Creative Beeston: We are the creative champions!

As we round off another year celebrating all that is creative in our vibrant little town, it seemed like the ideal opportunity to rejoice in the creative diversity we have in Beeston.

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As well as the wealth of independent shopping prospects up and down the High Road, we have artists and makers in in every corner of our suburban streets. One local creative, who has been joining me in honouring Beeston’s originality is local photographer Lamar Francois, whose image of the metal sculpture by Hilary Cartmel in Broadgate park is immortalised in his 2019 calendar.

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I met with Lamar on a dazzling autumn day, which is pretty much how I remember the first photographs that I ever saw of his. I bought the 2017 urban landscapes calendar as an attractive reminder that the concrete and neon of our city, form beautiful backdrops to the monotonous moments of our daily lives. The craft behind a product like this is why I buy handmade and indeed why we should. So far removed from the over-produced flimsy printed pages in supermarkets and chain stores, this quality finished calendar represents hours of careful consideration from start to finish.

Nestled neatly between a beautifully illuminated Market Square and Nottingham Castle bathed in summer sunshine, the calendar contains two Beeston related photographs but the Broadgate one is my favourite. The intricate metalwork design of the organic sculpture stands out against shade under boughs and small children play in the background, their ribbons echoing the curves within the sculptures frame. The other image gives a wider view of our local treasures, the River Trent taken from Beeston Rylands playing fields, and is equally dramatic in its own right. Lamar tells me the process of choosing the right photographs is a tough one. They have to be relatable, as well as awe inspiring, and of locations that people instantly recognise whilst avoiding clichés.

He hid safely behind the social media curtain, which did get his work out there, but it also had a tendency to be lost in a sea of images.

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Lamar’s passion for photography happened around the same time that he was living in Beeston, as a student at Nottingham University, where he now works part-time helping to manage a seed library that serves the plant science community. He originally used his phone to photograph his subjects but was curious about cameras and how these could extend his skills. He helped to run a photography society at university which gave him the opportunity he needed. After buying his own camera, Lamar secured some Prince’s Trust finding which helped him to pay for extra equipment as well as giving him access to a business mentor, which he says has been the most valuable resource of all.

As is the case with many creatives, the promotional side doesn’t always come as easy as creating a product, and this is something Lamar found especially difficult. Having Asperger’s means that he wasn’t confident socially, and this really hampered the necessity to push himself out into the spotlight. He hid safely behind the social media curtain, which did get his work out there, but it also had a tendency to be lost in a sea of images. His business mentor has helped to boost Lamar’s confidence and encouraged him to market his images by printing off and framing a series of limited edition prints for exhibiting. A decade on he is experiencing success.

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I asked Lamar how this made him feel and he spoke animatedly of the joy when someone shows their appreciation of your work by being willing to pay for it. Their admiration has encouraged and bolstered him to experiment more. He also feels that through networking he has met many supportive people who have offered advice and lead to collaborations, the most exciting of these being the pictorial representation of the City of Literature bid, especially as he was chosen out of many other talented photographers – I could feel his pride swell as he told me this.

And so this is why we should shop at our independents this festive period. Not only are you likely to find more unique and quirky presents and be putting money back into the local economy, you are supporting our entrepreneurs and their families, helping to build communities and making an actual individual do a ‘happy dance!’

You can acquire a copy of the calendar at some of our indie shops, who also champion a number of our local creatives. It is currently stocked at Artworks on the corner of Chilwell High Road/Imperial Road  Perfectly Formed at Chilwell’s Creative Corner and Two Little Magpies at the Broadgate end of the High Road.

Or via Lamar’s website www.picturedbylamar.co.uk where you can also view more of his spectacular photography.

DU

Daisy Leverington

Motherhood #9: ‘Tis the season

It’s getting close, I can smell it. The faint scent of pleading in the air. The most delicate whiff of peer pressure and hope. The bold claims among school friends about which presents have been requested and which ones they will oh-so-definitely be receiving. It’s Christmas and there’s absolutely no escape.

