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

The Yorkshireman Speaks #12

This month the Yorkshireman looks at how children are an inspiration

Pablo Picasso famously said, “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

We recently went on a family holiday and I’m using the term “holiday” loosely. There is no such thing as a holiday when you have a young family, it’s essentially just stress on tour. You go from your house, where you all have your own space and comfort and go and live together all in one room, for two weeks, like the Bucket Family in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. That isn’t a relaxing break, that’s like you’ve been temporarily rehoused after a flood. They shouldn’t give you duvets, just foil blankets, you don’t need room service you need the red cross!

You don’t realise how noisy your kids are until you all have to sleep in one room. How can a two-year-old snore? They are T-Total, have hairless nostrils, yet mine sounded like Gollum with a head cold!

Your bedtime is their bedtime too, that’s so weird. My wife and I were laid next to each other in the dark, all wired and awake, “I can’t sleep” she said, “neither can I it’s ten to seven, the One Show hasn’t even started yet!” People said to us, try keeping the kids up. No, we’ve tried that they go feral, they start fighting and crying, screaming at each other across the hotel lobby whilst people are trying to check in, it’s like a hen night without the gin.

“They are like dictators in Peppa Pig pyjamas.”

As parents most of your holiday is spent huddled in the bathroom, that’s like your own little apartment. It’s ten o’clock at night and you find yourself sitting there on the toilet, just drinking a box of wine, eating a buffet off the side of the bath. Rockstars chop out lines of cocaine in a hotel bathroom, I’m cutting carrot into sticks.

You get jealous of the childless couple in the room next door, “they’re loud aren’t they? I wonder what they are doing?”

“Each other probably, like we used too, remember that?” you both stare wistfully into the distance, imagining what that would be like, then one of you breaks the silence, “fancy another game of travel Scrabble?” “yeah, whose legs are we balancing the board on?”

We came back shattered too, because the youngest always came and slept in bed with us. She’d always say, “Daddy I’m scared, I’ve had a nightmare” I felt like saying, “So, have I mate, what’s yours about? mine started in 2016, looks exactly like you and it doesn’t end even when I’m awake. But why don’t you pop in here with us and for the next eight hours, just use my back as a treadmill. I love the way you position yourself just at the perfect height to kick me repeatably in the kidneys until the sun rises.

She’s doing so many miles on my back at one point I swear my wife started sponsoring her. I always know when the holiday is coming to an end because it’s the same day, I start to see blood in my urine, that first wee of the morning was like Darth Vader’s light sabre!

The kids just gradually take over the bed, it’s like sleeping with a military occupation. They are like dictators in Peppa Pig pyjamas. I spent the whole night clinging on to the edge of the bed. The only thing that kept me there was the suction from my own clenched arse cheeks.

It was on this holiday however, that I noticed this zest for life that the children have and it made me re-evaluate my attitude to things.

We had a key card for our hotel room door and this blew the kids minds. A simple plastic card, a door handle and a little green light, that was like Disneyland to them. Every day they had to take it in turns, one of them would take the card, we’d all have to leave the room. They then would approach the door, put the card in, we’d marvel at the little light, they would open the door, we’d all walk into the room, one child one give the card to the other one, we’d then back out of the room again and repeat the process again….six times a day. We spent more time in that corridor than we did in the room!

If you did this as an adult people would tell you to grow up!

I feel that they do need to reign in this excitement. Life is going to be such a disappointment. If they carry on like this, the first time they do drugs their heads will fall off and no doubt a plastic card will be involved there too.

I have realised the best way I can be a role model to my kids is to approach life with positivity and joy, what other choice do we have? As adults we need to be more like the kids with the key card, reconnecting with those experiences in life that make us happy. So, I’m making changes, tomorrow morning I’ll be up at eight, singing and whistling and marvelling at the majesty of that bin lorry from my window.

@scottbcomedyuk | scottbennettcomedy.co.uk

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Reassuringly Hurt’s

On one of Beeston’s oldest businesses

It’s a day when things could get steamy in Broxtowe. 10℃ over the average for February, and the MP has just resigned from her party while claiming the right to stay on as our representative at Westminster. Maybe it’s a good day for the Beestonian to go and look for something that is reassuringly a good thing.

