I Am Beeston: Johnny Pusztai -Butcher

Few people can handle a sausage as well as Johnny Pusztai: the larger than life butcher extraordinaire talks to The Beestonian

I have been trying to get Nottingham’s famous butcher to do ‘I Am Beeston’ for
practically two years now, but with running several businesses, it’s been almost
impossible to pin him down for a chat. But finally we managed to get together, at
L’Olvia’s, which is turning out to be one of the best and most popular restaurants
in Beeston.

“I was born in Worksop, North Notts. My father Dezso came from Hungary and
immigrated to Nottingham in 1956, where he worked as an engineering welder.
My Mum Pamela was a local girl, and sold tickets at the ABC Cinema. From
Worksop, we moved to Mansfield, then to Sherwood, when I was seven”.
“We lived across the road from the JT Beedham butchers, and my dad used to
take me to see what was for sale. I was fascinated with all the different sorts of
meats, the cuts and the terminology. I got on really well with the owners, George
Beedham and Bill Robinson, so they set me on as a delivery boy when I was 12.
Then when I turned 16, I got an apprenticeship with them. I really got stuck into
the thick of it and learned all I could. I took over the business in 1991, but I
worked in a slaughterhouse to earn enough to buy it. I worked on the boning
line. It was the most boring job, but the best paid. I kept the Beedham name out
of respect for George. He was probably the best butcher that ever lived”.

Johnny first became well known to the general public when he appeared on the
Great British Menu TV series with local Michelin starred chef Sat Bains in the
second series, which aired in April 2007. Sat won the Midlands & East of England
heat with his starter, which featured ham from Beedham’s. It received three ‘10s’
from the judges. Since then Johnny has become Sat Bain’s preferred butcher.
Johnny also supplies a few restaurants in the city centre and the very place
where we are sitting chatting. “I’ve known Marco since he opened. We’ve
become very good friends. There used to five or six butchers in Beeston. Now
there’s only two. The problem with supermarket meat is that they are not
bothered about quality. It’s more to do with profit. I like Beeston. It’s a nice town
with friendly people. I just love Nottinghamshire. It’s a wonderful county to live
in” The secret to Johnny’s success is of course the meat itself. “I have a farm up at
Wellow near Rufford, where we rear pigs and lambs. I also get meat from
Brackenhurst College near Southwell. They breed red heifers, which is the best
meat”.

Further appearances followed, including BBC2’s Market Kitchen with Gary
Rhodes in November 2008. Then invitations to present cooking demonstrations
at food festivals around the country stated to come in. A number of awards have
also come Johnny’s way, such as the Guild of Fine Food for his sausages and
bacon, and the Observer Food Awards in 2011. Johnny is very modest about his
achievements. “I still work 16 hours a day. My job is never boring. I don’t drink, but love a good coffee and some nice food. I’ve seen Zulu 38 times. It’s my
favourite film. My daughter Lara and I have just done the catering in the VIP Tent
for Splendour at Wollaton Park. It was a very long day for both of us. But she is
off to university to study Business Management and Marketing. So when she gets
her degree, she’ll be able to promote me properly, as it’s something that I’m not
that good at”.
One part of Johnny’s businesses that hasn’t done as well as expected is ‘The
Snobby Butcher Bistro’, which opened in May this year, after a year and a half of
construction work on the adjoining Sherwood shop. “The restaurant has a
future, I just have to reconfigure the idea. It just wasn’t working for me”.

“I still work 16 hours a day. My job is never boring. I don’t drink, but love a good coffee and some nice food. I’ve seen Zulu 38 times.

But there are two areas that have proved to be very popular; the food and drink
shows and the experience days. “I have appeared at food festivals all over the
country. There’s even one now in Worksop, where I grew up”. Beeston actually
held one a few years ago, which Johnny attended. But it wasn’t a great success.
Possibly poor planning and publicity were to blame. Certainly the very wet
weather on that particular Saturday didn’t help. The festival was split between
the Square and Broadgate Park, and there were problems at the park, due to very
muddy conditions. So it has sadly never been repeated.

“The Experience Days have really taken off. People will spend the day with me at
the shop and get involved in all aspects of butchery. We teach them how to bone
a chicken or a piece of meat, make sausages, create flavours and cooking skills, so
they can make the same dish at home”.