Every Christmas in our house is a day of firsts and lasts. It’s always bitter-sweet and there is no greater measurement of the passing of too-short childhood years to make me wonder if this year was a few months shorter than usual. We only have one child, so each year we edge closer to losing her belief in Santa, the mystery grows smaller and wonder shrinks like a vacuum-packed tool set. She’s still little enough to believe, but big enough that next year she might not. Each present from Santa is precious and for a second she is tiny again, mystified by the enormity of his night time adventures. The next second she is opening a card with £10 sellotaped inside and a tiny piece of the spell falls away.

Christmas with a child has been the lovliest experience. It was a stressful time growing up with divorced parents and time-share days and two dinners, always two dinners. Now we have our own family and although we still need to try to find balance between 4 different sets of grandparents, we manage and it’s peaceful and we fall asleep after dinner just like our parents did. The hardest part of the day is trying to soak it all up, to take in her face when she opens an unexpected gift or watches her dad try on his inevitable novelty hat. To take photos but not too many, to capture the best moments but also not to miss them trying to switch the camera on.

Firsts and lasts happen simultaneously with an only child and Christmas is such a huge barometer of how little time we actually have that I can’t help but feel a little sad. I’m very lucky, I know. I know that my tiny family is here and safe and loved, and I know that other’s aren’t. So, every year I will love and give and play and argue because there aren’t any promises that we have more to come. I will get annoyed at advertising and buy it anyway, I’ll buy glittery make up for my 7 year old if that make her happy, because one day she will wants £30 lipsticks and I’ll spend the day weeping into my bank statement. It’s the little things, the little lasts. They are my real present.

DL

Read previous Motherhood’ columns

The Village (or Market) Cross

Keeper of Beeston’s secret history…

Although not a War Memorial by any means, the story of Beeston’s ‘Village Cross’ is so bound-up with that of the ‘Memorial Cross’. It is no coincidence that Beeston has a ‘cross’ as it’s war memorial or that it should stand on the site that it does. Through changes to the road layout over time, the Memorial Cross now appears to stand by the side of Middle Street. In actual fact this site was once in the middle of the road at this important road-junction between Church Street, Dovecote Lane, West End and Middle Street. Here was once the geographical heart of the settlement that was to become the town of Beeston.

In Britain, over 1,000 years ago, when Christianity began to spread among the pagan Anglo Saxons, the new faith was preached to the people from a stone pillar, (‘preaching cross’) erected in the heart of the community. This was most often close to the manor house, the home of the most important member and leader of the community. Once Christianity had been establish,  a parish church was built, first in ‘wattle-and- daub’ and latter in stone. With the new church, preaching crosses became redundant and many took on a secular use as market crosses. We might add here that this is the evolution of many village crosses, however, there are a large number of market crosses purposefully erected to mark the place of village commerce.

…two of the most important buildings in the community, the Manor House and parish church are close by the site.

It is known that a village cross stood at the centre of the Middle Streets crossroads. Given the facts, it is no surprise then, to find that two of the most important buildings in the community, the Manor House and parish church are close by the site. It is suspected that Beeston’s village cross was once used as a market cross. Certainly there are clues to this effect; it is widely believed that a corn market was held nearby the site, – until the 1860s, Middle Street, from the Memorial Cross to its junction with Station Road was known as Market Street.

The cross was removed, perhaps as a hazard to road traffic, sometime in the 1850’s and the whereabouts of its remains lost until 1929. It was in that year that part of the cross was discovered built into the wall of Manor Lodge, by the headmaster at ‘Church Street Junior Boys School’,  Arthur Cossons. Cossons was an active ‘local historian’ with a passion for Beeston’s history. He recognised a large piece of masonry in the wall as being a part of the ‘shaft’ of a  medieval cross. Proud of his discovery, Cossons had the cross shaft removed to Church Street and erected by the side of the school where it stands to this day.

Did you know?

  • The shaft of the medieval cross, – marked by a Blue Plaque, – can be found on Church Street, standing between the wall of the old school building and the footpath.
  • The shaft, believed to be 14th  century, is now a ‘Grade II’ listed monument. Most of the Victorian Board School was demolished in 2005, however, the headteachers house remains.
  • A Blue Plaque, dedicated to Arthur Cossons is is attached high-up on the gable wall of this building which was his home from 1932 to 1958.

