Mellow Yellow

I have been watching with great interest since the beginning of October, the renovations at 42 Chilwell Road. Ever since my childhood when dad used to take me onto building sites (his job was to lay the foundations), I have been fascinated by how buildings are constructed.

Quite recently a general store, this particular ensemble of bricks and mortar had been empty and neglected for quite some time, but its sturdy Edwardian exterior held the promise of another reincarnation. I was particularly excited when I passed by mid-October and noticed that the original signage, on the top part of the large front window, had been uncovered – the past was being slowly revealed. I found myself looking for excuses to walk past just to keep an eye on progress.

By the end of November, the rotten window frames had been replaced and the surrounding brickwork repaired. More renovations, including the installation of a fire escape, which could have had embarrassing consequences – they knocked through to the neighbouring pharmacy’s upstairs toilet! Luckily nobody was sitting on it at the time, there might have been some very red faces.

Things were really taking shape at the end of December. New pipework, rewiring, new ceiling, concrete floor and the framework for shelving went in. The beginnings of Yellow Wood Café were in place. Cheered at the thought of Beeston’s burgeoning independent café scene gaining a new venue,  I felt it was time to catch up with its creator to hear all about future plans.

It’s Saturday afternoon and the Farmer’s Market is ‘safely’ bustling in the square, cheerfully masking the closed and empty businesses. There is a lightness in my tread as I make my way down the High Road to the corner of Colin Street and knock eagerly on the whited-out glass door, delighted to be getting the opportunity to see what was going on inside. Iain greeted me warmly and invited me to look around. There had been significant work done on the ground floor and I could see the future of this room, full of people enjoying coffee and each other’s company to the backdrop of a busy street scene.

Iain got the keys in August but started the project and negotiations back in March 2020, just as it became apparent that we were in the throes of a pandemic. Not everyone was as enthusiastic about his vision, nevertheless, the opportunity was too good to pass up. Ever since he was fifteen, Iain had a passion for cooking and felt this was something he would enjoy doing for a living. Instead, he studied engineering and forged a successful career as a sound engineer at one point working at the BBC as a radio engineer and more recently as an associate professor in acoustics at Nottingham University.

Taking voluntary redundancy in June left Iain with new options to explore, and just like Robert Frost in his poem ‘The Road Not Taken’, Iain knew that he had to choose the right path thus enabling his teenage dream to materialise. This poem resonated with Iain and the ‘yellow wood’ came to symbolise the community café space that Iain was keen to create – no regrets, no looking back just enjoying the journey.

Iain has done much of the restoration work himself. He talks me through this with all the enthusiasm and trepidation of a man who knows he has taken on a huge project but is driven by a desire to restore and expand on the building’s former glory. He talks me through some of the horrors he has discovered dismantling the modern fascia and signage revealing the rotten lintels, and of course the most precious of all the things he has been working hard to preserve, those fabulously authentic windows! There have been a few tense moments, but Iain tells me that working with an enthusiastic local builder helped to reassure him that they were in good hands and with someone who really appreciated the attention to detail that was required.

Cornish-born but with much of his early life spent growing up in Yorkshire, Iain has lived and worked in Beeston for over twenty years now and resides in one of the network of terraced streets that have been part of Beeston’s heritage since the 1800s. An all-absorbing career, raising a family and recent ill-health left him feeling quite detached from his local community and this is definitely something he would love to remedy – also something we both recognised as incredibly important in light of recent events.

As we walk around the shell of the old shop (at a safe distance of course), Iain talks enthusiastically about his plans to integrate his love of good honest food and fresh coffee with his passion for music, one he shares with his wife Kay. There is ample space over the three floors to provide music and ‘soul food’ to customers, bookable rooms that can be used for study or work and space for Kay to operate a counselling service. A definite feel-good space, Iain smiles as he describes the feeling he gets as he arrives at the shop to work in the mornings. Fortified with fresh coffee, the radio and the morning sun streaming through the windowed frontage, he approaches each task with care and curiosity – weighing up what will work best in each room and how it will eventually look. It has definitely been an antidote to the doom and gloom in the news.

With all the major wiring work and fire regulations adhered to, apart from the spiral staircase fire escape from the first floor out to the garden terrace at the back, Iain is hoping to be open for business by the end of April.

To accompany Iain on his renovation journey, follow on Facebook and Instagram.

