Scotty’s Soap Box: Halloween Special

Now is the time of year our streets will be teaming with youngsters, all wearing costumes and face paint, marauding through the local community, angrily making their demands. No, I’m not talking about the next protest from Extinction Rebellion; I’m referring, of course, to Halloween.

I’m baffled as to why it seems to be such a big deal these days? I think it’s the closest us Brits get to having an affinity with the Americans, apart from our growing obesity problem and embarrassment with our political leaders. It’s a major feature on the calendar now. The kids get excited like it’s Christmas and it nearly rivals Easter when it comes to the calorie count.

When I was a kid back in the 1980s Halloween wasn’t even a thing. I can only remember going trick or treating a few times. The first time was when I was about three years of age, a mere amateur in the game. My parents took a photo of the occasion. I was there sporting a massive black bin bag, with skeleton bones crudely drawn on the front in Tippex. I looked like a walking ISIS flag. I was wearing my father’s wellingtons as they were black and presumably, my Fireman Sam ones didn’t have the required scare factor. I was sat in my Batman go-kart and my poor dad was pulling me around the streets with a rope. I think I was the only Trick or Treater to be chauffeur-driven.

The second time I was about 12, which in trick or treater years is approaching retirement. I was with a friend and went trick or treating around his estate. It was a strange night. The only people to answer the door were his parents, his grandma and one of his highly religious neighbours, who gave us a little note of some bible scripture, warning us against dabbling with the occult. My mate ate it as he thought it might be some sugar paper, it wasn’t but he’s now a fully qualified vicar so it was certainly laced with something.

They even have zombie walks through town centres now. Hundreds of people, walking with a vacant stare, moaning and groaning. I’ve seen it in Nottingham many times, although not exclusively on Halloween.

I often wonder if trick or treating is different in really posh areas. The kids would probably only be able to do two houses as it would take half an hour to walk up the driveways. They’d all be dressed in designer Halloween costumes, a little off the shoulder gothic number by Gucci, with a swan slung over each shoulder and they wouldn’t say trick or treat, it would be “Hoodwink or delicacy?”

Unless it’s Green and Blacks 80% organic fairtrade chocolate, they’d not accept it and the tricks would be a little different too, something more in-keeping with the area. “I say sir, haven’t you heard, house prices here are set to plummet by 5%!”

I have two children, nine and three, strange names but easy to remember. They both love Halloween. At my eldest daughters’ school last year for Halloween they were allowed to go in fancy dress, she said to me, “Daddy I want to go as something really scary.” So I had a think about it and sent her as an Ofsted inspector.

We don’t send them out on their own trick or treating, it’s a different world now. So, we have to accompany them like a pair of weird bouncers. Waiting at the bottom of the driveways and mouthing an embarrassed “sorry” as they storm into our neighbour’s hallways to mug them of all the Haribo they have.

The street I live on really embraces Halloween, because the demographic is mainly young families. It started out quite low-key, a couple of pumpkins, maybe a cobweb here and there. A morning at Costa and a WhatsApp group later and its now Grand Designs meets Friday the 13th. It’s a competition in one-upmanship. We’ve got gravestones in gardens, smoke machines and spooky music on Bluetooth speakers. Last year one resident had the idea of putting a life-size dummy of a killer clown in the front seat of their people carrier. It was a nice touch until one child had a panic attack. I think they are still in therapy now.

I don’t know where this madness is going to end. I wouldn’t be surprised if my wife tries to convince me to bury myself in the garden, with nothing but a paper straw to breathe through. She’d tell the children I was working away and then on Halloween night, as soon as the first bars of Michael Jacksons “Thriller” are blasted across the garden, I would emerge from the soil like one of the Living Dead.

Towards the end of the evening, we tend to get the stragglers coming, to pick off the last of the sweets. These are the kids who are too old for the trick or treating game. The ones who have worn the tread on the tyres, jaded old hacks who should know better. The cut-off point is when The One Show intro music starts, everyone knows that. Once the pumpkin is extinguished it’s over. Yet they still come, all charged up on E-numbers, mobile phones lighting their faces like low budget ETs and hammer the doorbell. I expect the reason they were late is because some of them are old enough to be working at Subway and they needed to finish their shifts first.

