You can’t help noticing the wealth of gigantic artwork that sprung up around Beeston last summer. Most striking of all perhaps are the trio of famous Beestonians, Edwin Starr, Richard Beckinsale and Sir Paul Smith gazing down on you from the twenty-three feet high precinct walls on Station Rd.
If like us you love what the street art has added to Beeston then you will be pleased to be informed that more is on its way! Attracting established local and international artists, our town is being rejuvenated by an overcoat of colour on the ugly areas past developments have left behind.
Beeston has been undergoing a huge transformation (particularly over the past seven years, since the tram extension began) and the street art has been the latest creation to redefine our town. It could be said that some of Beeston’s rich history has been highlighted by these artistic additions to its landscape; I am thinking in particular of Rob Jackson aka RJ77 Stencils’ Canary Girls on the side of The Victory Club when I type this, and the word on the street is that there is more of this to follow. I caught up with project manager Jeanie Barton at Greenhood Coffee House for a progress report.
The original plan was conceptualised by Jeanie in 2017 and a call for design submissions went out. The response, and what has been achieved since, has exceeded all her expectations and she has been overwhelmed by the support the project has received from the community. You might remember that Beeston Street Art was launched by a lively festival on 16th and 17th June 2018 where a collective of skilled artists sprayed up their artwork at eleven different locations all over Beeston. The festival art was funded by a crowdfund and corporate sponsors and its success prompted Broxtowe Council to release an art fund they inherited from Henry Boot Plc.
They then commissioned their striking mural by internationally acclaimed artist Zabou on the side of the Birds building at the top of Station Road. She painted her portrait of Robin Hood on the disused toilet block on the old bus station site during the festival to test the brick and clinch the job. Whilst the festival added vibrancy to the town, the subsequent art work has served to bolster the idea that it can enhance its overall image.
Jeanie has worked tirelessly to organise the works so far plus forthcoming commissions; she feels the new murals on the way will bring more cohesion to the pieces we already have and build on the intrinsic history that Beeston possesses, bringing it to the fore. The project seems to be growing more organically and this will be reflected in some of the new art. With the remaining council fund plus another crowdfund and new sponsors who include Saint Property Services, we will soon welcome Mr Cenz, Peter Barber, N4T4, Jim Vision and Alex Rubes to paint; Jeanie also hopes to bring NeSpoon here this year as well – she has designed a piece based on Parkes’ machine lace which was manufactured at the Anglo Scotian Mill on Wollaton Road in the early 1900s.
These works in the pipeline are due to begin in late July. Owen Jenkins’ family have fundraised for a memorial to their son, which will raise awareness of the Open Water Education Network, the charity they founded following his tragic death at Beeston Weir after rescuing two of his friends. His portrait will appear atop the Station Rd side of Hairven overlooking the square; Collette Osborne who owns the building was keen to host the commemorative piece. At the mention of this scarily tall building, Jeanie remembers the daunting task of learning to use the scissor lift to prep the opposite wall for Zabou’s artwork.
She will be doing the same again in preparation for Qubek’s nature inspired mural to be constructed on the remaining precinct walls to the left of Zabou’s work and the delivery entrance opposite Tesco also in July. His design will inject some natural beauty into this urban spot; he is particularly fond of painting flora and bees. The bee has undeniably become our town’s symbol although the name ‘Beeston’ is derived from the old English word Beos (meaning long grass) and Tun (meaning town or settlement). If you look around, you will see that bees have already featured in the art around our town.
Jeanie tells me that there are a few other pieces due to pop up over the summer, one of which is top secret so I cannot reveal any details, however I think there are many locals for whom it will raise a smile. When she is not co-ordinating Beeston Street Art, Jeanie is making music and being a mummy to her 6 year old son. She also writes a weekly column, The Jazz Diary for the Nottingham Post in print on Fridays and is an award winning jazz singer/songwriter.
If you would like to know more about Beeston Street Art and view a map/guide of the current pieces, then join the Beeston Street Art group on Facebook or go to the Beeston and District Civic Society’s website – they have supported Jeanie in driving this initiative forward.