Visit their website here.

DU

Small is beautiful

Growing up in a village in Derbyshire, we only had one local grocers, a tiny post office that never seemed to be open, and a butcher’s van that used to announce itself with a resounding ‘moo’ just before Saturday tea-time. This prompted a queue of 70s housewives clutching their clasp purses under one armpit, and often a wriggling child under the other.

As well as the family-run grocers, down on the main road through Denby, there was a curious little wooden construction we called ‘the paper shop.’ A small painted shack, about six foot by eight, it had floorspace for three customers at most, plus a lovely woman called Brenda who resided behind the counter in her thick fluffy cardi. Reminiscent of The Cabin on Coronation Street, the walls festooned with sweets, cigarettes, newspapers, magazines and even the window was used to display a handful of small gifts and toys. In the winter months, the cramped space was heady with Calor gas fumes and there was always tinsel at Christmas.

Brenda lived on one of the council houses in our village and had a son around my mum’s age, they had gone to school together. As a consequence, they had a lot of common threads and she always seemed pleased to see us. Brenda was one of those kind ladies with curly brown hair and crinkles at the corner of her eyes when she smiled, and she seemed to smile a lot. She knew everyone in the village and always made a fuss of the children, she was the sort of woman that would just pop round with a present for the new baby in a family– my brother being one of the recipients eventually.

Call me sentimental, but I missed all those personal shopping experiences in the 90s when coincidentally I worked in a large city shopping centre. By then spending money was reduced to an EPOS transaction that was over in seconds and sales assistants began to recite from a script. These days you don’t even have to have any kind of conversation in some of the larger shops, you can literally serve yourself! My childhood experiences might be one of the reasons why I still favour the personal touch when I part with my cash and one of the reasons I enjoy living in a town like Beeston.

We have our fair share of self-supporting businesses in Beeston, some well-established like Hicklings, the friendly face of DIY, and Fred Hallam who have held their own against the supermarket chains. Chatting with friends, one tells me that the staff in Hallams have always helped her little girl buy strawberries on her own since she was three. She loves that they “put the receipt and change in her little hand.” We discussed how well Hallam’s readjusted to serve its community at the start of ‘lockdown’ another friend pointed out the locally grown produce they stock. Craig Dawson’s Family Butchers are also more than happy to advise you how to cook any of the meat you buy and are never phased when you might ask for ‘something cheap that you can slow cook.’ And then there are the perks – “Market stalls sometimes knock a bit off when you are a regular and they recognise your face.”

It is those personal touches that make the difference, and the genuine appreciation shown for your custom. Especially at the moment, you can see the joy in the faces of any local independent business owner that you give the opportunity to serve you. And this is because it IS personal to them. They have genuinely put all of their energy, time and their often their savings into creating their unique businesses because they are truly passionate about them. More than just a job, their involvement can be round the clock, constantly working to improve on what they can offer. In the same way that an independent relies on the support from their community, they also recognise the importance of supporting other local businesses.

Sure, it’s been a really tough year for all business, but the retail giants will probably survive by making a few cuts here and there, and I can imagine that online retailers like Amazon have actually thrived due to the pandemic. So it is vital that we help those gift shops, coffee shops, hair salons, restaurants, jewellers, newsagents and corner shops that make our town the vibrant and gloriously diverse place that it is. If they have had to close their doors for now, get in touch and shop online. Many of them have adapted well to making deliveries, you can even order your festive cocktails from the Berliner! Let’s try and make sure all of our independents are still here when we get to the other side – our local economy depends on it.

By shopping locally we are also less likely to spend money on fuel, wasting time in traffic and trying to find space in car parks. We can avoid getting caught up in the frenzied Christmas shopping experience. It might even allow us to slow down and live in the moment, appreciating the little things that make our festive season so special.

You can see a selection of what Beeston has to offer on the Creative Beeston Facebook page and find a huge selection of local makers on the Made in Beeston page.

Shop small, for all!

DU

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

DU

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/

DU

Flippin’ Cheeky!

The cheekiest street food cart that you might have seen out and about this summer is the cheery creation of George, who is also a little bit cheeky.

He doesn’t think he has ever met anyone who doesn’t like pancakes and decided that 2020 was the year he introduced mini Dutch pancakes to the Nottingham public, who like the rest of the UK at the moment, could do with something to make them smile.

