Hope beyond hope

It’s been a decade since Hope House first opened on Boundary Road. Founder Nigel Adams tells us how the pandemic has proven a challenge, but one they’ve met head-on.

The laugh Nigel Adams gives before telling me what this year has been like for him contains just the right amount of sardonic cheer to almost make his reply redundant. “It’s been weird’ he says, his eyebrows letting me know this is quite the understatement.

It certainly has been a far from normal few months for the founder of Hope House, the food bank in Beeston North that has been a safety net – and a trampoline, which we will explain in due course – for the past decade. “We knew instantly we had to react fast. We decided to close half of the food banks in our network (Hope oversees 14 similar places across the county), as many of our volunteers had to shield, and we saw that a delivery service was the best way to help.”

Nigel opened Hope House ten years ago, perhaps uncoincidentally the same year a new austerity-inflicting government came to power. An engineer by trade, he had taken ‘a leap of faith’ to change careers to set up the charity, after helping the Parish Pantry, an under-resourced (“It was little more than a Portakabin, no water, and a sideboard to store the beans in”) soup kitchen operating out of Wollaton Road Methodist Church. “We had a vision to set up something more holistic on bigger premises and eventually got offered Boundary Road Reform Church he explains The CAB were signposting many people to us, and people presented themselves in all sorts of situations”. Seeing demand would only grow, he took up an offer to take over the disused Boundary Road Reform Church and registered as a Trussell Trust foodbank. Since then, it’s become a much-praised institution, that’s helped countless vulnerable individuals and families.

Yet food is merely one element of what they do there “Food is important, obviously. But we have to have a more holistic approach, so as we’ve grown we’ve put in place things to help people help themselves: help accessing the right benefits, help getting back into work. We have a literacy group, an IT tuition group. The church itself is a community cafe” Nigel is very much an adherent to the idea of addressing the cause, not just the symptom “We build confidence, we give people the tools to help themselves. Often they come here as a last resort – they’re literally starving – and while we can address the hunger immediately, we want to be able to get that person out of the situation that led to that hunger”.

It’s a much more rounded approach: while food banks are often seen as single-purpose – handing out food parcels – they often address a variety of needs It’s a myth I acknowledge I’d believed before talking to Nigel, who is quick to set me right “The longer you spend in a bad situation -debt, joblessness, whatever – the harder it is to come out of it. The sooner we can help, the better. Yet it’s often only desperation that means they seek help”.

That decade of experience proved invaluable when the pandemic hit and with it lockdown. “Just getting food was difficult” Nigel explains “Panic buying had emptied the shelves, so people who don’t have the financial means to do a big shop for staples were left struggling. We had to help people stay at home and stay safe just as much as to mitigate against poverty. Yet there was a tremendous outpouring of good, with organisations coming together to help. We worked with Himmah (Muslim charity based in Forest Fields) and other food banks as well as local authorities. Everyone pulled together, and did so well before central government got going”. Demand rocketed, yet with its offers of help “Post-apocalyptic films always show that society reacts to disaster with an ‘every man for themselves’ attitude” he laughs, and with more than a hint of pride says “the reality is people actually just want to help”. Such was the response, an answerphone service had to be added to the phone line “Otherwise our admin staff would have been overwhelmed…it’s a great instinct, to want to help”. In just one fortnight in May, Hope House distributed more food than it usually does in a year.

This help, alongside generous donations and grants from the speedily, set up Robin Hood Fund, DEFRA and others ensured that they could keep providing help across the region. They were able to not just hit a food in -food out equilibrium, but, in the manner of more conventional banks, store up some supplies. “We have a stockpile ready for winter. We tend to see much generosity over Christmas, but that falls back in January and February. By March, our shelves can be fairly empty: just as high energy bills hit households and topple them into debt. We have a buffer this year”.

Is he confident about the future, as the shadow of Covid falls over a long winter, with the wave of a mighty recession about to break on the shore? As the moratorium on evictions and the furlough scheme approach an end, things could get very grim.

“I’m an incurable optimist,” Nigel tells me. “Opportunities will arise, society will restructure” In no way should this be mistaken for complacency “We’re readying ourselves: strengthening the job clubs, working closely with the CAB, and so on”.