JN

Hivemind: 10 facts about Professor Sir Martyn Poliakoff

  1. He’s a YouTube star: forget your Zoellas and your Joe Suggs (“who the hell are they?” – anyone over 25) the big-haired polymath has racked up a staggering
    183,580,239 views with his Periodic Videos series. Best Comment Left Under His Videos: “This man looks like science”
  2. At the last count, Poliakoff had 27 letters after his name, and as such requires a passport printed on A3 card and an airport Toblerone placename when attending conferences.
  3. He is a pioneer and leading expert in the concept of ‘Green Chemistry’, which is about finding environmentally safe ways to mass produce chemicals, and not
    working out why frogs are that colour.
  4. When the new five pound note came out, he tested their supposed indestructability by freezing one in liquid nitrogen and bashing it with a hammer (it broke) and then pouring nitric acid over another (it faded). This proved conclusively that he has a better job than yours.
  5. His brother is famous screenwriter Stephen Poliakoff. They have yet to collaborate on a chemistry + drama mash-up, but we wait with bated breath.
  6. The descendent of Russian refugees who fled the revolution, he is a passionate advocate for refugee rights and contributed an intro to the fund-raising Over Land, Over Sea poetry anthology. We salute this very much.
  7. He is a former Foreign Secretary of the Royal Society, which is a role older than the Government office of state. Needless to say, he did a better job than Boris bloody Johnson is doing.
  8. To be fair, a dead rat on a stick smeared in rancid honey could do a better job than Boris Johnson.
  9. He once calculated that the FIFA World Cup could not be made of solid gold as it would be too heavy to lift. Not that anyone from England will ever get a chance to try.
  10. He is a Beestonian through and through, a great, involved member of the community. We salute you Prof Poliakoff!

Oxjam in the house

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The 2018 Oxjam Beeston Music Festival began quietly with the first of our ‘house concerts’: local composer and pianist Richard Hinsley played on a lovely sunny Sunday afternoon for thirty guests. There are more to follow – if you are interested in putting on an Oxjam House Concert, contact us via the website. Pop in and see us at the Beeston Carnival where we’ll have tickets and flyers for all events – Unplugged 22nd September, Takeover 13th October, Classical 17th November, Ceilidh 1st December; visit the website oxjambeeston.org or find us on Facebook.

Photos © Jenny Langran

CT

Beeston Beats: Interview with Nactus Kunan

Music, gigs and festivals – who’s out this weekend?

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According to online information station Wikipedia, ‘Nactus kunan is an extant species of slender-toe geckos described in 2012, and indigenous to the Admiralty Islands of Papua New Guinea. It is brightly coloured, and its specific name means “bumblebee” in the local Nali language.’

Although I am an avid supporter of nature I haven’t decided to give Sir David Attenborough a run for his money instead I have stumbled upon the musical stylings of local Beeston band of the aforementioned gecko name. Individually known as Jack Kwiecinski, Josef Bone, Antony Rocco Onorati and John Wood the lads have formed Nactus Kunan and flying the flag for a style of music aptly named RnBeeston. Being a nosey so and so, I Facebook stalked them and frog marched them to the canalside heritage for an interrogation into all things beestony, musicy (technical term) and an impromptu photo session. Luckily the guys were willing victims and happily chatted to me even though the world was wrapped up in the world cup frenzy.

In the cafe the staff are just about coping with the fire alarm that’s blaring and rings through the heritage centre at what feels like a million decibels, i order a coffee and wait outside, sure enough over bound half of the band quickly followed by the remaining members, I suggest starting the photo shoot as the weather looks ridiculously murky and rain seems imminent.  The garden at the heritage centre is a great setting for photos and the bands easy going demeanour helps as my suggestions for the photos are met with an impressive eagerness. We briefly chat  about favourite pubs, Fast Lane and musical influences, take some more photos and head to Owens place for some shots with the weir in the background, altogether a fun and productive meet, want to know what the band had to say? Here it is from the ‘osses cakehole…

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Morning Nactus Kunan, how are you today?

We’ve just been diagnosed with a terminal case of World Cup fever, but other than that we’re very well thanks!