Made with buckwheat, flour, yeast, milk and eggs poffertjes are perfect plain but can also be enhanced with the addition of appetising sweet or savoury cheese toppings. Served warm, with just a sprinkle of icing sugar and cinnamon they are a tasty and wholesome treat, but with strawberries and chocolate, they are divine. Gluten-free options are available now too, and with outdoor dining the easier option at the moment they are great snacks to catch while you are on the go.

When I cycled over to the Sunday market a couple of weeks ago, the sun was already overhead warming the happy chattering queues of people waiting eagerly at the selection of food carts.

My goal was a late breakfast snack, a deliciously filling and sweet Sunday treat, I had heard that a new stand called Cheeky Pancakes would be there so looked out for the sunny marquee with the happy pancake logo I had seen somewhere on Facebook.

It wasn’t hard to spot over in the corner, citrus orange with a honey yellow cart and the aroma of warm batter floating over the heads of the people in line. Intrigued I joined the back of the line and pondered my topping and sauce choices, my belly growling with anticipation as I got closer to the front.

I chose the chocolate and banana option and wasn’t disappointed. Fresh and filling, those ten little poffertjes might not look much, but they satisfied my hunger. For those with a bigger appetite, I can recommend getting yourself an extra portion, it can help with indecision too – so many delicious toppings!

You can grab your tray of Cheeky Pancakes from George’s ‘cheeky chariot’ at a variety of venues around Nottingham. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram or check out his website for dates and specific locations. Cheeky Pancakes are also available to hire for private functions and corporate events.

Visit Cheeky Pancakes website here or email: contactcheekypancakes@gmail.com

DU

Meet the ABCAT artists

In the latest issue, Debra Urbacz spoke to those involved in the ABCAT art trail which started in 2011 as part of Open Studios Notts.

 Rita Mitchell (the founder)

“At the beginning of lockdown, I started this painting which had been on my mind for some time.  It is the third of a series of interiors, initially inspired by Vermeer and his use of light.  The adrenaline rush of a new painting helped to push away, for a few hours, the fears and sadness brought about by the daily news. Each day I could ‘go to work’, shut the studio door and gradually transform a blank canvas into ‘The Bar.’ I published a blog of the process as a spur to keep going and to share my painting journey.”

View Rita’s work here

Adrian Pearson

“It starts with a love for good design, be it typographic, furniture, whatever it is, it needs to be well considered and executed beautifully, ‘if you’re going to do it, do it well or not at all,  I guess could be my mantra.

“Being an Artist, Designer and Signpainter, my work in the main has commercial applications, together with some artworks for the home being installed as statement pieces.

“These vary through the nature of my profession from painted and gilded wooden panels to verre eglomise, (an age-old practice where the artist’s paints and gilds in reverse on glass).

“The last week in May I was kept busy painting a Mural for Tobi Frames in Long Eaton, all designed and painted by myself, traditionally, without the use of design software. This year was to be my first ABC Art Trail.”

 Sara Gaynor Visual Artist

“I’m a visual artist working in the medium of experimental photography and an Associate Member of Backlit Gallery and studios in Nottingham. I have been a participating artist on the trail since 2016. During Lockdown I have created a new unexpected body of photographs titled ‘Searching for light through the Darkness,’ exploring newly discovered, hidden and rekindled spaces, on my daily cycle rides within a 2 – 25-mile radius. I have also been experimenting with found nature in my outdoor space  – converging analogue and digital methods to create new artwork – the image ‘Cornucopia’ is a sample of the new photographs created from this experimentation. I am exhibiting my photographs from the Global Sistaz United Project in a virtual exhibition through City Arts Nottingham as part of Refugee Week in mid-June. I have also been busy hosting weekly photography sessions through zoom to our collective, Beeston Snappers.”

Tony Moss

Tony is a mature Fine Arts graduate and his art references modernist architecture in his own signature style.

It would have been his second year on the Art Trail and is very disappointed that it didn’t take place, as his first experience of it in 2019 was both enjoyable and successful.  He says that ironically the lockdown has been a constructive period for him, as it has concentrated his attention on a Project that started in the autumn of 2019. Basically, he was commissioned by a Company called Little Van Gogh to produce a series of eleven large size paintings to circulate and be exhibited around the UK in various prestigious commercial and office locations.