Jeanie’s musical endeavours can also be followed via her Facebook page or website jeaniebarton.com
Her third album Moments of Clarity is due be released on 28th June.
That’s right, on the first weekend of June, the ABC Art Trail will be winding its way again around the roads, streets and avenues of Attenborough, Beeston and Chilwell and this year it is even bigger than before.
If you have ever attended the two day festival of creativity then you will no doubt remember what a buzz it creates. If you haven’t, then grab a pen and write ‘ABC Art Trail’ on the 1st and 2nd of June on your calendar, or type it in your phone if you don’t have one of December’s featured photographer Lamar’s beautiful calendars hung up in the office like we do.
The Beestonian team both trailed and wrote about the whole weekend producing a raving review in July’s bumper issue last year. There was so much to see, and this year will be no exception. Expanded to include even more venues and more creatives it is ‘a wonderful opportunity to see some private studios that are rarely open to the public.’ With a mixed media collection of paint, print, textiles, jewellery, ceramics and glass there is something to appeal to everyone’s tastes and budget.
When I met with Karen Atwood last year, who is one of the artists and organisers of the event, I was instantly struck by her passion in promoting the work of others in the trail. This pervades throughout the weekend as you visit each venue, some in home studios and other housed in local businesses. Artist supporting other artists and sharing their talents with those in the community is a wonderful thing to be part of. It is also brilliant to see how many local businesses have offered their support via sponsorship.
If it’s a weekend of creative inspiration you want then you have got it! If you are looking for a one-off gift that you might never see anywhere else, then that’s on offer too, and more than that you get a behind the scenes peek into a range of creative processes which can really make you appreciate the wealth of talented people we have residing in our local area.
You can read about last year’s ABC Art Trail by clicking on the link below:
As we rapidly approach spring, buds are bursting, branches are blossoming and the spikes of green that have been shooting up through the earth are now sporting their familiar yellow bonnets. If like me, you are always delighted by these markers of new life, then you may also be one of those Beestonians who enjoys the abundance of green spaces we have surrounding our town. Warmer days, with longer periods of daylight, encourage us to leave our cosy homes and embrace the opportunity to get a bit of fresh air and sunshine between the showers.
With the threat of climate change almost at its most critical point, it is clear that fast action is needed to preserve nature’s treasures. There are a number of national campaign groups that work tirelessly towards this but there are also positive things happening right on our doorstep. Making the least impact is key to our planet’s survival, so it makes sense that putting a stop to harmful activities would have the biggest impact – you will be more than aware of the plastic problem. The Climate Coalition is the UK’s largest group of people dedicated to action on climate change – they have 15 million members from all over the UK.
Launched in 2015 and promoted by stunts such as turning the BT Tower green. The #showthelove campaign has led to some positive and dramatic changes. On Valentine’s Day in 2015 a cross party pledge was made to tackle climate change and this was pivotal in the UK taking a global leadership role in reaching the first international climate commitment – the Paris Agreement.
#showthelove has been championed by institutions such as Lords Cricket Ground, which announced a switch to 100% renewable energy in 2018. By which time the movement had reached 126 million people. 100,000 of them made, wore and shared green hearts and 80 MPs got personally involved. An incredible 600 community events happened over the UK in 2018 and the first Green Heart Hero Awards were held in Speaker’s House.
Beeston’s own ‘buzzing branch of the women’s institute’ have extended their creativity to promote Show the Love 2019. The (aptly named) Hive WI is just entering its second year and from the beginning saw a lot of interest in environmental issues among the members. Litter walks and wildflower planting have been just some of the suggestions already put forward, so a national project like this immediately attracted their attention.
Where you end and the environment begins is a really blurry line. Whether you are able to see plants and green spaces in your day-to-day life is proven to have an effect on your mental health.