Such is the effectiveness of the social and signposting activity at Hope, the hardest part of lockdown is having to shut the cafe. Such is its worth as a safe space, a place for confidence, sociability and employability to rebuild that having closed for any period of time greatly slows down the way Hope works. Yes, they can keep people fed, and do that well. Getting them out of the rut that leads them to need help, not so much.

What can we, as caring helpful Beestonians do? “A simple thing to do, which would have such an effect if we were all to do it, is instead of just giving to a food bank, check your neighbour. See how they are. There is a poverty of companionship in this country, and we can make giant steps by just looking out for our community directly. It’s often much harder to check your neighbour than drop some pasta off with us, and could mean we wouldn’t see that person present to us”.

And if, by some miracle, everyone had enough to eat and Hope’s role became redundant “We need community. If we weren’t doing food we would be still providing that. Community is – like food – a basic need, but one much easier to overlook”

Picture credit: Nottinghamshire Live


Where to get a copy

Due to the current situation, lots of our usual outlets are either closed or unable to stock issues.

However, we will still be available in two of Beeston’s stalwart independents that can
continue trading through lockdowns – The Cycle Inn and Fred Hallams.

Even easier is having a copy delivered directly to your door. Simply visit our Ko-fi page, make a donation and give us your address.

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You can actually donate as much as you like!

More funds mean we can make The Beestonian bigger and better whilst being able to print more regularly.


As I write, it’s been a couple of days since the long-awaited news that finally a vaccine for Covid has been found; even more astounding is that it apparently has over a 90% efficacy – and recently a second equally if not more effective vaccine was announced.

Now I know there’s still a long way to go before anyone I know ends up having it administered, but at least theoretically it appears Covid may be on the back foot for once. By this time next year, we may be looking back and breathing out a little.

Of course, that’s not a given; there may be stumbling blocks along the way, but I am vastly heartened by the prospect of an end to lockdowns, fear and people both catching – and very sadly dying from – a novel virus.

Some of the barriers may be scientific, logistical or legal; others may be entirely human – the tinfoil hat brigade who won’t swallow medication but will swallow just about anything else it appears. Sadly the country now seems to have a risibly high percentage of people who don’t see the irony in using their mobile phones to insist online that ‘the vaccine has a chip in it which can track you’, or that ‘they’ll use it to turn your brain off’ – a ship that for them has patently already sailed. Still, I guess it’s nice to think they imagine they’re that important that the government would want an extra way to track them…

Having said that, I don’t think anyone would need tracking devices for me at the moment, I’ve spent pretty much all the time since the first lockdown in my house – and I’ve been loving it. I’m an anti-social bloke at the best of times, enjoying movies, reading, gaming, painting miniature wargames figures and sleeping when I’m not looking after my six-year-old daughter (which means, in reality, I get very, very little time to do anything in that list). But unlike so many people I’m perfectly happy in my own company with Radio 4 on. I do have some good friends and family who I keep in touch with online and that’s great too – but I don’t imagine it’s been as fun for most people who enjoy going to football matches, clubs, big family gatherings, as well as out to work, seeing friends in real life etc.

Of course, being a self-employed Robin Hood I’ve lost a lot of work (all of it, actually) as the tourism trade is… well, it isn’t. Not only have all of my normal gigs gone but even the special ones – I was supposed to be taking part in the Lord Mayor’s Parade in London last weekend and I’ve even lost my favourite last gig of the year, being Santa for the annual kids Christmas concert at Nottingham’s Albert Hall. So yea, like a great many others my income has decreased significantly, but thankfully I can still write and illustrate so compared to a great many I’m very lucky – but I’m very much hoping things can pick up again next year.

Hence yet again my being incredibly thankful for the massive effort made by scientists and researchers worldwide to get this pandemic under control. Those of you who’ve read my ramblings before will know I’m a big geek – I love Star Trek (the proper one with Captain Kirk, obviously). The inherent optimism in that show is something I’m feeling now – that despite things being bleak, despite there being economic loss, sadness and death all around us the world has pulled together and done something about it in record time. The folks who complain about the vaccine being found so quickly compared to other diseases (etc., etc.) seem happier to complain than realise that when everyone pulls together we can get things done, make life better, easier and give people back something that’s been missing since all of this started – optimism.


