Now if you live in Beeston, and travel up and down Chilwell High Road regularly, you might already know what I am talking about by the title alone. In one of the terraces along there, lives an inhabitant of our little town who continually treats us to a selection of stylish window displays that bring joy to the faces of many who pass by.
I have often wanted to explore who this mystery window dresser is and the reasons why they make the time to do this.
As an enthusiastic supporter of any community art project, I posted a card through the letter box to ask if they would like to chat to me about it and was thrilled when I got a response. A lady called Fran sent me a text to thank me for my kind comments and to give her a call. When I spoke to her I realised that we already knew each other, via the close community that is Beeston café culture, and we chatted for ages about many things but mostly her motivation to cheer up her little bit of Beeston.
Fran has been creating her wonderful exhibitions for over ten years now and it all started when she was working at the high street retailer, Accessorize. Often when they took down their window display the staff were left with a selection of useless but pretty objects that would gather dust in a box or get thrown away. Inspired by the impact a well-dressed window can have on passers-by, she decided that she would much prefer to take things home and create her own version of the display in her front window at home. And so it began…
She regularly receives thank you cards and messages of appreciation from local people
She finds her inspiration in many places and her magpie’s nest is full to the rafters with bright, shiny objects and other things saved for their aesthetic qualities. She tries to update the window regularly, usually in line with calendar events and the seasons and can often feel the pressure to make sure she hasn’t left a display in too long – she doesn’t want to disappoint her fan club. Fran tells me that she regularly receives thank you cards and messages of appreciation from local people and this makes it all the more worthwhile. She does it simply ‘because it makes people smile’, and by her own admission ‘keeps her out of mischief.’
Fran has a great eye for detail and her presentations have got more ambitious over the years. It is fun, and she enjoys thinking up new ideas, careful not to replicate any she has done previously. What I like about them is the connection with local people that Fran is making with these displays, and it goes deeper than just making someone’s day. She is investing in her community, showing a sense of pride in where she lives and is more than happy to hear that she is beginning to inspire others to do the same.
And it was simply this that prompted me to publicly applaud the efforts of this dedicated decorator, who tirelessly creates these scenes for others to enjoy. Fran, we think you are awesome!
I wonder what will she do next…?
Beeston is full to the brim with creativity if you look for it.
In the current issue of the Beestonian, we have an article about the potential street art project to lift up the tired dull mess that is Beeston Interchange / Birds wall. We can now tell you that the project has taken a huge step forward…
Beeston Square’s old dark walls (down Station Road and adjacent to Beeston Centre’s tram interchange) badly need an aesthetic lift. We are planning a potential Street Art Festival for 2018 – a community regeneration project.
Broxtowe Council have an ‘art budget’ set aside which is £8k (subject to committee approval). Artists are now invited to submit their work – the designs will ultimately be chosen by the council and its planning department but will be shown to the public who should have some say.
To give yourself the best chance of being chosen for this paid commission we suggest your designs are naturalist rather than brutalist. It may also be advantageous to perhaps incorporate Beeston and Chilwell’s heritage and character somehow:
I wanted to start this piece with a mysterious journey but a few stops on the IGO didn’t quite fit the bill, although being pensioners’ shopping day it did feel a little bit like a ghost train. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that Long Eaton wasn’t the zombie apocalypse I had been warned about when I alighted at The Green. I was however on the search for none other than the heavily tattooed gentleman whose resemblance to a flat capped Vic Reeves is more than a little uncanny.
If you cross over on Wilko’s corner and saunter down Oxford Road, tucked away in Mayfair Walk you will find a hidden talent who grew up on Imperial Road in Beeston. Daniel Roberts has been filling up sketch books from his wild imagination since he was a nipper and the manifestations from his mind are now finding themselves adorning the bodies of many local characters.
Danny opened his tattoo parlour ‘Paperhaus Tattoo’ back in 2014 after completing a three-year apprenticeship. He is not entirely sure what inspired him to tattoo in the first place other than the simple desire to ‘see his artwork on skin.’ The inspiration for his often dark characters and twisted scenes are born out of a desire to make the ordinary extraordinary, after all why wouldn’t a horse wear a pair of high heels and a rabbit be partial to eating a sandwich? He considers himself as an artist who tattoos, his artwork did come first after all. Some of his designs are currently available on t-shirts and will soon be available as prints.
