I Am Beeston – Dr. Donna-Marie Urbanowicz

This issue’s I Am Beeston is Dr. Donna-Marie Urbanowicz – PA for the QMC’s Centre for Spinal Studies and Surgery.

“I was born in London and moved to Beeston in 2003 to complete an MA in American Studies at The University of Nottingham. When I asked them for “good places” to locate to, the University advised me that Beeston was lovely. I was then invited to complete a Ph.D and have never left Beeston. That was 18 years ago now. This is a lovely place for my children to grow up in, and whilst I don’t feel that I have done anything interesting in my time here, I have found Beeston to be a safe environment to raise my family”.

“Beeston has a lot to offer both in terms of its local urban environment and its artisan shops and restaurants. The fact that we have such wide variety of open green spaces in close proximity is wonderful. There is Attenborough Nature Reserve, Wollaton Park and University Park to name a few and all offer a different day out depending on your wishes. Beeston also has a very active high street. Although I feel the town will suffer somewhat with the closure of Argos. There are good stores here, but where we make up for charity shops and eateries, we probably lack in a decent department store. That said, I very rarely feel the need to go into Nottingham, and now that we have the new cinema, the desire to go to the city is not necessarily there”.

“Beeston has and continues to have a real sense of community. I have lived in three different houses during my years here and have been very lucky that both neighbourhoods afforded a community spirit. There is always a friendly face and a smile to be had when you are walking through the park and when my children were really young, I was often stopped in the street for a conversation. I feel very lucky and blessed to have been assimilated into the landscape of Beeston. As an ‘outsider’, I have never been made to feel unwelcome. As a student, I was never dismissed, and as a mother, I was always impressed by the activities offered by such a small community. My children attend the Rattle and Roll nursery rhymes at the library and visited the under 5s play group at Beeston Free Church”.

“I love the fact that Beeston has an amazing array of charity shops. I wander through them on a regular basis as I love the vintage fashion look. I particularly like the 50s era with the full petticoats and cute cardigans. They tend to go with my mega crazy shoes. Sue Ryder has a vintage section that I am often scrabbling in, and many a bargain can be found in the others, if you have time for a browse. Unfortunately, this style is often hard to find, so I tend to shop on-line for my dresses. And as for my shoes…well, let’s just say they are a bit like Marmite, you either love them or hate them.

It does sadden me a little, that there is a definite lack of popular clothes shops in Beeston for the more contemporary market. Considering Beeston is such a diverse town with a large cohort of students and permanent residents alike. Other than the charity shops, buying new clothes in Beeston is very limited to either Peacocks, or the supermarket own brands. It is good to see White Rose open up to attract the younger population, but it is still second-hand. I do feel Beeston would benefit dramatically if a larger well-known clothes store took the plunge and opened a branch here, especially in light of the fact that we now have a new cinema, which is very exciting and will, I have no doubt, increase the foot traffic to the local shops nearby.”

“One of my favourite things about Beeston is the switching on of the Christmas Lights. My father used to call this the “Beeston Lightbulb” and it has become a large part of our Christmas tradition. Again, times have changed and where once the rides used to be all down the high street and the fireworks were in the square, things have moved around more. It will be interesting to see what happens this year with the new cinema now taking up prime real estate. But I am sure it will still be a family fun evening. My family used to travel up from London every year for this event and we made it part of our celebrations. There has always been a wonderful atmosphere in Beeston, that I have never felt unsafe, even when walking home late at night on my own and this is probably one of the greatest achievements that Beeston can offer, safety in the community and in a town that I am proud to call my home”.


I Am Beeston – Stuart Baird – PR Guru

“I was brought up in West Yorkshire and met my wife at university. She had moved to Wollaton at age 10, when her family relocated to Nottingham from East Yorkshire, so she knew the area well. After we got married, I was working up in Manchester, but we always had our eye on Beeston, as we wanted a house where we could to walk into a town, to pubs and restaurants, get into Nottingham easily and had a real community feel. It ticked all the boxes. My job also meant I had to go to London a lot, so the rail link was perfect.