Students breaking the stereotype

It feels like every day there are student stories in the news at the moment. Students are flouting coronavirus restrictions and holding parties in their flats. Hiding party-goers in their basements, attempting to evade police detection and avoiding hefty fines. Unfortunately, this is an illusion that some people have subscribed to and believed. But from what I can tell, it’s the minority.

Across our university campuses in Nottingham, students are raising funds and collecting food for our city’s residents who are in a less fortunate position, offering a helping hand to their community.

Max Adler, who acts as the charity secretary for the University of Nottingham football team, helped organise an initiative that provided children with free packed lunches over the half-term break, inspired by footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign. After teaming up with St Paul’s Roman Catholic Church, the team helped distribute over 200 free lunches in Lenton, using money from their own pocket. Any leftover food was then donated to food banks to prevent anything from going to waste.

Max said: “While students get looked down on, so do members of sports clubs – they’re often known to be quite loud and noisy. Following the government’s decision not to provide free school meals for school children over the half-term holidays, the University of Nottingham football club wanted to help the community. We understand the difficult times we are living in and we firmly believe that no child should ever have to go hungry.”

Zain Gillani, the football team’s equality officer, also said: “Getting involved in the community and helping out as much as we can has been one of our main priorities every single year. Whenever we see we can help make a change, we go for it.”

Alongside this, the Portland building on the University Park campus has also seen an increase in donations. An initiative was launched at the University of Nottingham to help support local food banks. Partnering with the local food distribution company Foodprint, university students were encouraged to donate food outside the Spar shop in the Portland Building, which would then be distributed to food banks and homeless shelters across the city.

Foodprint itself was a company founded by University of Nottingham students in 2017 to battle the amount of food waste in a society that also tackles hunger. To them, the latter should not coexist with the former. They have worked throughout lockdown, selling surplus food in their Sneinton store to avoid it heading to a landfill.

As well as food donations, students at the University of Nottingham are also encouraged to donate the drinks from their meal deals if they don’t want them, and on Sundays, students can use up the remainder of their balance on their meal cards to spend on non-perishable food especially for the food bank donations. Whilst this operation was halted last semester as a result of cross-contamination fears amid coronavirus, workers at the Spar shop have noticed that food is once again being left for food bank donations so it is believed the initiative will start up again.

While sometimes students might be scapegoated, taking a further look can provide an insight into what students are really doing in lockdown, other than studying.


I am Beeston: Tim Bassford – Creative Champion

“I was actually born in neighbouring Bramcote, but have also lived in Chester, Belfast, Athens and the more exotic region of Mapperley Top.

“We moved back to Beeston about 12 years ago, as most of our friends and family were on this side of Nottingham. We just about got settled back into the area, around the time the tram work began and the Beeston social media became full of vitriol about the major upset it was causing. The mayhem caused by the roadworks reminded me very much of Beirut in the late 80s, without as many hostage sieges. It felt like we’d returned to Beeston at a pretty eventful time.

“I run my own company (Turbine Creative) producing marketing materials (videos, animations, branding etc). I studied Fine Art then moved into graphic design and marketing from there. In the past, I’ve had the privilege of working with companies like The Walt Disney Company, The Discovery Channel and the BBC. A massive part of my work involves video production for corporate clients. As well as creating videos for clients, I also love making short films and music videos for friends.

“Beeston is clearly an awesome town to live in and only getting better. For a relatively small town is has a massive depth of cultural, historical, sporting and social strengths. Beeston has so many different characters – the beauty of the Rylands, canal side and river (love the Park Run), the social celebrations at Christmas and summer markets. The spectacular university grounds and the nightlife on the high street and Chilwell High Road. I love the brilliant range of quality bars (Berliner, Crown, The Vic’ to name a few), the awesome restaurants, and as a family we’ve been able to get involved in various local sports clubs. It really has got a perfect mix. There’s also a load of great memories for me here from when I was a kid, going to ‘Fords – the family store’ on the High Road (which felt like Harrods to a seven-year-old me) and visiting John Menzies or Woolworths with my pocket money.

“I think in this challenging time we’ve really seen the people of Beeston coming together to support and help one another. I know our neighbourhood has been able to rally around and help each there with both practical help and moral support with communal singing, clapping for the NHS, social distanced parties. Although the various Beeston social media groups attract some more polemical views, they also present a real reflection of some of the amazing things Beeston’s community are doing to support and encourage one another. The Oxjam music festival must be one of the most amazing things that the Beeston community puts on. The Beeston Film Festival also is an amazing initiative that seems to be punching well above its weight on the international film scene.