Tell us a bit about Nactus Kunan…

We’re a four-piece, alternative band that formed in 2017. Our music draws from a diverse range of influences including Dr Dre, Sade, George Michael and New Order. We combine heavy synths, slick guitars and 808 beats to create (what we think) is our own distinctive sound.

How did you all meet?

We all went to Chilwell School. Jack and Tony have been mates since they bonded over a shared love of 50 Cent and PES4 when they were about 12. Joe and John were in different school years, but we all ended up gravitating towards each other when we got a bit older. The friendship consolidated over a few years in the pub in Beeston, before Jack and Joe started trying to write some songs together

What’s your favourite thing about this lovely neck of the woods?

Heaven is a place on Earth. We love Beeston, so it’s very difficult to pick our favourite thing about the area. Aside from the fact it has the best transport links in Europe and a burgeoning, multicultural high-street, we’d probably have to say the pubs. We love the beer garden at the Star and we regularly score a respectable 17 out of 30 on the Crown pub quiz! Also Poppa Pizza The best pizza in the city bar none!

Who are you favourite local artists and why?

We really like Max Loelz, he has this laid-back, hip-hop vibe which we’re into. Also, Joe’s brother Charlie plays guitar for Yazmin Lacey who’s an incredible talent – she’s just started getting massive in the jazz world. We’re good friends with a band called Amulet as well. They’ve just written a load of new tunes with electronic drums which sound amazing.

 

Describe ‘RnBeeston’ for me?

Our early songs took a lot of cues from R&B, but we were always influenced by conventional guitar music too, which made our sound quite difficult to define. We said this tongue-in-cheek phrase ‘RnBeeston’ once and it stuck. It’s hard to explain, but there’s definitely a certain character to our music that captures the essence of Beeston…

 Anything else to say to the lovely readers of Beestonian?

Be sure to check out our latest single, ‘Exit at the Group Stage’. It’s a World Cup anthem (of sorts) about late nights and early kick offs; staying too long and leaving to soon. The official music video, shot at the Victory Club and various other Beeston locations, is now available to watch on YouTube.

I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to the band for allowing themselves to  become victims in my line of questioning and having seen them perform over at rough trade in Nottingham after the interview I can say the lads are well worth a watch live, right which unfortunate souls are on the hit list next??

LD

 

We Dig NG9: Plants gone wild

Tamar Feast on Beeston’s Wild Side

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Six years ago, this odd patch of grass next to Myford’s factory was basically a dumping ground for litter, garden trimmings and erm… discarded golf paraphernalia. I passed it, wearily, twice daily.

Four years ago, I got the Council to not cut it, and started establishing it as a wildflower dumping ground for litter and garden trimmings instead.

One year ago, it was recovering from erroneous grass cuts due to the Council’s sheer circumlocution-like ineptitude. The burgeoning meadow flowers I’d planted and sown the years before were denied their fifteen minutes of fame and, despite managing to win a Level 4 award in the ‘RHS East Midlands in Bloom: It’s Your Neighbourhood’ competition, it looked pretty sorry for itself.

Despite more set-backs this year, [fanfare] the grass has now erupted in a SUMMER BOOM of colour. This is largely thanks to extra wildflower seed donated by a guy called Chris, who sowed it with his daughter, Holly, once the footpath reopened earlier in the year.

It’s not just about pretty flowers, though. There’s a brash heap and log pile (good for grass snakes, insects, invertebrates and small mammals), and fruit trees and hedglings from The Woodland Trust.

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RHS Wisley it ain’t. But it IS a-buzz with pollinators flitting from plant to plant, taking pit stops on the Bug Squat (hotels are sooo ‘Bridgford). Here too, Hedgehogs rummage around; Bats and Swifts (numbers of the latter are worryingly low this year) hunt overhead in the last of the light at dusk and the gloaming.

It really is simple: less is more. Leave a piece of your garden to ‘go over’, or plant wild flowers if you prefer (native ones are best – so you know they’ll help insects in this country).

To some, it may look weedy (“I’d torch the lot” said one lady to me while I topped-up the bird feeders). But wild verges work hard, helping our underappreciated Beestonians: the critters pollinating your fruit, veg, and flowers; or eating the ones eating your fruit, veg and flowers. And they need all the help they can get.