G.H Hurt & Son on the Chilwell High Road is just the place. You may have visited them when they open on Heritage Days in September, but not know they also open to the public on Saturday mornings (10am – 12noon). They inhabit an old seed mill, built in 1751, which remains a thing of beauty from the outside, but you may be more interested in their famous baby shawls, which suddenly came into the worldwide media spotlight in 2013, then again in 2015 and 2017, when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge stepped outside the Lindo Wing in London with their newborns wrapped in Beeston’s finest.

“…every generation must face its own challenges.”

No-one was more delighted to see their choice than Gillian Taylor, who is in the fourth generation of Hurts to own and manage the business since its inception in 1912. The family has stayed true to its roots, producing fine knitwear that includes men’s and women’s scarves, and caring about their employees as much as they care about their customers and products.

While Gillian hadn’t previously known the royals had their shawls, she had no reason to be surprised, because if the royal family is supposed to represent our country’s core values, then a firm like Hurts surely helps us decide just what those values are.

And they are proof that every generation must face its own challenges; for Gillian it has been to adapt to an increasingly internet-dependent and computerised world. For her father, Henry Hurt (who in his 80s still takes an active part in the family firm) it was to take on the challenge of moving from hand looms to mechanisation when he was barely out of his teens, and he would go on to be awarded an MBE for his services to the knitwear industry. Henry’s own father Leslie had to deal with two world wars, injury and serious illness. It was Gillian’s great-grandfather, George Henry Hurt, who started the whole enterprise in 1912 when he took the step of acquiring the mill so that local knitters could bring their manual handframes together under one roof, and take advantage of shared marketing and production.

In the 1980s everything could surely have been lost, when the area was surrounded by similar-seeming businesses, some of which were buying their products from China. But Henry Hurt wasn’t going to compromise on quality or discard his legacy. According to Gillian it was he who said that if they stuck to their core values and loyal customers then one day perhaps even China would decide to buy from them. With a trade fair in Ningbo, China coming up in April, then ‘perhaps even China’ will be customers for the fifth generation of Hurts?

KM

 

Motherhood: Spring

‘Spring is sprung, the grass is ris, I wonder where the birdies is’.

My Dad used to recite that line to me when I was a child, and if I replace ‘birdies’ with ‘pinot grigio’ you have exactly my sentiments about the approaching warmer weather. I’m a big fan of a pub garden, of early evenings sat outside while the children play in the paddling pool and run through the wheat fields before leading the country into the abyss. Wait, that’s just Teresa May, my bad.

I adore the good weather, I’ve lived and worked in central Europe and being outdoors suits me entirely. My issue with the approaching summer is that my kid is an only child, which means that I am her playmate, which means no wine, no sitting down, and absolutely no relaxing thank you very much. Despite a social life which would make the Kardashians recoil in exhaustion, my kid wants to play with ME. Which is great, because she still thinks I’m cool enough to play with (time is ticking on that front) but it flies in the face of wine-drenched relaxation in the garden. The first green shoots of Spring signal the end of my peaceful hibernations indoors, and the start of my Olympic training regime in such sports as Kick the Ball Loudly into Next Door’s Fence, Help Me Up on to this Swing, and Mum Can I Have an Ice-Lolly. I need to get fit, quick, these are blood sports and I’ve neglected my training.

Having an only child is an absolutely magical thing. They (maybe a tad patronisingly) allow you to become an honorary child again while they set the rules and run you ragged. I adore it. We can’t have any more kiddos, so this girl will be forever thrust into other people’s gardens, picking up neighbourhood waifs and strays to play with while we are out and about. I don’t think this is a negative thing, and I’m grateful that I’m active enough to keep up with her while she shouts rules at me and berates my obvious athletic inadequacies in public. From what I hear from people with more than one kid it seems to be more of a lion-taming situation anyway, more Chris Pratt with the raptors in Jurassic World and less The Waltons. I’ll never know, but sometimes I feel a pang of gratitude in Autumn when the nights draw in and we can legitimately stick a DVD on under a blanket and ignore the outside world completely. Summer is great, but dear sweet baby Jesus I’m shattered already.

DL

I Am Beeston: Marie-Louise Denham – Sales Negotiator

“I was born in Beeston and went to Beeston Manor and Alderman White Schools. When I left school I went to work in an estate agency; then in 2006 I moved to a local optician. I’m now back working in an estate agency. This time its Robert Ellis.”