The carving of the pumpkin is something I try to involve the children in. It’s a calmer, more traditional taste of Halloween. The kids try and carve, but ultimately, they get bored. They start off with such big ideas, “I’m going to carve Harry Potter’s face into this one Daddy!”, “I’m going to do a full-scale picture of Hogwarts in mine Daddy!” this all fades away at record speed when they realise how difficult it is to cut into and all we end up with is two pumpkins with a glory hole in them.

This years Halloween will be very different. I won’t be able to celebrate it as I am performing my tour show “Leap Year” (tickets available at www.scottbennettcomedy.co.uk/tour.html yes this is a plug) in Amersham, Hertfordshire.

Let’s hope that it’s a treat for me and not a trick where no one turns up. Or worse than that, one person turns up, in fancy dress as the grim reaper.

@scottbcomedyuk | scottbennettcomedy.co.uk Find The Scott Bennett Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes.

‘Zombie Fungus’ Controls the Minds of Insects

It’s Halloween and there have been some spooky goings-on at the Attenborough Nature Reserve. Eerie ‘pig-like’ screams from water rails in the reedbeds, tawny owls hooting as they proclaim ownership of their woodland territory, but most scarily, zombies lurking in the undergrowth!

Whilst this sounds like the plot of a b-list horror movie, the actions of a fungus have made zombies very real at Attenborough.

Fungi are one of the most important groups of organisms to be found on the Nature Reserve. Over 450 species have been identified at Attenborough and most of the species can be seen in the autumn. Fungi do a wonderful job of breaking down dead and decaying matter, returning the nutrients back into the soil. However, there is a particular group of fungi which have a very sinister strategy for survival.

The so-called ‘Zombie Fungus’, Entomophthora, is one such fungus and the effects of which have been seen in the late summer and autumn.

The so-called ‘Zombie Fungus’, Entomophthora.

The fungus uses a special mind control technique to take advantage of insects in order to help it spread. Just one microscopic germinated spore (akin to seeds in plants) ingested by an insect is enough to infect the host with this pathogenic organism.

Once inside the body of the host, the fungus grows rapidly. Digesting its guts and internal organs. The mycelium of the fungus, a mass of branching thread-like hairs or roots, then spreads to an area of the fly’s brain that controls behaviour. The fungus forces the host to land or climb up to the top of a tall plant or tree.

The reason for this is that like most other types of fungi, the zombie fly fungus needs to get its spore-bearing structures as high as possible in order to complete its lifecycle. The higher up the insect, the more likely the microscopic spores are to get caught in air currents when they are released and will, therefore, spread over greater distances.

The final act of the fungus is to get the insect to assume a position that aids in dispersal of the spores. In the case of flies, the wings are held spread open and the legs stiffen to raise the fly’s abdomen into the air. Just five to seven days after becoming infected, the fly dies.

Fungus Hoverfly.

By this stage, the growing fungus begins to burst out of every crack in the insect’s armour and it becomes visible for a couple of days before the spores are released and the fungal spores ‘seek out’ their next victim.

Surprisingly there are over 70 species of this group of fungi in the UK. Whilst Entomopthora muscae is the most commonly encountered species and infects flies like hoverflies, others use a similar technique to affect mosquitoes, ants and even earwigs.

Why not scan through the path-side vegetation on your next visit to Attenborough and see if you can spot a ‘zombie insect’ for yourself!

TS

 

Motherhood: Halloween

In our house, Halloween is as big as Christmas. Costumes are decided during the end of summer sales, our amazing porch (tiny front window directly onto the road in front of our small terraced house) is decked in crunchy burnt-orange leaves, pumpkins and skulls, neighbours avoid us until mid-November.

Previous costumes themes have included Stranger Things, The X Files, The Walking Dead, and weirdly, Parks and Rec. This year we have decided on Fleabag as our muse. I’m Fleabag (of course) my husband, despite being 6’2 and bald, is the sexy priest, and our little girl is Hilary the guinea pig. We pride ourselves on having a 0% success rate for people guessing who we are.

Our little family are all huge horror fans. My favourite film as a child was the 18-rated Troll, which we rented so many times from the video shop that the guy who owned it eventually gave it to us for free because the tracking was wearing out. My daughter loves Goosebumps and is sniffing around my old Point Horror collection. My husband likes anything with fighting and blood in it.