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We love to see wildlife in our gardens. But if we tidy away the places it lives, feeds and breeds, or if the only ‘wild abandon’ we allow is that with which we throw down slug pellets, then it could soon disappear. Don’t get me started on slug pellets – I don’t have the word allowance…

Although small, rewilding areas like this connects one patch of habitat to another, so species who thrive or rely on linear movement; on mixing species through urban areas, or on stop-offs to larger habitats – such as Attenborough Nature Reserve – can survive.

It really is simple: less is more. Leave a piece of your garden to ‘go over’, or plant wild flowers if you prefer (native ones are best – so you know they’ll help insects in this country). If you have space for a pond, this will exponentially boost the benefit – even an old washing-up bowl sunk in the ground, filled with rain water and some rocks (for escape) will soon be colonised.

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If all this sounds like too much mess and effort, or you’re only up for doing one thing to help wildlife: please STOP USING SLUG PELLETS.

True to its word, an established ‘wild’ patch can get on with very little interference from us.  And, though We Dig NG9’s will never be proper idyllic ‘meadow’, of course – if it looks nice, well that’s just a bonus.  (TF)

Connect with We Dig NG9 on Twitter and Instagram: @WeDigNG9

WeDigNG9@gmail.com

TF

Trees of Beeston

Trees of Beeston is a psychogeographical and art project that celebrates the arboreal entities and architectures that enrich the landscapes and lives of humans and animals living, working, or visiting Beeston in Nottinghamshire, UK.

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Between spring and autumn 2018, Dr Jo Norcup will facilitate a small group of Beestonian tree-appreciators under the moniker ‘The Beeston Tree Appreciation Society’. We will map and record (via words, sounds and pictures) stories of trees that serve as landmarks and enhance the landscape of Beeston. Informed by historical and civic activities as well as by the stories and connections that Beestonians and honorary Beestonians have in how they connect and appreciate the trees that mark our landscape, a gazetteer map will be created so that residents and visitors alike might explore the local geography of Beeston and the living landmarks that endow and make habitable life in this part of the East Midlands.

Tree appreciation will be further explored in a series of forthcoming workshops and local field trips to be held in the autumn (details TBA).

For further details on how to get involved and to find out more go to www.geographyworkshop.com/TreesOfBeeston

Please follow on social media via @geo_workshop hashtag #TreesOfBeeston

Trees of Beeston #1 “The Truffula Trees” (Silver Birches) of King Street.

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“I speak for the trees, for they have no tongues”

In his children’s book The Lorax, Dr Seuss’s wise tree environmentalist and eco-warrior, The Lorax, warns of the rapid loss of trees and environments at the hands of short-term profiteering “I speak for the Trees” he repeats. The Once-ler (who narrates the sad story), tells how he learnt, too late, not to destroy the natural environment.  How, when the trees are removed, the animals, birds, insects and other animals move away, leaving a desolate and depleted landscape no animal, and indeed, no human wants to live in.  The moral: to be mindful of the future, to be wise custodians of the trees, plants, and animals that enrich our daily lives so that we and future generations might also have a quality of living that appreciates in turn the natural world and non-human lives that enrich it.

My son was the first to see the shape of the silver birches along King Street in Beeston as the Truffula trees of Dr Seuss’s tale.  On a street where there are no street trees to speak of apart from these majestic deciduous duo (save the holly tree growing from the cracked tarmac at the side of the ginnell wall between the motorcycle showroom and the housing near the Queen Street end of King Street – yes, I see you too wee tree), these two Silver Birches (and a couple of smaller saplings at their base) provide both landmark and respite to the eye from the primarily residential and industrial buildings along King Street.  Go closer to these trees, and you find a wee ecosystem, as the silver birch provides the lightest of canopy of leaves through which sunlight can dapple its way through to enable other plants to grow.  Other smaller saplings are present, fighting for light and space in their small location in front of an electrical sub-station where a small black fly-tipped bin and rubbish that someone has dumped has been grown over by wild flowers (“weeds” to give them their antisocial pejorative shorthand) and the foliage of the saplings.  Three types of valerian grow in white, pink and purple, giving colour and cover as well as pollen and habitat to insects and butterflies. The Silver Birch (Betula pendula) is known as a ‘pioneering tree’ because it can grow pretty much anywhere. The roots draw up nutrients and when its small serrated heart-shaped leaves and catkins fall, this deciduous tree provides fertile compostable nutrients in which other plants can find a home. It is a tiny oasis.  Walking past them regularly as we do, the sound of the leaves gently bristling in the slightest of breezes that on a parched heatwave day is akin to a lightly babbling brook. The sound calms. The cascade of leaves on thin branches cools with its light coverage. We always greet the trees with a respectful hello. They are friends.  They are much loved.  They make our daily lives better. We always slow down for them, more often than not stopping, for fleeting seconds to pay our respects. For local dog owners, these trees provide a stopping point and canine territorial interest. In 2013, The Beestonian (issue 21) published a poem by the local poet Steve Plowright about them.  It is repeated below.