Even when we were first looking at houses, I got a good feeling about the place. It’s hard to put your finger on it, but it feels ‘grounded’. It is genuinely one of the best places to live in the UK. We have some fantastic schools locally, and those who work there are so committed to providing the best they can for the children and the students. We have more than our fair share of great places to eat, not least the best vegetarian/vegan restaurant in the country and the pubs are not half bad as well. I have mates from the four corners of Nottingham, and when I invite them for night out, they all say, “why can’t we have all this stuff you’ve got in Beeston?”

And if I need to escape back up north to breathe Yorkshire air, visit family and go to the football, I’m 5mins from the M1.

 People from Yorkshire (and I am one of them) always think that is the friendliest place, but I know how it works up there – unless you’re one of their own, they’ll only accept you after maybe the first 30 years! We have always felt at home in Beeston. We have some incredibly intelligent, talented and creative people, but there is a sense of bonhomie, of community. Regardless of who you are, or what your background is, you will be accepted. We are blessed with living on a great street, our next-door neighbour showed us pictures of her at a street party on Enfield Street as girl during VE Day 1945 when we had the celebrations last year. She was in the same class as Paul Smith. When we had last year’s street party, everyone walked up and down the street, chatting to each other (from a safe distance). It was the one highlight of the lockdown for me. It was amazing.

 When my children were at College House (now The Lanes), the headteacher asked us for help with the (Civic Society) Richard Beckinsale blue plaque launch as at that point I was doing PR for the NHS and was used to running events. Before I knew it, Kate Beckinsale was flying in with her Hollywood director husband, alongside her ex-husband Michael Sheen and best friend David Walliams, and of course her mum and friends of Richard. We had a bit of media circus which was good fun. The highpoint was when about 200 kids, who didn’t have a clue who all these people were, spotted David Walliams and charged towards a fence, screaming like Beatles fans, to get to him!

 Recently my agency helped launch the Arc Cinema and new square which was a real privilege. Shane Meadows did a brilliant job and was so gracious with his time. Broxtowe Borough Council really need to get credit for their work on the new square. I remember the horrible car park and public toilets that used to stand there.

 We have made lifelong friends here, we have wonderful neighbours with beautiful spaces on our doorstep, our children have grown up safe and happy, what more can you want? You hear about places in London and other cities that become gentrified and price local people out. I hope it keeps grounded, while still being inspirational and a lovely place to be.”


Beeston’s Beautiful Classics

For a short period of time, Beeston built cars. Not on the grand scale of Dagenham, Cowley or Sunderland, but more of a cottage industry. Humber Works, on Humber Road between 1901 & 1908, and Middlebridge Scimitar on Lilac Grove, 1988 – 1995. All gone now of course, but their history lives on. If you want to see old vehicles these days, there’s Bartons in Chilwell, where you can see a number of their old buses and associated vehicles on Heritage Days or when they put on one of their Sunday markets. Or there’s the annual Autokrama at Wollaton Park, where a huge number of period vehicles are on display, usually in the summer sun. If you’re lucky, you can spot an old car on the streets of Beeston. I saw one the other day. A mid 70s Ford Granada. It got me thinking; I wonder how many vintage vehicles there are in the area?  So I put a message on Beeston Updated’s Facebook page, to see what response I might get.

I had some replies telling me about their vehicles. Carrying on with the Barton theme, here’s ‘Beauty’, a 1933 Riley Open Tourer, which has been in the Barton family for 48 years. Jeanie’s mum Barbara spoke to me about it. “We got the car from Gainsborough in Lincolnshire, as my late husband Elson wanted to be Bertie Wooster. I was invited out for the day on a ‘date’, which was to ‘look’ at a vintage car. The plan was to have a look and then go for a nice meal on the way back. We arrived at a smallholding in the countryside and were led to a barn where the Riley was stored. The car was dark green and although most of the bodywork was visible, the seats inside were covered with straw and chickens were standing on the footboards and bonnet!  They quickly fluttered away as we approached, and the owner quickly discarded the majority of the straw to reveal the very dirty seats.