One aspect of Johnny’s life that due to modesty didn’t want to mention was that
he used to be a professional ice hockey player for the Nottingham Panthers. But
some research showed that he played centre during their 1980-81 year. Despite
his busy schedule, Johnny still finds time to coach the University of Nottingham
team. “My father had a saying: we are born to be workers, so lets be the best that
we can.” Well Johnny, I don’t think anyone could argue with that. Christopher Frost, Community Editor.

I Am Beeston: Marie-Louise Denham – Sales Negotiator

“I was born in Beeston and went to Beeston Manor and Alderman White Schools. When I left school I went to work in an estate agency; then in 2006 I moved to a local optician. I’m now back working in an estate agency. This time its Robert Ellis.”

“There are lots of things that I love about Beeston. The Victoria for its food, ales and whiskies, the farmer’s market, especially Sue’s Cakes stall and walking between the Marina and Attenborough Nature Reserve. Although I am a fairweather walker. I also like taking photographs on my mobile phone, especially of the swans and my pets. I have three cats and have rescued a hedgehog.”

“Beeston is an up and coming area, with a buoyant housing market and great transport links. We are finding that developers are moving in from other areas. It’s a shame that we have lost a lot of the small, independent shops, which have been replaced by the larger chain stores and supermarkets. But I think we will always have Hallams.”

“A lot of people know me and even an old teacher of mine called Mrs Jones still recognised me. Some people have called me ‘The Face of Beeston’.”

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I Am Beeston - Muriel Bartlam

I Am Beeston: Muriel (Penney) Bartlam – Centenarian

Meet Beeston’s own centenarian!

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It’s not everyday that you get to meet someone that is (at the time of interviewing) just about to turn 100 years old. By Christopher Frost.

The golden number that everyone strives for, but sadly, not many attain.  I cycled up to the house, situated in a quiet part of Beeston, and was met at the door by Kay, a close friend who suggested her, and behind was Muriel, who prefers to be called by her maiden name. Not having met anyone of that age before, I didn’t quite know what to expect. But I was gratified to see that Penney is a spritely, warm and friendly person that could easily pass for someone in their late 70s. Being slightly deaf and needing the use of a wheeled walker were the only drawbacks that she appeared to have on reaching her century.

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We sat in her living room and started chatting. She had actually written down a lot of information for me that she had remembered. “I was born at ‘The Lodge’, which was part of the City Isolation Hospital on Hucknall Road on 12 October 1918. My father George, worked as the Lodgekeeper there, plus undertaking any other duties that were given to him. While my mum, Eliza, looked after us all. I went to Southwark Street Primary School in Old Basford. I then went to Guilford Central Girls School, where at the age of 14, I passed the E.M.E.U examination in six subjects, and was awarded the Jardine Honours Prize.”

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“On leaving school, I got a job with J.B. Lewis and Sons, who were one of the largest hosiery and underwear manufacturers in the Midlands. The company then became Meridian, before being taken over by Courtaulds. Whilst working as an errand girl there, I decided that I wanted to better myself by learning shorthand and typing. So I enrolled on evening classes at Binns Business College. Attaining the qualifications, I landed a job as secretary to the Advertising and Promotions manager at Griffin & Spalding, which is now Debenhams. This was in 1936. Besides the typing, I got to book London theatre tickets, arranged after dinner speakers and entertainers for children’s parties. All for the store’s customers.”

“But this all came to an end in 1939, with the start of World War II. In 1941, I used my secretarial skills for a wartime charity, which was based at the Council House. Then in 1943, I was appointed secretary to the Lord Mayor’s secretary. This was a very enjoyable post, and I got to meet some really exciting people, like the Queen in 1947, who used my very own fountain pen to sign the visitor’s book. I also got Eisenhower to sign a menu from the Black Boy Hotel, when he visited in 1945.”

When I was younger, my friend and I used to go into Beeston about three times a week with our shopping trollies.