A Pair of Silver Birch Trees

By Steve Plowright

Silver-soldered soldiers
Solid through the Seasons
Re-assurance resonates,
Whilst gazing through your filigree
Of branch and twig and leaf

Silver sheen of bark
Mercurial magicians
Light unwilling journeys
On sighing school mornings
You never beg to question

Just a pair of silver soldiers
Guardians of our secrets
You never show your feelings
Thanks for your solidarity
Thanks for being there

 

Tree facts: #1The Silver Birch

  • Botanical name: Betula pendula of family Betulacae
  • A native tree to Europe and parts of Asia, known in America as the European white birch.
  • Deciduous tree with a white peeling paper-like bark with slender and pendulous branches, it has small heart/triangular shaped leaves with serrated edges that are green in spring and summer, turning yellow before they fall in the autumn.
  • The Silver Birch flowers catkins and is self-pollinating bearing both male and female catkins (droopy and small, compact cylindrical respectively) that scatter seeds with the wind.
  • Known as a pioneer species of tree as they are often the first type of tree to appear in a clearing, the catkins produced often containing high levels of nitrates drawn up from the roots, the leaf and catkin litter producing fertile compost in which other plants are able to succeed.
  • Silver birches provide habitat for a diverse range of insect and bird species, and larger specimens in gardens and parks provide ideal perching points for songbirds.
  • Humans have derived a number of uses from the Silver Birch: their sap can be tapped when it rises in March, and the sweet liquid can be used a little like maple syrup or concentrated and fermented for brewing wine and beer. The timber of the Silver Birch can be used for joinery, firewood, brooms and tool handles. Medicinally, Silver Birch has been used in traditional medicine as a diuretic, and externally can be used to promote healing to relieve skin pain and inflammation as its decorative bark contains triterpenes.
  • The Silver Birch is the national tree of Finland.

References and wider reading:

Edlin, H.L. (1970) Collins guide to Tree Planting and Cultivation. Gardeners Book Club. Newton Abbott.

Plowright, S (2013) A pair of Silver Birch trees. The Beestonian no 21. Back page.

Dr JN

Let Us Spray: Beeston’s Street Art Festival

The use of aerosol paint to spray shapes, words or figures on a wall or surface is often seen as vandalism to some, but art to others.

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Some of the country’s best spray can artists descended on Beeston recently, to colour the town in more colours than your average bag of Skittles. They didn’t arrive under the cover of darkness like Banksy appears to do, but in broad daylight and an audience watched while they created their unique works of art, with their £3.50 a can of spray paint. They were here to participate in Beeston’s first Street Art Festival, which took place around the town on the weekend of the 16th June.

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I caught up with Jeanie Barton, the driving force behind the project, who welcomed the break from gardening, to talk about the weekend and how things went. “It was brilliant. It went really well.  I’ve had lots of emails from people saying how happy the artwork has made them. The artists were happy with how things went too. Which is rewarding in itself. People are really impressed with the quality of the work created. I don’t think there’s been a single complaint about it. There was a bottleneck at the top of the twitchell by Round Hill School on the Monday, as parents and children wanted to see how their school looked now. There’s a great mix of styles. Something for everyone.”

