Craft, Create, Connect.

Beeston is such a hive of creativity! With so many resident artists and increasing opportunities to appreciate artwork we really are spoiled for inspiration. As soon as you alight at the Beeston Interchange you are just steps away from the street art murals that have enlivened some of our industrial buildings and added character to those of more historic value. Add in the painted telephone exchange boxes and we have an enviable street gallery to feast our eyes upon! The town also now houses one of the most accessible indoor exhibitions. Currently, in the old Argos local community projects and professional artists sit comfortably together in a window gallery of artistry worth shouting about – The Beeston Showcase.

If this public display of creative talent has fired your imagination, an obvious place to start picking up art and craft materials would be Artworks on the corner of Imperial Road. With shelves stacked with paints, inks and specialist papers they also have an extensive range of cardmaking and scrapbooking materials that would keep you busy until Christmas! They are looking to start their established weekly art classes back up in September.

The Young Artist’s Club was launched at Canalside Heritage Centre at the end of July. Low cost and allowing participants to explore a variety of different materials and techniques it is aimed at 8 to 12 year olds and ran weekly throughout the summer holidays.

Their ever popular Canalside Art Club also returns for the summer and can be accessed both in person or over Zoom.

Further down Chilwell Road you will find The Fabric Place, for those of us that prefer to sew than sketch. Just browsing the tempting collection of floor-to-ceiling fabric rolls is tantalising, especially at this time of year when their fruity summer fabrics are especially eye-catching. From curtains to bags to summer frocks, they have everything you need for your stitching projects. Bob tells us that are looking at introducing workshops later in the year so why not pop in and express your interest.

If you can’t find that finishing touch you are looking for, there’s always The Sewing Box further up the High Road on Willoughby Street, a definite top spot for trimmings! And if you are searching for craft kits, they have a selection to choose from to satisfy your creative cravings. They have a large range of fabric and wool too.

At teh Broadgate end of town is Pot ‘N’ Kettle Ceramic Café. A spacious place where your colour and imagination join forces to help you create your own special trinket or a personalised present for someone. If baking is more your thing then Beeston Baking School are running classes all summer from their outdoor venue on Cumberland Avenue. From rustic loaves to decorating techniques, Jill loves sharing her expertise and providing opportunities for a bit of experimentation with her tailormade sessions. We love her ‘Quintessential English Baking’ classes but then who doesn’t enjoy a freshly baked scone with jam and cream?

Down at Chilwell’s Independent Creative Corner, Cyrilyn invites you to join her in a personalised jewellery making session and be part of the whole process. If the joyful folk in her social media posts are anything to go by, this is often an amazing experience and fantastic fun! We adore the handmade wedding ring pics, but the one-off blue opal ring created by local lady Liz was an absolute stunner.

Larger organisations that serve our community well are Beeston Library, with their engaging family theatre productions and the annual Summer Reading Challenge. Lakeside Arts’ events for children take place in and around the Arts Theatre, with Art in the Park and Play in a Week.

As an added bonus, all the Arts Council funded activities have all been transferred online.

Log in for storytelling adventures, music sessions, craft activities, workshops, dance performances and a delightful digital book to evoke awe and wonder across the generations. Both venues are also well known to provide high end and community exhibitions that provide a little ambling time on lazier summer days.

There was so much creativity to be energised by in Beeston this summer and it will continue to inspire us well into autumn I am sure. I have not even mentioned the return of the ABC Art Trail or Incredible Edible Beeston! Why not follow the Creative Beeston Facebook page for updates on all of these and more?

Happy creating!


Featured Artist – Oliver Lovley

Featured Artist – Oliver Lovley

If you were a frequenter of the Malt Cross BC (Before Covid) then you will undoubtedly come across posters advertising Oliver’s life drawing classes or indeed the man  himself immersed in a bit of live painting as the artist in residence. I can distinctly remember a slender grey jacketed man sketching at one of the pedestal tables, to a lively background of cheerfully chattering people enjoying the architecture and supping their fine ales.