When I arrived at his studio for a chat and a strong coffee, Danny was working on a piece for guy in Phoenix Arizona that he had hooked up with via Instagram. He was clearly thrilled that this guy had lots of positive things to say about his art but it was their shared love of vinyl that led to this commissioned piece. The design will be printed up on t-shirts to promote a local club night at a tiki-themed bar, a real ‘by the people for the people’ kind of design project. ‘ Afro Waltz’ by John Cameron was playing in the background as he spoke which made for a relaxed if trippy atmosphere.
As I have a gleg round Danny’s studio, a home from home. I cast an eye over the chintzy lampshade balanced on a dark wood standard lamp and eye up a soft squishy sofa underneath the tattoo flash that adorns the back wall of the waiting area, there is a distinct lack of pretention in the air. It definitely not your typical tattoo studio, it could be described hauntingly kitsch, but then Danny is not your typical tattooist. He is very candid about his first forays into art. ‘It was either that or watching black and white regional telly on the portable in our static caravan in Skegness.’ The penny arcades had no lure for the young Daniel, he much preferred ‘sketching on the back of a cornflake packet with a biro.’
As I watch intently as his busy digits sketch, I ask him how he comes up with some of his detailed designs. He picks up his comical coffee mug, in a jaunty fashion, and tells me ‘I clear my mind and it’s like a cosmic internet connection, it’s automatic how things connect and I often look at what I have drawn and ask myself “How did I think of that?” He talks about the urge to draw as that familiar ‘itch you have to scratch’ and likens his inspiration to childhood pastimes like seeing shapes in the clouds or in patterns on the pavements.
There are recurring symbols that appear in many of his drawings, a favourite being the oven ready chicken
He says he has been influenced by the works of Dali and Woodring and there is most definitely surrealism in his art. There are also recurring symbols that appear in many of his drawings, a favourite being the oven ready chicken, which has been spotted in some very compromising positions. It is the reactions to his work that Danny enjoys the most. Whether they shock, excite, humour or disgust he doesn’t mind as long as they get a response. It would be fair to say there is an innocence and sense of mischief in a lot of his works and this is quite representative of the man himself. He has most certainly got his own style and he recognises that it is not to everyone’s taste and could be considered niche.
Dan likes the idea of his artwork being framed and appreciated, we are not here forever but things like art can be owned and then passed on, keeping the legacy alive. He hopes that by putting it out there people will acknowledge it and someone will buy it and appreciate it, but then they may give it away or die and it’s this idea that you don’t know what might happen to it that intrigues him most. As I glance at the fine example of a 70s cuckoo clock, I am surprised to see that a couple of hours has floated by and I have a notebook full of my own scribbles. Dan can really make you feel right at home, you’ll never want to leave…
The room upstairs at the White Lion was packed on Sunday 12th March as the winners of the 3rd Beeston Film Festival were announced to a very excited and eager audience.
Thanks must go to Sergio the landlord of Beeston’s most sociable pub, as it has been the base for the festival, since John Currie and James Hall launched it back in 2015.
After months of planning and preparation, some 90 short length films from across the world have been screened over four days, with the launch taking place at the University of Nottingham’s Sir Clive Granger Building on the Thursday. This first evening saw the inaugural Three Counties Festival Night, which was split into two categories; short films of up to five minutes in length, and long films, which were up to fifteen minutes in duration. Prize money was on offer too, courtesy of the Matthew Martino Benevolent Fund. All the other films were shown at the White Lion.
There were a number of categories that a number of the films were shortlisted for. Thirteen judges from around the globe had viewed all the films to find the best in each of the areas, such as horror, comedy, script and cinematography.
It just goes to show the amount of talent that there is in the East Midlands. The 2018 festival is going to be bigger and even better.
No cash prizes here, but the winners did receive a wonderfully crafted ceramic award: the B’Oscar, created by Nottingham artist Anna Collette Hunt.