Jenny-Marie Gale, president of the The Hive WI spoke of her passion to combine creativity and projects with purpose. She believed #showthelove was an important way to ‘raise awareness about damage done ignorantly, not really consciously or maliciously, to our planet.’ She felt that now is the time to focus on reversing that damage, ‘not just for the sake our wildlife, but also for future generations.’ She also pointed out that The Wi is all about education, so a campaign like this fits well with that. Education starts with conversation.
One of the members Rosa Davies was attracted to The Hive WI by their ‘strong environmental focus and involvement in campaigns like #showthelove. She feels that ‘the WI is no longer seen as outdated and has a strong modern message’ which resonates with many people in society currently. If you follow the news you will no doubt be aware of the climate marches that are happening all over the globe and that Greta Thunberg a 16 year old Swedish political activist has just been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. It’s big news people!
Rosa mentioned the Trees of Beeston section in the Beestonian and how a simple idea like that encourages people to be aware of and appreciate their natural surroundings. And this is what the #showthelove campaign is all about. ‘Where you end and the environment begins is a really blurry line. Whether you are able to see plants and green spaces in your day-to-day life is proven to have an effect on your mental health.’ The handmade hearts that symbolise this love for our environment are shared with the community to prompt a response – to encourage people to start a discussion.
The collection of hearts took about two months to make and members found the process itself both mindful and ‘addictive!’ They were put together by the sub groups who meet at the Wednesday Café Society or for a Saturday Crafternoon. The intention is, now that they have made a set of hearts to display, that they keep adding to them to increase their impact each year. When I went along to watch the ceremonious hanging of the hearts, at Rudyard’s Tea House, I was inspired by the individual messages conveyed in each one.
Many are cut out of verdant green felt in various shades but there are also hand-knitted hearts, all have been lovingly embellished. I spied a miniature tree, a stag, a rainbow and flowers embroidered in vibrant colours. Of course there is one dedicated to Beeston. The effort that has been expended on every single heart makes it that bit more meaningful, each representing an element of nature that we hold close to our own hearts. You will be able to enjoy them in situ until the end of April.
Making a commitment to collectively save our planet is something we can all get involved with by making conscious changes that show how much we really do love this incredible spinning sphere of rock, gases, minerals, water and delicately coexisting ecosystems.
Jenny-Marie started thinking about The Hive WI in March 2017 following the death of her mum. Her world had suddenly become very small and she wasn’t meeting new people or trying anything new. The Beeston WI was also launched around the same time but it was somewhat oversubscribed so she decided to start one of her own. She gathered together a collection of people from the Beeston WI’s waiting list and via social media, with their support, and the idea went from ‘shall we?’ to an actual launch night with ninety ladies in attendance! She is proud of what has been achieved so far and feels privileged to preside over such a great team.
It’s the empowering nature of the group that feels the most rewarding to her. People have come along and ‘developed a love for craft’ which proves that she has succeeded in creating a space for creativity, community and chat – that all important ‘me time’ that is so important when our lives are so busy and fraught with stress.
The WI was originally founded by women to provide empowering activities for women and The Hive WI branch is a proud member of the Nottinghamshire Federation of WIs. They meet every second Wednesday in the month to share and learn new skills, to take part in a wide variety of activities and to campaign on issues that matter to them and their communities. With a honeycomb as their emblem, it is clear to see they have their roots firmly in the natural world.
Jenny-Marie tells us
“The response to the hearts has been brilliant, from simply being asked why they are there to starting people talking about our planet and how to make small personal changes to conversations about people craving community and wanting to be involved in organisations like The Hive WI. We have had people talk to us about not knowing how to find real community, consequently we have had a few visitors and enquiries about joining. So a community event about global problem is in turn creating more opportunities for community. Love it!”
And so do we Jenny-Marie.
If you would like to find out more about The Hive WI then please get in touch, they would love to hear from you
For those of you that didn’t know, Beeston has it’s very own tourism ambassador in Marysia Zipser and this year marks five years since her interest in local heritage blossomed into a fully-fledged organisation promoting both local and international artists – Art, Culture, Tourism (ACT). By Debra Urbacz.