“I’ve personally been blown away by the creative community in Beeston. There are so many artists, illustrators, filmmakers, writers, musicians, craftsmen. They’re all over the place! Sometimes Beeston feels like the Brighton of the Midlands. I’ve been able to find great creative collaborators in Beeston, including my sister-in-law, Carmen Flores, who also resides in Beeston and is an accomplished violinist. We recently worked on a series of short films for the brilliant Nottingham Chamber Music Festival. These films can be seen here.

“On a slightly less cultured note, I found another creative collaboration whilst out having a few beers with the Dad’s from school at the Greyhound. We stumbled upon an incredible band called Iron Python, a tribute ‘Hair Metal Rock n Roll band’. They were the most brilliantly camp and over the top performers, I have ever seen in my life. Jumping all over the bar and pneumatically groin-thrusting a beer pump here in a bar in Beeston. A few months later I asked them to be part of a national marketing campaign I was involved in and was subsequently able to capture their energetic performance in an award-winning advertising campaign!

“Another great thing about Beeston is that it is continually evolving and surprising me with its entrepreneurialism. There are some great independent shops, small businesses and a whole bunch of people exploring new ideas and new initiatives. I think the regular influx of students ensures a certain kind of energy and the fact that many residents work at the uni, hospital or in tech of some kind, means there’s always lots to talk about at the pub (when you’re allowed to go!). Of course, I can’t finish this without a massive shout out to The Beestonian and all of those who continually promote and champion the benefits of our brilliant town.”


Creative champions!

Just before lockdown, the ABC Art Trail were preparing to launch their publicity for the 2020 Art Trail, we shared their Primary School Art Competition giving prizes for both Key Stage 1 and 2 inviting all schools in Attenborough, Beeston and Chilwell to take part. They gave the children a loose title ‘Where I Live.’

The organisers were ‘overwhelmed with the tremendous response’ and the competition closed on 29 February. Entries were in their hundreds and they were brilliant! It took many months of socially distanced organisation but we are happy to inform you that judging was able to take place and we can now share with you the winners!

As the majority of the ABCAT sponsors allowed them to keep their support money the winners will be receiving a prize. All winning entries went on display as part of an exhibition
at Canalside Heritage Centre on Monday 2nd November 2020.

Many thanks to the ABCAT organisers for sending us the photographs of the children’s wonderful artwork. Don’t forget to congratulate them when you see them.

Enjoy the full gallery of work here


Sprucing things up

If you are one of those people that have spent far too much time in their home over the past six months, then you might be in need of the services of local Interior Designer Sarah Kirkby. Her domestic interiors service “Spruce Interiors” offers a range of services from a single room revamp to a full home renovation and is a self-confessed colour addict!

After completing her BA in Decorative Arts at Nottingham Trent University, Sarah secured herself a job at Dulux as an Interior Designer. She not only does the initial colour consultation and manages the project, but she also works alongside the client to ensure they get exactly the look they want, and this usually starts with her asking what colours inspire them.  When I popped into her new shop at 108 Chilwell High Road, Sarah was busy working on ‘kitchen CAD plans’ and the shop was being expertly managed by a friendly intern, Faaria who was happy to show me around.

Conveniently situated at Chilwell Road tram stop, with its show-stopping signage and slatted circular window display, it’s hard to resist stopping to take a peek through the wooden aperture at the tropical richness within. Immediately I spot a familiar grey linen shade of one of Beeston designer Mark Lowe’s table lamps, flanked by a luscious bright green fern, and am enticed inside. Though not a large space, there are plenty of inspiring things to feast your Ikea weary eyes on. It’s small but perfectly dressed.

From unique one-off lighting and furniture pieces to small ranges of hand-printed artwork goodies, the shop has been selectively stocked to its best advantage. Simple wood and metal racking houses the array of sculptural plants, soft coral walls show off a row of Sarah’s solid printed wooden clocks and the delicate framed screen prints of Nottingham based illustrator Laurie Hastings. As I bend low to study the plant selection I catch the musk of sandalwood from the shelf above and notice an attractive row of brown glass scented soy candles from PF Candle Co.