So on to the fifteen winning films and filmmakers:
Best horror film: Woods
Best Animation: Cuerdas
Best Drama: Soldier Bee
Best Documentary: Cecil & Carl
Best Comedy: Braquage Serenade
Best Script: Braquage Serenade
Best Actor: Shauna Macdonald for Soldier Bee
Best Director: Pedro Solis Garcia for Cuerdas
Best Cinematography: Stewart Whelan for Cinephiliac
Best Sound: Cinephiliac
Three Counties Short: Portrait of a Craftsman
Three Counties Long: Cadence
Rising Star: Night Owls
Audience Favourite: The App
Best Film in Festival: Braquage Serenade
A number of Beeston-based shops and companies sponsored the B’Oscar awards. They were:
Art, Culture, Tourism
Pamela Sietos Clothing
Rye Café & Bar
I caught up with a weary but ecstatic John after the ceremony to find out how the four days went. “It’s been the best one so far”, he replied grinning from ear to ear. “It just goes to show the amount of talent that there is in the East Midlands. The 2018 festival is going to be bigger and even better. The support that the festival has received has been phenomenal. All the students from the university that have helped out have been fantastic.”
I also spoke to James, who was busy packing away the IT equipment, and asked for his thoughts. “It’s been great, but much harder work than helping to organise the Oxjam music event.”
Finally, one face that I recognized in the audience was that of local actor, puppeteer and storyteller Melvyn Rawlinson. I asked Melvyn whether he had been involved in any of the productions. Yes he said, I appeared in the film ‘I Am God and Severely Underqualified.’ This tells the story of a writer struggling with the dreaded writer’s block, and how he gets over it.
John and James will shortly be e-mailing a weblink to those that attended the festival, so they will be able to watch their favourite films again, or catch up with any that they missed. For everyone else, you’ve missed out. Some may make it to a cinema release, or might turn up on YouTube. You never know, there may even be plans to create a ‘Beeston Film Festival’ compilation DVD. Now wouldn’t that be exciting!
If like me you like to buy unique presents for people at Christmas and prefer to shop locally, then you will have been more than aware of the vast number of ‘craft’ shopping opportunities that were available to us in Nottinghamshire this year. We may ask ourselves, at a time when goods are so easily mass produced all over the globe and readily transported to us in record time, why is there this steady uprise in the making and selling of handmade items? Has it become trendy to make your own or is it a result of the current economic downturn? Are we getting bored of the replicated products we see on all the shelves, in all the shops, and are instead striving for originality? Or could it be that we are starting to value again the time and care that is spent on something that has been made from start to finish by one person’s skilful hands.
According to the UK Craft Council the consumption of craft has been on the increase for quite a number of years. Their 2010 study showed that 40% of the adults in their sample had purchased a craft object and 23% would consider buying craft. It also showed that the greatest demand was for contemporary or ‘cutting edge’ craft with 97% of craft buyers supporting this market. It might be worth making the distinction at this point, between the different categories that handmade can be grouped into.
By definition, to ‘craft’ something is to make it with one’s own hands so this would appear to cover a wide range of objects. However, currently this seems to range from something you made impulsively out of card, with the kids on a wet Saturday afternoon, to the kind of objects d’art you might see at the acclaimed ‘Lustre’ exhibition which features at Lakeside Art Centre in November. In the Craft Council research the words ‘authenticity’, ‘quality’ ‘handmade’, ‘workmanship’ and ‘genuine’ were all attributed to the genre.
Is the name we give to the work that is typically produced by graduates who have honed their skills academically and have created a business which involves making, marketing and selling their own pieces. We tend to look upon this as the ‘high end’ of the craft market and it would be most likely to be sold at larger handmade events, such as ‘Craft in the City’ in Waterstones, rather than the local church Christmas fair. It is this market that the Craft Council’s 2015 three year strategy supports, in their evaluation of craft trends and their impact on policy and practice.
Always a tricky one this, and without getting into the ‘what is art?’ debate, we tend to attach this label to things that are made purely for their aesthetic value rather than their everyday use. Whereas craft objects tend to be created for their practical aspects and are often born out of a need for something that didn’t previously exist. Let’s take the tea cosy as a good honest utilitarian Nottingham example – you don’t want your tea to go cold whilst it’s mashin’ duck!