Turning to the original plan, which was to decorate that dull part of Station Road, between Birds and B&M. I asked Jeanie about the origins of the idea and why it hasn’t taken place yet. “It started with a posting on Beeston Updated. Someone said how street art could make a town more colourful and that something should be done with that wall near Birds. Other people agreed, so I set up a separate Facebook page and people started to join and shared photos of walls from across the world that had been decorated.  This was in April last year. Broxtowe Borough Council was approached and liked the idea. They have £8000 that’s ready to be spent on art. But things went quiet, so we thought we could decorate some other bare walls around the town instead and went for sponsorship and Crowdfunding. Altogether we raised over £3000.”

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I then asked Jeanie about what’s next. “We have a few more areas to do, such as Hallams and the Victory Club. Hopefully more owners of buildings will come forward that they’d like decorating. We will also be producing a proper guide to them all later this year, with photos of the work, together with profiles of the artists. People from Cheltenham, Bristol etc have been to see the designs. Bristol has its own annual street art festival. So I don’t see why we can’t have one too.”

By the time you are reading this, hopefully there will be some good news about those grim walls on Station Road and how they are going to be transformed into something more in keeping with the artistic identity of Beeston.

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The names of the artists include Tunn, Boster, Onga and Emily Catherine, Zane, Zabou and Goya.

CDF

A (brief) history of Beeston Poetry, with DIY Poets and One Plum Poem

A (brief) history…

Earlier this year in April, Henry Normal came to Beeston Library for his ‘Poetry Hour’ as part of Nottingham Poetry Festival. One of the first things he spoke about was that Beeston has had a history of being a poetry hot-spot, and that it was one of the places gigging poets would make sure they performed at. Phrases like ‘Have you done Beeston?’ would pass between poets, giving the town a national reputation.

This has sparked the need for a revival, and you can read our Poetry Round-up section to see the latest poetry events, including a new monthly open mic hosted by Pottle of Blues. But before we get to that, it’s worth having a look at the history of poetry in Beeston, and speaking to a few local poets to get a sense of what Beeston’s poetry scene had, and still has, to offer.

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The focal point of anyone considering our poetry history will undoubtedly always end up being the Poets in Beeston series which ran for ten years from Spring 1983, when Robert Gent organised a series of poetry readings at Beeston Library ‘with the aim of strengthening  the library’s role in literature promotion’.  This was before my time, but I have heard about it over the years, and seen their anthology Poems for the Beekeeper appear in Oxfam Books and Music a number of times.

The first series of events became so popular that they decided to put on a second series, and so on and so on for the next ten years. There are still people in and around Beeston who remember the series, and attended some the events, including Kathy Bell, who offered her insight on the series via  Beeston Updated after our editor-in-chief, Matt, shared the sentiments of Henry Normal:

“Highlights included Sarah Maguire, Amryl Johnson, Sheenagh Pugh, Catherine Fisher, U. A. Fanthorpe (reading with her partner, the poet R. V. Bailey) and the double-act of Michael Rosen and Leon Rosselson. I moved to Beeston just too late to hear David Gascoyne and had to be away when Benjamin Zephaniah performed. I was very sorry when the seasons ended as they were a great delight as well as an education in contemporary poetry.”

There was also a message passed to us on behalf of one of the main organisers of the Poets in Beeston series, Margaret MacDermott, who said: “Poetry readings in libraries are commonplace now but we were one of the first in the country to do them. They were the idea of my then manager Robert Gent. They were a huge success and I think we had almost every poet of prominence except Ted Hughes. We also had what were then promising newcomers, people like Jackie Kay. After Robert left our funding was withdrawn, I can’t tell you how many letters of complaint I received. I am so glad people remember them with fondness.”

Just from reading these comments, I can get a sense of what poetry readings meant to people back then, and although performance poetry has in no way disappeared, it is less common in Beeston now than it used to be. However, with the newly refurbishes library, there has been a lot more opportunities for events, and plenty of these have been poetry-oriented.

To try and get an idea of poetry’s place in Beeston today, I spoke to a few people about what they’re doing, and what poetry and Beeston together has meant for them.

DIY Poets

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The DIY Poets aren’t strictly a Beeston group, as they meet, perform and hold events mostly in Nottingham, but Beeston is home to a couple of members of the group, Martin Dean and Alistair Lane. The DIY Poets started fifteen years ago, with the creation of the first issue of their free A6 zine (they are now on issue 41).