Marysia originally moved to Beeston in 2012, to retire and continue with her writing but after exploring the local area her head was quickly turned by the rich tapestry of its heritage, as well as an appreciation of its wealth of green spaces to enjoy. Determined to spread the word she has since made connections with creatives all over the globe which has earned ACT international status.
It’s been an exciting five years for ACT! Since the birth of her networking events, Marysia has collaborated with artists, photographers, writers and filmmakers alike with impressive results! She herself is inspired by nature and feels that connections are made naturally and she has allowed ACT to grow organically via the ‘opportunity’ pathways. She is a professional promoter of People and Places. When I asked her for the highlights since ACT started she mentioned these as her top five;
Exploring Beeston, meeting new friends, discovering the historical archives at Boots and the ‘heritage wall’ at The Boathouse Café, in particular the photograph of Ghandi’s visit in 1931
The first creative networking event at Beeston’s landmark site, Anglo Scotian Mills themed around Nottingham lace in December 2013, followed by Cultures Crossing in March 2015
Making ACT international via articles she published on LinkedIn bringing Beeston critical acclaim
The Italian connection – in particular meeting visual artist, best-selling author, journalist and official biographer to Pope Francis, Roberto Alborghetti ,who first visited in Beeston in 2014 and has fuelled her creative ideas ever since. Roberto is re-visiting Beeston for his 6th time early March
The Ghost Bus project. An idea conceptualised by Roberto Alborghetti on a visit to Barton’s garage and inspired by one of the old decaying buses. His Ghost Bus short films show us how we can see what we would never imagine to see. The project with Robin Hood’s help will be travelling around the world
Cultural tours to Tuscany, Venice, Frascati/Rome, originally an extension of the Italian connection, which will now be moving into other countries too
We are delighted that Marysia is still finding the energy to plough into her projects. This year she is relaunching her popular networking evenings and revisiting the theme of Cultures Crossing. Appearing at different locations, on the last Wednesday of each month, around Beeston and Nottingham, Marysia will be pulling together artists, photographers, poets, musicians, storytellers and performers in a showcase of their work around this theme.
The first of these took place at The Berliner on Wednesday 30th January at The Berliner with the second Cultures Crossing evening taking place at Synergy NG9, 60 Attenborough Lane, Chilwell, on Wednesday 27th February, 6:00-8:30pm.
I first learned of The DoughMother, about a month ago, when Mr U presented me with a white paper bag containing a couple of still warm sourdough baguettes and a fruit syrup glazed koulouri which was nothing short of divine!
Baked goods have a way of invoking feelings of reassurance; of being hugged from the inside. We ate the baguettes with a bowl of homemade soup later, perfect! The creativity was evident, and so I had to find out more.
Baking is an experience we can all appreciate in a holistic way. Getting back in touch with all our senses, particularly our sense of smell, can revive happy memories of early childhood. Scent is the first way we recognised our mothers, and contributes to us feeling safe and loved. According to psychologist and columnist Linda Blair, who wrote an article extolling the virtues of The Great British Bake-Off, ‘the act of baking is a process, not a soundbite. It takes time to read a recipe, gather the ingredients, mix the dough, let it rise, shape it, and then bake what we’ve created.’ It’s how we humans are most comfortable operating, understanding what we are doing, step by step. It’s good for our wellbeing, and all this effort brings us great rewards.
…she had lived in various parts of Beeston and fell in love with the place. She liked the convenience of not having to go into the city to buy essentials and felt drawn to the town, ‘It had a good feeling.’
We have been back a couple of times since and it seems word has got out already in the neighbourhood about the artisan boulanger in the middle of Central Avenue. Each time we visit we are greeted with a generous welcome, Houlia tells me that they celebrated their two-month anniversary on New Year’s Day and already she and her partner Alican have attracted regular customers. Houlia is ‘The DoughMother.’ She is responsible for the warm scent of bread baking in the busy oven out back. The aroma alone is enough to entice you in, but they have more than delicious loaves on offer to tempt you. Alican is the maker of the sweeter treats. The koulouri is his speciality, but they also have a range of cakes and pastries in their antique glass cabinet. The flour they use for the breads is locally sourced, from Green’s Mill in Sneinton. They are proud of the space that they have built together and overwhelmed with the support they received from friends in bringing their dream to reality.