It was great to have the opportunity to catch up with Oliver again in the newly refurbished Greenhood Coffee House this July and talk to him about his recent work, which appears to have gained momentum since live exhibitions have become a thing again. Although we met briefly when Oliver joined the ABC Art Trail back in 2019, recent events have curtailed networking in general so it’s taken time for our paths to cross again despite both of us living in Beeston. He shows me his sketch book of observational figure drawings as we chat over an excellent coffee, and explains the process as capturing just enough information to ‘describe the people’ – the act of studying subjects as his connection to the outside world.

Oliver was born in Grantham but his parents moved to Nottingham when he was a baby. They based themselves in Newark and were living in Keyworth by the mid-80s where Oliver grew up and went to school. Although his degree at Loughborough University was Illustration, his course prepared him well for a career as a fine artist with an almost military regime of daily drawing. Having ‘tried unsuccessfully to be an illustrator’ down in London, following the success of a short animation film described as ‘hauntingly beautiful by Brief Encounters Film Festival judges in 2002, a disillusioned Oliver returned to Nottingham. Although there were signs that he should continue to hone his craft, as the portrait of his father he submitted for the prestigious National Gallery BP Portrait Award that same year made it through to the final exhibition.

Back in Nottingham, Oliver spent his time painting the landscapes around Keyworth and Belvoir Castle. Many of his earlier paintings are small watercolours depicting the natural forms of trees, fields and hedges in muted shades. They are delicately beautiful in their luminosity. Building up a collection of paintings led Oliver to look for commercial opportunities and came across the well-established Arts and Craft Fairs run by Alan Woolley in Beeston and West Bridgford. Growing interest in his work gave Oliver all the encouragement he needed to continue painting and selling at local events, securing commissions as his popularity expanded.

Another great event for him was the rather magical Craft in the City. A festive fair created by Anna French, Oliver felt his work was appreciated and talks about the encouragement he received from Anna and the supportive creative network in Nottingham that he felt lucky to be part of. Rather than competing with each others for the spotlight, there exists always a sense of mutual respect for the talents of other creatives which empowers the whole movement.

Approaching the welcoming team at Malt Cross at the end of 2015 led to a progression from artist in residence to him being invited to exhibit a selection of his work in their gallery space the following summer. Although this was not Oliver’s first exhibition, he felt that he had learned a lot since returning to his old school and exhibiting work in 2011 which was a strange if positive experience and he sold some of his paintings, which was incredibly rewarding.

As a follower of Oliver on social media, I have been noticing his newer work and the much more figurative nature of his subjects. He refers back to what he was taught in his illustration degree about the ‘visual language’ of creating an image – ‘the marks you make are your signature.’ His detailed sketches inform his paintings and he has gathered plenty of material to build up convincing forms. He applies a thick slice of paint with the palette knife first to give the figures substance, then adds in the finer detail with a fine brush, fading them into the background as objects that are further away do in real life. He describes his art as ‘explaining what’s there and talking about the emotions involved.’ He observes the scene and uses his ‘visual language’ to build in the stories. And he builds these beautifully, in textured layers.

Oliver talks through the process of how Football Crowds 2 came into being, an hour or two on Trent Bridge, intently studying the mannerisms and translating them into a serious of meaningful marks on the pages of his sketchbook. Catching glimpses of poses enabled Oliver to recreate the tension in the everyday scene, of football fans impatiently waiting for entrance to a pivotal game – instantly recognised by a football fan as the Nottingham versus Derby match. Despite not being a football fan himself, he totally captured the essence of the passion supporters feel for their team and their club. I particularly like the spectral shape of Nottingham Forest Football ground in the top left of the painting. It hangs in the air, a historical landmark, its heritage etched on the city’s skyline. The slightly contorted figures discomforted and restless and sombre tones belie the nervy anticipation.

You might also be surprised to learn that as well as being a rather accomplished painter, Oliver is also the frontman of the band Dog Explosion  – his sidekick being a small but rather formidable looking stuffed dog. Dog Explosion is one of the sound affects on the synthesiser he uses to make music to accompany his generally explosive lyrics. A contrast to the way his paintings slowly manifest before your eyes, he describes his songs as more of an ‘announcement!’ An onomatopoeic assault of words tumbling forth, often an expression of ‘life and its many frustrations’ there is definitely the same resonance of discord in his art.