Behind the bespoke wooden counter are slim shelves busy with colourful tiles of all patterns, shapes and sizes – we are entering the design part of the shop that leads onto the design office at the back. There is more to this compact shopfront than meets the eye. As Faaria leads me to the back room I am impressed how the narrow space has been transformed into a fully fitted kitchen, a showcase of Sarah’s design ideas and where some of the initial kitchen design consultations take place.

“A new venture at such a time takes a certain amount of courage and self-belief and Sarah has both in large amounts.”

When I met up with Sarah later in the week, she told me that she bought the building at auction on April 1st. The realisation of how much renovation work was needed momentarily filled her with apprehension. With help from her Dad, local Beeston based joiner James Crawford from Appletree Joinery, and her helpful plasterer Nick Garbutt they transformed the ex-hairdresser’s salon into a stylish space that could accommodate all of its requirements. She talked me through the process as we walked through to the workshop at the back, where creative evidence of previous products sat on shelves and benches.

A new venture at such a time takes a certain amount of courage and self-belief and Sarah has both in large amounts. We discussed how lockdown, though putting all of her interior design projects in suspension, gave her the time to devote to moving the contents of her rented studio near Sneinton Market to her newly acquired building. Redeveloping the rooms to suit her plans for the place gave her something purposeful to do, but she says it also felt very strange to be in a new neighbourhood at such a surreal time. 

Having been based at the other side of the city, Sarah wasn’t familiar with what Beeston had to offer until the building came up at auction, but what little she saw she liked. Slotting her design business into a street that is now home to many creative independents, the location felt right. And although the bulk of her services will remain focused on interior design, Sarah’s commitment to design and supporting some of the Notts & Leicester based artists and makers she has met along the way meant the shop and business has been able to evolve. As a consequence, she has made her business more customer-facing now, and as soon as people step inside the shop they get a flavour of Sarah’s style. Her goal is to make interior design accessible to all.

During her art degree, Sarah developed her love for wood and specialised in screen-printing her designs on furniture and other wooden objects. The clocks, coasters and furniture in the window are all examples of products she has made over the years merging surface design and colour, with form and shape.

She explains how the aperture window was conceptualised, first as a way of addressing the gaping space that felt intense in full-sun and then as a way to recycle palette wood. She abandoned the poor quality wooden slats full of unwieldy nails in favour of lengths of stained construction timber, producing the perfectly shaped circle within a slatted divider. 

Why not pop down and have a nosy!

Visit: https://www.spruceinteriors.co.uk/


Jamie Ireland: owner, The Cycle Inn

There are few people who will one day look back at 2020 and not see it changed them in some way. We wanted to find out what lockdown (the first one) was like for a variety of the population, and how they have emerged as different people. One phrase that was said in nearly every interview was “the new normal”. That means many things to many people, as we discovered:

“Our lockdown? One day! After the first lockdown announcement when Boris said “that’s it, everyone’s got to stay at home” we closed, but that same evening the list of the services that could stay open was produced, and third on the list was cycle shops.

“I came in the next day and was faced with a High Road with no people walking up and down it – I thought ‘how long can I stay open with no money coming in?”- but by the end of the day I was running around like a headless chicken.

“A lot of people needed to still get to the QMC to work, and with restricted public transport there was a surge of people needing bikes to get about. Then people were permitted one form of exercise, and if you don’t have a dog to walk, getting on a bike was suddenly a legitimate reason to escape for that hour.

“Lockdown showed (people) the freedom bikes gave them.”

“Within the first week people were rushing to buy bikes – we sold 20 bikes in a week, that’s usually a month’s worth – the whole UK bike trade has gone through the roof.

“There aren’t any 2020 models left in the country, pretty much all the 2021 stock has been pre-sold. It’s changed individuals and families -my neighbours never cycled much, now they’re a family of dedicated cyclists. Lockdown showed them the freedom bikes gave them.

“The ball is still rolling: people are reluctant to use public transport to get to work, to get to school. I’ve never seen such an epic boom – I’m working 6 or 7 days a week, 12 hours a day to keep Beeston rolling. But it’s great to see so many discover cycling – the more converts the better!”