“There are lots of things that I love about Beeston. The Victoria for its food, ales and whiskies, the farmer’s market, especially Sue’s Cakes stall and walking between the Marina and Attenborough Nature Reserve. Although I am a fairweather walker. I also like taking photographs on my mobile phone, especially of the swans and my pets. I have three cats and have rescued a hedgehog.”

“Beeston is an up and coming area, with a buoyant housing market and great transport links. We are finding that developers are moving in from other areas. It’s a shame that we have lost a lot of the small, independent shops, which have been replaced by the larger chain stores and supermarkets. But I think we will always have Hallams.”

“A lot of people know me and even an old teacher of mine called Mrs Jones still recognised me. Some people have called me ‘The Face of Beeston’.”

CDF

Sand Martins

The latest from Attenborough Nature Reserve

Aristotle once said; ‘one swallow does not a summer make’ and with this is mind, we perhaps shouldn’t get too excited about the news of a single sand martin spotted at Attenborough Nature Reserve on the 12th March – two weeks earlier than we would typically expect.

This small hirundine, a cousin of the swallow and house martin, is often one of the first spring migrants to arrive back on the Reserve’s each year.

Despite many birds being considered to be the herald of spring, it is the sand martin’s appearance that is met with the most excitement at Attenborough as it means that not only is summer drawing closer, but also the artificial nesting bank at the Reserve will come to life again.

Dubbed the ‘Sand Martin Hotel’, the nesting bank and viewing hide, situated at the end of the Attenborough Nature Centre’s wildlife garden, first opened its tunnels to its feathered guests in April 2014. Funded through a Heritage Lottery Funded ‘ACE’ project (Access, Community, and Education) the bank provides nesting opportunities for up to 150 sand martins each summer. While the integrated ‘sunken’ bird hide provides panoramic views across Coneries Pond and enable visitors to watch the sand martins at close quarters as they feed over the water and return to their nests.

Sand martins make an incredible 2000-mile journey to the UK from the Sahel, a region of Africa to the south of the Sahara Desert, where they have been over-wintering.

This species has suffered a number of major population crashes in the last 50 years, mainly due to droughts in their over-wintering sites – which means many birds can’t build up enough energy to help them cross the Sahara. Within the UK they are also under threat from habitat loss, where natural nesting sites have been destroyed through development, dredging and bank stabilization along rivers.

Sand martins nest colonially. Colonies can range from just a few dozen pairs to groups of several hundred. In a natural environment they use tunnels in sandy banks along rivers and surrounding lakes. The birds dig the tunnels themselves using their long sharp claws. The nest holes are usually between 35cm and 1m in length and are excavated by both parents over a period of two weeks. In our artificial bank, clay pipes filled with sand will be embedded in to the walls to simulate the bird’s natural nesting habitat.

By mid-April, it is hoped that the sand martins will begin nesting in the artificial nesting bank again. Throughout the breeding season, volunteers carry out weekly nest record checks to monitor their progress. From the moment the first twig is taken in to the bank, to the first egg being laid and first chicks hatching and fledging, every detail is recorded.

The data gathered has already provided us with a fascinating insight in to the Sand Martin’s nesting ecology – including early indications that some pairs may in fact raise three broods during their short stay in the UK.

At around a week old, each of the chicks is fitted with lightweight, uniquely numbered ring by members of the South Notts Bird Ringing Group. The information gathered by the ringing scheme enables us to learn more about the sand martin’s incredible migration journey, how long they live for, and indeed if any of the chicks return to visit us in subsequent years to start a family of their own.

Just four years since Attenborough’s ‘Sand Martin Hotel’ first opened its doors to visiting birds, staff at the Nature Reserve were delighted to announce the arrival of the nesting bank’s 1,000th chick.

With the early arrival of the birds this spring we are hoping for an extended breeding season and the biggest number of chicks raised to date. Why not pop over to Attenborough and enjoy some of the early signs of spring for yourself? You might even spot one of our sand martins.

TS

Beeston Sea Scouts

Scouting around at Barton Island

 

It’s Friday night between April and September, you’re walking along the banks of the Trent away from Beeston Marina in the direction of Long Eaton and suddenly, the quiet area is interrupted by a splashing sound. Where is it coming from? What’s happening? And most important, who’s making it?

Hint: it’s something to do with Scouting. Give up?