Described by Left Lion’s Bassey Easton as ‘the kinda sound Sleaford Mods would make if they were middle class executives living in 1984 and singing about ulcers caused by their stressful jobs in the City.” It’s definitely worth a listen!

Oliver teaches classes at Artworks and will be setting up a selection 0f his paintings alongside knitwear designer Oksana Holbrook on Burham Avenue in Attenborough for the Art Trail this year. As well as ABC Art Fair at Attenborough Village Hall on October 10th you will find a selection of his works at Cupola Gallery in Sheffield and at Lakeside Arts in the coming year.

Dog Explosion will be performing with Obi Rudo at The Chameleon in August and will be starring at OXJAM again later in the year.


The Rylands Project


(Welsh) A spiritual longing for a home which maybe never was. Nostalgia for ancient places to which we cannot return. It is the echo of the lost places of our soul’s past and our grief for them. It is in the wind, and the rocks and the waves. It is nowhere and it is everywhere.

Virtually everyone’s a pocket photographer these days. Carrying our phones everywhere, loaded with snaps from our travels, our pets and our favourite people. It has never been easier to capture a moment and keep it forever.

I imagine the pandemic has prompted many of us to become focused on documenting the world getting smaller, studying that which we may have overlooked when we were distracted by the vast array of choices and opportunities we used to have at our fingertips. More acutely aware of our surroundings and the season’s subtle changes, recharging in nature and reconnecting with our local area. A  quick flick through Instagram tells me I might be right, and it is via Instagram that I first discovered the ‘Rylands Project.’

A watery image of luminescent grasses under milky blue canal water halts me in my scrolling. I absorb the soothing glow from the small screen in my hand then scroll up to see what came before. It’s a photograph of a familiar place which looks like it was taken several decades ago, rather than the sixteen months that has lapsed between these two photographs. Curiously I inspect the cars parked alongside the canal and note that despite them most definitely being cars from this decade they have a vintage look about them, achieved by the muted shades of the paintwork on the vehicles. The subject of this particular photograph appears to be a trio of giant green cotton balls on top of slender trunks – its captivating.

Taking my virtual tour around Beeston Rylands, I am struck by how much the photos remind me of the Polaroids of my childhood. Not least because they have transported me blissfully back to the long hot summers of the seventies, a time of freedom and adventure, but because they are incredibly grounding. When I meet up with the photographer Jonny, we talk at length about the appeal of his images and how he came to be living in and photographing the Rylands.

‘I always feel at home near water.’ Growing up near the South Welsh coast, living just outside Cardiff and then spending time in the big cities of Leeds and London, it made sense that he would be drawn to somewhere like Beeston Rylands. Though Nottingham is pretty landlocked itself, Jonny recognises how beautifully the area ‘satisfies that faded coastal glamour.’ This seems to have increased significance for him and I feel he captures that ‘holiday’ atmosphere well. Nobody is rushing in the Rylands, especially around Beeston Marina. Life seems to have a much easier pace.

Far from being a ‘pocket photographer’ you will see Jonny at the start or the end of a day setting up his tripod for the weighty Mamiya medium format camera which suits this style of photography well. Favouring the sensitivity of real film for this project, and the depth he can achieve in his images, he tells me the light fits the mood at these times of the day and lends itself well to the translucency of natural forms, producing softer hues that you often associate with looking into the past. This explains the wave of nostalgia you might experience when viewing the photographs.

Paying homage to life in slower motion, Jonny takes his time over each image he produces. The medium format system gives him more room to experiment with depth of field, which is particularly useful in landscape photography. It is this which gives the viewer a sense that they are ‘in the scene’ rather than observing from afar, and makes Jonny’s work so engaging. They are not traditional landscapes and there are no people in his photographs. The objects he photographs are intended to ‘belie the presence of people.’ An empty patio chair next to a bus stop, the curve of grasses suggesting a human form was pressed against them at some point, you are invited to consider the story behind the image. He executes this excellently, and the character of the people and the place is discernible in each frame.

His visual documentary of the Rylands began in May 2018 with a photograph of the almost empty playing fields, just two tiny figures can be seen at the back of the field. There is a sense of desolation as you scroll through the images from the summer of 2018 until the last one of that series in November. The next image is the water grasses from April of this year, but the feeling is the same. Like so many creatives, Jonny did not feel inspired throughout the initial months of the pandemic which partially explains the pause.