“In 1953, I married Leonard, who was director of a family business that made prams. I then had a baby called Philip, and so left my Job at the Council House. Philip did very well at school, and went to Cambridge University to read History and the History of Art and Architecture. I typed out his dissertation about the Nottingham architect T.C. Hine. After graduating, Philip got a job with IPC Magazines in London. He eventually became the editor of ‘The Antique Dealer and Collectors Guide’. He was made redundant in 1990, but continued to publish the magazine under his own name. I helped to type up some of the articles, but computerisation came in, and so I had to learn how to use a computer. This was when I was in my 70s. I didn’t like the idea, but had some encouragement from friends and got used to it. I did it until I was 91. Sadly Philip died in 2009. Leonard had died in 1978, and so I decided to move to Beeston in 1979. My best friend lived in the area, so I thought I would join her. I’ve never regretted moving here. It’s such a friendly place.”

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“Beeston has some good shops. When I was younger, my friend and I used to go into Beeston about three times a week with our shopping trollies. We used to like going to Fine Fare and the Co-Op. I miss Woolworths and a ladies’ clothes shop nearby, that I forget the name of.  These days I go by taxi. All the assistants in Sainsbury’s know me and look after me when I visit. I also like to go to Hallams. It seems a bigger, better shop now, than when they had assistants picking the produce for you.”

“I’ve always been a fan of Beeston Players, and often go to see their shows. I have some lovely friends and neighbours; 50 of them are coming to my birthday party. Talking of parties, we had a lovely street party around here, for the Queen’s diamond jubilee. Yes, I made the right decision moving here. I never wanted to live in the country. Beeston suits me fine.”

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I Am Beeston: Alfie Russell, Broxtowe Youth Mayor

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The #IAmBeeston project is now in its third successful year of interviewing and photographing people that either live or work or both in the NG9 area. Up to now mainly adults have been featured. But for this first special colour edition, we’ve turned our attention on a member of our younger population. Someone who aims to help and support others under the age of eighteen through their influence and involvement with Broxtowe Borough Council.

I met up with Alfie and his mum Catherine at their house and had a chat with them, in their large sunny kitchen, whilst Alfie’s younger brother Frank was watching some World Cup action. Catherine is a neighbour of mine, so I have known Alfie since he was a mere bump, which is going on for nearly fourteen years now. So I thought Alfie would be an excellent addition to the project, when Catherine told me about his important role in the community.

“Beeston is a very nice place to live. It’s great. It’s somewhere where you know everyone, and there’s a considerable amount of support for young people.”

“I’ve been the Youth Mayor for Broxtowe since November last year. I had to go through an interview process before I was selected. This means that I am also part of the Youth Parliament, and I’m looking at transport and LBGT issues. At the moment I’m currently working on life skills. Helping others to learn about finances, money etc. Also being part of the Broxtowe Youth Voice, I am helping to promote new groups at the ‘Shed’, the Beeston Youth and Community Centre.”

“I’m a pupil at Alderman White School, which enjoy going to. It’s a good school. Beeston is a very nice place to live. It’s great. It’s somewhere where you know everyone, and there’s a considerable amount of support for young people, with sports clubs, the Cubs and Scouts. I am a member of the Boys Brigade, and I help the younger boys with their activities. They usually have a subject or theme to work with. This is going towards getting my bronze in the Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme. I also go to the Pathfinders Youth Club at Christ Church on Chilwell Road.”

“Beeston is full of friendly people, who are only to happy to help if you’re out and have a problem, like getting lost. It’s a good community. The library is very good now that it’s been updated. There are some good resources there. I like looking at all the old photographs of how Beeston used to look.”

“I think Beeston has some good shops. I buy things from lots of different places, but I especially like Poundland and WH Smiths. I like to take our dog Lenny for walks in Highfields, or down by the weir fields. We might then stop off for a drink at the Canalside Heritage Centre. I’d like to see a cinema here, as there would be somewhere else to go on my doorstep. I’d also like to see a Pizza Express. We sometimes get a tasty takeaway from the Cottage Balti.  I always like to meet my friends at the Beeman and I think the recent Street Art festival has made Beeston a lot more colourful.”

CDF

I Am Beeston: Graham Caveney, author

“I was born in the Accrington area of Lancashire and moved to Beeston some eighteen years ago now, when I got the post of lecturer on American Literature at the local university.”