So, do you need to be creative to be able to do crafts? Well, not entirely. Sometimes learning the steps to make something and being technically minded is all you need to produce a perfectly presented set of greetings cards or an origami animal. Natural creativity is generally more expressive and something that comes and goes. The creator can find themselves frustrated when an idea they had doesn’t quite work out the way they imagined it and this is often the artist’s nemesis. But without doubt, undertaking some kind of creative pursuit has been scientifically proven to have a positive effect on our well-being. It may be just about finding the one that suits you.
How creative is Beeston?
Very! There are many different groups of artists and makers networking and planning exhibitions as we speak. If you were lucky enough to visit last year’s ABC Arts Trail – twenty five artists at twelve venues – you will already be aware of the wealth of talent we have in Beeston and the surrounding areas.
In fact one Beestonian, Marysia Zipser, was so taken by the cultural and creative richness of this town she set up ACT (Art-Culture-Tourism) in December 2013. According to her recent interview in the West Bridgford Wire, she is ‘on a mission to make Beeston the art and culture capital of the UK.’ Although she ran ACT voluntarily for the past three years, in May 2016 it became an official registered organisation.
On a smaller scale there are community craft groups currently running from Two Little Magpies, Beeston’s newest gift shop which houses a fantastic selection of locally produced cards, prints, textiles, jewellery and garments. There is gallery space at Mish Mash on Chilwell’s Creative Corner as well as some of the local restaurants and tea rooms, and regular workshops at Artworks, Heidi’s Home Furnishings and The Fabric Place.
Connections are being made and friendships being forged and we are well on the way to having our own creative ‘hub’ where many of these creatives can share space and ideas and maybe make preparations for that ‘creative revolution.’
Facebook communities you can join: Creative Beeston, Sew Notts, Made in Beeston
I got a text from my partner the night before. “Do you want to go and see The Wedding Singer tomorrow?” For a brief second I wondered was there some special showing of the film? Was it an anniversary edition, director’s cut? Then I remembered. No. It’s a musical version.
My better half was excited. She had a friend in the production and so, being the dutiful boyfriend, I obviously agreed. Okay, I said with a slightly sinking heart. Let’s go.
Forgive me people. I’m not usually so close-minded. It’s just musicals make me a bit, well, violent. Towards myself, not others, but violent none the less. Whether it’s Grease (which makes me want to hide), Mary Poppins (which makes me want to bash my brains in) or Mamma Mia (which makes me want to rip out my eyes and stuff them in any orifice capable of receiving sound) I just can’t get on with them. To this day the only musicals I’ve ever been able to stand have had Muppets in them. Sorry.
Okay so with all that bearing in mind I sat down to The Beeston Musical Theatre production of The Wedding Singer with just a little trepidation. I had actually commissioned another writer to go the day before but he had at the last minute been unable to do so. Curse him, I thought, smiling widely at my girlfriend. Next issue I’ll make him write about public toilets.
Then the curtains were drawn and it began.
Right so I’ll forgo any suspense. It was brilliant. I mean properly brilliant. I laughed like a loon, nodded along to the songs, my heart was warmed in the final act. This was a performance which, as soon as it ended, I would have happily stayed sat and waited for the curtains to come back up again. Though I think that would have been a terrible strain on the actors.
First of all let’s talk about the actors. The musical was led by Chris Bryan as Robbie Hart (Adam Sandler in the film) and Claire Rybicki as Julia Sullivan (Drew Barrymore). They looked young. Early twenties I thought. But God damn could they sing! Not just sing. Sing and act and dance. Chris was a perfect Adam Sandler replacement, not copying Sandler’s performance exactly, but adapting it. And the same could be said for Claire. I found them both captivating.
Furthermore the rest of the cast were equally talented. Zoe Brinklow, who played Julia’s best friend Holly, had an exceptional voice and David Hurt, who played Simply Wed keyboardist George, almost stole the show with his flamboyant performance. Finally, for those who remember the film, the various comic references to the 80’s in which the film is set were absolutely spot on. The hair, the clothes, the music, the set design, it was all superb.
I had an absolute blast and I can’t wait to see another of their shows in the New Year. Shows confirmed so far are All Shook Up (tickets are already available!) about a guitar-playing roustabout in the 1950s who turns a little American town all upside down, and Spamalot, the Monty Python classic.