A deal was struck and to my astonishment, I was ‘offered’ the chance of being towed back!  I recklessly agreed and a piece of polythene was placed on the seat for me to sit on.  I was given a large white handkerchief to hold and was told to wave it if I had any problems. We did a few miles and then I smelt burning. I waved the hankie and we slowed to a halt.  Being rather nervous, I had been braking rather a lot and the smell was coming from the brake discs which were very hot!  After they had cooled down, I was told not to use the brakes unless considered absolutely necessary! We set off again and reached the “Rose Cottage” restaurant. We sat down to a lovely meal and a much needed drink, before setting off again for Beeston”.

Jim Goodinson lives on a canal boat in the Rylands. He currently owns three classic cars; a 1961 Ford Popular, a Hillman Minx from 1963 and a 1988 Ford Fiesta. I met him on Canalside by his boat, with the nice smell of burning wood emanating from the stove and asked him about his small collection of vehicles. “I’ve had the Pop for about six years now. I saw it on Ebay, but just missed out. The winner didn’t go through with it, and as I was the second chance bidder, it was offered to me. I had to collect it from Sandy in Bedfordshire. It’s done 68,000 miles. Classic cars tend not to do that many miles in a year. That’s why we get cheaper insurance. She’s called ‘Bertha’. I’ve kept her in the original condition. As I prefer it that way”.

“I got the Hillman from a friend who lives in Bingham. We used to see each other at car shows. He kept pestering me to buy it. In the end I did. ‘Hilda’ has only done 11,000 miles. It’s beige and cream. It’s not here at the moment. It’s stored at a garage in Beeston. Do you know what, the biggest cost to owning a vehicle isn’t insurance, but storage.

Lastly Jim talked about the red Fiesta that’s parked in front of the black Ford. “It was my son’s and he wanted me to buy it. He’s made a few changes to it. Different tyres, lights etc. I might change it back. I’ve got all the old parts in the lock up. She’s called Phyllis.”

Noticing Jim’s accent, I ask if he comes from Bolton. “Yes. I was a centre lathe turner for nine years during the 70s. Most people think I come from Yorkshire. So you did well to spot it”. I of course asked if he knew Fred Dibnah the famous TV steeplejack and traction engine driver. “Yes, I knew him. Sometimes I made parts for him. He lived just down the road from me”.

The sun starts to set as I said goodbye to Jim, who’s waiting for his son to arrive for tea. I think it’s great that people strive to keep old vehicles on the road and find it exciting to see one, rather than the usual homogenous looking cars that are produced now.

If you would like to see your vehicle in a follow up article, then please do get in touch. I’d be interested in featuring any road vehicle made up until the late 1980s.


I am Beeston: Ron Neighbour

“I am originally from Birmingham and came to Beeston on the Easter Bank Holiday in 1964, to view a business which was for sale on the High Road. I was pleased to see the road packed with shoppers and many small independent businesses supplying a wide range of goods. So, I bought the butchery business from G Eddowes.

“Beeston and the High Road have proved to be a great place to work and live, with many amenities within walking distance.

“Having had the pleasure of serving many Beeston residents over many years, I don’t believe that you would find better people anywhere.

“Kind, amicable and with a fun sense of humour. I remember once asking a customer how they cook their meat. They said; “Until smoke comes out of the oven.

“I believe that many Beeston residents today would love to be able to go back to personal face to face shopping at small independent shops and be served by a smiling assistant.

“But alas time moves on”.


I am Beeston: Jamil Ahmed – Postmaster

“I grew up as a migrant child in greater Manchester. We lived in some of the poorer areas of Manchester. At the age of 10, my father got a job in Nottingham and we made the big move from Manchester to Sneinton. I went to Greenwood School which later became the Nottingham Academy. We moved to Beeston in 1994, as it was a friendly area and also well known for good amenities.

“In 2013, an opportunity arose to buy the local post office on Broadgate. I decided to take this opportunity, as I wanted a change from my previous job. Living in Beeston and having a business in Beeston, allowed me to stay connected with my local community and allowed me to contribute to the local area. It also helped me to gain knowledge of the local community. The post office plays an important part when it comes to serving the local community, and I don’t just mean the products and services that it offers, but from helping customers with non-postal related issues to conversing with some of the elderly and vulnerable customers who don’t have anyone to talk to, but love coming into the post office to have a chat. I often see the majority of my customers in and around Beeston, and some of them I know so well, that I have built up a good relationship, that even when they move out of the area they still come back to use my post office.