After a long stint at The British Film Institute, Jonny is currently working as Project Photographer at Nottingham University painstakingly photographing DH Lawrence’s original manuscript of his first novel The White Peacock, some of his letters and his poetry. It is precision work ,’insanely hight resolution stuff.’ I feel this is what gives him his critical eye for those all important details in his photographs. He is planning to review the Rylands project at the end of the year so look out for a potential book and exhibition in the future.

Instagram: @rylandsproject


Featured Artist – Zoë Zegzula

I remember talking to Zoë about her Toucan at almost the same time last year when I was writing up an update on how the pandemic had impacted on the ABC Art Trail, and of course on the artists themselves. Like many public events, the Trail had to be cancelled. Although this was a huge disappointment for all involved, we at The Beestonian did our bit to support by creating a gallery of each artists work accompanied by a short bio.

Back then Zoë told us:

‘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. 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.’

A complete change in direction for her, it was great to have an opportunity to discuss her move from muted pastels to a more vibrant exotic colour palette. Sitting on the sun-baked balcony at The Canalside Heritage Centre, Zoë tells me that at the start of the first lockdown she was ‘knocked for six.’ She felt so worried, and that along with all the cancelled events completely squashed her creativity. As an escape from the blanket of sadness that seemed to have suddenly engulfed many of us at the time, she sought refuge in her home and garden. 

It wasn’t until a friend asked her if she could make her a peacock brooch that Zoë contemplated sitting at her sewing machine at all. As a consequence she began pulling together a more intense selection of fabrics and threads – working with such brilliant colours her creativity was re-ignited. Adding orange and lime green threads to her stock colours, she started to look at other exotic birds and settled on a toucan for her next subject. Zoë created a few different versions and sold some of the larger pieces quite early on. The idea for the rainbow-billed toucan featured in this issue’s magazine, was more than likely a direct reference to the rainbows that she had seen suddenly appearing in windows up and down deserted streets, adopted as an emblem of encouragement and hope. 

The origins of Zoë’s carefully created textile pieces began when she was a child growing up in a small mining village between Wakefield and Pontefract when a make-and-mend attitude was fostered by families and communities passed on their skills. Her mum taught her to use a sewing machine and recycled materials were often used, nothing was wasted or thrown away – she mentions rag rugs and quilts as other ways she saw fabric reused.  In her home studio Zoë has a huge stash! Boxes of colour coded fabric scraps she enjoys rummaging through to find the perfect pieces to represent the texture of whatever natural form she is depicting. She talks about a delightful piece of beige lace fabric that was passed to her by her friend Pam – it had been a beautiful 1930s cocktail dress worn by Pam’s mother and had come to the end of its life. Zoë loves that she has managed to extend its use a little longer and it features in quite a few of her coastal scenes. 

She credits her confidence to experiment with a range of fabric types to her excellent training at South Nottingham College where she studied for several years to gain a City and Guilds certificates. The college was then known as a Centre of Excellence for the East Midlands and had annual end of year exhibitions of work that was considered to be of a very high standard – Zoë was truly inspired. She learned the full scope of what you could achieve with a sewing machine and a range of textiles. Courses included textile design, fabric techniques, which featured dyeing and manipulation of fabrics and machine embroidery. Being provided with great opportunities for practice  gave her the confidence to experiment and take risks – she felt she learned a lot from the other women on the course as well as the course tutors, who had created a empowering environment for their students to develop their practice. The course started with a return to mark making and drawing, which she already felt confident with. You can see by the way Zoë picks out the details in her pieces how adept she has become at free-machine embroidery. I recently admired how she used stitching to add weight to a bouquet of pink satin tulips in sugared almond pinks but I particularly love the tactile appearance of ‘Three Teasels’ and the depth she achieves in her landscapes.  

Zoë has been part of the ABC Art Trail since it became an off-shoot of Broxtowe Open Studios which was wider reaching but felt a little inaccessible as the studios were so far away from each other. She currently holds the position of Vice Chair and welcomes the community feel of the current event. As well as being heavily involved in the organisation and exhibiting in the Trail, she has also been the co-ordinator for the gallery space at Attenborough Nature Centre for the past ten years having initially being invited to exhibit there. She is hoping to exhibit a collection when the centre re-opens to the public later in the year.