We are natural Halloween enthusiasts. Part of the attraction for me has always been the subversive nature of celebrating a pagan ritual, a two-finger salute at religious holidays and a chance to run around in the dark demanding people give you stuff for free.

My fondest memory as a kid was of my parents unrolling bin bags and my mum getting crafty with scissors and sellotape. I was a witch every year for 8 years. When I was about 6 my dad took me trick or treating and told me to beware of witches lurking around corners, just as two unwitting students came around the bend in our road and through my screams of pure terror I felt that first rush of white-hot fear, and instantly knew that being scared was awesome. My daughter is the same. She will beg me to make her jump or tell her a scary story, to the point that she’s exhausted herself with screams and laughter. I’ll tell her stories of working as a scare actor in attractions around London, and of the people who fainted or threw up or begged to leave. It was the best few years of my 20s.

Whatever you do this Halloween, don’t be a scare-scrooge and avoid the doorbell. Grab a bag of pound shop sweets and tell the kids they look awesome, they will remember it forever. Or do what we did and set up a smoke machine in the hallway, and terrify the living souls out of the local children by answering the door dressed as a dead Mulder and Scully. You’ll remember that forever too.

DL

Beeston Beats: Halloween special

Hey, hey, here we are again for another fantabulous, Halloween edition of Beeston Beats, lovingly renamed BEAST!- onian (autocorrect please stop changing it to Onion), so what is on the agenda this month? Well, read ahead, grab a hot drink and pull a chair in, as things are about to get spooky! (Edit, not too spooky I
gets scared too!)

The season that I wait all year till is almost here; Halloween! Yes give me the dark unhappy season any day, you can keep mince pies, inflatable Santa’s and good old chirpy festive Christmas will, it’s all about the excuses for fancy dress, questionable gory themed alcoholic beverages and either embracing the age-old tradition of Trick and Treaters with copious amounts of sugary sweets or barricading ourselves at home in the dark until said intruders go and leave us in peace.

In fact can we please extend the ghostly season like we seem to have with Christmas? At August the dreaded Yuletide cakes seem to roll into retail shops, as do the Easter Eggs that appear as if laid by the bunny themselves on Boxing Day (true story). Imagine the outraged cry if silly masks and fake blood descended into local shops in June? In fact, the whole thing makes me wanna, well you know, turn into a soul-devouring demon. Before I descend into a full anti-yuletide rant here is my not so cheery, quite grumpy guide to events leading up to the unhappy season, Bah Humbug!

“Not a dancer? Fair enough, how about a giggle?”

By the time this publication hits the good drinking holes of Beeston the annual Oxjam Festival will have been and gone, however for those quick on the pulse there is the Oxjam Ceilidh at the Beeston Legion on Sat 23rd November, however tickets have sold out but fear not – another Scottish dance event is to be held at the Boat and Horses on Friday 22nd November, tickets are £5 no booking required just turn up, 8 pm start.

Not a dancer? Fair enough, how about a giggle? The Funhouse comedy club, hosted at Barton’s is on Friday 25th Oct and again on 29th November. £11 door tax, start time 8.15 pm.

No dancing and not a fan of comedy? Well Beeston has enough music to entertain even the deadened souls with Motown in the form of band The Northern Line plus Colin Stephens at the Victory Club on sat 26th, to Pop Classic covers with Peashooter at the newly refurbished Cornmill pub on Friday 25th Oct. Folk artist Jack Rutter performs at the Middle Street Resource Centre on Friday 1st Nov tickets are £8. More folk? No problem, Alice Jones plays the Commercial pub Dec 6th tickets also £8. The one and only Mr Kingdom Rapper takes on the Berliner bar Nov 16th.

There are also the twinkly shiny firework displays to look forward to for bonfire night, I shall be clutching a hotdog and the fine northern treat that is, minted mushy peas and uttering Ooooo and Arrrrr at the pretties. Lanes School are holding a Fireworks Extravaganza Friday 8th November 5.45 pm admission £4.

See after all those interesting events lined up, can we give Christmas a miss, you can call it my present.

LD

Bow Selector: Tim Pollard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Down on the Reserve: Bumper Harvest!