“What I like about Beeston, is that it’s very lively with the university and there are many prominent businesses around. A lot of green spaces such as university park and Rylands. Beeston is very diverse and very friendly and I think that’s what makes the town so unique. Most people are very relaxed and this creates a great atmosphere. Since 1991 the town centre has been transformed a few times. The old shops such McDonald’s, Superdrug, Be Wise and many others have all gone. But the construction of Tesco’s and now the new cinema bring new opportunities. Not forgetting the tram.

“One thing I have done is the development of two derelict commercial properties on Chilwell Road and transformed them into a modern retail premise and two flats.  My brother and I bought the shops back in October 2015. They were derelict and completely ruined and so we spent most weekends and evenings fixing it up. The work took us 18 months in total. These were featured on the TV series ‘Homes Under the Hammer’. I had great fun doing the show, and the episode was aired in 2017. After that, it was nice to get recognised around Beeston when shopping and at work. It still turns up on daytime TV, and someone will say that I’ve been on TV again”.

“There are so many funny stories that have happened at the post office. If I had to pick one it would be when a student came in and handed me an item, unpacked, and with no address on it. They simply walked out whilst I was walking back to the serving counter. Another one is that someone once posted a parcel, and then three years later he received it back and he asked me why. 

“I’m proud to say that as a sub-postmaster, I enjoy serving the local community and I hope the local community will give me the opportunity to serve them. I would ask everyone who reads this article to use their local post office and encourage friends and family to use theirs. Post offices are run by individual Postmasters, and we rely on the customers’ footfall to keep us open. We offer a wide range of services such as postal services (Royal Mail and Parcel Force worldwide), local collect services, currency exchange, travel insurance, DVLA services, passport check and send and many more. We also sell greeting cards, stationery, toys, gifts and household items. You can even drop off your dry cleaning.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the lovely people of Beeston for making it such a great place to live.


I am Beeston: Tim Bassford – Creative Champion

“I was actually born in neighbouring Bramcote, but have also lived in Chester, Belfast, Athens and the more exotic region of Mapperley Top.

“We moved back to Beeston about 12 years ago, as most of our friends and family were on this side of Nottingham. We just about got settled back into the area, around the time the tram work began and the Beeston social media became full of vitriol about the major upset it was causing. The mayhem caused by the roadworks reminded me very much of Beirut in the late 80s, without as many hostage sieges. It felt like we’d returned to Beeston at a pretty eventful time.

“I run my own company (Turbine Creative) producing marketing materials (videos, animations, branding etc). I studied Fine Art then moved into graphic design and marketing from there. In the past, I’ve had the privilege of working with companies like The Walt Disney Company, The Discovery Channel and the BBC. A massive part of my work involves video production for corporate clients. As well as creating videos for clients, I also love making short films and music videos for friends.

“Beeston is clearly an awesome town to live in and only getting better. For a relatively small town is has a massive depth of cultural, historical, sporting and social strengths. Beeston has so many different characters – the beauty of the Rylands, canal side and river (love the Park Run), the social celebrations at Christmas and summer markets. The spectacular university grounds and the nightlife on the high street and Chilwell High Road. I love the brilliant range of quality bars (Berliner, Crown, The Vic’ to name a few), the awesome restaurants, and as a family we’ve been able to get involved in various local sports clubs. It really has got a perfect mix. There’s also a load of great memories for me here from when I was a kid, going to ‘Fords – the family store’ on the High Road (which felt like Harrods to a seven-year-old me) and visiting John Menzies or Woolworths with my pocket money.

“I think in this challenging time we’ve really seen the people of Beeston coming together to support and help one another. I know our neighbourhood has been able to rally around and help each there with both practical help and moral support with communal singing, clapping for the NHS, social distanced parties. Although the various Beeston social media groups attract some more polemical views, they also present a real reflection of some of the amazing things Beeston’s community are doing to support and encourage one another. The Oxjam music festival must be one of the most amazing things that the Beeston community puts on. The Beeston Film Festival also is an amazing initiative that seems to be punching well above its weight on the international film scene.