Look out for our update on a new date for the ABC Art Trail, also in this issue!


Featured Artist – Connor Hattamsworth

With an extensive range of subjects, so meticulously detailed, it might surprise you to know that all of Connor’s early illustrations were drawn by hand, which is a method he still favours. It’s pretty time consuming but mindful at the same time. He started off in pencil or pen then scanned his work into an old Mac Pro, using Photoshop and sometimes Illustrator to refine the image. More recently he has been transitioning to using an iPad so most of his current work is now produced digitally, which allows Connor to complete his commercially sold work more quickly and lends itself better to large print runs like his popular greetings card range. He is keen to maintain control over the process though, so is still printing to order at his home studio on the university side of Beeston. He particularly appreciates choosing the paper for his prints.

I first discovered Connor’s work a couple of years ago but he tells me that his drawing style has been developed over a number of years. He loved art growing up in Coventry, and at school was incredibly lucky to have access to graphic design and ceramic lessons as well as classic drawing and painting. This lead him to undertake a one-year Foundation Art Degree in nearby Leamington which he especially enjoyed. He saw this experience as ‘a great leveller’ – whatever their skill or ability everyone has to start at the same point and undertake the experimental and practice drawing activities before refining their individual style.

His early work draws a lot on nature and mentions his bear illustration as one of his favourites. Living on the edge of the urban landscape of Coventry gave him access to the countryside and opportunities to hang out with his friends, camping in woodlands and temporarily experiencing the ‘mountain man’ lifestyle. Whenever one of the group would undertake some kind of ‘basic survival’ activity the phrase ‘ mountain man makes fire’ or ‘mountain man cooks’ was a familiar call. This in fact where the name ‘Mountain Man Draws’ originates.

It took a few years and a couple of direction changes for Connor to become the successful illustrator that he is today. The art history course at Nottingham University was shelved simply because it wasn’t a good fit but also he was starting to think about how he could combine his creative imagination with a job that would pay the bills. He made the switch to an education degree at Trent. The Primary Ed course is pretty intense and didn’t leave much time for anything else, consequently, Connor began to realise how vital his art was to his well-being and executed another U-turn. He finished the course a year early, having made the decision that teaching wasn’t working for him either, and hasn’t looked back since.

Yellowstone by Connor Hattamsworth (Mountain Man Draws)

2019 was a pivotal year for Connor. It was the year he identifies as one of ‘opportunities and growth.’ He stopped seeing illustration as a creative hobby and began to view it as something he could make into a fully-fledged business. Kicking off the year with an exhibition of his nature drawings at Pepper Rocks in February, standing at a number of craft fairs with his wife Nic, and expanding his range of stockists out of Nottingham and as far as Devizes he was encouraged by the response to his work. Nic supports the business with her social media skills and selling at markets, which Connor sees as greatly instrumental to his success. He has allowed the business to grow organically and doesn’t want to become a servant to social media – maintaining his authenticity is a key focus.

When I talk to Connor about his work, he is both exacting and modest. He knows what he is good at but he doesn’t like to shout about it. He loves ‘bikes, woodwork, nature, dogs, coffee, beer and of course drawing’ which happen to some of my favourite things too. He also appears to have a soft spot for Bill Murray, which I fully endorse! The man who has a passion for mountains also values his place in his community. In among the easy conversation we are having on the steps at Lakeside he tells me about his inspirations and how he doesn’t feel that being an illustrator is a ‘real job’ – it feels too easy! He is enthused by the support for his art and clearly finds a great deal of joy in what he does. This is evident in his attention to detail. There is something about the permanence of pen that encourages him to favour it as a medium, once the mark is made it is committed forever.

The pandemic has been a productive time for the mountain man, with his mountain woman working from home in her role as advisor for the IntoUniversity programme.  Connor embraced the new pattern of life. Being motivated to work in the morning leaves time for a wander to the post box with orders in the afternoon, building fresh air and exercise into the working day. Although there is a fair bit of commission work, most of his sales are acquired through Etsy.