Using reclaimed bits and pieces, transported by supermarket trolley in the absence of a car, they have created a welcoming café space which encourages you to stay, have a coffee, read a book or just enjoy the eclectic mix of music playing in the background. It is an honest place where everyone is welcome. Alichan tells me about their plans to develop the secure back yard into an area where children can play safely, whilst their parents enjoy a coffee and a catch up with a friend. Houlia tells me how the whole idea for The DoughMother came about and why she chose this area: she tells me that since moving from a small island in Greece to Nottingham in 2011 to study for a Biology Masters, and then her PhD, she had lived in various parts of Beeston and fell in love with the place. She liked the convenience of not having to go into the city to buy essentials and felt drawn to the town, ‘It had a good feeling.’
Living close to Central Avenue, she noticed that lack of opportunities for locals to buy the wholesome, home-cooked food that would have been available in her home town, and how important this experience is to communities. Both she and Alichan talked of the alienation that is occurring in society and how providing spaces like The DoughMother is encouraging people to come out of their homes in search of nourishment after a busy working day, to enjoy a bit of escape from that in a space that breathes a nurturing warmth into their lives. It’s a place to meet friends, enjoy community and celebrate the very basic nourishment of life, eating together.
I look around and appreciate the emblems of a simple life: a wire basket of milk bottles reminds me of Mr Jeffries, our copper-topped milkman, who dropped off our daily pint as we still slumbered, and came around cheerily on a Friday afternoon for his milk money. There are accents of nature, lush greenery against the soft tangerine walls, and the mismatched furniture harks back to a time when things were built to last.
If you haven’t discovered this little gem yet, then you really should pay them a visit. You can’t miss the clever signage, designed by Houlia herself, thankfully you won’t find any Mafiosi drinking the Greek coffee and beating you to the pastries.
As we round off another year celebrating all that is creative in our vibrant little town, it seemed like the ideal opportunity to rejoice in the creative diversity we have in Beeston.
As well as the wealth of independent shopping prospects up and down the High Road, we have artists and makers in in every corner of our suburban streets. One local creative, who has been joining me in honouring Beeston’s originality is local photographer Lamar Francois, whose image of the metal sculpture by Hilary Cartmel in Broadgate park is immortalised in his 2019 calendar.
I met with Lamar on a dazzling autumn day, which is pretty much how I remember the first photographs that I ever saw of his. I bought the 2017 urban landscapes calendar as an attractive reminder that the concrete and neon of our city, form beautiful backdrops to the monotonous moments of our daily lives. The craft behind a product like this is why I buy handmade and indeed why we should. So far removed from the over-produced flimsy printed pages in supermarkets and chain stores, this quality finished calendar represents hours of careful consideration from start to finish.
Nestled neatly between a beautifully illuminated Market Square and Nottingham Castle bathed in summer sunshine, the calendar contains two Beeston related photographs but the Broadgate one is my favourite. The intricate metalwork design of the organic sculpture stands out against shade under boughs and small children play in the background, their ribbons echoing the curves within the sculptures frame. The other image gives a wider view of our local treasures, the River Trent taken from Beeston Rylands playing fields, and is equally dramatic in its own right. Lamar tells me the process of choosing the right photographs is a tough one. They have to be relatable, as well as awe inspiring, and of locations that people instantly recognise whilst avoiding clichés.
He hid safely behind the social media curtain, which did get his work out there, but it also had a tendency to be lost in a sea of images.