“I’ve personally been blown away by the creative community in Beeston. There are so many artists, illustrators, filmmakers, writers, musicians, craftsmen. They’re all over the place! Sometimes Beeston feels like the Brighton of the Midlands. I’ve been able to find great creative collaborators in Beeston, including my sister-in-law, Carmen Flores, who also resides in Beeston and is an accomplished violinist. We recently worked on a series of short films for the brilliant Nottingham Chamber Music Festival. These films can be seen here.

“On a slightly less cultured note, I found another creative collaboration whilst out having a few beers with the Dad’s from school at the Greyhound. We stumbled upon an incredible band called Iron Python, a tribute ‘Hair Metal Rock n Roll band’. They were the most brilliantly camp and over the top performers, I have ever seen in my life. Jumping all over the bar and pneumatically groin-thrusting a beer pump here in a bar in Beeston. A few months later I asked them to be part of a national marketing campaign I was involved in and was subsequently able to capture their energetic performance in an award-winning advertising campaign!

“Another great thing about Beeston is that it is continually evolving and surprising me with its entrepreneurialism. There are some great independent shops, small businesses and a whole bunch of people exploring new ideas and new initiatives. I think the regular influx of students ensures a certain kind of energy and the fact that many residents work at the uni, hospital or in tech of some kind, means there’s always lots to talk about at the pub (when you’re allowed to go!). Of course, I can’t finish this without a massive shout out to The Beestonian and all of those who continually promote and champion the benefits of our brilliant town.”


I am Beeston: Lynne Bottomley – Enjoying Life

“I was born in Beeston on a Goose Fair Thursday, with the Beeston Boiler Company’s 5 o’clock hooter heralding my arrival. My parents both worked there, before finding other employment at the nearby university. I was educated at Charles Williams Infants, Roundhill Junior and Bramcote Hills Grammar. At the age of 12, I pulled a young boy out from Beeston Canal. It made the front page of the Evening Post.

“I had various jobs over the years, but started at Ford’s on the High Road whilst I was still at school, then moving to the Midland Bank, which is now HSBC in The Square. The next big thing in my life was to marry a soldier and moved to Germany. We lived in many locations over the years, mainly in the South, such as Hamlyn and Herford. I learnt enough of the German language to get by with the help of my German neighbours, and they in turn learned English. We also spent a couple of years in Cyprus. Whilst living there, I helped at our local thrift shop to raise money for our Brownies and Cubs, also did a sponsored parachute jump.

“On returning to the area, I got a job at Chilwell Depot. I was fortunate enough to stand in the turret of a Challenger Tank as it went round the test track. I also took an evening BTEC course at Broxtowe College to further improve my knowledge of the German language. I left the area again for several years, but my heart was set on returning to Beeston, so I could be closer to my family. I returned to Beeston almost 2 years ago and was lucky enough to find something central.

“In general I find the people of Beeston friendly and helpful. It has the amenities and good transport links I require and are within easy walking distance. The local beauty spots I will never tire of, such as Highfields. I feel I am now at home and looking forward to making new friends and acquaintances.”


I am Beeston: Rebecca Jones – Postie

“I was born at the QMC in Nottingham, and I’m originally from Cotgrave. I have two sons, and when I had my oldest son, some 15 years ago, I moved to Mapperley, Gedling and then in the city area, where I have been for a few years now.

“I first discovered Beeston when I was training to be a nursery nurse, and went to Orchard Day Nursery for my college placement. Orchard Day Nursery is a lovely family run nursery which my school friend and I enjoyed going to. We also enjoyed exploring Beeston itself.

“I’ve been working as a postie for nearly nine years now, and certain aspects of my job have helped me with gaining more confidence. I have made lots of friends within Royal Mail, and this has helped me to get to know the people of Beeston, through the different parts of my job and being on Beeston Updated. When I started the job I knew hardly anyone from Beeston, now I feel part of the community. Now nine years later, I have friends all around Beeston and big thanks to my best friend Lisa Jones-Bragan, for her amazing support these past nine years.