I have always been a great that believer in the idea that Beeston is made up of some fantastic people. Occasionally, however I have the bizarre experience of meeting someone who really does stand out from the crowd. This month I had the great pleasure to meet one of our greatest local writers, Megan Taylor, to chat about her work.
What makes Megan stand out quite as much as she did for me is not only her work but mainly that she is by far one of the sweetest people I have ever met, a characteristic that, despite making the interview and beer we have had since very enjoyable, I find just a little bit suspicious.
I’m sure that at this moment, dear reader, that you have someone similar in mind; we have all met someone who is just too nice at some point in our lives. What’s the catch, you may be asking? I will come back to that.
So, putting any notions of suspicion aside, conversation quickly began to flow. Megan explained that having work and lived in London for most of her life she was the proud recipient of a BA in English from Goldsmiths University of London (“la de da” I said, as a lowly Trent Poly student) which began a lifelong passion for all thing literary. In 1999, she relocated North, finally settling here in Beeston (having quickly realised that West Bridgford was not quite all it’s cracked up to be).
It was here that things really started to take off. Her first novel ‘How We Were Lost’, an edgy coming-of-age story, was published by Flame Books in 2007 after coming second in the Yeovile Prize 2006. Deciding that perhaps she was ready to pursue her writing career with all the vigour of a true Beestonian, Megan enrolled herself on a distance learning Masters in creative writing from Manchester Metropolitan University during which time she continued writing, eventually publishing her work ‘The Dawning’ in 2010. Since then Megan has gone from strength to strength, next came the utterly gripping ‘The Lives of Ghosts’ in 2012.
Then, in 2014, she published her first short story collection ‘The Woman Under the Ground’. To top it off, Megan also contributed to the highly successful ‘These Seven’, an anthology of short stories combined and published by Nottingham’s own Five Leaves, to showcase the diversity of writing and communities that our fair city has to offer.
In order to explain how I have finally come to terms and laid aside my initial “she seems too nice” discomfort I took to Megan’s latest novel ‘The Lives of Ghosts’ for some answers and boy did I find them. For the sake of brevity, I will say only that this story was one of the most gripping I have read in a very long time, comparable with so few other but most readily writers such as Joyce Carol Oates but with the emotional engagement displayed by the likes of Stephen King. The narrative may initially appear daunting to some, alternating chapters between our protagonist Libery Fuller as a grown woman and as her 12-year-old self, but Megan has masterfully interwoven these two perspective to offer a level of depth that most author struggle with their whole careers. The story follows Liberty as she returns to her childhood home, an eerie loch-side house in rural Scotland, and attempts to confront the ghosts that have haunted her for 25 years. The dark insight into a number of traumatic events and the attempt to resolve the effects of them give the story a dark, almost sadistic, sense of suspense which combined with a twist that I did not see coming, makes this a novel that I genuinely could not put down.
Having read many of her short stories as well as her latest novel, all the pieces began to fall into place. Why is Megan such a genuinely lovely woman? Because she is able to express the darker side of herself so poignantly in her writing, creating worlds and characters that strike a chord with everyone who reads them.
Her works speak for themselves but be warned, they are to be read on a dark evening, ideally by candlelight. Megan’s work is available through the usual channels: the Five Leaves bookshop, from her own website and Amazon.
After five weeks of a whopping 50 percent deafness in the wake of Download, I pioneer on like the trooper I am, in the quest for all things different, carrying the flag for the good ship Beestonia…
Firstly, the Ryland’s suffered a blow as legendary venue the Plessey closed its doors after an almighty send off – which I attended – and can report that the nostalgia was running high. Regulars joined forces with curious passersby to celebrate this historic focal point and its rich background. Many a family party had graced the function room with entertainment ranging from live acts to bingo, Northern Soul or blues nights to name a few. After moving to the Beeston area I have spent many a night putting the world to rights or enjoying a cold one at ‘ode ‘Plessah’: a sad time indeed.
Quickly regaining my composure, I took a change of scenery to the Froth Cafe over at the Creative Quarter. Fear not those with an aversion to non alcoholic drinks, as the night hosted a gorgeous cocktail menu for a cracking 2 for £8 washed down with a side of Live Music of course.
The night in question classical music masterminds The Warp Trio made their debut in the tiny space usually allocated for Mish Mash gallery. Surrounded by stunning realistic portraits, and abstract canvases adorning the walls the mood was set by flickering candles and the gentle hum of chatter.
