We’ve reached a small and enormous milestone here at HQ.
The girl child is on the cusp of leaving Infants school and moving up to Junior school. Admittedly, the new place is 20 feet away from the old one and under the same roof, but it’s still a big move for a 6 year old. Change is not her speciality. We recently swapped shampoo and good grief, they really shouldn’t call it No More Tears.
This year has been a tough one for her, and us. She went through her (frankly ridiculous) government-approved SATS. Her school were ace and took the burden of stress away from the kids but the intense workload exhausted her for weeks. I could write about quite how much I object to SATS for 6 year olds, but it’s the same ground and objections which have been banded around for years, except that having lived through it we can speak from experience and not from conjecture. Our little girl is academically bright and very aware of her place in her class, but the competitive nature of the tests made her question her own successes. Her confidence was really shaken and it was hard to see her getting tired and cranky and tearful. Still, I’m sure the government know what’s best for them, and definitely doesn’t profit from the whole enterprise right? Guys??
I really do understand that testing is part of academia and how, done correctly, kids gain a new set of skills by consolidating what they’ve learned so far. But oh my goodness, 6 year olds? Our little one still sucks her thumb in her sleep and curls up on my lap for a cuddle. She cries when I tell her off and farts for fun. (These aren’t linked, I always applaud a good fart.) Her favourite subject is kittens and she can talk about how to do the splits for a good hour if you’re interested. It’s fine if you’re not, I’m not either.
Next year is going to be a super-fun-no-testing-lots-of-trips kinda year, and we’re planning to celebrate all the successes that aren’t measured in class. Kid learns a new move in gymnastics, we’re going out for tea. She stops ‘flossing’ for more than 30 seconds, it’s a trip to Build-a-Bear. She nails the jump off the swing, we’re inviting the Queen round to demonstrate. If well-being and happiness were on the score cards, she is going to ace it.
If ‘The Beeston Seat’, (the Beekeeper) is a much love piece of ‘public artwork’, there is a second modern sculpture in Beeston which is largely reviled and ignored. Since it installation in 1989, thousands of Beestonians have walk past it by without a second glance. It is certain that today, very few even know its name or troubled history, yet it cost the ‘public purse’ £25,000 and is the work of the award winning artist/sculptor Paul Mason (1952-2006), – considered by some to have been; “….probably the most important sculptor of his generation in the Midlands”. (Professor David Manley). The work of art in question is the ‘Water Head’ sculpture, which stand on the western side of ‘The Square’ in-front of the jewellers shop. Its story begins not in Beeston but in Nottingham.
In 1985 the pedestrianised Lister Gate in-front of St Peter’s Church in Nottingham city-centre was being redeveloped and Nottingham City Council commissioned Paul Mason. According to the Nottingham Evening Post (Dec. 1955), Mason’s objectives were to produce a work that was; “…. contemplative and tranquil, to induce calm in a busy city”. Taking a year to complete at the cost of £23,000, the result was a marble water-sculpture entitled ‘Leaf Stem’.
“Someone seems to have gotten the ‘plumbing’ wrong and when it was first activated the artist’s desired effect was not quite achieved.”
Returning to Beeston, once again we find change, this time the refurbishment of The Square in 1988/89, at the heart of our story. Early in 1989, on behalf of Broxtowe Borough Council, Mr Barry Protheroe handed Paul Mason the commission, to produce a public work of art, – similar in design to the Leaf Stem in Nottingham, – to stand in the newly refurbished Square. The results were yet again an organic shaped tall pillar of white marble. This time Mason christened his work ‘Water Head’ in reference to the gently flowing water, which in theory was meant to run down the exposed surfaces. Unlike its Nottingham counterpart, Water Head was originally fix into the ground directly over a drain for the recycling water, rather than being on a low stepped plinth.