The noise is coming from Barton Island (not to be confused with Barton Buses). What’s happening is some kayaking/canoeing/rowing activity. And the people making it are the 2nd Beeston Sea Scouts.

Barton Island is really an Island within an Island in the Trent which is a bit confusing for some of us. Half of it is owned by the 2nd Beeston Sea Scouts and the other half is nobodies (technically it is in Rushcliffe). It is used by Scouts for a wide range of activities such as Kayaking, Canoeing, Rowing and sometimes land activities like camping, fire-lighting, pioneering or even all of them in one! It is only accessible by boat, unless you fancy a dip in the river.

 

The island also hosts a handful of buildings and designated areas. These include a boat shed for storing boats and paddles, a divisions area where the flagpole and bell are, camping huts for storing bags and sheltering in bad weather, an explorer scout only area and a galley used for cooking.

At least one day a year in the summer the scouts hold an open day on the island for everyone to come and see the fantastic facilities available. Barton Island is also available to be used by community groups and businesses.

For more information about 2nd Beeston Sea Scouts and Barton Island, visit www.2ndbeeston.org.uk

EC

The Seats of Democracy

Beeston’s Town Hall

Being a journalist on the Beestonian brings you into contact with all sorts of people with different stories to tell.  And someone with quite a few stories to tell is Dawn Reeves, facilitator, trainer and author of a coffee table book all about various town halls across England; their history, uses and future. That universal symbol of local democracy seems to be under threat from the very councils that they belong to. Beeston’s is a prime example. But more on that later.

We arranged to meet at Greenhoods, and so over a hot drink I chatted to Dawn about herself, her interest in town halls and the purpose of the book. “I was born in London, but moved to Nottingham with my family. I got a job with Nottingham County Council, and then as a manager with Ashfield District Council. Working in those buildings, made me realise how important they are to communities, and not just for paying bills. I’m now back in Beeston and love it. I love the creativity of the town.”

Turning to her generously illustrated volume ‘Town Hall: Buildings, People and Power’. “Working in local government, I realised that there are three main architectural styles of buildings that are used as town halls; the grand Victorian palaces like Bradford, Birmingham and Todmorden; the art deco styles of Torquay, Hornsey and Nottinghamshire and the postmodernist structures at Newcastle, Mansfield and Worcestershire. Although this book is broken down into themes, rather than styles.  I touch on four general themes: ‘Purpose’, ‘People’, ‘Power’ and ‘Future’.”

Nearly 30 councils and their town halls are described and evaluated in the book, that includes some eye-catching photography, I asked Dawn how she got the book completed. “I have some friends in Yorkshire, and around the country and I just basically roped them in to either write about their town hall or take photos of it.  I am planning another volume. One, which should feature Beeston’s original building. The book is self published through Shared Press and with financial assistance from CCLA.”

The story of Beeston’s town hall would make a worthy inclusion in volume two. How Broxtowe Council sold the building off for £425,000 to the Cornerstone Church, whilst ignoring other interested parties, including Beeston’s Civic Society; who wanted to turn it into a community resource for weddings, arts and theatre events and similar community celebrations. Very much like Brent’s does with theirs. But it was sold, even though the residents of Broxtowe will be out of pocket by some £155,000, as the council will be spending £533k on moving computer servers to it’s newer building, legal fees and doing up the building before the church moves in. But the council claim that it will be saving £85,000 a year on maintenance and repair costs. It is understood that the building will only be available to its church members, therefore excluding the citizens of NG9, whose past relations would have paid for the town hall to be built through their rates bill.

Last year the Civic Society collected over £5000 from residents through crowd funding to raise a legal challenge. But the findings from a barrister suggested that this challenge would not be successful. The group are currently working on some Freedom of Information requests about how the council had reached its unpopular decision on whom it selected to have the building.

With local elections coming up in May, it remains to be seen as to whether the sale will actually go through by then, or maybe a change of administration may have other ideas.

Besides writing about town halls and training businesses, Dawn has also written a couple of novels, ‘Hard Change’ and ‘We Know What We Are’. Also printed by Shared Press. These are urban thrillers that also include the shady dealings of fictional local councils.

If you would like to hear Dawn talk about her love of town halls, then she is appearing at the amazing Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham on the 10th of April at 7pm. Admission will be £3, including refreshments.

CDF

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