Formed back in 2014 the highly talented musicians splice together familiar popular classical music with an edgy twist. Josh Henderson introduces his two accomplices as pianist Mikael Darmaine and Ju Young Lee handling the cello.
Within a few bars of their opening piece, the sheer expertise was immediately apparent as the three musicians masterfully flirted between styles from subtle jazz influences to aspects of funk with an enviable ease. Throughout the evening, passion and energy exuded from the artists, during either their renditions of Chopin or original compositions – the experience was completely rewarding even for classical music novices such as me.
That’s it for another issue. I shall keep my eyes extra peeled for musical gems lurking in our vicinity, (that is not a euphemism for Pokémon Go!). Till next time….
When I was four years old, I was a fantastic artist.
You could ask me to draw anything: real, imaginary, or a mix of the two, and I would just get on with it. I would use anything available that makes marks. Things like:
chewed-up biros – in those days they had a death cap on them that was a serious choking hazard. No strategically-placed airhole in the seventies;
stubby pock-marked crayons with or without the paper wrapping. It was a bonus if I could see what colour the crayon was meant to be;
felt tips – if they were dried up I would just lick the end;
broken pencil nibs. Not the pencil bit, just the broken-off bit. I did have very small hands all those years ago and could hold the 7mm length quite comfortably;
paint, with strange nylon brushes that always pointed out in a multitude of directions, so each line painted would come with an echo;
Plasticine – yes, it left greasy faint marks on the page;
Most shockingly, I found that matches had a lovely red bit on the end that I could draw with – not for long, and not without the pain of an important lesson on how not to use matches;
My Mum’s makeup – I loved lipstick.
Not only could I use an impressive range of media to make the marks, I could create my works of art almost anywhere:
The skirting board going up the stairs was brilliant. It went on and on, and I loved making a wiggly continuous line along it. It was a stunning landscape – mountains, valleys, hills, hummocks and some sheer cliff edges. It was enhanced by being on the diagonal, rising upwards.
My parents painted the living room a wonderful shade of lilac. I really loved sneaking in and making hand prints in the wet paint. My parents preserved the hand print art by hiding it behind the sofa. Not sure that they loved it as much as I did.
Steamed up windows – how could anybody resist drawing on those? It was extra special when there was ice too. It curved up beautifully in the corners, like a Victorian illustration, and added extra sensory crunch to my artistic creations. It was such fun to draw with my fingers in the condensation, leaving cold drips streaming from the trails I drew.
Paper – so many wonderful textures, colours, surfaces. I really liked to use the sugar paper at school. It was mysterious to me – we didn’t have anything like it at home. It was brightly-coloured, rough on one side and smooth as ice on the other. When I folded it the folds stood proud and didn’t dissolve back into the surface. It was even more fascinating to tear it and create rough, irregular frayed edges. I found the perfect combination of media when I was allowed to use pastels. Degas created masterpieces using just the pure pigment of pastels and his fingers. I’m off now to get some chalky, densely-pigmented pastels and some lovely, rough sugar paper. The children at nursery will love that.
But what happened? When did my unbridled joy in creating art and pictures turn into fear and embarrassment? Pablo Picasso said: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
I strongly believe that when we draw for children, cut things out for them, give them colouring sheets and dotted lines, we chip away at their childish joy. The joy they feel in just drawing, painting, exploring, experimenting and creating. We are telling them that they are doing it wrong and that they cannot do it the right way. We are teaching them that a house has to be a square with a triangle for a roof and a door set smack bang in the middle of it.
To encourage our children to be creative, we have to let them be creative and create what they see, what they feel and what they can imagine. If they want to draw themselves as three times the height of your car, that’s fine. If they want to make a snowman with three eyes and two mouths – fine. Who says that snowmen have to look a certain way? If they want to put their hands in the paint and swirl all the colours together into one slurry, then slowly and systematically cover every square inch of the paper, or piece of foil, or box, with that colour, then fine.
Let them enjoy the process and learn how to make marks, how to enjoy making art and how to take pride in their work. There is plenty of time for them to conform when they are older and when they want to. Imagine if Degas had been told not to use his fingers and to stay within the lines.
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