Both the Beeston and Nottingham installations relied on the visual aesthetics of the play of light and water on their sculptured surfaces. Whist Mason might have been considered an acclaimed artist, his engineering skills and knowledge of hydro-dynamics were found to be some-what lacking. Someone seems to have gotten the ‘plumbing’ wrong and when it was first activated the artist’s desired effect was not quite achieved. It may have been the way in which water splashed ‘passers-by’ instead of flowing gently into the drain which generated the dislike of the sculpture, as much as the fact that when the pump was turned off, it was no-longer the spectacle it was meant to be. The Leaf Stem in Nottingham also suffered the same problems with its water flow and drainage. The water quality of both pieces of art were investigated by Environmental Health and found to be lacking. Both water-features were officially deactivated in 1994, (although Water Head was seldom in operation). For a time Leaf Stem disappeared only to be reinstated on a raised flower bed a few yards to the north of its original site, where it can be seen today. Water Head was re-mounted on a square brick-base in an effort to achieve better drainage.
The concepts and beauty of modern art are very much ‘in the eye of the beholder’. Call them ‘Philistines’ or what you will, when the Water Head was unveiled to the public it received ‘lukewarm’ attention to say the least. The Beestonian magazine labelled it the ‘Stump’. When the water-feature was deactivated, it became a favourite place for The Square’s local pigeon population to rest, earning it the nick-name ‘The Pigeon Perch’. With the coming of the Trams and The Square’s redevelopment, the future of Water Head once again hangs in the balance. There are those who would like to see the redundant sculpture gone for good. The writer is not in this mind as it seems a great shame that Beeston should loose a valuable, – in all senses, – piece of public art-work by a well-known artist like Paul Mason. Perhaps the local authority should find a new, more suitable home for it somewhere away from The Square and with a little care, planning and engineering, reactivate the water-feature. Only then can Water Head be seen and appreciated as the artist intended.
I can’t wait until I retire. It can be the glory years. Just think about all the things you can do. The joy you can get from just paying the world back one day at a time for all the misery it’s caused you. I’d be getting up at 8am every morning, getting into rush hour traffic and then just getting in everyone’s way, towing a caravan behind just to annoy people further. Then I’d go home, listen to Gardeners world, before popping out at lunchtime to go a stand in the post office queue, clogging it up, just for one stamp, glorious!
With all this time on your hands you can discover new hobbies, like my dad has done. He is now the member of a Ukulele troupe! The Pontefract Pluckers! I don’t know what the correct collective term is for a group of Ukulele players, maybe Ukuleleurs, ukers, ukulelites, ukuleliers or maybe a twang of Ukers. Whatever they are it’s a group of blokes that meet in my parents kitchen every week to strum through a badly tuned version of the classic hit “I am the urban Spaceman” by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.
“It was like The Who playing next to a busker.”
Playing an instrument is a great way to lose yourself and relax, but it does depend on what type of person you are. There is a member of the group who is a bit difficult, a bit of an Axl Rose, from Guns and Roses type of character. If the band ever got their big break he would be the first one demanding he was taken everywhere on his own jet, saying he won’t go on stage without his psychologist, or until someone sorts him out a bowl of M and M’s with all the red ones removed and a bottle of Evian at precisely 0 degrees. He would be late to soundchecks and have the crazy artistic girlfriend who would stop him going to jamming sessions until his chakras were totally aligned and he had finished feeding his spirit animal.
This guy, let’s call him Brian, because that’s his name, has a reputation for being difficult. He has been thrown out of two other Ukulele groups. At one group the woman in charge asked him to leave because he was always plugging his amp in during practice sessions and drowning out the rest of the group. It was like The Who playing next to a busker.
Another group asked him to leave as he was turning up every week for the lesson but not paying, after a few months they confronted him and he said, “I’m not paying because you didn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know!” what a maverick!
Recently the group and Brian had a “gig” I say “gig” it was a gathering at some parish councillors back garden at a fundraiser for the local rotary club and I had the pleasure of going along to watch them. They “Pontefract Pluckers” were on a little veranda in the corner. Brian had printed out song sheets for everyone. However, when they started it was clear that they would only be background music, like a lounge singer in a hotel foyer. No one was paying attention, apart from the one lady who had a few too many glasses of prosecco and was clutching her song sheet swaying and singing, quite badly, into a breadstick. It was quite windy and the sound travelled but not brilliantly and they had no mics, they only had a little amp, provided by Brian.