Gary Fox: bus driver

There are few people who will one day look back at 2020 and not see it changed them in some way. We wanted to find out what lockdown (the first one) was like for a variety of the population, and how they have emerged as different people. One phrase that was said in nearly every interview was “the new normal”. That means many things to many people, as we discovered:

“When lockdown began I was actually on long-term sick leave, but getting ready to return to work. Eventually, in May, I returned, but things were quite different. My route (the 510) was only running at peak time, and on-demand at other times, though we didn’t see much demand. Our passengers are usually more senior people, and I don’t think they wanted to cause a fuss calling out a bus like you would a taxi.

“We moved to a full service in July, but numbers have been right down since, perhaps around 30% of before lockdown. We provide a link to other forms of transport – the trams and the buses – so we’re a service that gets subsidised. We’re a life-line to many.

“I’ve had no problems with people following rules, everyone has been great. There was one strange event: driving through Stapleford one day, a woman ran to the bus, flagging us down. I stopped, thinking she wanted to get on but when the doors opened she didn’t get on, instead telling me that one of my passengers wasn’t wearing a mask. Mostly though, people have been tolerant towards wearing a mask and those unable to do so.

“I sometimes think we’re less a bus service, more a social club on wheels.”

“There have been positives to lockdown: the roads are clearer, for a start. People have been forced to stop, and take stock for a moment. Working from home has probably helped many people, not that I can drive my bus from my front room! But I do miss things. I’m a Quaker, and I’ve missed the meetings. I miss my passengers – you get so used to them, and their routines, their stories. I sometimes think we’re less a bus service, more a social club on wheels.”


Sarah: care nurse

There are few people who will one day look back at 2020 and not see it changed them in some way. We wanted to find out what lockdown (the first one) was like for a variety of the population, and how they have emerged as different people. One phrase that was said in nearly every interview was “the new normal”. That means many things to many people, as we discovered:

“I am a student nurse, so when lockdown began I felt I had to do something, so I went to work in a care home- partly out of duty, partly to gain some valuable experience. It was a home for dementia patients who were particularly vulnerable and not easy to contain for social distancing. It became clear it would be a challenge. Staff numbers were down due to shielding and illness

“Working in PPE was a challenge: even in March, you’d be dripping in sweat throughout. We had to make a single mask last a shift, so removing them for a sip of water was difficult. The gloves broke all the skin on my hands, that would be constantly sore. All this was necessary, but whatever I expected, whatever I had imagined, well, it was more difficult. I shouldn’t have really been thrown in at the deep end as I was, but at the time this was a major crisis and you just did what you had to do. It was a baptism not of fire, but of alcohol gel!

“It was hard to lose people to Covid – the first resident to die was someone I’d bonded with, and trying to describe the day to day reality to those who had not experienced it was impossible, so I kept it to myself and grieved alone.

“Around June I thought I was going to collapse. It was overwhelming and heartbreaking. We couldn’t send those with covid to hospital and instead had to keep them here and hope for the best, though I never saw a single oxygen bottle on site. I thought I couldn’t continue, I was so tired and my lack of training meant I had huge responsibilities with little in the way of knowing what to do in often impossible situations. This was all for minimum wage.

“I get angry when I hear people moaning about mask-wearing: I wore full PPE in sweltering weather for 14 hours. You can wear a mask for the time you’re in a shop”.

“The people kept me going though. You fall in love with the residents, their beautiful smiles when you help them and you know you have made a difference. You pour your love into them, and when it is returned…well, that’s job satisfaction. No one goes into the care sector for the pay. Working in care changes you, covid adds another level. You see how precious life is: these people with rich lives beforehand, suddenly taken away so easily. Often the ones who appeared stronger succumbed faster than those who seemed weakest: it didn’t seem to have a logic to it.

“Our home suffered, but in comparison to others not so badly. We lost about a quarter of our residents – other homes lost all of theirs, many at least half. I get angry when I hear people moaning about mask-wearing: I wore full PPE in sweltering weather for 14 hours. You can wear a mask for the time you’re in a shop. It’s not about you. It’s about the people I was caring for, and those that are vulnerable.

“That said, I was proud of Beeston and how it rose to the challenge in the early days of the crisis: we all looked after each other, and it was wonderful. People seemed to have got more tetchy now, more judgemental. We have to rediscover that spirit that united us early on. We will probably need it again very soon.”

For privacy reasons we have changed the interviewee’s name