“Beeston is home to me now. Manchester wasn’t really part of me, due to its distance from Accrington. But Nottingham is certainly my home city. And I’m proud to be part of it. Beeston has a separate identity, even though Nottingham is close by.”

“Beeston has a real mix of people. I like the diversity and the tolerance towards others. People arrive here for whatever reason and tend to stay. Locals in some places can resent these incomers, but it doesn’t seem to happen here.”

“Beeston has a great deal of culture, with poets like Jenny Swann and John Lucas and bands like the Madeline Rust. I used to like going to the Greyhound. I attend a local yoga class. I also like going to Highfields and seeing the lake. I can get the tram into the city centre in about twenty minutes, or I might walk there using the towpath.”

“I don’t drink now, so I tend to just go into coffee shops. The Bean is my favourite. I also like the Flying Goose and the Bendigo Lounge. One thing that I’d like to see in Beeston is a Labour MP. I’m all for having a cinema here, but I do think that we now have enough coffee and charity shops.”

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I Am Beeston: Nicola Jenkins – A Hero’s Mum

Everyone likes to be near or in water. Most of the time, it’s harmless fun, but sometimes tragedy can occur.

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Like last summer, when twelve-year-old Owen Jenkins drowned in Beeston Weir. He tried to save the lives of two girls who had fallen in. He managed to save one, but lost his life whilst trying to save the other. Through this act of selflessness, a hero was born. And as a community, Beeston cried. It felt the pain, the agony, and the loss. Just like his parents.  Beeston found its way of supporting the family. It painted the town purple, through bows of ribbon, which appeared everywhere.

Owen’s mum Nicola shares her thoughts on how Beeston supported her and her family through those dark days of July and beyond in this I Am Beeston special.   “I had that feeling that parents get when they know something has happened to their children.” Nicola related on how the events unfolded until Owen’s body was found. “Around four hundred people from the Rylands came out to help, and two hundred from the Clifton side. There had been a similar incident at Attenborough earlier, and the police frogmen ran to the weir, as it was quicker than driving. When I did the identification, I was expecting him to be all battered and bruised. But he had been cleaned up and looked like he was asleep.”

I wanted to know what Owen was like as a person. He looked a lot older than his tender years, and could easily pass for say sixteen. Especially as he was already six foot one. “He was into sport. Especially rugby. He was a member of the Nottingham Casuals. Due to his size and talent, he played in the Under 14s, rather than the Under 12s But he liked hockey and had just got into free running. He also played football, but wasn’t very good at it, due to his big feet. His friends called him the BFG (Big Friendly Giant) or ‘Giraffe’. He might have got his height from his granddad, or from his healthy lifestyle. He was never in. He just liked to be outside. He was also a bit of a joker. Even in death. As he was twelve, staff at the QMC bought out a child sized trolley. They had to raise his knees up, so they could fit him on it!

Turning back to the community response, Nicola told me that she hadn’t touched her mobile phone for three days after the event, so had no idea of the comments that had appeared on social media. “When I switched my phone on, I had over three hundred Facebook messages. We then started getting visitors. We only live in a small house, so it was getting a bit difficult with so many people turning up. So we met up at Owen’s Place by the weir instead, where we had picnics and played music. People brought flowers and food round, as you don’t really feel like cooking in that situation.”

“We’ve had overwhelming support from everyone. We got a donation of a hamper at Christmas. Christmas was difficult. Owen wasn’t one for asking for presents. He was happy with anything he got. He did like an extra Crunchie with his selection box though.”

Talking of Christmas, I wondered how the Jenkins’ had felt about being asked to switch the lights on in Beeston. “It was a surreal experience. Why us, we asked? But it was something that the community had wanted. It was lovely to see all the purple lights on the tree. In our thanks, I said that the tree was not just for Owen, but for all lost loved ones.”

We also aim to get leaflets printed that explain the dangers of playing near water. It might look calm on the surface, but the danger is underneath

Owen’s funeral bought Beeston to a standstill as the cavalcade went through the town. “It felt like a celebrity funeral, with all the motorbikes and press interest. Owen wanted to be famous. He wanted to be a famous Leicester Tigers rugby player.”