They were doing fine but no one was paying attention. Then in the middle of Brian just puts his instrument away turns off the amp and leaves in a tantrum, stopping only to grab a scone from the table as he walked past. I’m surprised he didn’t kick over the amp, smash his Ukulele on the side of the veranda and try to get a riot going. He would’ve struggled to be fair, it was The Rotary Club not the Hells Angels.
As I write I’m just recovering from a two-day conference run at the University in collaboration with Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, perfect for this issue’s ‘wild’ theme and their 30 Days Wild campaign.
The conference itself was very calm, the wildness left for the content of the presentations and debates. We heard about koalas, sheep, badgers, lizards, stone curlew and hedgehogs. Hedgehogs were mentioned quite a lot… not least in our public lecture by Hugh Warwick on Monday night.
I co-lead one of the University’s research priority areas called Life in Changing Environments. We exist to bring together all researchers across the university working in any way on this broad theme. Working with The Wildlife Trusts, particularly the team from Nottinghamshire we were also able to bring together many environmental practitioners from across the East Midlands and beyond.
“We all have a responsibility to look after the bits of the world that we can, our own gardens, our own streets, the nature reserves we enjoy spending time in.”
We listened to panels discuss how best we can all work together to improve environmental conditions for all, and the challenges posed by environmental policy, including those in a post Brexit landscape. These panels included Paddy Tipping, the Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Sara Goodacre from the University, Oliver Harmar, the North East Area Director for the Environment Agency, Jeff Knott, Eastern England regional director of the RSPB, and Ellie Brodie, Senior Policy Manager, for The Wildlife Trust. These were highly informed, enthusiastic debates that were inspiring to listen to.
In the afternoon we heard from a panel about the concerns of our current students’ generation about what is going on with our environment, and not just about plastic. The panel included Katie Jepson, Sustainability Project Officer, for the NUS and Isla Hodgson, Associate Director, of the youth organisation A Focus on Nature. We then listened to a fascinating discussion about how best to communicate environmental science issues to a wide range of audiences including politicians and the general public, and how to best make a difference.
A theme that ran throughout the conference was how we all have a responsibility to look after the bits of the world that we can, our own gardens, our own streets, the nature reserves we enjoy spending time in. It’s also clear that there are many amazing, inspiring and engaging people working hard to make all the bits of the world we encounter better for everyone and everything in it. We should be thankful to them and hopeful that bit-by-bit differences can be made in the right way. Challenges and uncertainties around funding and future legislation make life difficult for environmental practitioners, as it does for those of us working in universities and many other sectors, but there was a definite sense of the ‘cautious optimism’ described by Ellie Brodie throughout the meeting. It was good to hear.
We were optimistic enough about the feedback from the conference to put next year’s in the diary already. It will be on the 24th and 25th June 2019 – keep an eye on our twitter feed @LCE_RPA and we’ll maybe see some of you there!
The #IAmBeeston project is now in its third successful year of interviewing and photographing people that either live or work or both in the NG9 area. Up to now mainly adults have been featured. But for this first special colour edition, we’ve turned our attention on a member of our younger population. Someone who aims to help and support others under the age of eighteen through their influence and involvement with Broxtowe Borough Council.
I met up with Alfie and his mum Catherine at their house and had a chat with them, in their large sunny kitchen, whilst Alfie’s younger brother Frank was watching some World Cup action. Catherine is a neighbour of mine, so I have known Alfie since he was a mere bump, which is going on for nearly fourteen years now. So I thought Alfie would be an excellent addition to the project, when Catherine told me about his important role in the community.
“Beeston is a very nice place to live. It’s great. It’s somewhere where you know everyone, and there’s a considerable amount of support for young people.”