The theme is ‘Sensing Space via Architectural Modernism’ (see –  www.littlevangogh.co.uk – artists). The first exhibition is currently taking place in Guildford.

 Janet Barnes

“Since the last art trail I’ve been busy painting, and in March I completed a 20-day voluntary social isolation painting challenge (before the coronavirus lockdown) in Wales: www.paintingwithmrp.com. 

“On my return from Wales, I’ve been taking part in a weekly lockdown painting challenge.

“I’ve been using my creative practice as a way of coping and making sense of what’s happening.”

For printed copies of “20 Days in 2020” journal (minimum donation of £5 per copy, with all profits going to Parkinson’s UK), or any other enquiries email janetmbarnes@ntlworld.com.

Karen Attwood

“Like other artists, I found it very difficult to even think about creating new work under such traumatic conditions. But I still needed to make and share. So, I made a few little craft videos for the Beeston Heritage Canalside Centre Adult Craft course and I really enjoyed making a collaborative video with alto members of East of England Singers.

“Since February I have been furiously making a massive rug, a huge blanket and a large quantity of community masks.

“It would have been my third ABC Art Trail this year and even though it was cancelled, I put up a mini-exhibition of my latest work.

“I even managed to sell some via my Felted Embroidered Art Etsy shop. A lot of the local sponsors offered to carry forward their 2020 donation to 2021, which was a very generous investment in the future.

“I am already looking forward to the Trail next year which, all being well, will take place on 5th and 6th June.”

 Oksana Holbrook

“I am a textile designer with a Masters in Textile Design.

“Primarily a machine knitter, I am passionate about sustainability working only with natural fibres.

“I presently design and produce hooked rag rugs from recycled and scrap fabric with a heavy emphasis on colour and pattern; something which I have inherited from my Ukrainian heritage.

“My involvement with the ABCAT trail is now in its fourth year, with me taking over as Treasurer at the end of last year.

“As so many shows had been cancelled, I have been concentrating on producing new work for next year, but have also been spending my time clutter clearing and experimenting with cake and bread making.”

Lynda Child

“I am a local artist/printmaker. Initially, during lockdown, I found it hard to be creative. I turned to sewing, an activity I could pick up and put down rather than printmaking which required lots of focus.

“I got out a part made quilt and completed it.

“As shops were closed I joined together leftover fabrics to make a patterned binding. I had intended this to be one fabric. It meant that I wasted nothing and was really pleased with the final quilt. I’ve called it, ‘Lockdown Logcabin’. Log Cabin is a traditional patchwork design. I’m now designing a child’s cot quilt.

“I’ve also made lots of brightly coloured face masks for a charity supporting vulnerable young adults.
During the sunny weather, I did lots of sketching in the garden.”

 Oliver Lovley SGFA

“I am a fine art painter working mainly in oil on board. I have been producing a lot of new figurative paintings lately that are viewable on my website www.oliverlovley.com. As well as this doing live demonstrations on my social media pages. I was part of the ABC Art trail for the first time in 2019.

“I am a member of the Society of Graphic Fine Art in London and I teach classes locally at Artworks art shop in Beeston. I have also exhibited at the Lakeside Arts Centre.”

View Oliver’s website here

Contact him on 07532 179119 or visit his Facebook page

Zoë Zegzula

“I love working with a variety of media, but textiles hold the greatest fascination for me. The immense variety of textures and colours, natural or manmade, provides inspiration for endless ideas. I find working with textiles very relaxing, rewarding and essential to my well-being.

“The nature of my art requires me to have a ‘stash’. This consists of an extensive collection of new, gifted and pre-used textiles ready to turn into future pictures. I use a variety of machine and hand embroidery techniques to produce my art which I have studied for several years at City & Guilds level.

“Taking inspiration from our British Countryside continuously inspires me with inspiration for new work. I love combining art with textiles which stretches the boundary between art and craft.

“I exhibit mainly in the East Midlands at Art & Craft events, I have had solo exhibitions and attended Art Trails. I have been a member of the ABC Art Trail from the beginning and really enjoy the camaraderie with fellow local creatives which has enriched my life.

“I really look forward to the next Art Trail in June 2021.”