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Owen’s name will certainly live on through the creation of the OWEN (Open Water Education Network) charity, which is being set up by Nicola, in conjunction with the Royal Life Saving Society. Its aim is to educate children on the dangers of playing near water. Broxtowe Council has already started, through the installation of throwline stations and better signage at the weir. “The plan is make twelve, Year 8 students at Chilwell School water safety ambassadors, so they can teach younger pupils. This will be done through Liberty Leisure and the Fire and Rescue Service. We also aim to get leaflets printed that explain the dangers of playing near water. It might look calm on the surface, but the danger is underneath.”

“Owen’s Place is now on Google Maps,” said Nicola proudly. “Why did Owen like purple so much?” “He used to like pink, but then one day it changed to purple. Maybe because it’s the colour of a Cadbury’s wrapper. He loved chocolate. Rainbows always appear when our charity events take place. Owen must send them. The next one is a ‘cake off’ at the Boat & Horses on March 10th. Vicky McClure and TV Bake Off contestant Jordan Cox are judging. Charlie Fogg has created the trophies. Local businesses have been very supportive. Hallam’s of course, and Hairven, through their events.”

Nicola then mentioned the memorial statue that will hopefully be installed on the anniversary of Owen’s passing. “I write to Owen every day. Just a few lines, to tell him what’s been happening. Maybe one day I’ll get them published.”

I thank Nicola for her time and give her a hug. “I’m off to watch the rugby now,” she says, getting in her car.

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Mikk Skinner

I am Beeston: Mikk Skinner

We took Mikk’s photo a few weeks ago for the I Am Beeston project. Very sadly, Mikk died suddenly soon after.

And so we print this as a tribute to one of our favourite Beestonians, a kind and thoughtful man who never found a musical instrument he couldn’t play or a Blue Monkey Ale he couldn’t sup. RIP Mikk.

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Mikk Skinner
IT Technician

“Although I was born in Bristol, I moved to Beeston in the late nineteen sixties. I was head chorister at Beeston Parish Church.”

“Beeston has some great pubs for chilling out. It also has a lively acoustic music scene.”

“I think Beeston needs a spectacular and magical sculpture. Something like the Kelpies in Scotland. Something that would get people to visit. Maybe we could have a giant bee!”

Julie Lord

I Am Beeston: Julie Lord

You may remember last summer, we ran a series of photographs on our Facebook page featuring people who lived, worked or studied in Beeston. This was in response to the dreadful racial attacks that were, and are still taking place post Brexit vote. We wanted to show, and did very successfully, what a peaceful, integrated and generally wonderful place that Beeston is.

So we thought we would bring it back. Our roving photographer Christopher Frost has been out and about around our town and looking for more people to feature and share their views…

Julie Lord

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Julie Lord – Building Manager for the Beeston Youth and Community Centre

“I used to live in Carlton, but moved in with some relatives who lived in the Rylands. When their house came up for sale, I bought it. That was twenty four years ago now.”

“Beeston has a diverse community. It has some great shops too. Then there are all the open and green spaces. The nature reserve is only minutes away.”

“Although I don’t use it, I do think that the tram has benefited Beeston. I would certainly say that Beeston is improving all the time.”

Christopher Frost

Gary

I Am Beeston: Gary Thomas

You may remember last summer, we ran a series of photographs on our Facebook page featuring people who lived, worked or studied in Beeston. This was in response to the dreadful racial attacks that were, and are still taking place post Brexit vote. We wanted to show, and did very successfully, what a peaceful, integrated and generally wonderful place that Beeston is.

So we thought we would bring it back. Our roving photographer Christopher Frost has been out and about around our town and looking for more people to feature and share their views..

Gary Thomas

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“People will know me as the owner of Mish Mash at the Creative Corner. They can also see me pottering around the site keeping it neat and tidy”.

“I was born in Beeston, although I have lived in Mapperley and Breaston. I love the feeling that the town is something special, full of enthusiastic people. The Blue Plaque scheme is great”.

“The one thing that does annoy me are people who drop litter. I would like to see more public art and I think the new ‘Beeston’ sign on Lower Road should have been bigger and not just angled in such a way that only the tram passengers can see it”.

Christopher Frost

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