It is through Etsy that Connor connected with the man who commissioned him to illustrate his latest book. A gentleman in his late 80s, who writes books about what he is really interested in, has provided another interesting opportunity for Mountain Man to draw. Although nature has been a constant subject, you will also find playful illustrations of film stars, dinosaurs and regional maps when you browse Etsy or his social media feeds. I am particularly taken with the recent illustrations for an upcoming children’s book, which from what I can see will be pretty magical.

You can browse Connor’s range of illustrations on his website and catch him in person at the new White Rose (or any charity shop really), The Bean, the Crow Inn or Lagan.


Difficult roads, beautiful destinations

(noun) an unusual, exciting or daring experience, journey or series of events.

In the spirit of the approaching summer and Covid restrictions easing, stretching our legs further afield or planning a little holiday may be at the forefront of our minds. A longing to escape the confines of the borough will have driven some of us to scrutinise the new ‘rules’ and look at what kind of accommodation will be open to use should we wish to plan our escape. Some would say that this ‘lockdown’ has been a long trek.

One of the easiest ways to get away and stay Covid safe is to go camping. Now it might still be a little chilly for some of you to consider getting your tent out, but if you own a caravan or campervan then you are likely to be able to load it up with all the essentials and motor off somewhere this summer. Campervans are possibly the greatest, and coolest, invention to date. A compact home on wheels, they can take you anywhere, plus they allow you to access all basic amenities with minimal set-up on arrival. Not only that, they are great fun!

It was one local couple’s love of the campervan lifestyle that lead to a delightful creative project that captured our imagination for this issue of the Beestonian. James and Alice Kellett embarked on their children’s book almost five years ago. ‘Dub! A Campervan Adventure’ was written by James and Illustrated by Alice, who has a little bit of an obsession with the VW campervan and left behind a career in teaching to pursue her dream of becoming an artist – mainly painting the classic VW split screen campervan.

James started the story, asking Alice to illustrate it, knowing that Alice’s young daughter Isla would love it. Shortly after getting together, Alice started her business Pretty Splitty and James was kept busy running Froth at Chilwell’s Creative Corner, which later became known as Canvas & Coffee. Getting married, buying their first campervan and then having their first child meant that Alice didn’t get much spare time to work on the illustrations for Dub, and it wasn’t until the national lockdown last spring that Alice returned to them. With the coffee shop closed and Alice heavily pregnant with their second child, having the book to work on was a real positive focus.

The book

Alice completed the illustrations in May and their son was born shortly after. The book still needed to be digitised, layout defined, a cover added, and edits completed before it was ready for publishing. The couple self-published, and due to the second lockdown, they were able to get off to print ready for release in December 2020. Since then Dub! has been shipped to Japan, Australia, the USA, Canada, Spain, Sweden and all over the UK.

Isla is the ‘baby’ at the front of the book amusing herself with the jangly keys when Dub becomes detached and tumbles into the gutter. He appears to have been woken from a slumber by the fall, and free from the chains of the keyring he embarks on his own adventures. The call of the open road beckons but it was a lonely life for Dub. He tries to make friends and meets an assortment of characters along the way with humorous but also disastrous consequences.

Reflecting on his less than perfect adventures, he is nevertheless filled with an air of contentment, a poetic parallel for those of us who may be looking back over the past year remembering the challenges with an air of relief, reassured that somehow we got through it. Sometimes the journeys we find ourselves on are less than smooth, but we learn from them and we grow. And judging by the final image in the book, Dub is definitely a lot surer of himself than he was when he first started his journey! These adventures end with him basking on a sun-baked beach and giving us a cheeky wink.

James enthused about how well the book has been received: “We’ve absolutely loved receiving feedback from the little ones who have read our book. To think that there are Dub books all over the world, potentially being enjoyed at any moment is a really cool thought. We had a friend who brought their little boy over this week and he saw our campervan on our drive he said “look Mum it’s Dub!”, which was amazing! Our lives have been so full-on during lockdown looking after our children and home-schooling that releasing the book feels like a distant memory at times, so whenever we get a bit of feedback it makes our day.”