A combination of one of the warmest springs in the last 100 years and a wet and mild June has provided the perfect growing conditions for plants and there is currently a wonderful display of colour at Attenborough Nature Reserve.

The most noticeable as you walk around the Reserve at the moment are the flowers and
blackberries on the bramble. This familiar thorny shrub grows almost anywhere on the Reserve and can commonly be found in woodland, grassland and within the hedgerows. The white and pinkish flowers are literally covering the bushes and on sunny days attract a huge number of bees, hoverflies and other pollinating insects.

Bramble is incredibly valuable for the wildlife at Attenborough. Not only do the flowers provide opportunities for pollinating insects, but the fruit provides food for mammals and birds – particularly during the autumn migration. The dense spiky bushes give valuable protection for nesting birds and also provides a habitat for a range of other small animals.

Whilst the blackberries are the most obvious fruit, a vast array of edible delights can be found around the Reserve including dewberry, elder, cherry, blackthorn, hawthorn and rose to name but a few

Incredibly some 400 micro-species of wild blackberry grow in the UK!
Following an abundance of flowers on the bramble this year it seems that we are going to be in for a bumper crop of blackberries! The fruit ripened some weeks earlier than we
would typically expect.

I have fond memories of foraging with my parents as a child. My mum in particular was a keen jam-maker and would have a large jam pan on the stove from late spring to autumn as different fruits became available. Blackberry season was always one of my favourite times of the year, and I possibly ate as many berries as I put in my ice-cream tub for the jam.

There is some evidence to suggest that trees and shrubs are fruiting up to three weeks earlier than they were 50 years ago, the result of global climate change. Although it would take many more years of data to confirm this, as an indication of just how far the seasons have come forward in the last 30 years, it would have been in the week before I went back to school after the summer holiday that we would head out to pick blackberries. In the last few years, I have taken my son out picking in the first week of the school holiday.

Wild foraging is certainly a great way to engage children in the wonders of the natural world. Whilst the blackberries are the most obvious fruit, a vast array of edible delights can be found around the Reserve including dewberry, elder, cherry, blackthorn, hawthorn and rose to name but a few. Most are wild set, but others such as crab apple, pear and plum serve as a reminder of the Reserve’s history within an agricultural landscape.

Whilst we do not discourage visitors from picking blackberries, we kindly ask that if you are going to go foraging on Nature Reserves such as Attenborough that you stick to the footpaths and do not trample the vegetation in order to get to the juiciest fruit. In 2011 we had a similarly early crop ofblackberries and the actions of blackberry pickers, trampling down the vegetation, led to a bird’s nest being uncovered – the chicks, unprotected by the prickly vegetation, were subsequently predated and died.

Please enjoy the wild harvest, but only pick what you know you will use/eat, leave some for the birds and other wildlife and finally only pick what you are certain is edible and that you have identified correctly.

TIM SEXTON, ATTENBOROUGH NATURE CENTRE.

I Am Beeston: Johnny Pusztai -Butcher

Few people can handle a sausage as well as Johnny Pusztai: the larger than life butcher extraordinaire talks to The Beestonian

I have been trying to get Nottingham’s famous butcher to do ‘I Am Beeston’ for
practically two years now, but with running several businesses, it’s been almost
impossible to pin him down for a chat. But finally we managed to get together, at
L’Olvia’s, which is turning out to be one of the best and most popular restaurants
in Beeston.

“I was born in Worksop, North Notts. My father Dezso came from Hungary and
immigrated to Nottingham in 1956, where he worked as an engineering welder.
My Mum Pamela was a local girl, and sold tickets at the ABC Cinema. From
Worksop, we moved to Mansfield, then to Sherwood, when I was seven”.
“We lived across the road from the JT Beedham butchers, and my dad used to
take me to see what was for sale. I was fascinated with all the different sorts of
meats, the cuts and the terminology. I got on really well with the owners, George
Beedham and Bill Robinson, so they set me on as a delivery boy when I was 12.
Then when I turned 16, I got an apprenticeship with them. I really got stuck into
the thick of it and learned all I could. I took over the business in 1991, but I
worked in a slaughterhouse to earn enough to buy it. I worked on the boning
line. It was the most boring job, but the best paid. I kept the Beedham name out
of respect for George. He was probably the best butcher that ever lived”.

