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

Top C.A.T

Word on the street is that Beeston is itching to get its very own cinema, and judging by the activity around the site of the old fire station, it’s on its way! According to Broxtowe Borough Council’s announcement, made around this time last year, we will be welcoming The Arc cinema to Beeston ‘late 2020!’ Sounds impressive, right? But did you know that Beeston already has a cinema? Well technically it’s in Chilwell, but if you drive just five minutes down Queens Road you will find the C.A.T.

Chilwell Arts Theatre might only have one screen, but it is warm and welcoming, has plenty of comfortable seating and ice cream lollies for a quid! Having visited a number of times myself I have always felt that it was much more than an affordable local opportunity to watch a good film. There really is something special about it. Situated at the back of Chilwell School, for those of you that don’t know, there is a rather impressive theatre with seating for 170 potential film buffs.

After cycling down there a few summers ago, the personal greeting from Michael and the relaxed, friendly atmosphere tempted me back. The experience is a quality bit of nostalgia for those people old enough to remember the old-style ‘picture house’ or prefer a night at the Savoy over the Showcase. It’s a place where people meet up to share in an event and make connections with other film lovers. Pick up a quiz sheet as you enter and you might even be lucky enough to win a chocolate bar of your choice.

I met up with Michael this weekend, in between the Saturday matinee and evening performance, to talk about why he started the community theatre, and was fascinated to find that it had been running for over a decade. Originally from Ashby de la Zouch, Michael found himself relocating down and up the country. He originally came to Nottingham with his wife, who was pursuing a career change at the time but already knew it was a city he would enjoy living in. He based this opinion on a night out with a mate who was at Trent University at the time he was living in London – a era when he owned a car he really didn’t use, which met its end rusting in front of his house, right opposite the stately home of Tony and Cherie Blair.

After securing a job at Chilwell School as the Arts Development Officer, Michael saw the theatre and was suitably impressed. He teamed up with local lady Ros, who had coincidentally also approached the school about starting a cinema, and Chilwell Arts Theatre was created. The theatre had hosted a few shows but was otherwise underutilised as a space. The cinema is supported by the current head David Phillips and Head of Finance Linda Riddell who value its importance as an asset to the community. The finance for the much larger screen came from the parent partnership, a group of parents who raised funds for Chilwell School, and the cinema takings.

Over the years the cinema has attracted its regulars, who see it as there ‘go to place’ and come along every Friday night to enjoy the show. Michael, who is also an actor and filmmaker, takes care to choose a quality drama that he knows his Friday night audience will like and on Saturday afternoons, it’s a classic. He creates a more edgy feel on Saturday nights, with a film that will challenge the audience in some way, favouring indie over commercial – the most successful of these being I, Daniel Blake. He talks about watching a film as an ‘emotional journey’ and loves that he can provide that for his audience. I am amazed that he keeps the cinema running, despite now living in Cheshire, driving down for the Friday night performance and then staying over with Ros and her family. After leading Young Filmakers on Saturday mornings, it’s back to the theatre for the double bill.

One of the regulars Louise, tells me the community theatre has been such a lifeline for her since she lost her husband two years ago. She feels comfortable to come on her own, as do many other single or widowed locals, something they wouldn’t find so easy at one of the large commercial cinemas. It’s her escape at the end of the week. She describes how it ‘stirs all kinds of emotion’ and makes her ‘stop.’ Louise also mentions how much it has broadened her horizons regarding the type of films she chooses to watch and loves that Michael allows his audience to have a say in the films he shows. A non-profit organisation, C.A.T. doesn’t really have a budget for marketing so Louise puts up posters in the local supermarkets to spread the word. She is particularly keen to tell me about the ‘singalong’ to one of the musical greats that is planned for later in the year – accompanied by Beeston’s Tuneless Choir.

A multiplex cinema might well be a great thing for our town, attracting people from far and wide, but for those Beestonians who prefer a less homogenised more intimate cinema experience, you might want to consider Beeston’s own Broadway, Top C.A.T! In my opinion it really is wonderfully unique, you might even say it’s ‘the leader of the gang.’

You can find out what’s on at Chilwell Arts Theatre on Facebook, the website www. chilwellartstheatre. co.uk or by emailing Michael at michael@ chilwellartstheatre. co.uk and adding your name to the mailing list.

DU

Box of delights

The theme for this issue is one dear to our hearts at Creative Beeston. If we can make it or buy it handmade then we are all the happier for it – our Christmas presents this year were no exception.

Making a present for someone can be so much fun, and you don’t have to be an expert to pull it off. There are many kits you can buy and workshops you can attend that will help you produce something of a high standard – check out our feature on Two Little Magpies courses for 2020!

As we become more and more environmentally conscious, we are leaning towards alternatives to ‘fast fashion’ and making your own clothes is just one of them. Sewing patterns are so much simpler these days and a LOT more affordable since the Vogue days. Try Tilly and the Buttons for their comprehensive range – they even have a blog to help you on your quest for a handmade wardrobe.