The book is gorgeous. A great introduction to Dub and so well written and illustrated.’ (Paul) ‘My son loves it and asked me to read to him 3 times when we got it.’ (Emma)
Work has already started on Dub’s next adventure, though James realises that finding time in their busy life will be a challenge. Nevertheless, he is really looking forward to his coffee shop reopening, seeing his customers again and their reactions to Dub, which will also be on sale as well as their famous waffles!

Click here for the Canvas & Coffee website
The book can also be purchased here



Featured Artist – Anjana Cawdell

You might recognise Anjana’s delightful impressionistic work from local craft events and the annual
ABC Art Trail, where she has become a regular exhibitor. Summoning up the courage to apply for a
stall at a small craft market in the town hall, she was so excited when she sold her first painting. This
gave Anjana the push she needed to join the ABC Art Trail at the end of May 2015 and then exhibit
for the I Love Beeston art trail in August 2015, organised by fellow artist Helen Stevenson. She was
pleased with how her watercolours glowed ethereally from the blank walls of Cheryl’s Curtains at
the bottom of Chilwell Road, and was delighted by the way local businesses connected with artists in
the community, generating interest in locally produced art.

It was as a child that Anjana first experienced and enjoyed painting with watercolours, but she didn’t
really develop her style until after her children were born and she joined a watercolour class at
Artworks on Chilwell Road, just over ten years ago. She recalls the instructor Rob Sharple’s
‘incredible loose style’ and how she quickly she became hooked on this form of expression.
Eventually this would inspire her to run her own workshops, something she has really missed
delivering this past year. She enjoys sharing her passion for painting with others and the social
connections she has made through her art.

Anjana attributes her success with watercolours as patience, practice and being in just the right
frame of mind when she sits down to paint. She favours a relaxed style where she can achieve a
mindful state and really enjoy the positive effects of the process. She recognises that painting in
watercolours can be frustrating, the consistency of the paint has to be spot on for the desired
outcome and overworking a piece is something she tries to avoid – I admire the way that she creates
such detail with minimal marks.

With Attenborough Nature Reserve on the doorstep, Anjana is never short of influences and
attributes her love of the natural world to time spent living in Kalyani, a very green suburban town of
West Bengal and visiting her dad’s village home. He loved nature and would continually reference
the names of plants and wildlife as she played and took walks around the local area – much to young
Anjana’s annoyance! However, his passions definitely rubbed off on her and she looks back on these
memories with great fondness. Later when they moved to Kolkata her dad facilitated the planting of
trees at every available opportunity, to supplement the sparser green spaces.

Although she didn’t appreciate it as a child, a respect for flora and fauna and the wildlife that
inhabits it was ‘sown in’ her and she is now realising the impact this has had on her, especially during
the pandemic. Nature is such a relief when you are confined to your home, you really do appreciate
its presence again when you can go out and explore. She identifies the pull being the way nature is
constant, it changes everyday and it give us hope. If ever she was feeling low, Anjana would find
solace by walking in the nature reserve and would always return home feeling better.

With her two children at home for much of the past year, Anjana has struggled to find time and
space to paint but the creativity hasn’t stopped altogether. She is using this time for research,
making detailed sketches that will inform future work and this has been very satisfying. She has
recently taken up running, another excuse to get outside and immerse herself in nature. Anjana
enjoys the way that flowers mark the changing of the seasons. There is beauty in every stage, from
first buds to the dried seed heads. She recalls fondly, “my dad used to buy so many flowers we used
to get fed up of arranging them, ‘more flowers!’ my mum would exclaim." And with a keen gardener
for a husband Anjana has plenty of subject matter close to hand.

She is so inspired by nature’s allure, almost sighing when she describes the sight of ‘sunlight falling
on tree trunks and light filtering through leaves.’ It is those sensory experiences, moments of calm,
and snapshots of her surroundings that truly sparks her imagination. Birds, bees and butterflies have
also become part of her growing repertoire and Anjana believes it is important to paint what you
like. If your soul doesn’t connect with what you see, then “your best work doesn’t come out.” She
doesn’t allow herself to think commercially and is always really flattered when people are
complimentary about her work, even more so when they want to own it. She tells me that she is
never quite happy with where she is at artistically, “the goal keeps moving, but that’s how you

She has been really grateful for all the support she has been shown via social media and sales
through the website, it really has been a tonic in amongst all the ‘doom and gloom.’


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.


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!


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