Johnny first became well known to the general public when he appeared on the
Great British Menu TV series with local Michelin starred chef Sat Bains in the
second series, which aired in April 2007. Sat won the Midlands & East of England
heat with his starter, which featured ham from Beedham’s. It received three ‘10s’
from the judges. Since then Johnny has become Sat Bain’s preferred butcher.
Johnny also supplies a few restaurants in the city centre and the very place
where we are sitting chatting. “I’ve known Marco since he opened. We’ve
become very good friends. There used to five or six butchers in Beeston. Now
there’s only two. The problem with supermarket meat is that they are not
bothered about quality. It’s more to do with profit. I like Beeston. It’s a nice town
with friendly people. I just love Nottinghamshire. It’s a wonderful county to live
in” The secret to Johnny’s success is of course the meat itself. “I have a farm up at
Wellow near Rufford, where we rear pigs and lambs. I also get meat from
Brackenhurst College near Southwell. They breed red heifers, which is the best
meat”.

Further appearances followed, including BBC2’s Market Kitchen with Gary
Rhodes in November 2008. Then invitations to present cooking demonstrations
at food festivals around the country stated to come in. A number of awards have
also come Johnny’s way, such as the Guild of Fine Food for his sausages and
bacon, and the Observer Food Awards in 2011. Johnny is very modest about his
achievements. “I still work 16 hours a day. My job is never boring. I don’t drink, but love a good coffee and some nice food. I’ve seen Zulu 38 times. It’s my
favourite film. My daughter Lara and I have just done the catering in the VIP Tent
for Splendour at Wollaton Park. It was a very long day for both of us. But she is
off to university to study Business Management and Marketing. So when she gets
her degree, she’ll be able to promote me properly, as it’s something that I’m not
that good at”.
One part of Johnny’s businesses that hasn’t done as well as expected is ‘The
Snobby Butcher Bistro’, which opened in May this year, after a year and a half of
construction work on the adjoining Sherwood shop. “The restaurant has a
future, I just have to reconfigure the idea. It just wasn’t working for me”.

“I still work 16 hours a day. My job is never boring. I don’t drink, but love a good coffee and some nice food. I’ve seen Zulu 38 times.

But there are two areas that have proved to be very popular; the food and drink
shows and the experience days. “I have appeared at food festivals all over the
country. There’s even one now in Worksop, where I grew up”. Beeston actually
held one a few years ago, which Johnny attended. But it wasn’t a great success.
Possibly poor planning and publicity were to blame. Certainly the very wet
weather on that particular Saturday didn’t help. The festival was split between
the Square and Broadgate Park, and there were problems at the park, due to very
muddy conditions. So it has sadly never been repeated.

“The Experience Days have really taken off. People will spend the day with me at
the shop and get involved in all aspects of butchery. We teach them how to bone
a chicken or a piece of meat, make sausages, create flavours and cooking skills, so
they can make the same dish at home”.

One aspect of Johnny’s life that due to modesty didn’t want to mention was that
he used to be a professional ice hockey player for the Nottingham Panthers. But
some research showed that he played centre during their 1980-81 year. Despite
his busy schedule, Johnny still finds time to coach the University of Nottingham
team. “My father had a saying: we are born to be workers, so lets be the best that
we can.” Well Johnny, I don’t think anyone could argue with that. Christopher Frost, Community Editor.

The Commonwealth of Beeston

This is our Commonwealth

Who really owns Beeston? Some might argue that ultimately it’s the Queen (via the Crown Estates) because technically speaking she owns any Commonwealth land that she reigns over, which might make her the biggest landowner on the planet. But at a local level, when Her Majesty is busy elsewhere, what about those areas where elected representatives of the people have used public funds to provide places for the use of the people, but where the original intentions have become somewhat lost or forgotten? I’m thinking now of the Town Hall, which was recently sold off by councillors saying things like “I as a council tax payer in the north of the borough am sick and tired of putting money into Beeston Town Hall” and telling us that the £85,000 yearly running costs could be put to better use elsewhere, without actually publicising a persuasive cost-benefit and/or risk analysis.