Visit Zoe’s website here

Email her at zoe.zegzula@mail.com

DU

Art therapy

Easing gently out of ‘lockdown’, we are reminded of all the places and experiences we have been missing out on, as more local businesses tentatively open up their doors to the public again. Our wonderful independent shops and coffee stops will have safety restrictions in place, but they will be bringing colour and life back to the centre of Beeston.

Whilst our parks and wildlife have never been so appreciated, many of our indoor pursuits have been curtailed, like nipping down to The Crown for a pint or two after work a Friday, browsing Oxfam’s bookshelves and meeting friends for a catch up over a cuppa with homemade cake. The simple pleasures we may have once taken for granted might still feel like a distant memory, but there have still been many things to enjoy in this period of uncertainty.

We are really lucky to have such an abundance of natural beauty in close proximity to our homes, and it is this that has inspired many of our resident artists. In the first ‘lockdown’ edition, I wrote about the power of creating to help us cope with crisis situations. In this one, I am going to remind you of the importance of art on our well-being, not only as a creative process used to explore our emotions and help manage symptoms of anxiety and depression, but as something to be absorbed by us as spectators.

The philosopher Alain de Botton would argue that certain great works of art can indeed help us to manage the ‘tensions and confusions of everyday life.’ In his self-help book named Art as Therapy, he demonstrates how art can both ‘guide and console us.’ Now whilst we might not be able to wander around galleries and pop up exhibition at the moment, Beeston does boast a rather large selection of creative talent – plus we have some large scale street art to admire.

The first weekend in June should have seen the return of one of Beeston’s most popular summer events, and celebration of our local artists, The ABC Art Trail. This annual event, that is now in its 9th year, inevitably can’t take place in 2020. Nevertheless, since planning was already well established at the start of the year, it seemed fitting to dedicate this edition to this wonderful community event and take a peek at what artistic delights they had lined up for us this year.

Earlier in the year, we announced a competition that the organisers were running, which was open to primary school children in the Attenborough, Beeston and Chilwell area. The theme was ‘Where I Live’ and unsurprisingly there was a great response. Lynda Child chair of ABCAT sent us this update to share.

‘Many thanks for all the wonderful entries we received from local schools at the beginning of the year. We were going to judge these at Easter and announce winners and prizes then. We were so looking forward to displaying the winning entries throughout our Art Trail on June 6th and 7th.

‘Unfortunately, due to the COVID 19 Government guidelines, we were not able to get together to do the judging and our trail had to be cancelled.

‘It is with great regret that the Committee must, therefore, announce a delay in announcing winners. We intend to judge entries when conditions allow a gathering of members. We will make announcements in schools and on our website in due course.

‘Once again thank you for all your entries. Take care everyone.’

I am sure you will join me in commiserating with ABCAT, and many others who have been placed in a similar situation on having to cancel the highlight of their creative calendar this year. Furthermore, I am sure you would love to join us in appreciating a small selection of the participating artist’s work, which we have collated for your enjoyment. Art is still being made and available to purchase via websites and by contacting artists directly. I asked the artists featured in this collection, what creating in ‘lockdown’ has felt like?

The struggle to be creative has been echoed in a few of the artists’ comments and some of them found they had something of an artistic switch, for a while at least. Lynda is well known for her printmaking, however, this generally requires sustained focus and Lynda didn’t feel as though she could manage that at first. Instead, she turned to a past project that she could ‘pick up and put down,’ the bold Lockdown Log Cabin Quilt shown in the gallery section.

Another one of the established artists Zoe Zegzula tells us, ‘When the COVID 19 Lockdown came into place in March, it had a surreal effect on me. As if I was in a nightmare that was unfolding that was not going to end. My creative ideas and thoughts were severely dampened and put on hold. I did not feel at all in the right place to use the surprising gift of more time to be creative.’

She went on to create the exotic piece entitled Toucan, which was kick-started by a commission for brooch at the end of April. This has led to a change in direction for Zoe, prompted by the opportunity to work with such a, ‘colourful subject’ using a range of the textiles design techniques she is renowned for. This piece can also be seen in the gallery of work some of the artists have submitted to us to include in this edition and on the website, along with the rest of the maker’s work.

The great spiritual writer Thomas Merton claims, ‘art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.’ So go on, immerse yourselves in this stunning collection for a little while and discover what resonates with you.