Martin Dean, who has been a member of the DIY Poets for 3 years, describes himself as a ‘one-time Beeston resident’ as he’s lived here for just 6 years. He used to work at Plessy’s as an electronics designer, and liked the area. He says he’s always written in one form or another, but it was getting involved with the DIY Poets and having their support that has helped him with writing and performing at more events.

When asked about what he’d like to see from an open mic in Beeston, he says: “I want to see it bring people in that wouldn’t necessarily go to a poetry gig, but for them to walk away saying ‘that was great!’ The extension to that is being able to nurture new talent and to be able to say ‘so and so: Beeston Poet’ and put Beeston on the map.”

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Martin has also been working on a collection of poems, that by the time you read this will be printed and in the hands of readers. It’s titled The Curious Dance Between Life and Death, and when asked what the themes of the collection are, he says, “It has a balance of life affirming vibrant pieces and the macabre. I’ve sifted and sorted bits that I’ve been writing over the last few years and got it down to a shortlist of 20 poems:  One hanging, one beheading, falling from a great height, dying a natural death, and a soldier being shot in the trenches…then it’s all uphill from there!”

Jenny Swann: Poet and Publisher

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Jenny Swann was one of our judges for the Buzzword poetry competition, and is a wonderful poet and publisher who has lived in Beeston for the past 13 years. Even before she moved here, she had one of her poetry collections published by John Lucas of Shoestring Press, which is why Beeston was on her radar when house-hunting. “It seemed a good place to head for because I knew there was poetry in Beeston,” she says. “Beeston is a fantastically creative community and very much supports its poets, writers and other artists. I feel that by moving to Beeston we got it spot on. It’s a natural home for writers and artists to flourish.”

Her creative journey in the region started when she was introduced to Ross Bradshaw, who asked her to be his poetry editor for Five Leaves. It was doing that job which made her realise how much she loved poetry pamphlets and publishing. “It was through discussions with Ross about how to give pamphlets a higher profile in bookshops that I founded Candlestick Press in 2008 and ran for 8 years,” she says. “I feel that if I hadn’t been in Beeston in the early days I don’t think I’d have been able to do that.”

Sadly, Jenny had to step down from Candlestick Press in 2016, but this has not stopped her creative drive and passion for poetry. In March of this year she set up a new project: One Plum Poem. The concept is that when you give someone a card, they get a poem inside it too, and she currently has 8 different kinds which include: Give Yourself a Hug (a poem to cheer your friends up), get well soon, a poem for mothers, and two designs for children featuring a hippo and dinosaur. They are all illustrated beautifully, and celebrate the idea of poetry as a gift.

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“My push has always been that poetry is this wonderful art form that is a treat people are missing out on, I’ve always had the same impulse for wanting people to engage with poetry,” says Jenny. She’s also got two more designs on the way, including a Christmas card with a previously unpublished poem by Carol Ann Duffy. The cards are currently for sale in Five Leaves Bookshop, Foyles in London, and on the website at oneplum.co.uk.

A Buzzword poem:

A poem for Beeston – Alistair Lane

Across the centre of this land,
From town to town I roamed
Till fortune shined its light on me,
And in Beeston found my home.

Not in shops or trams,
Or vaunted green-space treasure
But residing in the people
A simpler, honest pleasure.

Uncomplicated and direct;
Each spade described as such
But dig beneath the surface
And revel in their touch.

Diligent and dedicated
Strong and firm of heart.
Easier to love
Than an apiary work of art.

My wandering days are done:
No further shall I roam
Now fortune’s shined its light on me
And in Beeston found my home.

Poetry Round-up

POTTLE POETRY
Free, every first Sunday of the month, 4-6pm Pottle of Blues micropub
With plenty of open mic slots, this is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon listening to (or performing) poetry.

INSPIRE POETRY FESTIVAL 2018
Tuesday 25 Sept-Saturday 29 Sept, prices vary
The Inspire Poetry Festival is visiting Beeston for the first time! More poets are coming to Beeston Library following the success of Word! and the Poetry Hour with Henry Normal. For a full programme visit: inspireculture.org.uk/poetry-festival