Lamar’s passion for photography happened around the same time that he was living in Beeston, as a student at Nottingham University, where he now works part-time helping to manage a seed library that serves the plant science community. He originally used his phone to photograph his subjects but was curious about cameras and how these could extend his skills. He helped to run a photography society at university which gave him the opportunity he needed. After buying his own camera, Lamar secured some Prince’s Trust finding which helped him to pay for extra equipment as well as giving him access to a business mentor, which he says has been the most valuable resource of all.
As is the case with many creatives, the promotional side doesn’t always come as easy as creating a product, and this is something Lamar found especially difficult. Having Asperger’s means that he wasn’t confident socially, and this really hampered the necessity to push himself out into the spotlight. He hid safely behind the social media curtain, which did get his work out there, but it also had a tendency to be lost in a sea of images. His business mentor has helped to boost Lamar’s confidence and encouraged him to market his images by printing off and framing a series of limited edition prints for exhibiting. A decade on he is experiencing success.
I asked Lamar how this made him feel and he spoke animatedly of the joy when someone shows their appreciation of your work by being willing to pay for it. Their admiration has encouraged and bolstered him to experiment more. He also feels that through networking he has met many supportive people who have offered advice and lead to collaborations, the most exciting of these being the pictorial representation of the City of Literature bid, especially as he was chosen out of many other talented photographers – I could feel his pride swell as he told me this.
And so this is why we should shop at our independents this festive period. Not only are you likely to find more unique and quirky presents and be putting money back into the local economy, you are supporting our entrepreneurs and their families, helping to build communities and making an actual individual do a ‘happy dance!’
You can acquire a copy of the calendar at some of our indie shops, who also champion a number of our local creatives. It is currently stocked at Artworks on the corner of Chilwell High Road/Imperial Road Perfectly Formed at Chilwell’s Creative Corner and Two Little Magpies at the Broadgate end of the High Road.
Trees of Beeston is a psychogeographical and art project that celebrates the arboreal entities and architectures that enrich the landscapes and lives of humans and animals living, working, or visiting Beeston in Nottinghamshire, UK.
Between spring and autumn 2018, Dr Jo Norcup will facilitate a small group of Beestonian tree-appreciators under the moniker ‘The Beeston Tree Appreciation Society’. We will map and record (via words, sounds and pictures) stories of trees that serve as landmarks and enhance the landscape of Beeston. Informed by historical and civic activities as well as by the stories and connections that Beestonians and honorary Beestonians have in how they connect and appreciate the trees that mark our landscape, a gazetteer map will be created so that residents and visitors alike might explore the local geography of Beeston and the living landmarks that endow and make habitable life in this part of the East Midlands.
Tree appreciation will be further explored in a series of forthcoming workshops and local field trips to be held in the autumn (details TBA).
Please follow on social media via @geo_workshop hashtag #TreesOfBeeston
Trees of Beeston #1 “The Truffula Trees” (Silver Birches) of King Street.
“I speak for the trees, for they have no tongues”
In his children’s book The Lorax, Dr Seuss’s wise tree environmentalist and eco-warrior, The Lorax, warns of the rapid loss of trees and environments at the hands of short-term profiteering “I speak for the Trees” he repeats. The Once-ler (who narrates the sad story), tells how he learnt, too late, not to destroy the natural environment. How, when the trees are removed, the animals, birds, insects and other animals move away, leaving a desolate and depleted landscape no animal, and indeed, no human wants to live in. The moral: to be mindful of the future, to be wise custodians of the trees, plants, and animals that enrich our daily lives so that we and future generations might also have a quality of living that appreciates in turn the natural world and non-human lives that enrich it.