“Being a postie can be an important part of the community, especially getting to know people and delivering to the elderly and those with disabilities. Checking on our regular residents can be a bit of reassurance for them. I have in the past done a welfare check on someone. As an ex carer, sometimes your gut instinct kicks in and some things can play on your mind until you get home, so I’d rather know and have peace of mind that people are ok.

“When Owen Jenkins tragically passed away in 2017, I got to see the beautiful, positive side of Beeston’s community. I delivered to the Jenkins family and got to know that they are the warmest loving family you will ever meet. I have got to know a lot of people from around Beeston now, as I have worked all around the area and further afield. Since the lockdown, I’ve felt a lovely sense of community care. One lady a few weeks ago on one of my regular walks gave me some hand sanitiser, which I really appreciated. I’ve also received a lovely Easter card and some mini eggs. I have seen several notes on doors and windows saying ‘thank you’ to the posties.

“Five years ago I fell over during a delivery, on the same week I fractured my hip, and so I was off work for three months. I had to have a titanium plate and some screws put in place. Since then I’ve done two 5k races, to raise money for Women’s Aid and Race for Life. I’ve also done a 10k run for Race for Life. Next year when the lockdown should be over, I’m hoping to do another run, this time for the OWEN (Open Water Education Network) charity, as it’s one that’s close to my heart. I try and visit every charity event that they attend, to help raise money for Owen, in his name.

“Although I don’t live in Beeston, I appreciate the opportunity of talking about myself, as I enjoy my job, working in Beeston and knowing so many lovely people”.


I Am Beeston: Julian Baston – Garage Owner

“I was born in Beeston and went to both Round Hill and Alderman White schools. After leaving school, I did a YTS course at Chilwell Van Hire, and have been involved in repairing motors ever since”.

“In 2009 my former wife and I left for Florida in the US. I went to work for a garage that repaired police cars and fire engines. We lived in Brandon Tampa, which was a ninety-minute drive to the repair shop. I didn’t mind the distance, as it was just basically three roads. I’d just put the car in cruise control and pop on an 80s music station. But my wife was homesick, so we came home after a couple of years. I then took on a garage at Ruddington, ‘Village Motors’, and now I have ‘Smiths’, here in Chilwell, which I’ve had for four years now”.

“I’ve always liked Beeston. If I have any problems, then I just have to pick up the phone and I’ll know someone who can help me out. The tram had no real detrimental effect on my business. It’s only really the virus that’s stopped me working. I prefer working on my own anyway, so I don’t have a problem with being alone. I prefer it. Technology has taken over so much in cars now. But I’m planning to wind down and retire sometime soon anyway, so I can spend some time in Spain”.

“I’ve been disappointed at the loss of shops over the last few years, but it’s so easy to walk everywhere. Although I recently had a hip replacement, so that’s stopped me walking around the Attenborough Nature Reserve. I’m a member of the Porsche owners club, and we’ve done a few shows at Wollaton Park. I do like having weekends away with my partner Jo and visiting places like Robin Hoods Bay and Whitby”.



I Am Beeston: Tina Stowell – The Baroness of Beeston

I was born in the Rylands and my parents still live there. My dad was a painter and decorator while my mum worked at Plessey. I went to Beeston Rylands infant and Junior Schools, then Chilwell Comprehensive.

After leaving school, I did a secretarial course at Broxtowe College. I then joined the Civil Service, and worked in various sections including the British Embassy in Washington and the Press Office in Downing Street. I joined the House of Lords in 2011, and am currently Chair of the Charity Commission.

Although I live in London, I try to return to Beeston every six weeks, as Beeston is still my home. When I became a peer, it was my decision to be titled Baroness Stowell of Beeston, as I am always flying the flag for Beeston. Beeston is the reason for what I have become.

I think you can learn a lot from the people of Beeston. Their warmth, humour, honesty and authenticity. It’s those things that make me proud to come from Beeston. I was privileged to recently officially open Julie Wesson and Richard Haywood’s newest location on Villa Street. They are a local business providing a service to the people of Beeston, who I know they care a lot about.