floor or anywhere I could (including illegal raves in the 1990’s) when they came onto the speakers. I have loved them right from the start of the ‘Experienced’ LP but have to say the best LP was and always will be ‘Music for the Jilted Generation’. I actually own one of only a few original prints from the artist that produced the artwork for that album, framed on my office wall. I am so proud of that print and everything it says about music and society. I have never told my partner how much that cost me to get hold of, but to me it’s priceless.

Lastly is one considered a flop for the artist. I only own a copy on CD as the vinyl copy is quite hard to find (especially in mint or near mint condition). It is Billy Idol’s ‘Cyberpunk’ record. I love the fusion of rock/punk and electro, and this has to be my fave type of music nowadays the fusion of rock instruments with electro. This album also added in for me my crazy love of sci-fi. I believe even Billy Idol himself considers this LP to be a flop for himself mostly financially, but for me regardless this has to be one of his best.

Oh…one more…one more to add! Number 11…and I really, really could just keep going…the last has to be Daft Punk’s ‘Tron Legacy’. OMG what an album, what a film! 

I also run my own Facebook page called Dark-Side Records – yes it’s my love of Star Wars and sci-fi crossed with my love of music. I use it to share anything musical I find that I want to share with others. Also to sell a few bits when I don’t want them or people use it to contact me if they have collections the want to offer. It’s a bit of fun most of the time but it’s who I am. I use it when I DJ either out at gigs, club nights in venues or when I DJ online. Basically it’s my way of sharing my musical journey with others. Music brings us all together.”

LD

An Englishman’s Home

It’s been a weird time for performers, entertainers and middle-aged blokes who dress up as Robin Hood for a living this past year or so; as I’ve mentioned before there’s been precious little opportunity to work at all in tourism because…well, there simply aren’t any tourists, and even if there were it would have been illegal to perform for them. Fun times, eh?

But on June 1st I had my first actual in person, live (and paying!) gig for well over a year and it was an important one both for me and for Nottingham; after many years it was time for the City Council to ceremonially hand the keys of Nottingham Castle over to the Castle Trust, the not-for-profit body who’ll be responsible for running the newly refurbished site when it opens. 

And so, fresh from having my second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine the day before (and thus feeling a bit ropey, I must admit), I dug out my Robin Hood kit, squeezed into it and headed up to the Castle for an 8am photocall with both the Lord Mayor and the Sheriff of Nottingham, the Chair of the Trust, representatives of the Council and the group who’d overseen the refurbishment of the site and buildings and loads of newspaper and TV reporters from the city’s media organisations.

I know the Castle can be a contentious subject; I know people who are adamant Nottingham has no castle as the building most people call ‘the castle’ is actually a ducal palace from a much later period (a building still hugely important in its own right, mind you – it was, for instance, the first municipal library in the country outside London), but unlike other medieval castles it has not fared well, with only a few sections of wall remaining as well as the historic caves. 

The vast amount spent on the whole site (which in fact is ‘the Castle’) in landscaping, repairing and creating new facilities and galleries has taken what we have and made the most of it so we now have what promises to be a vastly upgraded site that can genuinely be a modern world-class attraction, display space, museum and event location.   

The grounds have been improved considerably. A lot of the self-seeded trees whose roots were digging into the sandstone have been removed, the moat cleared of overgrowth and debris and a new visitor centre built just inside the gates. Inside there’s a whole new ‘Robin Hood’ gallery complete with archery and quarterstaff games (thankfully I did reasonably well…) and the rest of the building and galleries have been remodelled sympathetically, extensively and impressively.

But for me the hand-over ceremony was a bittersweet affair; I’ve been Nottingham’s Official Robin Hood for a very long time now – I started ‘Hooding’ (if that’s allowable as a verb) over thirty years ago (when I had just the one chin and a flat stomach) and as the City’s Robin I realised that this event might well be my last appearance at the Castle as their official resident outlaw. 

I’ve no idea if that’s the case or not but it certainly added extra poignancy to the morning for me and made me think about all the memorable, fun, silly, happy and wonderful times I’ve enjoyed there over the years; the Pageants, events, guided tours, filming TV shows and parades I’ve spent there with tens of thousands of visitors, my friends, fellow performers, reenactors, castle staff and management and especially with my wonderful and much-missed Maid Marian and late wife, Sal. 

There was even the time when, seven years ago, I was officially made ‘Under-Sheriff of Nottingham’ by the then real Sheriff so we could work together to help raise the funds which ultimately led to the now finished renovations – who’d have thought, Robin and the Sheriff on the same side for once!  

So whilst I’ll still be (and be exceptionally proud to be) the City of Nottingham’s official Robin it may be time to let a new era start at the Castle – after all, I’m now eleven years older than Sean Connery was when he made the fabulous movie ROBIN AND MARIAN about the final days of an elderly and infirm Robin.

But I’m still not quite ready to hang up my tights yet – especially as I’m still under-Sheriff. Because who knows, maybe one day I’ll stand (as Robin) for election as the real thing – and I’m pretty sure that would make history!

TP