My son was the first to see the shape of the silver birches along King Street in Beeston as the Truffula trees of Dr Seuss’s tale. On a street where there are no street trees to speak of apart from these majestic deciduous duo (save the holly tree growing from the cracked tarmac at the side of the ginnell wall between the motorcycle showroom and the housing near the Queen Street end of King Street – yes, I see you too wee tree), these two Silver Birches (and a couple of smaller saplings at their base) provide both landmark and respite to the eye from the primarily residential and industrial buildings along King Street. Go closer to these trees, and you find a wee ecosystem, as the silver birch provides the lightest of canopy of leaves through which sunlight can dapple its way through to enable other plants to grow. Other smaller saplings are present, fighting for light and space in their small location in front of an electrical sub-station where a small black fly-tipped bin and rubbish that someone has dumped has been grown over by wild flowers (“weeds” to give them their antisocial pejorative shorthand) and the foliage of the saplings. Three types of valerian grow in white, pink and purple, giving colour and cover as well as pollen and habitat to insects and butterflies. The Silver Birch (Betula pendula) is known as a ‘pioneering tree’ because it can grow pretty much anywhere. The roots draw up nutrients and when its small serrated heart-shaped leaves and catkins fall, this deciduous tree provides fertile compostable nutrients in which other plants can find a home. It is a tiny oasis. Walking past them regularly as we do, the sound of the leaves gently bristling in the slightest of breezes that on a parched heatwave day is akin to a lightly babbling brook. The sound calms. The cascade of leaves on thin branches cools with its light coverage. We always greet the trees with a respectful hello. They are friends. They are much loved. They make our daily lives better. We always slow down for them, more often than not stopping, for fleeting seconds to pay our respects. For local dog owners, these trees provide a stopping point and canine territorial interest. In 2013, The Beestonian (issue 21) published a poem by the local poet Steve Plowright about them. It is repeated below.
A Pair of Silver Birch Trees
By Steve Plowright
Solid through the Seasons
Whilst gazing through your filigree
Of branch and twig and leaf
Silver sheen of bark
Light unwilling journeys
On sighing school mornings
You never beg to question
Just a pair of silver soldiers
Guardians of our secrets
You never show your feelings
Thanks for your solidarity
Thanks for being there
Tree facts: #1The Silver Birch
Botanical name: Betula pendula of family Betulacae
A native tree to Europe and parts of Asia, known in America as the European white birch.
Deciduous tree with a white peeling paper-like bark with slender and pendulous branches, it has small heart/triangular shaped leaves with serrated edges that are green in spring and summer, turning yellow before they fall in the autumn.
The Silver Birch flowers catkins and is self-pollinating bearing both male and female catkins (droopy and small, compact cylindrical respectively) that scatter seeds with the wind.
Known as a pioneer species of tree as they are often the first type of tree to appear in a clearing, the catkins produced often containing high levels of nitrates drawn up from the roots, the leaf and catkin litter producing fertile compost in which other plants are able to succeed.
Silver birches provide habitat for a diverse range of insect and bird species, and larger specimens in gardens and parks provide ideal perching points for songbirds.
Humans have derived a number of uses from the Silver Birch: their sap can be tapped when it rises in March, and the sweet liquid can be used a little like maple syrup or concentrated and fermented for brewing wine and beer. The timber of the Silver Birch can be used for joinery, firewood, brooms and tool handles. Medicinally, Silver Birch has been used in traditional medicine as a diuretic, and externally can be used to promote healing to relieve skin pain and inflammation as its decorative bark contains triterpenes.
The Silver Birch is the national tree of Finland.
References and wider reading:
Edlin, H.L. (1970) Collins guide to Tree Planting and Cultivation. Gardeners Book Club. Newton Abbott.
Plowright, S (2013) A pair of Silver Birch trees. The Beestonian no 21. Back page.
Beeston has a great community, and many of its community are greatly creative. This was firmly established in the first weekend of June when eleven local artists opened up their studios and invited us all in to see for ourselves. The annual ABC Art Trail involves artists from Attenborough, Beeston and Chilwell, which is how it got its name funnily, and as the name suggests it doesn’t just take place in Beeston.
I followed the trail from back to front this year in Attenborough at Rita Miller’s stunning studio on Long Lane. Her compact converted garage was so extensively filled with serene landscapes and bold still life paintings my eyes took a while to take it all in. “Why did you start at the last venue?” I hear you exclaim. Well the point is, that it doesn’t really matter where you begin or where you end, the standard and variety of work on display will impress you wherever you go.