And those of us who were involved in the 2010/13 campaign to ensure that Middle Street Resource Centre was not lost to public use know that sometimes it’s only when we’re about to lose a treasured resource that we do the work to understand its ownership, and find out what we need to do to keep it. Certainly, if all property owners were well-intentioned, we’d always be given the time and the information we need to present viable alternatives to the public losing out, but this sadly ain’t so when all that matters is the need to relieve a maddening itch caused by an ideologically-driven fiscal policy. And what is the use of an impressive ‘bottom line’ in the context of public services anyway……was money made for mankind, or mankind for money?

But I’m not taking up space in this lovely publication to try and turn back the clock. I’m thinking forward to Saturday July 13th, when anyone who cares about the Beeston area and its public facilities can come and show their support and affection, and make a declaration about what is meaningful to them via the procession we know as the Beeston Carnival. The participants usually congregate first of all in front of the Town Hall which this year will, sadly, have lost much of its significance as the heart of our local democracy. The processing part begins in The Square at noon then moves along our pedestrianised High Street, terminating at Broadgate Park where there will be more events and stalls, with additional activities at the Middle Street Resource Centre. All these aforementioned gathering spaces, when properly used for trading and recreation and entertainment, perform a critical function in our local economy, improving our quality of life and enabling social cohesion. This all boosts our position in the country, and so we’d all suffer if they are not cherished. Our annual carnival is a way for us to demonstrate and showcase what we have to offer, so let’s not forget that this year and for the last 14 years, we’ve had this opportunity because a local couple decided to commit themselves and their personal energies to resurrecting this great event. Well done Lynda and Pat Lally. The Commonwealth of Beestonia would be poorer without you.

KM

University of Beestonia

Augar-ing down into the world of Higher Education

On my return from a University of Beestonia sabbatical I find HE in the national headlines, in May sandwiched somewhere between Farage and Trump (don’t dwell on that imagery too much) Dr Auger and his colleagues presented their Review of Post-18 Education and Funding (from the literal rather than creative school of titling I
guess…).

The headline grabbing recommendation (out of all 53 of them) was that to reduce the University Tuition Fee from its current level at £9,250, to £7,500 per year for undergraduate students. Less widely reported, but fairly critical for the Universities was the following recommendation that Government should replace in full the lost fee income by
increasing the teaching grant, leaving the average unit of funding unchanged at sector level in cash terms.

This seems fairly critical, as otherwise most Universities will see substantial reductions in income, given the high percentage of that income that comes from tuition fees.

However, word on the lanes and boulevards is that the next government is likely to embrace the former recommendation and quietly ignore the latter. After all, saving folk money is a good thing, whereas taking it away from something else or increasing taxes generally doesn’t go down so well.

Some point out though that government also want a high quality higher education sector in the UK – it has its uses after all, not least the 1.2 % of GDP in contributes (figures from the Auger review).

So how does one go about balancing that alongside the other things Universities have to do, like undertake research? It is the question that Universities and those that work within them have been batting with for some time. How do you balance the books and maintain or improve quality? How do you measure quality and ensure it? Themes such as this have drifted through this particular column before.

And whilst we juggle with the balancing, there are still huge uncertainties about just what will happen to the review in the hands of a new PM, a new government and in an uncertain Brexit landscape. It’s difficult to plan for, and so institutions have to look to the worst case. A cut in fee will likely have to be compensated for by an increase
in student numbers or cut in provision somewhere. Neither are ideal in terms of providing a leading higher educational experience to our future students. 20 go to 10.

There’s a challenge to doing more with less, to more by fewer. And it’s a shame because we have great students who deserve and should demand a good University education, and we want to be able to provide that. I don’t think the Auger review wanted anything less than that either, I just hope whoever implements the review allows it to happen.

It’s good to be back…

Prof. J

Barton’s Bus of Bricks

It’s been around a year since local lad Ewan Cooper revealed the Lego model of everyone’s favourite local shop – Fred Hallams – which he constructed with his father John.

Now the lad and dad team have produced another brick-based bit of local interest, a classic Bartons double decker. To the untrained eye it may look like a Routemaster bus, but it is in fact a slightly different model, a Bridgemaster.

The model contains some cool features including an engine under the bonnet, an opening driver’s door, and also the ability to turn round the destination blind to alter the destinations.

The model is currently residing in the window of one of the Bartons buildings opposite the college tram stop, alongside the Hallams model.

Ewan will be displaying both creations at various different places over the summer.

EC/JC

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