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:
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.
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