In fact, in total there was an artist for every letter of the alphabet this year, so you were rewarded with more stunning pieces than anticipated to pore over at some venues. And of course if you do like to wander in a less haphazard way, the organisers had put together a back pocket map that you can refer to on your journey round with each location clearly numbered.
And let’s talk about the variety! There were oil paintings, photographs, glass and silver jewellery, textile art, embroidered felted wool, ceramics, knitwear, stained glass, watercolours and sculptures as well as an opportunity to chat to Bob Child who offers a traditional bespoke framing service. It was truly an inspirational weekend and I even managed to pick up a few purchases along the way. It is worth pointing out though that not all the venues are artist’s studios.
You could enjoy examples of Susan Harley’s landscapes hanging from the red, yellow and blue frames of the gym equipment at The Lanes Primary School, alongside glittering glass and gentle watercolours. In contrast to all that kaleidoscope of colour, Sara Gaynor’s ethereal photography sat rather well in its temporary home at a Beeston Dental Practice. It’s usual to pick a day and a selection of artists to visit as there are so many, but this year a new challenge was set.
Three Beestonians (me, Matt and our intrepid photographer Christopher) set off early on bicycles to visit each venue and collect a unique piece of artwork in the form of a letter. As if organising and publicising this impressive show of local people’s work wasn’t enough, each collective of artists at each venue had handmade a letter in a combination of their own distinctive styles. It is impossible to visit all of the venues in one day and do them justice, to make sure that you have made the most of your visit you really do need to stay a while and ponder, and not just the artwork either.
A number of our artists’ gardens were just as attractive as their artwork and we couldn’t resist a wander around some of the winding paths and buzzing flowerbeds. It struck me at one point, how community spirited these people are for opening up their studios, and in some cases their homes, to the general public to wander freely. They are sharing their sanctuaries and their personal collections with us as well as the pieces they created and put on display. The twiglets served in a hand thrown piece of pottery made by founder member Alan Birchall didn’t go unappreciated, and the plentiful refreshments welcome too after a few hours of cycling.
Another wonderful thing about the ABC Art Trail is how welcoming the artists are. Their joy at receiving visitors was unrestrained and genuine and this made us want to linger a little longer at each venue. I met with one of the artists and organisers Karen Attwood before the event and as we discussed the work she would be exhibiting it was obvious how much of herself she was pouring into her pieces. Not only is her textile work detailed and time consuming, each piece has a personal resonance which must make it hard to let them go at times, but then sharing is what this event is all about. The artists are more than happy to talk about their inspirations and processes, it’s a celebration of creativity! It is also evident they have an appreciation of each other’s work, and although much of their work is for sale there is no pressure to buy.
If you do happen to be seduced by a brightly coloured piece of glass or an exciting sliver of silver then be rest assured that you are getting good value for money and you are helping a living artist in your community to thrive, and that’s got to be a good thing right? The experts say that art appreciation promotes quality of life and makes you feel good. According to Professor Semir Zeki, neurobiologist at the University College of London, when you stare at great artworks, the part of your brain that is stimulated is the same as when you fall in love.
We definitely fell in love, over and over with the amazing talent and with this home-grown event that makes art accessible for all. And have you guessed what those eleven letters spelled out? ABC Art Trail of course!
If you’ve ever found a butterfly folded from a bus ticket or receipt, the chances are it was probably made by Debra.
Partly because she likes to spread joy and partly because she’s like some ‘uber-efficient hippy’ who loves to make people smile and who can’t actually sit still unless she’s sewing, doing origami and writing all at the same time with a glass of wine in hand. Debra came to Beeston to study but now supports creative people and bridges the gap between artful procrastination and showcasing local talent. She joined the Beestonian team eighteen months ago and this is mainly what she writes about.
After singing our socks off last weekend, as well as very much from the heart, we're raising funds for Hope Nottingham at Hope House, Beeston, a vital one-stop community support centre helping the local community and beyond. Please come along on Sat 5 October, 7pm and support us