Visit the ABC Art website here

View their Facebook page here

DU

The New State of Independents

If you are a regular to this magazine, you will have no doubt read about some of our amazing independent Beeston businesses and the inspirational people behind them. It is their words that you will be reading in this edition. After all, no-one can describe the impact that the pandemic has had on them and their businesses, better than they can.

First up is Houlia, artisan baker and owner of The Doughmother on Central Avenue. With just over a year under her belt, this has been a particularly trying time for her. Whilst larger, older, more established businesses may be able to batten down the hatches until all this is over and survive on their profits, this is not an option when you are still building your business.

“The impact it has had on all sorts of businesses is undeniable. Cafes, restaurants and businesses of a similar nature have been hit quite hard and we started feeling its effects weeks before the lockdown was announced. With the government giving daily briefings, it became obvious to me that I had to take it one day at a time and adjust to the new fluid reality.

I have to admit that my brain was racing during the first days trying to weigh up what would happen and how to best plan for the following days. But I soon realised that thinking about it was causing extra stress and worry while experiencing an already stressful situation.

Sourcing the ingredients I needed became significantly more difficult as wholesalers, stockists and flour mills faced unprecedented demand and had to limit their services to cope with the pressure. Simply closing the bakery until everything assumes normality again was an obvious choice but would not have been a very helpful one on many aspects. I decided to have the shop open twice a week, primarily on an order-collection basis, instead of having the shop open 6 days a week as before the lockdown.

This way I can still have a presence as a business and also keep providing the community with bread during the lockdown, to some extent at least. I can balance out what is on-demand with what is on offer, minimise waste during these days of ingredient scarcity and implement a degree of social distancing. Under extraordinary circumstances, it is important to search for new modes of functioning so that you can keep going. It builds a new kind of resilience and strength in people.

It is extraordinary to see entire societies slow down, adapt to the new reality, learn to live with less and strengthen community ties. So I, in a way, appreciate it as an experience, I think we can learn a great deal from it as individuals and communities. In the post-COVID reality, after we have mourned our losses, we will be stronger and more appreciative of life and things we took for granted before.”

We are so pleased to be able to continue to buy fresh bread and pastries and support your wonderful bakery Houlia. So with the availability of The Doughmother’s delights restricted but not gone altogether, and being somewhat confined to our homes, we might be needing a little help with managing our waistlines! I know that strictly speaking we are allowed out to exercise daily, but that is not without its stresses and some of us might prefer not to, or cannot due to being on the vulnerable list.

“The last few weeks, as for many, have been a real rollercoaster of emotions; fear, panic, sadness but also at times overwhelming joy and happiness.”

For that reason it is good to see that keeping moving, and ensuring your favourite jeans will still fit after lockdown, is being made easier by the menu of online classes around the clock. I asked Kitchen Dancing’s Jo, how she had managed to re-create the personal and engaging dance experience from behind a screen.

“The last few weeks, as for many, have been a real rollercoaster of emotions; fear, panic, sadness but also at times overwhelming joy and happiness. It hit me around two weeks prior to lockdown that I was going to have to find a way to transfer the amazing energy and feeling that we all get from our dance classes together, into a new reality where we couldn’t meet in person.

The only solution was to go online which, to be honest, scared me to death due to my lack of technical ability, but when reality hits you either have to adapt or risk losing your business and everything you’ve worked so hard for. Fight and determination certainly kicked in. Thus the ‘disco den’ was born!!

I spent the first couple of weeks going round in circles with technology, investigating various online platforms, having frustrations with Wi-Fi and lots of head-scratching around the grey area of music copyright – the trials and research are still ongoing to create the ultimate online dance class and what’s even trickier is negotiating exclusive access to the Wi-Fi with the kids…

However, for now, I feel happy with the route I have taken with free music-themed dance fitness classes live from the ‘disco den’ (aka my lounge) on Facebook Live and Zoom which makes it accessible to all, with the option to contribute an amount which the participant feels is worthy of their experience. Any earnings over and above my usual weekly classes will be donated to a local charity. Although finances are being squeezed at present (especially as I also run a travel business), it makes me so happy to share my love of dance and music with others and also to see the positive impact it is having on others wellbeing at this time which is far more important right now.

This whole experience has not only heightened my passion for what I do, but strengthened my resilience and determination to continue down the bumpy road of self-employment. In the words of my hero, Dolly Parton ‘Tumble outta bed and I stumble to the kitchen. Pour myself a cup of ambition…!’ So here’s to stumbling through this difficult time together and coming out on the right side!”