If you do fancy having a go at putting something together yourself, you will find plenty of inspiration at The Sewing Box in Beeston. Tucked away down Willoughby Street, just off the High Road, you will find a petite shop front that is the entrance to a treasure chest of pretty and functional things to make everything from a ribbon necklace, or knitted sweater, to a full outfit to wear.

You might have met the owner, Mike Barnes, at one of the Beeston Markets in the square over the years, his tables of brightly coloured ribbon trails may have attracted your gaze as you walked past the stall, reels of satin, lace and braids jostling for attention. He was always very helpful when choosing something to embellish one of my handmade makes, and was known for having something beautifully unique to tempt me to part with my cash.

Mike has a long history with market trading and manufacturing, having his interest roused at the age of eleven by a visit to Sneinton Market with his mother. He recalls how thriving it was, bustling with shoppers and traders, wrapping their goods in newspaper and keeping the atmosphere alive with their busy banter. Fifteen years later, by now a trained accountant working in the textile trade, Mike earned himself his own pitch selling baby grows he had designed and manufactured himself.

Despite many years of success as a trader, the popularity of street markets dwindled due to the rise in supermarkets and car parking restrictions and Mike stopped manufacturing over a decade ago. Whilst he was making underwear, he took a trip to India to source some of his trimmings and this sparked his interest in supplying the public with his exceptional finds. In 2014 he opened The Sewing Box in the centre of Beeston and here you can benefit from his expertise and his eye for collecting beautiful things.

When you have finally made it past the doorway of The Sewing Box, with its endless rows of threads and trims to pore over, you will find a well-stocked back-room full of delightful fabrics including individually sourced Africa wax fabric which is tricky to get hold of outside of London. Alison Barlow sources some of the fabrics for Mike whilst she scours the globe for exotic trims for her local online business, Mokshatrim. She also runs the Facebook page Made in Beeston, which came out of the desire to promote local crafters who make items from materials they buy at The Sewing Box.

A long-time customer and self-confessed promoter, Alison tells me that what is great about the Sewing Box is that Mike sources his stock using his connections with the trade, rather than the same typical wholesalers, and this makes his collection of trims and laces quite unique. In her words, ‘he has THE BEST range of lace and trims in Nottingham!’ Pair that with his knowledge of manufacturing and you have a shop manager that really knows his stuff! Alison has worked with Mike for six years now, supporting him with the website and social media presence but also with ideas for the shop.

And his prices are more accessible for the novice dressmaker. We have a number of good sewing places in Beeston that complement each other well, but he sits at the more affordable end of the spectrum. As well as the fabrics and threads, Mike stocks a small selection of kits, knitting patterns and wool. He’s a big supporter of Boomerang Bags and is always happy to promote local crafters and events.

You will find The Sewing Box on Willoughby Street, Beeston, Nottingham, NG9 2LT.

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/sewingboxbeeston

Email – info@mikebarnes-trimmings.co.uk

DU

New Year, New Skills!

At the top end of the High Road you will find another delight. Two Little Magpies Gift Shop and Studio. They have an extensive range of courses for you to learn a craft and here are our top picks for sustainability.

Beginners Embroidery

A two-hour workshop, which encourages you to create your own unique project using basic embroidery stitches but the more experienced can learn new stitches too. A fabulous way to breathe new life into a tired-looking garment, embroidery is a great tool for brightening up knitwear and denim too. It can also be used to repair garments – but that’s for another class!

They have a large stash of threads and embellishments to dip into, including ribbons, sequins, beads, buttons and gems. Slow stitching projects like this can be so therapeutic.

What’s more, tea and biscuits, plus all materials are provided!

Paper Quilling

Supported by a large selection of templates, paper quilling is not quite as complicated as it looks, so it’s suitable for an absolute beginner. Coiling and shaping colourful strips of paper into beautiful works of art is so relaxing and produces great effects.

The finished projects are ‘light, delicate and look very intricate,’ they are bound to impress anyone who receives one as a gift! Made completely from paper they get the seal of approval from us, and like all Magpies courses, you will benefit from beverages and light snacks to keep you going.

You will also leave the workshop with a quilling tool and a fine glue applicator to continue your new craft at home.

Make a lampshade with Sarah Sewell

If you fancy making something for the home, Sarah Sewell of Wildgoose Designs will teach you how to make a fabric-covered 30cm drum lampshade – suitable for a table lamp or as a ceiling shade.

A fabulous idea to use up ends of fabric rolls and create something unique, so another thumbs up for both recycling and sustainability. This is also a course where no previous crafting experience is necessary. Oh and more tea and biscuits!

So what are you waiting for, it’s a new year and a time to learn new skills!

‘Good things come to those who craft.’ TLM

www.twolittlemagpies.co.uk

DU

Dark Nights, Bright Lights

It’s autumn! Time to get out the woolly sweaters, hand-knitted socks and indulge in some cosy indoor activities. On bright, brisk days it feels good to get the heart pumping with a walk round the nature reserve or Highfields Park but as daylight dwindles and the heating kicks in, it’s wonderful to get back inside.