“I’ve been the Youth Mayor for Broxtowe since November last year. I had to go through an interview process before I was selected. This means that I am also part of the Youth Parliament, and I’m looking at transport and LBGT issues. At the moment I’m currently working on life skills. Helping others to learn about finances, money etc. Also being part of the Broxtowe Youth Voice, I am helping to promote new groups at the ‘Shed’, the Beeston Youth and Community Centre.”
“I’m a pupil at Alderman White School, which enjoy going to. It’s a good school. Beeston is a very nice place to live. It’s great. It’s somewhere where you know everyone, and there’s a considerable amount of support for young people, with sports clubs, the Cubs and Scouts. I am a member of the Boys Brigade, and I help the younger boys with their activities. They usually have a subject or theme to work with. This is going towards getting my bronze in the Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme. I also go to the Pathfinders Youth Club at Christ Church on Chilwell Road.”
“Beeston is full of friendly people, who are only to happy to help if you’re out and have a problem, like getting lost. It’s a good community. The library is very good now that it’s been updated. There are some good resources there. I like looking at all the old photographs of how Beeston used to look.”
“I think Beeston has some good shops. I buy things from lots of different places, but I especially like Poundland and WH Smiths. I like to take our dog Lenny for walks in Highfields, or down by the weir fields. We might then stop off for a drink at the Canalside Heritage Centre. I’d like to see a cinema here, as there would be somewhere else to go on my doorstep. I’d also like to see a Pizza Express. We sometimes get a tasty takeaway from the Cottage Balti. I always like to meet my friends at the Beeman and I think the recent Street Art festival has made Beeston a lot more colourful.”
Welcome to the new look of The Beestonian. It’s much the same mag as before, bit bigger, more colourful and with up to 28% less typos. We’ve gone a bit professional, thanks to a grant from the National Lottery. Thanks National Lottery! They gave us some funding in return for getting the issue out to more readers: so we’ve doubled our print run. Possibly it’s the first time you’ve had a copy. If so: hello!
Yet despite the changes the underlying philosophy of the magazine remains much the same as it was when we furtively first used the work photocopier to run off a load of issues back in our early days: to provide Beeston with its own magazine, written by Beestonians, read by Beestonians, about Beeston. We want to celebrate the great things about this town, build a sense of community and have a good time while we do it. Our editorial line is simple: “If it’s about Beeston, and if it’s interesting, let’s get it out there.”
And what is it we’ve found interesting lately? Well, more than we could actually put into a mere 24 pages, that’s for sure*. Yet you will find inside stories about what happens when everyone’s favourite local grocer gets rendered into Lego; Beeston’s burgeoning poetry scene; the wonder of local trees; Stumpy facts; a scientific knight; trails and streets of art; hedgehogs; comedians; parenting; local legends and all your local favourites.
None of this would be possible without a wonderful group of people who each issue go out and find stories, before bringing them back and dropping them into the big Beestonian content bucket. Others make the magazine look lovely, others find leads for us to check out and keep the webpage ticking over. We even have a paper-boy. His name is Will, and he’s great, and yes, he does accept cash tips. Thanks to them all.
We are also reliant on our advertisers to help us tick along: go and visit them and say you read about them in The Beestonian. If you run a business, drop us a line and see what we can do for you. We’re very reasonable, and very flexible. We’ll be happy to have you, provided you’re not some evil company that makes puppy-soup, or similar**. If you’d like to stock us, then we’d delighted to send the aforementioned Will over to drop you some copies off.
I’ll wrap up with a promise to you: despite our flashy new design, despite our slick professionalism, we still promise to make The Beestonian free to read; non-profit and as much a part of this wonderful creative, vibrant, often plain weird community as we can. It may not be about bees. But we’re buzzing.
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.
After singing our socks off last weekend, as well as very much from the heart, we're raising funds for Hope Nottingham at Hope House, Beeston, a vital one-stop community support centre helping the local community and beyond. Please come along on Sat 5 October, 7pm and support us