Absolutely Jo, your energy and passion for life is bursting out of the laptop as I join in every Wednesday morning! The wellbeing aspect to our daily lives, in such a time of uncertainty and worry, is made that much easier by dancing your cares away a few times a week.

Hardly surprisingly, with all this extra time in our homes that compost and bedding plants are constantly on order and home improvements have taken precedence over the general housework tasks. Which brings me to our last small business owner Mark Lowe, who makes practical objects for the home that are as elegant as they are functional.

I caught up with Mark’s wife and business partner Marianne, who revealed an added tragedy to their lockdown story which has put incredible strain on their family and the business.

“Prior to lockdown, my parents were involved in a major road traffic accident in Aberdeen, Scotland. Mark and I spent a week in Aberdeen and then I stayed for another. My parents are now back in Nottingham and I am currently caring for my father, my mum is still in hospital. For us, at Mark Lowe, it hasn’t been a normal lockdown. Our business was put on hold and I haven’t been around very much.

With ‘lockdown’ we are both at home and this has given us time to spend on the business. We spent time developing new products prior to this and had exhibited them at a show. We have since photographed them and added them onto our website. The only issue was that with no essential travel we couldn’t go to our professional photographer and so the photography was completed by Mark, which I think he’s done a great job of!

We have limited access to materials and of course orders and postage are delayed, which we have had to be aware of when receiving orders. Thankfully we have some stock and choice options – lampshades in different colours and a range of cords in different shades.

We are at present mainly an internet based company and so this hasn’t been affected as such. Unfortunately, we had signed up to do three large design shows nationally and these have had to be cancelled, understandably. The knock-on effect of this is, we often meet potential buyers at the shows who have seen our products online and want to see them in the flesh and aren’t currently able to. Also, there are buyers who do not internet shop and this is where we would meet them.

Our children are at home, therefore we have joined in with the masses of parents homeschooling, and all its joys! We are staying positive and trying to make the best of our time together, being creative and organising our business, so that hopefully we can continue to grow and develop in the future.”

It is truly inspiring to hear how these wonderful creative people have both adapted so quickly to the sudden and dramatic changes, whilst considering their responsibility to keep their community safe. It is even more vital that we show our support for all of our indie businesses to help them weather this storm because they are living and breathing people in our community, and their creative contribution adds warmth and colour to our lives.

In the meantime, why not pop on over to their Facebook pages and show them some <3

https://www.facebook.com/thedoughmother/

https://www.facebook.com/kitchendancingjo/
http://www.kitchendancing.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/marklowe.co.uk/
https://marklowe.co.uk/

DU

Good things come to those who craft

Craft communities thrive on their sense of togetherness and the sharing of skills and ideas. If you’ve ever observed participants in a creative workshop you might have noticed the warmth in exchanges between them, insecurities reassured by supportive comments and genuine appreciation shown for each other’s work – it’s powerful stuff!

These are the subtle things that give sessions a depth of meaning for some that goes far beyond a simple gathering to create something together. Group creativity is providing a vital support for some people in our community, a place to be on a particular night of the week, an escape from the pressures of their daily lives and often an opportunity to meet people.

Members of one local community group explain the value of these meetings to them.

‘I love learning from others and sharing new craft experiences together has been brilliant. We’ve had a tough year emotionally and the group offered us an opportunity to distract from reality and just be.’

‘I’ve enjoyed arriving in the group at the time of making the quilt squares, Monday nights have given me space, time for reflections and exercising my mind.’

So what has become of these groups, now that all physical meetings have stopped?

Well as you might expect from a bunch of creatives, Beeston networks are using all of the resources available to them to keep communities connected. Both WIs are meeting online and some craft groups are keeping projects going over WhatsApp. Via Facebook, Creative Beeston and Made in Beeston are still supporting local makers and Julie, who runs the Crafts in Beeston group has been sharing other groups to join and inspiration for new creative occupations. That’s where I discovered Beeston Canalside Heritage Centre’s project to encourage local people to submit a piece based on what community means to them.

‘Despite social distancing and the restrictions brought on by the pandemic, it’s heartening to see the kindness, care and community feeling that has strengthened during this crisis both in the ‘virtual’ and the real world. While we may be apart more than ever, physically, we are more united as a community than we have been in a long time.’