In contrast to the long summer days, where blue skies hang around until way past tea time and evenings extend outdoors, autumn nights are for creating a cosy atmosphere and snuggling under a homemade quilt, watching a film or reading a book. Part of creating the perfect environment for a cosy evening in has to be the lighting. We are very much a household that only turns on ‘the big light’ in cases of emergency, you know like a lost remote, so it’s important to have the right kind of lighting where it’s needed.

There are many different styles of lamp on the market these days to suit all tastes and budgets, we are literally spoiled for choice! However, something simple that will do the job suits me, and that’s why Mark Lowe’s contemporary pieces caught my eye a while back. Apart from being made from sustainable wood, which supports an environmental ethos, there is also the opportunity to personalise a lamp with a choice of wood, coloured flex and shade so you feel like you are part of the creative process.

Fellow Beestonian Mark, was born here and has stayed local to the area, apart from his university years in at Loughborough University where he gained a degree in furniture design. He lives and works out of a home workshop in Beeston, having spent his early years working for a lighting company that did not at all reflect his current tastes. Mark has always considered the role of lighting in the home as an important one. After leaving the industry for a while and pursuing a career in teaching design and technology, Mark’s been drawn towards the ‘honest design’ of the late 19th century Arts and Crafts movement and Bauhaus.

Although Mark has enjoyed a decade of teaching and inspiring his students to experiment with their own ideas and designs, he has continued to work on his own – feeding the need to have a creative outlet. He designed his first lamp around four years ago, an adjustable lamp for use at home which is just perfect for a reading corner. Tall and elegant, the original design has undergone many modifications, but the principle design has remained the same. The frank use of visible construction adds interest to the simple lines, and the coloured cord provides a colour pop that transforms simple into eye-catching in one vivid streak.

Mark tells me that as production has increased and designs have evolved, his wife Marianne has brought her own creative flair to the range. She sourced the coloured flex and shades that complement the designs so well and he continues to collaborate with her as new products are conceptualised on the pages of his sketch pad. The range now boasts a fixed standard lamp, table lamp, coat stand and coat racks in ash and oak with vibrant discs – a nod to the colour variations that can be added to the lamps. Subtle or statement? You decide, but with their beautiful simplicity, each piece would slot well into any tastefully finished room.

Since launching the business in 2017, Mark has been keen to get his products out into the wider world, and in June of this year they had their first stand at the Handmade in Oxford Show. He also tells me about a successful alliance with Long Eaton upholsterers John Sankey Furniture, which resulted in a selection of Mark’s lamps being installed to complement their sumptuous sofas in the Tunbridge Wells showroom, along with some quality publicity photos.

As I type up this article, his Facebook newsfeed tells me that Mark is being filmed at the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair, Manchester, a handpicked selection of over 160 designer makers. We hope they appreciated your beautiful designs as much as we do at The Beestonian Mark!

You can see the full Mark Lowe range on the website www.marklowe.co.uk and follow him on Facebook www.facebook.com/marklowe.co.uk/ and Instagram @marklowelighting

DU

Devlish Delights

You might not be feeling much like an ice cream at this time of year, but then I did see a young man walking back home from the shop on Priory Island the other night, unwrapping a Magnum with the gleeful enthusiasm of an eight-year old that’s just paid a visit to the ice cream van.

Seeing as it is the time of year where cavorting with the devil might be actively encouraged if you do fancy a 99 or a something frozen on a stick, you might want to consider picking one up from El Diablo’s Ice Creams. Spawned from the imagination of a Beeston artists mind, driving towards you surrounded by the flames of Hell’s own fire, who would not succumb to the temptation of an Apocalippo, its headlined iced treat?

We love Matt Plowright’s often surreal and sometimes haunting artwork. When I questioned him about the inspiration for this particular creative masterpiece, he told me, “I envisaged Satan as an ice cream seller, with his own van. This juxtaposition of the heat of hell and a cool ice cream on a hot summer’s day, seemed ridiculous and laughably unlikely. I was inspired by the continental sounding names I had seen on ice cream vans, perhaps ‘Signor Whippy’ a Peter Kay creation. Also, I fondly recall Mr Benn for the aesthetic and the Mighty Boosh for the humour.”

I can’t help but be curious as to the music that would chime from deep inside its bloody guts, would it be the theme tune from the film Halloween or something even more sinister? Would some other evil being need to stand in for Satan when he had other important satanic business to attend to, and who might that be? One thing is for sure, I don’t think I would be asking for the red and green syrup…

You will find more of Matt’s artwork on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ PLOWZart/ and www.facebook.com/rodgertheprawn/ on Instagram at Matt Plowright and at his Beeston home studio. Please contact Matt via email at mattplowz@yahoo.co.uk to commission a piece of work or if you can provide a space to exhibit his vast collection of work. Matt will also be taking part in this year’s Art Trail.

DU