And of course, with access to the internet, there are a variety of ways that groups can connect. At the first Monday Zoom meet-up, the regulars talked about how enforced downtime had been affecting their creative pursuits. Although they had not yet tapped into the many online courses and workshops that had been popping up all over social media, they had found that they were now ‘having time to do things they don’t usually have time for,’ they ‘had a lot more energy’ and were ‘seeing more projects through’ instead of the usually amassed pile of *WIPs, UFOs and PHDs.

If you scan your social media newsfeeds you will hear of people learning new songs on their guitars, resurrecting their love for painting and there is a great deal of decorating going on! Is this spring fever or isolation fever? Although this surge of creativity may well die down when the dust settles on this strange situation and we become more at peace, one thing is clear, creativity is helping! You only have to take a walk around the block to see the handcrafted rainbows in windows and your spirits are instantly lifted. The rainbows are a message of hope, they are our way of connecting with each other visually through the medium of chalk and paint.

For dedicated crafters with kids, the extra burden of home-educating can eat into their valuable crafting time, so waiting until ‘the boys are on their screen time’ has been a good solution. Also creating together has been on the agenda in many households, strengthening family bonds. As a bonus, some members of the Monday night group who have previously only been able to support from afar are now able to join Zoom sessions all the way from the North and South of France. This Beeston born group has gone international!

A shared concerned is ‘how long’ we are going to be physically isolated from one another. Although it is relatively easy to order craft supplies over the internet these days and many local businesses are happy to post out or deliver, we spare a thought for those who don’t have access to the internet or are finding it difficult to connect. We like to create a scenario where they have been hoarding yarn for several months and are blissfully knitting by the radio, cat on lap, but we know that some individuals will be finding their forced circumstances hard.

Isolation can be incredibly difficult for many, especially those who struggle with their mental health, and within groups steps have been taken to keep in contact with individuals that may be suffering in silence. It is wonderful to see the local support groups online that have been set up to seek out some of these people too.

Routine can be terribly important to our well being, which is why most groups have stuck to their original time to meet online. You can join the Bee Creative Community Workshops at 7:00 pm on Monday evenings via the closed group on Facebook.

To quote Two Little Magpies, ‘good things come to those who craft.’

*works in progress, unfinished objects and projects half done.

DU

Easy as ABC

The ABC Art Trail is back for 2020 with even more added to its already fantastic line-up. All will be revealed about the new artists and venues featuring this year in the next issue. In the meantime let’s hear it for the younger artists in our locality who are being offered the chance to get a piece of their artwork on display.

Keen to get even more of the community involved, the organisers are running a competition, open to primary school children in the Attenborough, Beeston and Chilwell area, and have been visiting schools to share this exciting opportunity with them. With a theme of ‘Where I Live’ the budding Rita Mitchells or Matt Plowrights can let their imagination run wild and create something that will hopefully earn them a prestigious place on the trail.

Their mission statement is: ‘ABCAT features work from a group of diverse individual artists who are committed to producing original, creative, handmade, high-quality professional pieces. They are all based in the Attenborough, Beeston, Chilwell and neighbouring areas.

The ABC Art Trail delivers well-organised events that bring excellent innovative and diverse local art together. These events are designed to engage, entertain, excite and enthuse the local community.’

We have no doubt that the calibre of entries will be high – we seem to have a knack of producing a creative talent in our area. The ABCAT artist and makers are going to be judging the entries themselves and are just as excited as the children about showcasing their emerging talent.

The closing date for entries was 28th February and only two overall winners will be chosen, one from the infants (KS1) and one from the juniors (KS2). The winning artwork will be professionally mounted and displayed all along the weekend-long trail. There will also be prizes for one KS2 and KS3 child in each school and the offer of a free workshop for a class or group of pupils from the winning school.

It’s such a wonderful idea, one that will perhaps encourage future artists and makers to emerge. We can’t wait to see the entries!

This year’s ABC Art Trail will take place on the weekend of 6th and 7th of June and will feature 29 artists in 16 venues. There are several new artists and venues to enjoy this year, which we will be meeting and interviewing nearer the time.

The team are working hard on finalising detail, along with the help of local sponsors, and publicity will emerge very soon.

You can find more information at www.abcarttrail.uk and on their Facebook page.

DU

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